Putting up with a whole lot of rubbish over ... a hole

By Sir Bob Jones

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Sir Bob Jones Photo/File
Sir Bob Jones Photo/File

There's a Bay of Islands bloke on the make, bearing that fine old Maori name of Hoskins, who is chairman of something called the Motu Kokako Ahuwhenua Trust.

On his form to date, Mr Hoskins would be an absolute shoo-in gold medallist if ever the IOC introduce talking claptrap as an Olympic event - indeed, he'd romp home so overwhelmingly that his name would be revered as one of the century's greatest athletes.

Mr Hoskins' trust owns an island with a rocky outlet containing a short gap in it. These structures are not uncommon - Monet painted one in Normandy in 1883.

For decades tourists have been boated about the Bay in the course of which they've sailed through that small gap. Now Mr Hoskins wants them to pay for doing this, despite the High Court ruling that, under maritime law, everyone has the right to free passage through it.

So, lacking any legal validity, he resorted in time-honoured fashion to that wearying old try-on of "cultural significance".

This, he claims, is because his ancestors gathered feathers there and - wait for it - Captain Cook anchored nearby. This must surely be the most outrageous attempted larceny rationale proffered in human history.

In fact, Mr Hoskins' cultural connection is more likely linked with Cook, 18th century fashion favouring long hosiery and Mr Hoskins' name deriving from his ancestors' hosiery-making, an immensely greater reason for pride than the pathetic picking-up of feathers.

All of this nonsense was packaged in the standard Maori blather about "a deep connection to the spiritual ethos of the land and water" - a spiritual dimension that miraculously vanishes by the payment of money. We endured this hogwash with the Mighty River Power extortion attempt last year.

I once met a Melbourne lawyer who had abandoned the profession for a more profitable activity, namely dealing with Australian Outback Aborigines on behalf of mining companies.

He entertained me immensely, describing how he now had the procedure down pat. The outback is dotted with groups of Aborigines living primitive existences and when he began he had blundered by being too clever. Initially he would turn up, tell them where the mining operation would go and wait for the inevitable claim that that particular site had special cultural and spiritual significance of the standard "ancestors-gathering-feathers" guff.

Anywhere else was fine, but not that sacred spot, they would insist. That's excellent news, he would then declare and advise that, in fact, the location they actually wanted to mine was 20 miles away.

He soon discovered his entrapment method wasn't smart. "I realised when you're dealing with bullshit, far better to play along than expose it and cause resentment," he said, and he changed his technique.

Thereafter he drove in with a van laden with visible crates of beer. The first day he spent listening to the cultural and spiritual significance blarney and nodding sagely, meanwhile the beer remained in the van. By the second day, wearied from having to restrain themselves from both the beer and probably from bursting out laughing at their own nonsense, the Aborigines would abruptly change tack, agree to a small payment, whereupon out then came the beer. Everyone was happy.

Following Mr Hoskins' attempted larceny, the Dominion Post gave a quarter page to a blue-eyed (there was an accompanying photo) European-featured woman with another fine old Maori name of Rogers, who chimed in supporting Mr Hoskins.

It transpired Ms Rogers is a trustee of Mr Hoskins' outfit on the grounds that her mother had Maori blood. Her explanation's initial 80 per cent was waffle about her background, informing us of such irrelevancies as her "mainstream work" (whatever that means) in England, France, Germany and Finland, and such-like pointless padding.

Finally, she got to the point, namely that the trust wants to preserve the eco-system around the island. How boats occasionally passing through this short gap affected this was not explained but in the event it turned out they don't for, as Ms Rogers added, the trust was happy for tourist boats to continue, so long as they paid. This is unbridled hypocrisy.

I have a message for Mr Hoskins and Ms Rogers. If you want money, then work for it, if only out of respect for the traditional cultural values of your respective English ancestors. Furthermore, you bring shame on that ancestry by invading the piracy domain of the Irish.

But there is a lucrative option. You should offer your creative writing services to lawyers for invoice composition, although I doubt if even QCs would be brazen enough to demand money for an empty space they don't own on the grounds that Captain Cook may have looked at it nearly 250 years ago.

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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