Everything stops at our house when the time machine known as the Hobson's Pledge Trust newsletter arrives and we are magically transported back to a bygone age when Māori knew their place.

The trust's motto is "He Iwi tahi tātou: We are one people", and you just know they have to double-check te reo Māori spelling every time they write it out. But judging from the pallid faces on their "who are we?" page they certainly are one people.

This being Māori Language Week, it was more than usually interesting to see what Don Brash, Peter Shirtcliffe and the rest of the white minstrel show had on their minds.


The first item bore the intriguing headline "Better Treaty partner arrangements a mistake". This met one of the first rules of headline writing: Express things positively. But was it really that positive a message? How could making anything better be a mistake?

Better signposts on the road to perdition, I suppose. Or better handcarts to hell.

The trust says it believes that the Government "fosters politically correct ideas and attitudes on the Treaty of Waitangi, our history, and the position of Māori people in society". Well, I hope it does. Struggling to see any problem here.

Furthermore, their goal is to get rid of any "race-based discrimination in governance and property rights". That still leaves them plenty of room for race-based discrimination in other areas, if you're into that sort of thing.

One of the things the trust wants most fervently is for Māori to stop "living in the past", carrying their grievances around with them and reminding Pākehā that we continue to benefit today from crimes committed against Māori years ago. For heaven's sake — we've moved on; why can't they?

I don't think they're being entirely honest here. I think they'd be quite happy if Māori lived in that past before they put down their guitars and picked up their laptops; when they jumped off bridges for pennies instead of jumping up and down for their rights.

But the Hobson's mob are a thoughtful lot with a nice sideline in epistemology. "The past doesn't have to dictate the future," they proclaim. Well, we could bat that one around the philosophical ballpark till the kererū come home, But we don't need to because it's so obviously wrong. The past informs every moment of every day — whether it's shaping our personalities, our physical health or our racist attitudes.

But it turns out the HPT isn't that mad about the present either. As indicated in the headline mentioned above, it's against new Crown-Māori partnership arrangements, the problem apparently being that they reinforce the notion that the Crown and Māori are separate. I do know that the Crown and Māori have a relationship — it's called the Treaty of Waitangi and it's designed, for all its faults and all the ways it's been abused over the years, to allow Crown and Māori to rub along together.


Another burr under the HPT's saddle this Māori Language Week was that at a sedate bunfight that was held to announce the mistakenly better arrangements, one of those in attendance was Titewhai Harawira, "who was jailed in 1989 for assaulting a patient at a mental health unit she ran".

The Prime Minister and other ministers were, says the trust, fawning over such "Treaty partners", and if having someone in the same room as you and treating them with respect means you're fawning over them then, yes, I guess there was fawning aplenty going on.

But someone who's going to drag up a nearly 30-year-old conviction in this context isn't really in a position to be criticising anyone for not letting go of the past.