For 184 years we have as Māori and Pākehā worked to make the promise of the Treaty real, but this year the debate we so desperately need has been hijacked by right-wing extremists and shadowy right-wing think tanks who proclaim democracy but in reality are robbing us of our collective identity.
Act’s toxic and reactionary Treaty Principles bill is not the good-faith debate we need.
National’s attack on Māori health, promotion of tobacco deaths for tax cuts and denigration of the Māori language is not the good faith debate we need.
NZ First’s weird attack on the mana of the Waitangi Tribunal is of course also not the good-faith debate we need.
All National, Act and NZ First are channelling is divisiveness and hate manufactured against Māori during the election.
It is outrageous to blame Māori for demanding the Government honours the Treaty.
The claim by right-wing fringes that Māori are trying to get special rights or race-based privileges is offensive, stupid and wrong.
These are legal rights, not race-based rights!
For 184 years Māori have been waiting to see the promise of the Treaty relationship, and we have worked hard together as two people to attempt that.
Has it always been perfect? Of course not, but the attempts by people of good faith to find the space to work together are meaningful and important.
Lord Robin Cooke’s 1987 Appeal Court decision declaring the Treaty was akin to a partnership was a pragmatic means of creating the space for Māori and the Crown to work together.
The extremists on the right now want to throw that ruling out and destroy that relationship.
It is unacceptable for the right to play to our nation’s bigotry, pretend they are being noble for democracy and then start race- based conflict like they are.
It is a counter-productive anti-Māori agenda this country does not need, nor should we indulge.
I am hopeful about the future and we on the left look forward to a good-faith debate, but that’s not what the right are offering here!
A Pākehā mate of mine over the summer holidays told me while he was out camping, his kids were all singing waiata and practising their mihi they had learnt at school. He said it was wonderful watching how his kids were embracing the Māori language.
Of course we are seeing this more and more and you only have to watch how schools across the nation perform the haka with Pākehā kids and kids of all nationalities proudly participating to understand how our country has changed. Our next generation of mokopuna are more attuned and more conscious of each other’s culture in a way that truly bonds us as a people and actually brings a positive societal perspective to our Treaty.
That is our future, two people singing as one without resentment or rancour, yet this far-right race-provoking Government which used Māori as a political punching bag to get elected is sowing spite and malice.
We are a better people and deserve a more responsible and informed debate than National, Act and NZ First are driving us into.
Willie Jackson is a Labour list MP and head of Labour’s Māori caucus.