Category Archives: Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture

Nicky Hager 2012: Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan

Kia Ora Tatou,

Each time I go walking near my home I pass an old war memorial inscribed with the words “magna est veritas, et praevalebit“: Truth is great and will prevail. The words date from 1917, in the middle of the First World War, and were obviously attempting to reassure the locals that their sons and brothers were dying in a noble cause. But for me these words can apply equally to a very different subject: the motives, and the inherent optimism, of the activity known as investigative journalism, which is the subject of my lecture today. Investigative journalism includes, for instance, the public service of investigating truthfulness in politics and of seeking facts when the truth is disputed, twisted or hidden. It can also involve a different kind of truth: trying to discover and illuminate what is right and wrong. In essence, it is about investigating and challenging the activities of the powerful, the opposite of course of what the war memorial was proposing.  Continue reading Nicky Hager 2012: Investigative journalism in the age of media meltdown: from National Party Headquarters to Afghanistan

Nicky Hager to deliver 2012 Bruce Jesson Lecture

This year’s Bruce Jesson Lecture will focus on New Zealand’s need for investigative journalism – by someone once described as “New Zealand’s leading investigative journalist”.

Nicky Hager, who will present the lecture at Auckland University on 31 October, has been a fulltime writer for more than 20 years and is the sole New Zealand member of the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Continue reading Nicky Hager to deliver 2012 Bruce Jesson Lecture

Paul Dalziel 2011: Recreating Full Employment


The 2011 Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture Maidment Theatre, University of Auckland, 26 October 2011

Paul Dalziel
Professor of Economics, AERU Lincoln University

E ngā tāne, e ngā wāhine, e tau nei, tēnā koutou katoa.
Ka tino nui āku mihi o aroha ki a koutou i tēnei rā.
Kei te mihi ahau ki ngā taonga o Ngāti Whātua, tāngata whenua o Tāmaki-makau-rau. Kei te mihi ahau hoki ki ngā kaimahi o ēnei motu.
Ka tino nui o tātou mahi; no reira, me āwhina tātou ki a tātou.
Tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou. Kia ora tātou katoa.

I am sad to say I did not know Bruce Jesson personally. My only direct link, tenuous as it is, was an invitation in 1999 by New Zealand Books to review Only Their Purpose is Mad, which I did with great enthusiasm.1 At the end of my review, I quoted the following extract from Bruce’s remarkable book:

As a result of the transformation that has occurred since 1984, we no longer aspire to anything of significance at all. We now live in a society that is thoroughly commercial, where no one aspires to anything noble or worthwhile, or if they do they are ridiculed by the cynics of the free market. In this respect, the pre-1984 tradition of progress lives on as a critique of the present.

I went on in my review to comment on that extract:


This review appeared in New Zealand Books, Vol. 9(4), September 1999, pp. 19-20. 1

In other words, and adjusting Jesson’s title only slightly, our purpose is mad. Or at least we have lost our forebears’ sense of purpose, and have also forgotten some of the important achievements in New Zealand’s post-war society. Jesson suggests this state of amnesia is no accident, but argues in another of his memorable sentences that it has been an essential part of the transformation: ‘History has to be cancelled out because the New Right is waging a political battle on behalf of the global market- place against the nation and the state, and history is of the essence of nationhood.’

“History is the essence of nationhood.” I want to pick up on that theme, motivated by my experience last year on the Alternative Welfare Working Group chaired by Mike O’Brien. The official Welfare Working Group produced three major reports. In my view, a feature of all three of those reports is the way in which they cancelled out history, and so attacked our country’s nationhood.2

This is doubly deplorable because the core message of the Welfare Working Group is one that I endorse. That message is: The government should invest substantially more resources into assisting more people into well-paid, quality employment. This investment can be funded out of the welfare savings achieved when the assistance is successful.

The ‘Old Left’ have always known this. But the message is quickly distorted when stripped of its historical context by ‘New Right’ rhetoric. In particular, for the WWG’s core message to be properly implemented, three essential pieces of our history must be remembered.

