Nearly 20 years since their opinions featured in a Herald series on race relations, politician Shane and writer Lloyd once again give their perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi and that relationship today.
There was a void. But within darkness came a "stirring of being".
I have just paraphrased a description of Te Pou or Te Pou-nui (the great night in Māori cosmology) that pre-dates consciousness and a coming into being. I scraped those words off the walls of the magnificent exhibition Toi Tū Toi Ora currently on at the Auckland City Art Gallery.
As I read them, I was nagged by a thought of Pākehā acquiescence, of a great letting go. A thought turned radiant in the shiny textured waves rendered out of sheet metal by the artist Israel Tangaroa Birch in a work about journeying called "arai-i-te-uru". Waves rise and fall, and as you walk alongside, that is towards, darkness turns into light. It captures, perfectly, a country still coming into a fuller consciousness of itself and all it contains.
I want to take a moment to revisit darkness.
Some time in the mid-60s, me and my mate have biked over to the Epuni Boys Home to look for Wards of the State, kids a bit like us, only greyer and hungrier, and stuck behind a high fence. I had gone along with this adventure without knowing then that my father and his siblings were once Wards of the State. Such was the blinding effect of the present in those days.
Anyway, as there are no kids to biff stones at, we bike on until our aimless course delivers us to the meeting house above the banks of Waiwhetū Stream. Here at last, something is happening – a crowd of solemn brown faces has spilled over to the footpath outside the meeting house.
We have no idea what we are witnessing. Except we are now part of it, hauled into it, a strange and dislocating feeling, as I remember it. As if the past had suddenly wafted up out of the Earth into the brightness of the day.
I did not mention it at home. Since I did not have the language to say what it was I had seen. The next morning, as usual, I woke up to the radio tuned to the BBC.
Years later when I recalled the occasion to a resident of one of the houses that ring the marae, he recalled the visitors. "They were Tainui." He used words like "powerful" and "awe" to convey the impact of their visit. He said they always felt Tainui were "more Māori" than they were.
Everyone has their own point of entry to te ao Māori.
If you are a Pākehā my age (soon to be 66), and suburban, te ao Māori was unheard of. You were born into the self-validating settler myths of "nation-founding and building". You were of here because you were born here. Unarguable, we thought.
Then, for the next 50 years, the support structures of the settler myth are slowly eroded. The narrative changes, new voices are heard and taken up, dissenting voices, ones that were once suppressed in ways that settler societies do, usually through shaming.
There are land marches, occupations. There is even talk that the land was stolen. An uncomfortable truth for Pākehā, one that forces them to shuffle for new purchase.
Then comes a suggestion that te reo be made an official language, and that it should be taught in schools. Some (the usual suspects) grow hot under the collar at the staggering thought of te reo made mandatory – which of course it should be. If te reo is an official language, then such a commitment is unarguable.
Suddenly the articles of the Treaty pulse with new life. At last, it is what it was meant to be – a living document. And Pākehā of a certain age must adjust themselves to a new phrase – "de-colonisation" to complete the invalidation of all they had been born into, as te ao Māori is stitched into public life.
I am amazed at how swiftly we have arrived at this new place. The great change – the reinvention of contemporary New Zealand/Aotearoa brought about by legal stealth, but in larger part because the country has learned to listen to itself. To listen with a real intent to understand where we are, and how we got here, tall tales, lies and all.
My first grandchild entered the world halfway through last year. His mother is a proficient speaker of te reo, as well as a teacher of it. His father has some knowledge of te reo, his pronunciation is on the money – unlike his old man who tries but fails, repeatedly, but will go on trying.
This grandchild will grow up in an entirely different world to the one that nurtured his grandfather. He will enjoy a richer attachment to place because I suspect he will be fluent in two languages.
This is not to usurp the poets – hell no, never. Theirs is a hard-won personal language that we get to eavesdrop on. But, te reo is a very public language, written into the landscape.
For years, decades, ad agencies and quasi government bodies had wracked their brains to say how unique we are, how innovative (which we aren't, we are great copy cats) when our true unique character sat right under nose, under-valued, unappreciated.
What do we have that no one else does? I don't even need to say it, do I.
Tune in at noon to National Radio and you will hear Mani Dunlop effortlessly and expertly shift between English and te reo. I like and appreciate the presumption that I know enough te reo to get by. I don't. But the one at fault is not the presenter.
Courses offering te reo around the country are bursting at the seams. To Māori non-speakers the opportunity to learn te reo must be irresistible. For the newly arrived immigrant and the newly born it just is. We might be travelling in different lanes, but apparently in the same direction.
