24 May 2012

Yesterday was Budget day. But possibly yesterday’s goings on in Parliament will be a footnote in history compared with the sentencing in the High Court in Auckland of Tame Iti.


The sentencing of the Urewera Four relates to weapons training by a bunch of misguided, would-be militants in the backblocks of Gisborne. What it may well highlight is the schizophrenic rationale for governance in New Zealand.


Each year we celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. We have been educated to revere the Treaty as the authority for government. The theory is that Maori ceded sovereignty – while perhaps retaining tino rangatiratanga. Authority was not acquired by conquest or occupation of Maori lands, beaches and rivers. The Queen’s realm was established over New Zealand because Maori ceded sovereignty through the Treaty.

Q. Who are the Maori who ceded sovereignty?
A. Maori with rangatira who signed the Treaty.
Q So who from the Urewera signed the Treaty?
A Nobody.
Q So were Tuhoe party to the Treaty?
A There were no Tuhoe signatories, so Tuhoe cannot be a party.
Q So if Tuhoe is not part of the Treaty why is the Urewera part of New Zealand?
A Probably because colonial interests shaped and wrote New Zealand law and history.
Q Has that always been the case?
A No. William Swainson, the Attorney General from 1841- 1856 advised that iwi who were not party to the Treaty were outside the mutual obligations of the signatories. Tuhoe was uncommitted by the Treaty; they lived outside of the rule and protection of the Crown.
Q So why is Urewera policed as indivisible from New Zealand?
A Because of occupation, custom and tradition.
Q But does that reflect the Treaty?

A What Treaty!


and that is why Governor Fitzroy’s Maori Exemption Order was resisted by colonial interests and over-ruled by the Colonial Office. Perhaps now, 170 years later, a different perception of fairness may emerge.