First, from the foundation of New Zealand’s welfare state, it was always appreciated that its cornerstone must be a policy commitment to full employment. One of New Zealand’s most prominent civil servants at that time, Bill Sutch, made the following observation three years after the passing of the Social Security Act 1938:3

[The Social Security Fund] can only meet sustenance payments while there are comparatively few in need of it. This means the continuation of full employment by other means. If it is not provided by private enterprise, it must be provided by the State, either out of other taxation or by financing from the government’s Reserve Bank or from public borrowing.

The second historical fact is that in the late 1980s and early 1990s, appreciation of the centrality of full employment was lost. That blindness was not caused by any collapse in the work ethic of New Zealanders; rather, it was a deliberate policy choice made by politicians and their advisors pursuing the new right agenda.

With the passing of the years, we can forget just how brutal that policy choice was to workers and communities. This is one of those inconvenient truths from our history that we have pushed into our collective amnesia. Both Labour and National have their own reasons for wanting to forget, of course, but we must be honest about what we did as a country. The economic reforms of 1984 to 1994 were brutal to workers and communities.4

Options and Alternatives. It can be downloaded directly from the Welfare Justice website at

I wrote a paper on the third report earlier this year, Welfare and Social Sector Policy and Reform:

3 4

Sutch, W. B. (1941) Poverty and Progress in New Zealand. Christchurch: Modern Books, p. 140.

For people who have forgotten, or are too young to remember, I can do no better than recommend Bruce Jesson’s writings during the period. I have already mentioned his book, Only Their Purpose is Mad, but I would also recommend his collected writings edited by Andrew Sharp, To Build a Nation: Collected Writings 1975-1999, published by Penguin in 2005.


To reinforce this point, I want to show a picture to convey the enormity of the damage in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Figure 1 shows annual unemployment rates in the United States during the worst years of the Great Depression, peaking at 25 per cent of the labour force in 1933. It is well-known what that experience did in the United States, conveyed in a wide range of artistic works, in a multitude of academic studies, and in the recent policy determination to avoid a repeat after the global financial crisis.

Figure1: AnnualUnemploymentRates,USA(1928-1938)andNew Zealand Māori (1987-1997)

30 25 20 15 10



USA (1933)

Māori (1992)

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3 +4 +5

Years from Peak Unemployment

Source: Reproduced from Figure 6 of Dalziel (2011) cited in footnote 2.

The second line in the graph shows Māori unemployment rates in the late 1980s and early 1990s, peaking at just above 25 per cent in 1992. In this country just one generation ago, the indigenous people of Aotearoa experienced their own Great Depression. The experience of Pasifika communities in this country was similar. I repeat, the impact of the policies was brutal, leaving scars across some of New Zealand’s poorest urban and rural communities.

The third historical fact is that the major thrust of the Welfare Working Group’s reports is not new, but repeats an approach that produced the 1991 benefit cuts, whose twentieth anniversary was on 1 April this year. That approach blames individuals who are not in paid work; indeed the core policy document of the 1991 benefit cuts was Social Assistance: Welfare that Works.5 Exactly like the current approach, that document argued for reform because the welfare system was not sustainable, had created a culture of dependency, and was wasting the State’s resources. Exactly like the current approach, the 1991 policy document described its approach to welfare reform in individualist terms:

The extracts quoted below are from page 10 and page 4.

Shipley, J. (1991) Social Assistance: Welfare that Works (Wellington: New Zealand Government).


Percentage of the Labour Force

The reforms are designed to encourage self-reliance by providing people with sufficient motivation to move from state dependence to independence.

The 2011 report of the Welfare Working Group echoes the language of twenty years ago very closely, but without any consciousness that it is simply repeating history in this way. We should therefore be clear about this. Despite the destructive force of the benefit cuts in 1991, twenty years later the system faces the same problems as those reforms were explicitly intended to fix. We are nevertheless advised to adopt that same failed approach, but this time with still more force and to a wider group of people. Bruce Jesson would be the first to remind us that follies like this are exactly what happens when our history is cancelled out.

What then is the alternative? If we accept that full employment must be the cornerstone of our welfare state; if we accept that government should invest more resources into assisting more people into well-paid, quality employment; if we accept that we should turn away from our recent history of downplaying the centrality of full employment for strengthening the well-being of individuals and communities; how then can we go about recreating full employment? This is the title of my lecture.

