Professional Skipper – January 98 issue            back to articles menu

"I have a dream" (apologies to Martin Luther King)
If I want to catch lots of fish - commercially, legally - I have to buy a quota (if I can) from someone else, and am regulated by many laws, to maintain the fish stocks and control hygiene and safety standards. But not if I live up north and can claim certain ancestry. Then all I need is a big boat, an opinion, and a Nations apathy. Here we go again - the law is publicly flouted, the coat is trailed in the face of the law-makers, who stand irresolute and inactive. Wake up New Zealand.

In the dimness of the hushed meeting-house, the gathered Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand listened solemnly, as Governor William Hobson held the parchment up to the flickering candle, and read the words aloud… “In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects. Her Majesty also guarantees that in the future, any person claiming even the smallest part of the vaguest of Maori blood can, without the slightest risk of challenge or retribution, hold the rest of the Country and the majority of its citizens in complete contempt, holding two adjoining fingers of either hand in the erect position as a sign of the measure of esteem with which they regard the Government (being the duly elected voice of the majority) and can rest assured and comforted in the sure knowledge that the apathy of the majority will combine with the spinelessness of their duly elected political representatives to ensure little or no retributory action….”.

The buzzing of the alarm clock shocked me into wakefulness, and I realised that I had ‘had a dream’.  More of a nightmare, actually.

What caused it? Well, I had been reading the Treaty, looking for an explanation of Hikuwai and Co’s antics up North. Predictably, I came up empty-handed because the Treaty itself is a disappointing document. I mean, you can understand people who suggest that the Bible, being a composite document 2000 - 5000 years old, thousands of pages long and translated so many times, is questionable as to the meaning of certain words. But the Treaty? Come on, Team, its only 160 years old and six paragraphs. It’s a baby. Smaller than your average newspaper article. OK, I accept that the Europeans took what was basically a stone-age culture (still heavily engaged in eating each other as a stress-break from continuous warring), and dragged it willy-nilly into the light, but as a people they weren’t thick. If you look at the document, then consider that our Government through dear old Bill H. signed what was supposedly a robust document designed to provide for the future, at only six paragraphs one wonders exactly who stitched up who?

Anyway, our soul-mates in the Maori Activist community, ably assisted by certain myopic Pakeha dressed in ceremonial sack-cloth with matching sandals and cardigans, appear to have created a new profession – the ability to stretch words and meanings until they match your particular greedy & selfish (or in the case of the afore-mentioned Pakeha, self-flagellation) needs. ‘Customary Right’ is, I believe, a phrase that will eventually lead our Country into serious trouble. Think about what’s happening here. One small group of New Zealanders are gaining exemption and immunity from the Laws that govern the majority, based on tissue-thin interpretations of a document that was so highly regarded it was put into storage in 1877 and lay rotting (and chewed by rats) until re-discovered in 1911.

How come these activists want to be above the Law, when the very document they keep waving in our faces was created  “….with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the Native population and to Her subjects…”?  Fishing is governed by Law. MAF is the Institution that administers it.  The bit in italics is clearly referring to equal responsibility to obey the Law. Apparently, the boat used up North was flying the ‘sovereign flag’ of the Chiefs of the Confederation (etc etc). Take a fresh look at the Treaty, where it says in the first paragraph  “…for the recognition of Her Majesty’s Sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands”  and in the third paragraph that The Chiefs (etc etc) “…cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty….”  (Italics are mine). 

Hmm. It appears that some sections of the Treaty are none too supportive of the concept of Maori sovereignty. To be blunt, the Chiefs gave it away.  Damned inconvenient. It appears that some sections of the Treaty can be waved in faces, other bits need to be hushed up...

I must confess I have, up until recently, viewed the Treaty document with a degree of anxiety. Having been spurred into reading it anew by the activities of a mischievous minority, I am actually comforted by it. It is a document that vests the power in our elected Government to rule over all our people with one set of Laws and Institutions. It is to be hoped that our country’s elected Government can discover the intestinal fortitude to enact and enforce the Law no matter how unpalatable it may be, to cut the cancer out before it spreads too far. 

To raise the status of a minority group and award access to resources based purely on race is a recipe for disaster. South Africa has, after years of turmoil and suffering, shed the yoke of apartheid and is struggling painfully toward equality. New Zealanders will probably smile & wave (in vacant, oblivious ignorance) as we pass in the other direction, having learned nothing from history. Apartheid, in reverse colours, here we come. And just in case you feel that this is one Pakeha’s biased reading of the words, let me quote some relevant passages from the “Translation of the Maori text of the Treaty”, by Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu (Source: National Archives, Internet):

 “…that their Chiefs will agree to the Queen’s Government being established over all parts of this land…”’  “So the Queen desires to establish a Government so that no evil will come to Maori and European living in a state of lawlessness…”  “The Chiefs (etc) give absolutely to the Queen of England forever the complete government over their land”  (the words ‘absolutely’ and ‘forever’ are kind of important), “…the Queen of England will protect the ordinary people of New Zealand and will give them the same rights and duties of citizenship...”  One of the duties of citizenship is to obey the Laws laid down by our elected Government.

So, what does it take to wake the sleeping Giant that is the silent majority? How many nostril-hairs have to be forcefully extracted before our Nation’s eyes water, the apathetic beast realises its peril, puts some starch in its spine and lumbers into action. Will it be before the word-stretchers complete their mesmerisation?  Am I an activist? I would be surprised if you described me so. If I am, it is as a peaceful person seeking equality for all New Zealanders.  I want to be able to take my kid fishing off a beach without some bullying thug/activist inventing so-called customary rights, laying claim to the water, the air, the planet and the entire bloody Universe and giving me a hard time. Am I a racist? Too easy - it requires no intelligence or courage to call me that, and I would be sad if you thought me so. I am against a minority group of self-interested people skillfully using a Nation’s self-imposed and totally invalid guilt-trip to secure an unfair advantage for themselves. I’m against grabbing, clutching, manipulative people.

I say to my fellow New Zealanders of all races, Samoan, Maori, Indian, Yugoslavian, yes, British too – of whatever colours and creeds: Get a copy of the Treaty. Read it. Study it. It belongs to you, and is there to protect you. Don’t let others take sole ownership of it, pervert its meaning and bend it to their own devices.

To our elected Politicians I give you this warning:

When a placid, peace-seeking, approaching-middle-aged humour writer who couldn’t fight his way out of a paper bag puts an article like this to his Editor, you better take heed. Middle New Zealand is waking up, getting angry, and looking for a political response. For now, that is.

 To Hikuwai & Co, I make the point that if you were genuine about exercising 'Customs' you would be fishing from a canoe with a shredded-flax line, a rock for a sinker and a carved bone hook. The boat, gear and methods you're currently using are a product of European culture, not yours. At no stage in your history was it ever the custom (nor the capability) to land several tons of fish in one haul. And exactly how far are you going to stretch this 'Custom' thing - do we need to start viewing our Maori neighbour with a degree of suspicion if a man-sized cooking pot appears on his back lawn?
I spent some time on the Internet looking at the Treaty and other supporting documents, and the thought occurred to me that were it not for the European culture, the keyboard I use would not exist, nor the computer, nor the Internet… but of course, that is an inconvenient thought. In pursuit of equal rights for all,

Carpe Diem

Steve Punter ANZIM, Dip Bus (PMER), FHRINZ
Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2001 All rights reserved by the author.                                                                                                                       back to articles menu