The wailing by right-wing commentators over the latest outrage by those cheeky darkies wanting to protect their position on pending SOE sales demonstrates shocking intellectual dishonesty.
I believe in property rights. It is a cornerstone of a functioning capitalist economy, and the independent judiciary that we enjoy means if someone breaches my property rights, I can sue them, even if that person is the State.
In 1840, the State contracted with Maori. The deal was actually pretty simple, at least in the English version. Maori ceded sovereignty to the Queen and gave the Queen first option at acquiring Maori land. The Queen in return guaranteed Maori undisturbed possession of their land and other properties.
Offer, acceptance, consideration.
We all know what happened next. The Queen and her subjects used force, fraud and firearms to take Maori land. Unravelling what was sold and what was stolen is the thankless but well-paid task of the Waitangi Tribunal and the courts.
The Treaty itself has, by mutual consent between the parties and some judicial intervention by the Court of Appeal in 1987, been distilled into several principles.
These principles are incorporated into the State Owned Enterprise Act, Section Nine, which states that the Crown is bound by the principles of the Treaty. There is a further section of the act that ensures that land owned by SOEs but subject to Waitangi claims are to be ring-fenced until the claim is heard.
Treasury believes that this second section, plus other protections in the Resource Management Act and others, offers Maori sufficient protection. They advocate dropping the Principles clause from the new legislation that will cover the energy companies to be sold.
The Maori Council is not convinced. Its view is that rights to water and geothermal assets may be compromised. I think they are wrong, but what I think is irrelevant. In a deal between two parties, one side cannot unilaterally change the terms.
The ignorant declare we need to all look to the future and not the past, but that is because it was not their assets that were dispossessed. It is unfair that I must pay for the sins of my forefathers, but it is also unfair that I should enjoy the fruits of their unjust enrichment, even if such fruit is intangible.
Land was taken, farms, roads and homes built and New Zealand prospered, but this prosperity was driven in part off the back of stolen land.
A compromise on this issue may delay the asset sales and reduce the final price, and it is certain none of this will make any difference to those Maori stuck in an intergenerational vortex of welfare dependency. But none of that matters.
Only property rights matter. Any honest right-winger should tell you that.