At one level, my answer is the same as Bruce Jesson’s – through nation building.6 Without commitment to nation building, little of what I say will make any sense. I am not thinking particularly of politicians. All New Zealand citizens contribute to nation building (positively or negatively) in whatever positions we hold – as employers, as trade unionists, as industry leaders, as workers, as parents, as teachers, as students, as journalists, as volunteers in our communities, as taxpayers, as civil servants, and, yes, as local or national politicians.

My focus in this lecture, however, is not on that level of individuals. I want to focus on a second level, to examine the overall institutional system needed to create and sustain full employment with quality jobs. I want to focus on the big picture (and it will be a picture before I end) because I think the big picture is what is missing in our current policy design.

By this, I mean that I think we are very good in policy circles at analytical thinking, breaking down policy systems into component parts and making changes intended to improve each component. The Welfare Working Group is a classic example. Its terms of reference allowed the group to analyse only welfare income support (excluding the level of income support), which is just one component of the much larger institutional system affecting the quantity and distribution of quality jobs. Because it was required to focus on the small picture, the Welfare Working Group was effectively painted into a corner before its first meeting.


I am aware that the other economist asked to present a Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture, Brian Easton, chose “Nation Building and the Textured Society” as his topic in 2001. My paper aims to build on Brian’s contributions to our understanding of this concept, including of course his strong emphasis on history that is reflected in his book, The Nationbuilders, published by Auckland University Press in 2001.


We are not so good, I think, at synthetic thinking; the skill of drawing together diverse material from multiple sources to explore how the big picture can be improved. The Alternative Welfare Working Group under Mike O’Brien’s leadership engaged in synthetic thinking. We held as many public meetings as our finances permitted, from Invercargill to Whangarei. We then synthesised the submissions made at those meetings and through our website into a stand-alone report, Welfare Justice in New Zealand: What We Heard.7

That step of synthetic thinking was essential for our work. It allowed us to draw together the wide knowledge held in communities to build up our understanding of how the overall institutional system is helping or not helping people to achieve social security in their lives. Even allowing for their restrictive terms of reference, it is shameful that the official Welfare Working Group did nothing similar in its own consultation exercise.

My aim in the remainder of this lecture is to explain how we can use a synthetic approach to develop our understanding of the overall institutional system needed to recreate full employment.8 Thus, what I will do in the next few minutes is turn up some ‘jigsaw pieces’ that describe key elements in the overall system and then fit those pieces together into a synthetic picture that will help organise coherent policy making for full employment.

There are two parties in every employment arrangement – the employer and the employee. Thus our synthesis will need to integrate the perspectives of both these parties.9 I start with the employees’ perspective on what they need to find social security in paid work.

Justice website,



For readers who are interested in the theoretical underpinnings of what I am about to discuss, it is derived from the soft systems methodology developed over 30 years at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom; see, for example, Peter Checkland and John Poulter (2006), Learning for Action: A Short Definitive Account of Soft Systems Methodology and its Use for Practitioners, Teachers and Students (Chichester: John Wiley).

This synthesis report and our final report, Welfare Justice for All, are available at the Welfare

This two-party synthetic model was developed as part of the Education Employment Linkages research programme funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (see and I gratefully acknowledge the Ministry’s financial support.

The employee perspective was first published in my paper on “Developing the next generation: Employer-led channels for education employment linkages” included as Chapter 8 in Jane Bryson’s edited book Beyond Skill: Institutions, Organisations and Human Capability (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010, pp. 154-175). The employer perspective was first added in my presentation on “Skills in the economy and skill development for industry” to the Industry Training Federation New Zealand Labour Market and Skills Forum, Victoria University of Wellington, 1 September 2010, available at 2010.html. The full model was also included in my paper on “Leveraging training and skills development in SMEs: A regional skills ecosystem case study”, presented to the annual conference of the Regional Studies Association, University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, 17-20 April, 2011; see


The first requirement is decent employment opportunities. This has been a sustained criticism of the Welfare Working Group’s recommendations; that they glossed over the sharp fall in employment opportunities after the recent global financial crisis. Further, it is not any job that we are looking for; social security requires quality jobs offering liveable incomes in safe working conditions.



