Sir Bob Jones

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Sir Bob Jones: Father Time renders Treaty clauses redundant

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Mighty River's principal assets are hydro electric generators on the Waikato River -  but in 1840 the river provided eels and transport for Maori villagers. Photo / Christine Cornege
Mighty River's principal assets are hydro electric generators on the Waikato River - but in 1840 the river provided eels and transport for Maori villagers. Photo / Christine Cornege

History is littered with treaties and laws which time has made redundant, without having been formally annulled. Two such are the Treaties of Utrecht and Waitangi.

The 1704 Treaty of Utrecht ceded Gibraltar to England. The Spaniards had driven the Moors off the Rock 42 years earlier, after 700 years of occupation. In the 1980s, Spain made overtures to Britain to recover Gibraltar. Once rejected the matter was dropped, but Spain was not so idiotic to raise a literal breach of the original treaty, being an undertaking by the English that no Moor or Jew would ever reside on the Rock. Yet when Spain made this recovery approach, the governor was a Jewish Moroccan. Time had made the original anti-Moor and anti-Jewish sentiment redundant and to have raised this breach would have been farcical.

So, too, with the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1840, Maoridom comprised stone age warring tribes living simple existences.

There was a strong sentiment in Victorian England, led by the churches and some parliamentarians, to protect the burgeoning empire's native peoples, thus article two of the Treaty guaranteeing Maoridom their then economic base.

But as with the anti-Moor and anti-Jewish provision in the Treaty of Utrecht, time has made this clause redundant, with Maoridom now living a 100 per cent European-style existence, thus the constant literal exploitation of an expressed good intention 172 years ago by charlatan lawyers is an affront to common sense and honesty.

For example, the Mighty River Power company's principal assets are eight hydro electric generators on the Waikato River. In 1840, the river provided eels and transport for Maori villagers in the vicinity. But today, like everyone else, Maori buy their food from supermarkets and have substituted cars for canoes. To argue that the river was vested to them in 1840 and claim water usage money is simply opportunistic twisting of the original objective. If that proposition had validity, why is it only now being raised? Why have they not claimed against the power company hitherto?

The answer is blackmail, specifically that via the threat of delay through litigation of the Government's sale plans, this action could secure taxpayer millions in yet another bogus settlement.

Tariana Turia is a nice lady but she sometimes pushes it. On this issue she says Maoridom trace their roots to rivers and talk to them. I've spent three months annually for half a century fishing our rivers, mostly with a Maori mate, and he only ever talked to the river to curse it when he slipped and fell. I asked my Maori tennis opponent and my part-Maori two eldest daughters if they had such urges and received scornful looks. However, Tariana is free to chat away to the river and the power plants won't interfere.

There's a procedure adopted by courts to deal with unclear contract disputes. That is to ask what the intentions of the parties were when the contract was made. With the Treaty and the Waikato River that's easy, namely eel provision and transport. Nothing else. Clause two of the Treaty certainly didn't intend to cover radio waves and all the other opportunistic, parasitic nonsense we are constantly insulted with.

The Waitangi Treaty is redundant. It need not be formally annulled but like many other outdated laws, be simply ignored as a historic relic. Claims such as illicit land seizures can be dealt with by the courts.

Consider this. In about 1990, a QC known to represent me received a call from the Timaru police chief. He advised that a vicar had filed criminal blasphemy charges against me in response to a newspaper column I'd written. The police chief said he'd discovered we still had such laws. I was euphoric and told the QC to accept service and we pressured the chief to do his duty and charge me.

"I'm not having you buggers coming down here making monkeys out of us," he complained.

A week later he wrote saying he was off the hook. He enclosed a copy of PEW NEWS - a parish newsletter produced by another Timaru vicar in which, ignoring copyright, my article had been reproduced with the vicar's preamble saying Christians must learn to laugh at themselves.

In this case I was pursuing the wonderful entertainment of a blasphemy trial. In the Mighty River case, in misrepresenting the original intentions of an equally outdated but, like the blasphemy law, still legally alive Treaty, the claim is a form of theft from fellow citizens. At this case, all the garrulous speechifying, feigned injury, tattooed weeping women, euphemistic babbling about resources rather than mentioning money, grave-faced, carved-walking-stick-leaning-on-poseurs and other thespian charades we are so wearingly familiar with won't change that reality.

Thankfully we have a non-career politician Prime Minister who will resist this attempted larceny.


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- NZ Herald

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