The Grievance Industry, on its way to another
apparent stunning success, has run smack into a Government that, in spite of
being ham-strung throughout its history by hand-wringing
sack-cloth-and-ashes-wearing penitents and apologists, seems to suddenly have
discovered its testicles.
One can only marvel at the almost interstellar speed with which the
Government moved to place a blocking action on the decision of the Appeal Court,
regarding the right of the Maori Land Court to determine the ownership of the
seabed around New Zealand.
When one considers the difficult and tumultuous passage of the
legislation legalising prostitution, and
compares that with this latest piece of legislative ballet, it
would be easy for the outsider to wonder whether sexual proclivity has in fact a
higher profile than Maori claims.
I was also somewhat stunned that Maori Labour MPs saw fit to advise their
Labour colleagues that in their view this action was ‘divisive’, and said
other things to do with there being 'future repercussions' (shades of Robocop;
“there will be… trouble”). I
must confess that when I hear statements like that I honestly start to wonder
whether I am perhaps living in a different universe; how anyone can think that
the giving of the rights-to-ownership of our nation's seabed, to one small but
vocal part of our entire population would not be hugely more divisive, is
I am not a Helen Clark supporter by any means, neither have I ever voted
Labour, but to give her and them credit where it is due, even she could see that
this was "A Bridge Too Far" and that finally (at last) this might be
the ultimate fur-ball that would stick in the throat of Mr. and Mrs. Average New
Zealander, finally choking them out of mindless apathy, and spurring them to
action in the voting booth.
I have never been part of the politically correct brigade and have no
hesitation in saying that the fact is (and the government knows well) that there
are far more non-Maori voters than there are Maori, and that the chances are
high that, had they not nipped this latest piece of stupidity in the bud, and
moved with lightning speed before what used to be the National Party could gain
any political momentum from it, it would have spelled disaster at the next
election. Even their current and 'no alternative' popularity would not have
cushioned them from the anger of 3.5 million indignant New Zealanders.
Don't for a minute think that I am not sympathetic towards Maori
grievances; although I am a product of a British and then a Pakeha New Zealand
upbringing, I have in the last ten years made a point of reading books written
by other than British colonial authors of that time,
and the opinion I hold now is that Maori in the 1800s were very poorly treated
and swindled out of vast tracts of land, often by the very same persons who
represented themselves as being there to protect them (notably Missionaries in
the Bay of Islands). It is also
fair to say that having read from both ends of the argument, it seems that Maori
were not exactly innocent either, since many of the land transactions occurred
in the pursuit of muskets, powder and shot in order for one tribe to be able to
slaughter another and so establish their own empires.
For those of you that haven’t done the reading, for a Tribe in the
early 1800’s to ‘own’ its own Pakeha was a status symbol and, more than
that, ensured its survival through the procurement of weapons, without which the
Tribe would soon have fallen victim (and prey) to the nearest Tribe that did
In the context of the time, can we really say that either party was more
guilty than the other, in that for Maori to slaughter Maori was completely
normal and something that they had been doing for thousands of years prior to
the arrival of European influence, in that respect being no more or less
murderous than the so-called civilized European, and that the actions of the
Colonists, while reprehensible by today's standards, were no different than
colonists from any other ethnic background over the last 5000 years. I don’t
ascribe any more guilt to one or the other.
What concerns me most is not the rightness or wrongness of grievance
claims, but the fact that we are considering claims relating to 200 year-old
wrongdoings in a 2003 context, and also attempting to seek redress from the
descendants of one set of wrongdoers without equally considering the culpability
and contributory conduct of the ancestors of today's claimants. Both parties had
heroes and villains.
I am wondering when, or whether, we will ever make the expression 'enough
is enough' actually mean something. New Zealand belongs to all New
Zealanders of whatever race, colour or creed and I am heartened that the
government at last appears to be moving in a direction such that this concept of
communal ownership might become a reality. I am also cynical enough to wait and
watch for the pay-off, since in my experience there are always multiple motives
for the visible actions of politicians.
As a final comment, and on a related issue, I note that the Conservation
movement is currently pressuring the government to lift its target of 10 percent
of our coastline being marine reserve, to 20 percent.
In my view I regard them in the same light; just another bunch of
self-interested politically correct misguided rights grabbers, attempting to
restrict the freedom and rights of us all for the enjoyment of the select few.
No, I don't dive, but I would never try and stop others from doing so.
our children of the future look wonderingly at old photographs, and try to
imagine what it must have been like to catch a fish with rod and reel?
The combination of Maori claims coupled with Conservation claims, if
unchecked, will undoubtedly make that future a reality. What a triumph that will
be for the vocal minority. What a sad loss for the unaware and inert majority,
if we wake up too late to prevent it.
Steve Punter ANZIM,
Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ, GNZATD
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2003 All rights reserved by the author.