Employment Opportunities

Second, there needs to be a match between employment opportunities and individual abilities. There is widespread concern in New Zealand at the moment about how poorly we help young people in general, and some groups of young people in particular, develop career management skills that would help them match their individual abilities with genuine employment opportunities.10


Employment Opportunities


Individual Abilities

10 See, for example, More Ladders, Fewer Snakes: Two Proposals to Reduce Youth Disadvantage, published by the New Zealand Institute in July 2011, available at


The third requirement is for investment in education that matches both individual abilities and employment opportunities. The importance of matching is not always well appreciated in New Zealand policy; we have tended to count enrolments in a school or tertiary institution rather than checking whether those for whom this is their reason for enrolment are genuinely learning employment-enhancing skills.



Employment Opportunities

Individual Abilities

Education Investment

This part of the synthesis demonstrates that “skills” in an employment context comes from successfully matching the three elements of individual abilities, investment in education and employment opportunities. Skills defined in this sense are at the heart of the employees’ side of the picture, and will play a big role in my conclusion.


Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment

I turn now to the employers’ perspective. What do enterprises (defined in the widest sense of the word; I am not excluding public sector organisations and community service groups) need to offer quality paid work opportunities for workers?


First, the enterprise needs to identify market opportunities where it can provide a good or service at a price or for a taxpayer subsidy that will cover its costs. This is not as easy as it sounds (and it sounds quite difficult), which is why governments around the world pay close attention to how they can stimulate private and social entrepreneurs.


Market Opportunities

Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment

Once a market opportunity is identified, the next step is to invest in capital to take advantage of that opportunity. At least since the publication of The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes in 1936, we have understood the importance of physical capital investment decisions for maintaining full employment and for raising material living standards. These days we also recognise that enterprises draw on their community’s environmental, social and cultural capital to develop and take advantage of market opportunities.


Market Opportunities

Capital Investment

Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment


The third element is to match the capital investment with productive workers focused on the market opportunities. I say ‘match’ because modern technologies embodied in physical capital typically require technology-specific skills in the workforce if the capital is to be properly maintained and make its optimal contribution to enterprise goals.


Market Opportunities

Capital Investment

Productive Workers

Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment

If the market opportunities, capital investment and productive workers are well-matched, the result is profits. I am using this last word in its classical sense of a reward for successful entrepreneurial behaviour, received after interest and dividends have been paid to the owners of invested capital and after wages have been paid to the employed workers. Where free entry into the market by other enterprises is possible, competition will tend to drive any excess profits defined in this sense down towards zero, which is the floor below which the enterprise is not sustainable.


Market Opportunities


Capital Investment

Productive Workers

Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment


Now comes the synthesis. In order for the employees to be employed as productive workers, they must have skills. In order for employers to offer sustainable employment opportunities, they must generate non-negative profits. Hence the two diagrams are really one, obtained by rotating the right-hand diagram and ‘clicking’ it into the left-hand diagram to produce the synthesis picture in Figure 2.


Market Opportunities


Capital Investment

Productive Workers

Employment Opportunities



Individual Abilities

Education Investment

Figure 2: The Synthesis Picture

Market Opportunities


Education Investment

Capital Investment


Individual Abilities


It is important to emphasise that Figure 2 is a picture to help organise our thinking; it is not reality itself. Nevertheless, I think it is a useful picture in making the following three points:

  •   First, the overall system is complex, so that anyone promoting a single simple solution to recreate full employment (for example, increase national savings, lower taxes, raise taxes or reform social welfare) is at best naïve and at worst dangerously wrong.
  •   Second, the overall system is nevertheless understandable, so that it is not difficult to keep the big picture in mind as we explore possible policy interventions to improve the way the connections between different parts of the system operate.
  •   Third, at the heart of the overall system is a binary connection between profits and skills; a binary connection that I suggest we need to understand much better than we do at present if the overall system is to work well.

