The doctor’s advice on special rights has gone unheeded and iwi may soon own fresh water

Breakingview today has dug up an item “from the archives of Rod Vaughan” at the National Business Review.

It is headed:

Why other Kiwis must stop fawning to the shrill cries of Maori

The article is based on the warning sounded by an academic of Maori, Irish and French descent.

He said – back in 2013 – he believes the pendulum has swung too far in redressing Maori grievances.

Dr Brian McDonnell, a senior lecturer in film studies at Massey University, says New Zealand’s “polite middle ground has become too fawning and the government too accommodating to the shrill cries of extremists”.

He told NBR ONLINE: “Maori people have certainly been marginalised in the past and there are specific wrongs to be righted, but it’s time to draw back to the centre.

“In an effort to be nice you can be seen as a soft touch, so who can blame Maori groups for asking for the stars when the government and the Auckland Council seem ready to grant power and funds while ignoring democratic processes.

“It has been the move to enshrine the Treaty of Waitangi in a written or more formalised constitution that I feel should be the ‘bridge too far’ for well-meaning, reasonable, moderate people, both Maori and Pakeha, to say ‘enough’.

“I would certainly place myself among their number and for me it is not Maori bashing to say so.

“I am part-Maori and I want success for all Maori people, but I think dependence on a Treaty-burdened constitution will not help Maori, as its advocates claim.”

Dr McDonnell was bothered that such a constitution would trap Maori

…in a “suffocating self-definition as in need of special pleading and a special status”.

He proceeded to advise our indigenous persons to suppress their urge to be treated as “special” on the strength of their ancestors’ boats getting here before anyone else’s boats.

He also argued in favour of one standard of citizenship.

“True equality comes with being treated as responsible adults who shoulder responsibilities as well as crying out for rights.

“We must have one standard of citizenship for all and the over-arching identity in the progressive New Zealand state must be unified citizenship, not class divisions based on 1840 groupings.”

Then he had something to say about blokes with surnames like Jones, Smith or Brown who nevertheless claim to be Maori.

“If a Maori and Pakeha marry and have children, why call the children Maori and not Pakeha?” he asks.

“I can whakapapa back to my Tuhoe forebears and am proud of that, but a huge part of my make-up is Irish, those first ‘sufferers’ of British colonising zeal.

“Children of mixed parentage should not increase the census count of one ethnicity at the expense of the others.

“I experience consternation when academic speakers at conferences parade their iwi affiliations but are mute on the subject of their European ancestry.

“Just because a Waldorf salad calls itself an apple doesn’t mean it actually is an apple!”

Most important, from the Grumble’s viewpoint, is Dr McDonnell’s belief that personal advancement should be the result of merit, not the consequence of gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

“Constitutionally, we cannot have two types of citizenship, two groups of citizens depending on your ethnic group – one made up of people like myself who whakapapa back to iwi and hapu and those who don’t.

“The order in which your ancestors arrived as migrants, settlers to this country cannot give you a constitutional status that is different from anyone else.

“To embed this in some permanent way is intolerable. People who are born here belong to the land equally.

“We are at a risky time in our nationhood and are like a boat being rowed by people looking fixedly towards the past.

Obviously Alf’s government colleagues didn’t read the article or – if they did – they endorse the setting of two standards of citizenship and the dispensing of special rights to indigenous persons.

So help us, the buggers seem to be buckling to new demands on the matter of the country’s freshwater and its ownership.

Iwi leaders want a share in this ownership.

It looks like they will get it via the simple expedient of central government delegating the decision-making to local authorities.

This would enable tossers like the Mayor of New Plymouth – who would give indigenous persons half the places around his council table if he could get away with it – to let them own half the water in his patch. Or maybe more than half.

As Stuff reports today…

This would allow them, and others with water rights, to onsell it to those who need water for irrigation, hydropower and other commercial uses.

Talks between the powerful Iwi Leaders Group and the Government, fronted by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Environment Minister Nick Smith, are at a critical stage after ministers rejected a nationwide ‘Waterlords’ settlement along the lines of the Sealords deal over Maori commercial fishing claims.

The Government is adamant it will not hand over rights in perpetuity to Maori – but it may compromise by allowing regional councils to do local deals with Maori.

Farmers are reported to be worried that there will not be enough water to go around if significant quantities of freshwater are set aside for Maori.

It looks like they have good cause to worry.

Vernon Small and Libby Wilson have reproduced the bothersome contents of a Cabinet paper on the matter.

In this paper Nick Smith points to possible “catchment by catchment” deals at a regional government level.

Small and Wilson write:

The Crown has acknowledged Maori interests and rights in freshwater but their extent and nature is at issue.

The Government may set criteria by which local iwi can get preferential access to water, catchment by catchment, Smith says.

Ministers and iwi leaders held a summit at Waitangi during the February 6 commemorations, in a swift response to an iwi- commissioned report proposing radical ways to deal with freshwater and Maori claims. The report, by research group Sapere, proposed a nationwide settlement, an end to 35-year renewals of water consents. and a move to permanent rights and a market in tradable water rights.

It argued the regime would not only be a boon for Maori but would add $2 billion to the value of power-generating assets, $5.5b to the primary sector and boost the overall economy, while helping reduce the effects of drought through more efficient use of water. It would also open the way for the Government to levy resource taxes on income from using the water.

Alf is delighted that his colleague Judith Collins has come out swinging against the plan, describing it as a cash grab that would hit consumers in the wallet.

But she – alas – is no longer in Cabinet.

Softie ministers like Smith and Finlayson will call the shots and they can’t be relied on to resist the iwi demands.

Smith is a squirmy sod who seems to be happy with buck-passing to local government:

Smith said the Government was reluctant to switch from a consents-based regime to the rights-based trading advocated by Sapere, but did not rule it out at a local level, pointing to existing trading schemes in North Otago and Taupo that are allowed under the Resource Management Act.

Let the record show Bill English’s dismaying reply, when he was asked if some existing rights could be removed from farmers and given to iwi: “I simply don’t know the answer to that.”

Here’s something Winston Peters can play with to increase his appeal in regional electorates. Do we Nats really want that to happen?


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