Oh, and the name of the marae I found myself at as a kid bewildered by my first pōwhiri? Arohanui ki te tāngata, the meeting house of "goodwill of all men".
I spent last Waitangi Day at the lovely Piritahi marae on Waiheke Island. As usual, the invitation was generous. The guardians did not say "come and see what we have". The invitation was to "come and enjoy with us what we have".
These Treaty-related observations follow an article I wrote as part of a series on race relations for the Weekend Herald in March, 2004. How the time flies! Quite sobering when one thinks that in another 17 years we will be just two years shy from our nation's bicentennial anniversary. I am most confident, however, that unlike our Aussie neighbours that day will not be dubbed "invasion day".
Although the capacity for language to inflame should not be ignored as was evident in 2004 when Don Brash delivered his egregious "Kiwis not Iwis" Orewa race relations speech. The Orewa audience was told that the Treaty of Waitangi was giving the Māori population a divisive sense of entitlement. His ratings as a politician grew and he would have probably have been Prime Minister a year later, but for his fateful interaction with the Brethren church.
Since that time of daytime political soap, what has happened in the space of identity, belonging and our nation's founding document? Well I served a 12-year parliamentary tour of duty on two waka, Labour and NZ First and I saw first hand a host of changes. Our laws pertaining to social convention and gender rights have been re-written. Diversity is all the rage, climate change challenges increasingly loom large, enormous immigration has become the economic anabolic steroid for industry and primary industries are on notice from regulators.
Hats off to The former Attorney General, Chris Finlayson, who turbo-charged the Treaty settlement process including the Tūhoe tribe settling their historic claim despite the absurd Rūātoki police raids. Battle sites recognising the Māori/Crown land wars are openly acknowledged and of international interest, the Wanganui iwi now have their river with its own legal personality.
Te reo and Māori protocol is more evident in a civic sense. Māori are more conspicuous in Parliament especially after the Māori Party galvanised their followers in response to the Labour government 2004 Seabed legislation, which in itself, was an attempt to weaken the appeal of Don Brash. Two wrongs never made a right.
I could go on but it is apparent that there has been a growing normalisation in our societal culture of Māori motif and practice. Also there is also greater recognition of iwi mana. Of course, iwi means people as well as tribe and its on this point that the promise of the Treaty in terms of equity remains beyond the grasp of too many whānau. This challenge is interlinked with our a policy of mass immigration policy which has favoured quantity over quality.
Māori have witnessed a sea change within the nation's population since 2004 and this tide has accelerated. It took Aotearoa-New Zealand 68 years to crack one million people. The last one million confirmed last year came in just 17 years and half of that was from immigration. Census 2018 tells us that 27.4 per cent of the people who live here were born overseas and you must go all the way back to 1908 for proportions like that. By comparison, the overseas-born population of the USA is around 14 per cent, in the EU it is around 11 per cent and in China just 0.1 per cent.
Based on my parliamentary experience, discussions on immigration and multiculturalism are often conducted on slippery slopes. That said, it needs to be borne in mind the Treaty is a bilingual document and a bicultural charter. If immigration grows as it has done over the past 17 years, will biculturalism be superseded by a State preference for multiculturalism? As generations of ethnically diverse populations are born and adapt to life in Godzone, inevitably, the weight of numbers will tell. This will force new issues of political equity, identity protection and safeguarding of ethnic rights.
It's not all a bed of roses for migrants. As immigration has progressively loosened over the years, so migrant unemployment has grown sharply. We see and hear stories of exploitation and the emergence of diploma mills providing a residency backdoor. Where does this leave Māori? Treading water. Last June, Māori unemployment was 10.8 per cent so I looked back and in September 1986, it was 10.1 per cent; in 1993 it was 23.4 per cent and 14.1 per cent in 2000. Mass inwards migration has put a lid on economic opportunity for Māori by shrinking real wages and job prospects in equal measure.
The Treaty prescribed a bicultural nation and as our school curriculum is improved it will be become further accepted, after all it makes us distinctive and the reason why so many cultures want to come here. The next step, however, is for Māori to have an open and frank discussion on population. We deserve a say in shaping the population of our country as opposed to paper shufflers, academics or industry apologists who continue to under-invest in our own labour force. Moving forward, the Treaty requires us to promote quality migration not quantity.
Covid-19 creates a generational reset not apparent for three-decades. This reset starts by remembering what sparked the Treaty of Waitangi back in 1840, "the great number of Her Majesty's Subjects who have already settled in New Zealand and the rapid extension of Emigration both from Europe and Australia ..."