    Let me illustrate how the synthesis can be used, drawing upon an example from the other side of the Tasman. Our generation lives in an era of climate change. This is creating market opportunities for enterprises that can offer technological solutions to businesses and households wanting to reduce their carbon emissions and energy use. To take advantage of these opportunities, the enterprises must be able to employ trades people who have the appropriate “green skills” to design, build, sell and maintain those technologies. Recognising this, the Federal Government of Australia has invested millions of dollars to upgrade the ability of TAFE Institutes to offer trades training in industry-defined green skills. This has included funding the acquisition of the latest energy-saving technologies into purpose-built training facilities, so that the education investment by trainees matches the capital investment taking place in businesses.11

    Please note that this is not a matter of the Australian government ‘picking winners’ for federal support. Rather, it was a matter of recognising a trend in market opportunities for Australian enterprises and thinking about how government policy could reduce transactions costs that were hampering the development of those opportunities. In particular, the policy sought to facilitate the matching of capital investment with education investment in a way that enhanced mutually reinforcing opportunities for increasing profits and skills. It is a good illustration of the way the top five circles in Figure 2 need to be considered together.

    I want to comment on the sixth circle in Figure 2 – individual abilities – because it is where the Alternative Welfare Working Group ended up in our deliberations on the questions set before the official Welfare Working Group by the government. A key argument made by the official Welfare Working Group is that urgent welfare reforms are required because current

11 The author was part of an international panel brought together by the OECD to visit Sydney, 29 November to 3 December 2010, in order to advise on best practice for developing ‘green skills’ (see The report from that mission is expected to be available on the OECD website by the end of 2012.


trends in the welfare support are unsustainable. The Alternative Welfare Working Group found that this argument was not supported by the statistical evidence presented by the Welfare Working Group. The relevant graphs are reproduced in Figures 3 and 4.

Figure 3: Projected Increase in Beneficiary Numbers

Source: Welfare Working Group (2010) The Issues, Figure 6.3, page 62.
Figure 4: Projected Beneficiary Expenditure as Per Cent of GDP

Source: Welfare Working Group (2010) The Issues, Figure 6.6, page 63.


Looking at Figure 3, there was a clear downward trend in beneficiary numbers in the decade prior to the impact of the global financial crisis in 2008. The Welfare Working Group made the assumption that after the recession ends, the number of people receiving the main benefits will remain higher than before the recession and that the previous downward trend will be reversed. Even under this worst-case scenario, however, the number of beneficiaries was not projected to return to the level of the 1990s until 2040, suggesting that we have about 30 years to implement genuine long-term solutions to this issue.

This observation is reinforced in Figure 4, which shows the projected spending on the main benefits as a percentage of GDP. Even under the worst-case scenario, there is no evidence of any unsustainable trend in that downward time series.

Consequently, given that we have at least a generation to resolve this issue, the Alternative Welfare Working Group came to the conclusion that we should focus on developing the individual abilities of our children. I pause for moment to reflect on how extraordinary it is that such a statement needs to be said in New Zealand. I remind you of Bruce Jesson’s statement I quoted at the beginning of this lecture.

As a result of the transformation that has occurred since 1984, we no longer aspire to anything of significance at all. We now live in a society that is thoroughly commercial, where no one aspires to anything noble or worthwhile, or if they do they are ridiculed by the cynics of the free market. In this respect, the pre-1984 tradition of progress lives on as a critique of the present.

If “history is of the essence of nationhood”, to quote Bruce again, then developing the individual abilities of our children is surely its heart and soul, particularly in a country that used to pride itself on being “a great place to bring up kids”. But there is clear evidence that there are serious problems in the way we are developing the talents of the next generation. I do not have time to put in front of you the wealth of material on the Child Poverty Action Group’s website (, but I do want to put in front of you two statistics that illustrate what I am saying.

During the work of the Welfare Justice alternative working group, the then President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, Ernie Buutveld, released an opinion piece that included the following comments on young people struggling in primary schools:12

There is a small number of children in our schools who are struggling – for all sorts of reasons. The number varies. The Minister of Education believes the number is one in five. This is still just less than the OECD average of 21%, but significantly higher than the numbers cited by educators and leading academics, who agree the reality in our primary schools is more like 15-16%.

12 Buutveld, E. (2010). “National Standards Opinion Piece.” New Zealand Principals’ Federation, available at default/files/NZPF_NS_Opinion_Piece_27Aug.pdf.


