Bryce Edwards ' Opinion

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards: Political round-up: February 7

Though protesters came out in full force, their actions ended peacefully upon arriving at the flagpole. Photo / NZ Herald
Though protesters came out in full force, their actions ended peacefully upon arriving at the flagpole. Photo / NZ Herald

Having talked up the possibility of conflict at Waitangi for a week, commentators can't seem to agree whether the outcome was violent and abusive or the usual ritualised dissent. Although Waitangi Day itself was very peaceful and cordial, the day before was far noisier. Stuff reports that tensions were highest when 200 protestors marched towards the flagpole to raise the Tino Rangatiratanga flag, but a symbolic protest action was negotiated and this allowed the protest to end peacefully - see: Waitangi flagpole protest ends quietly. In the end it seems there was a lot of noise, some name calling and a bit of pushing and shoving. John Key left without speaking after being drowned out by protestors, who were in possession of megaphones whereas Key was not. While some present would have been annoyed or offended, it seemed pretty tame compared to political protests around the world and even previous Waitangi Day protests.

Part of the Waitangi ritual is the post-protest angst, particularly as the day is the nearest thing we have to a commemoration of nationhood. Richard Long and Morgan Godfery have had enough, with Long describing it as an 'annual farce' and calling for a separate national day - see Long's Farce and friction no way for NZ to celebrate. Godfery says that some of the protest behaviour - particularly the name calling - was appalling, and declares that 'the protest generation is over' - see Godfery's On the farcical scenes at Waitangi and the possibility of NZ Day.

There are plenty who say we should take it all in our stride and even celebrate the protests as part of our democratic traditions. The best of these are Tim Watkin's Happy Waitangi Day (and why protest is good for us), Jessica Mutch's Protests are part of Waitangi and Matt McCarten's Huffing and puffing all part of Waitangi saga.

The main cause of tension this year was the friction over the Treaty and asset sales. The Maori Party is continuing to exert pressure on National and encouraging others to take legal action - see: Flavell calls for Iwi to go to Court on Section 9. Peter Wilson at TV3 says the Maori Party has been forced into this 'breathtaking overreaction' for political survival - see: Maori Party's vulnerability exposed. Duncan Garner agrees and says that it's clear that Sharples and Turia are not going to split from the Government but are in a no-win situation and appear to be 'winding down the clock on their party' - see: Garner's blog post, Why the Maori Party is dying. The Maori Party desperately need a win on this, although they will have to be careful not to build up expectations that they can't deliver on. If the end result is simply a better deal for iwi corporates wanting to buy shares then the party will leave itself wide open for attack.

Nanaia Mahuta at Red Alert illustrates the complexity of the issue, using the example of water consents for the Waikato River and existing agreements regarding the Huntly power station - see: No Room for Dithering on Treaty of Waitangi. It's not just Maori groups who are nervous. As the ODT reports, other river users such as irrigators are nervous as to how the sales may affect their water rights in future - see: Elizabeth Soal's opinion piece Downstream effects serious.

Gordon Campbell wonders why the Treaty obligations have become such a problem when New Zealand has been requiring Treaty compliance from foreign investors under WTO rules for nearly 20 years. He fears that any reduction of the obligations for the asset sales programme may have to be offered to future foreign investors as well - see: On the Maori response to the SOE asset sales.

John Armstrong reports that the Section 9 controversy may only be the start of National's problems with the asset sales. - see: Private hands will steer mixed-model assets. He says that National sold the policy as if nothing would change except some minority share holding but that, in fact, state control of the new entities will be 'a myth'. When the public discovers the fundamental change, Armstrong says National will find it difficult to rebut claims it was always their intention to sell the assets completely.

Amidst all the claims of xenophobia, racism and treachery over land sales to foreigners, Susan Edmunds has a balanced and thoughtful article on the issue - see: Land grab: All white by us. For more on this see Fran O'Sullivan's Xenophobia over Crafar sale galling and Stuff's Who is really buying New Zealand?

Finally, Simon Collins has a good series on inequality in Auckland, using both personal stories and in-depth analysis to examine this issue from different angles. Yesterday he dealt with the widening wealth gap (see: Mind the widening gap ... a tale of two cities) and today he looks at tax and benefits, particularly in comparison to Australia (see: Divided Auckland: NZ tax on rich among lowest in the world).

Bryce Edwards

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago.

Bryce Edwards is a lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago. He teaches and researches on New Zealand politics, public policy, political parties, elections, and political communication. His PhD, completed in 2003, was on 'Political Parties in New Zealand: A Study of Ideological and Organisational Transformation'. He is currently working on a book entitled 'Who Runs New Zealand? An Anatomy of Power'. He is also on the board of directors for Transparency International New Zealand.

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