David Garrett: Independence doesn't come cheap - as Tuhoe would soon discover

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It is said that the wise are careful what they wish for.

Whatever else Tame Iti and his cohorts may have been up to in the depths of the Ureweras, one of their goals is clear and often stated - that Tuhoe become an independent nation within their traditional tribal lands. One wonders how far Mr Iti has thought this desire through.

An independent nation is usually self funding - where is the funding for the Tuhoe nation to come from? Secession would of course mean an immediate end to all welfare payments, funds for schools, subsidies for doctors visits and the free hospital care that we all take for granted.

The roads in and out will last for some time without maintenance, but eventually transport by horse may become a necessity rather than a pleasant novelty.

There is a series of power stations at Tuai within the tribal rohe, so Tuhoe would have electricity - until the need for spare parts to repair the machinery requires funds held in neighbouring New Zealand or further afield. Tuhoe can probably self supply education - until the books and computers need replacing. But what of doctors, hospitals and drugs - unless of course Mr Iti's people plan to rely solely on traditional Maori remedies gathered from the bush?

The recent publicity shows Tuhoe are very keen on firearms - which require ammunition if not repair - and four-wheel-drives, which require petrol and parts.

All of the trappings of Western society - even such mundane items as roofing iron, nails and paint - cost money. There is the possibility of trade or barter, but the market for root crops and Maori handicrafts is likely to be fairly limited.

Even if successful trade relationships are established - which is inevitably a long process - it will take a lot of flax ketes to buy even one new set of tyres.

Then there is the problem of access to and from the landlocked Tuhoe nation. After recent developments Mr Iti and several of his other probable colleagues in a Tuhoe government are unlikely to be granted visas to visit or even pass through New Zealand.

He may retort that they would not wish to, but until Tuhoe builds an international airport, transit through New Zealand would be the only way to reach sympathetic indigenous nations overseas.

I personally have no problem with an independent nation or nations within New Zealand - so long as I don't have to pay for it through taxes.

In some respects, it probably makes perfect sense to separate peoples who have expressed a desire for separatism for 150 years. If the choice is terrorism - with its inevitable innocent victims - or a separate Maori nation or nations, then perhaps that is the best way forward for all the inhabitants of these islands.

* David Garrett is an Auckland barrister.

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