There are about 400,000 primary school students in New Zealand, so that even the lowest figure of 15 per cent suggests 60,000 young people struggling at primary school. This is not a small number of people, especially if a significant proportion of these students become disengaged from education early in their life.

The second statistic is shown in Figure 5. It is based on a survey by the OECD in 2008 which applied consistent methods and definitions to collect data on the expenditure per student in OECD member countries. The graph shows the direct expenditure on primary, secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education institutions in relation to the number of full-time equivalent students enrolled in these institutions.

Figure5: ExpenditureonPrimary,SecondaryandPost-secondaryNon-tertiary Education, OECD Countries, 2006






Source: OECD Factbook 2010, p. 189, available at

That study put New Zealand in the lowest spending quarter of the OECD rankings, seventh from bottom out of 29 countries. Our spending was about three-quarters of both the OECD average and the spending in Australia (76.7 and 74.9 per cent respectively). The level of spending on our children’s education is a choice we make. If we choose to spend less than other parts of the developed world on developing our children’s individual abilities, we must not be surprised when we reap the consequences.


Turkey Mexico Slovak Republic Poland Hungary Czech Republic New Zealand Portugal Korea Finland Germany Spain OECD average Ireland Australia Japan France Canada Belgium Netherlands Sweden Italy United Kingdom Iceland Denmark Austria United States Norway Switzerland Luxembourg

I want to finish this lecture by returning to the binary connection between profits and skills at the core of the synthetic picture in Figure 2. Some of you may know that within the Treasury the Education and Skills team is responsible for advising the Minister of Finance on New Zealand’s education system. In terms of our picture, the team’s focus is on the connection between education investment and skills (see Figure 6 below).

Figure 6: Education, Skills and Profits


Education Investment


The Treasury recognises that New Zealand’s tertiary educated population appears to have low wage premiums compared to other OECD economies. Adults living in New Zealand who have invested in tertiary education appear to be getting less pay (relative to adults without qualifications) than they could expect if they lived in other OECD countries. The Education and Skills team at the Treasury is exploring what might be driving that relationship.

The synthesis picture suggests a wide range of different possibilities; including:

    

Lower quality or under-resourced education institutions;
Weak matching of individual abilities and education investment;
Weak matching of education investment and employment opportunities; Weak matching of education investment with capital investment; and
Low market opportunities for generating profits to employ skilled employees.

I don’t
namely, that large pockets of New Zealand’s business culture (in the primary sector, in the manufacturing sector, in the services sector, and in the public as well as the private sector) are not experienced at creating profits for their business if their operation uses skilled employees receiving a just return on their investment in gaining those skills through education and experience.

In presenting this hypothesis, I am not trying to be disparaging about individual managers in the private or public sector. I appeal to Bruce Jesson one more time; this hypothesis comes from my reflection on our recent history, which I think has reinforced an already existing tendency for skilled labour to be underutilised and therefore undervalued in New Zealand.

want to discount any of these possibilities, but I want to focus on a sixth possibility;


In other jurisdictions, the union movement plays a critical role in defining, protecting and obtaining just rewards for skilled work. Those of you who have seen the film Made in Dagenham will remember what a breakthrough occurred in British industrial relations when unions and management were forced to recognise that women’s work could be and was ‘skilled work’. In New Zealand, policy reforms have deliberately decimated the influence of unions, diminishing this institutional force for ensuring that enterprises properly value and utilise skills in the workplace.

A second institution for promoting skills development and utilisation is career paths within large organisations. As employees accumulate skills through experience and on-the-job training, they are promoted along internal career paths. The means employees are rewarded for their rising skill levels and employers must find ways to utilise those rising skills productively and profitably. In New Zealand, large volumes of skilled work are now contracted out to self-employed operators, only some of whom are in sufficiently scarce supply to receive just returns and working conditions for their skills.

It is not necessary to suggest any great conspiracy among employers to accept the possibility of this hypothesis. Adam Smith, writing in his Wealth of Nations 235 years ago, put it this way:13

Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals.

In other words, the tendency to underutilise and undervalue skills passes through history into current business culture. It will not be easily shifted, judging by the uniformly negative media reaction to Labour’s mild suggestion for Industry Standard Agreements based on Australian practice.14

And so I come back to where I started. Little of what I have said will make sense without a commitment to nation building. But I hope I have showed that with such a commitment, it is possible to build a nation offering full employment with decent jobs. It needs policies that reinforce each other across the whole big picture; it needs substantial investment in developing the individual abilities of the next generation; and it requires a significant culture shift in rewarding and utilising skills in the workplace.

  1. 13  Adam Smith (1776) An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Book 1, Chapter 8. University Paperbacks Edition, edited by Edwin Cannan (London: Methuen, 1961, Volume 1, p. 75).
  2. 14  See, for example, The policy is available at


Annette Sykes 2010: Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture

Ki te kore koe e mau puu ana ki o tikanga me toou Mana Motuhake, Kua ngaro koe ki te poouri otira e whai kee ana koe i ngaa tikanga a tetahi noatu

When you fail to sustain your beliefs, sovereignty, freedom
You become lost to yourself as you are subsumed by those whose customs and practices you must now serve

In 1980 following the furore which was engendered by the publication of the Maori Sovereignty articles, Bruce Jesson commented:

“Essentially, Maori sovereignty is about the complete incompatibility of the Maori and Pakeha ways of life, and about how economic and political power has resolved this conflict in favour of the Pakeha.”1

At the time there was a strident group of Maori radicals who readily identified with the concept of Maori Sovereignty and with Maori resistance to Pakeha intrusion into their territories, their values, their mindscapes and their landscapes.2 The core was drawn from an urban underclass from the communities of South Auckland, Hastings and Wellington. Their message was simple: Pakeha have colonised our hearts and our minds and have substituted our traditional systems and institutions with ones that Awatere described as exploitative, oppressive, dehumanised and spiritually deficient.3 It was time for the nation to turn the page on an era of greed, irresponsibility and injustice and an era of change was demanded.

1 Jesson B, “Waitangi a Pakeha Issue too” p. 108 in Andrew Sharp (ed) To Build a Nation Collected Writings 1975–1999, Penguin, Auckland, 2005.
2 It is interesting to note that the Oxford Dictionary characterises the term ‘radical’ as the “departure from tradition”. In these regards, the term ‘Maori Radical’ would seem to define people of the ilk of Don Brash, i.e. those who would seek to sever Maori from their traditions. Of course, in our domestic context, the term ‘Maori Radical’ relates to those who have struggled through the ‘Brash Attacks’ in their many guises to maintain Maori connections and their freedoms in this country. The proof of this statement is evidenced most starkly in the fact that the Brash’s have faded, yet the Harawira’s still remain.

3 Jesson B, “Waitangi a Pakeha Issue too” p.108.

The Maori World responded over the ensuing decades with a number of initiatives that were initially resisted by the Crown and, in general, by the Pakeha public. These initiatives included widespread development activity in the revitalisation of Te Reo Maori, autonomous Kura Kaupapa education initiatives, control over Maori health and social services delivery mechanisms, independent Maori media, and demands for redress within the Treaty Settlement arena.

The struggle transformed from one of simple confrontation with the state to one that sought the reclamation of Kaupapa Maori theory, practices and methodologies with the assistance of the State. Whether Labour or National, the apparatus of the state responded with a variety of quangos like the Maori Language Commission, the Maori Broadcasting Agency, the Ministry of Maori Development, the Maori Economic Task Force, the Crown Forest Rental Trust and the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission. The process of corporatisation had begun, with Maori radicals like me complicit in the transformation. Hone Harawira and I were appointed as founding members of Te Mangai Paho, the Maori Broadcasting Agency. I was also appointed as the Deputy Chairperson of Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd, a subsidiary company created by the Maori Fisheries Act 1989.

The same period saw the rise of a Maori elite within the process of litigating, negotiating and then implementing Treaty settlements, many of whom have become active sycophants of the broader neo liberal agenda which transfers a limited subset of publicly owned assets and resources into the private ownership of corporations to settle the injustices that have been inflicted upon hapu and iwi Maori.

An aura has built up around these Iwi leaders who, in tandem with the Maori Party, are now treated as the authorised voices of all Maori. But I am actively involved in all these issues and even I don’t know who they are and where their mandate comes from on particular issues, let alone who they are accountable to and how.


In the process, the reality of our people has been lost sight of. As many well know, the economic miracle that has allegedly transformed Maori society and propelled this forum into what has been described as the most powerful lobby group in Aotearoa is a myth, a carefully constructed illusion. Maori land holdings, even after Treaty settlements are taken into account, are small, less than three hectares per person, and returns from Maori land are confined to a small section of the Maori population, about one third.4 Similarly the asset base of some of these large corporations – Te Ohu Kaimoana, which is estimated at $590 million, only equates to approximately $1,000 per person (if we use 523,000 as indicative of the total Maori population).5 The position is even worse for the most populous iwi like Ngapuhi, whose shareholding per person diminished to about $500 per person upon the terms of the actual allocation model.6

Statistics continue to reflect the poor socio-economic state of most Maori. The Maori unemployment rate is twice as high as non-Maori, and one out of four Maori receive a benefit compared to one out of ten non-Maori.7 Maori are three times more likely to live in an overcrowded household compared to non-Maori.8 Only two out of five Maori are completing secondary education with a Level Two Certificate, compared to two out of three non-Maori.9 While Maori currently represent around 13% of the general New Zealand population, we make up 51% of the prison population. In 2006, Maori accounted for 43% of all police apprehensions.10 Maori life expectancy is 10% lower than non-Maori, and Maori are twice as likely to be obese.11 Our suicide rate is 1.6 times higher than non-Maori, and our youth suicide rate is twice that of non-Maori. In 2006 the Maori youth suicide rate was 31.8 per 100,000, compared with the non-Maori

4 Durie, Mason, Nga Kahui Pou: Launching Maori Futures, Huia Publishers, 2003, p.95.
5 Ibid.
6 It should be noted that the ten largest iwi in the 2006 Census are as follows: Nga Puhi 122,211; Ngati Porou 71,910; Ngati Kahungungu 59,946; Ngai Tahu/Kai Tahu 49.185; Te Arawa 42,159; Ngati Tuwharetoa 34,674; Ngati Maniapoto 33,627; Waikato 33,429; Tuhoe 32,670 and Ngati Awa 15,258.
7 Socioeconomic Indicators at
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Dannette, Marie, “Maori and Criminal Offending: A Critical Appraisal”, 43(2) The Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Criminology, 2010, at p.284.
11 The Social Report 2009 “Health” at pp.21 and 29


rate of 16.8 per 100,000.12 Almost half of all Maori women smoke cigarettes, which is twice as high as non-Maori women,13 and we are significantly more likely to have a potentially hazardous drinking pattern.14

The process I am describing is not new. Sadly, it mirrors the all-too-familiar colonial pattern where governments have aimed to maintain control of indigenous populations through indirect means; that is, in lieu of direct military-political control, neo-colonialist powers co-opt indigenous elites through privileged relationships with their government and opportunities to profit from their economic, financial and trade policies, at the expense of their people. “Rangatiratanga”, as Moana Jackson reminds, “has in effect been redefined yet again as a neo-liberal right of self management bound by the good faith of the Crown and what the Court of Appeal called in the 1987 Case the ‘right to govern’. Moving on from the past and recognising the special place of tangata whenua has become a journey not of constitutional change but of devolution and the authority of the State to devolve or permit Iwi to manage certain resources and programmes subject to government funding and rules of contract”.

The National Iwi Chairs Forum, in particular the executive who is also in charge of the secretariat of this group, has set themselves up to be first in the queue to sit at the Masters table with the clear desire of exerting economic influence in corporate terms.15

It is these observations that have inspired my contribution this evening, coupled with the fact that as someone born and raised in the DPB capital of the world Kawerau, I have been personal witness to the impact of the economic reforms on heartland NewZealand. I have watched a thriving mill-town reduced to a community that is dependent on the generosity of the diminishing welfare state to ensure the well being of its families. Reading the insightful commentary on

12 Ibid, p.25.
13 Ibid, p.27.
14 Ibid, p.31.
15 Te Tepu, Series 6, Episode 15. Transcript from Interview with NICF leader Tukuroirangi Morgan by Waihoroi Shortland.


my hometown by Simon Collins in a series in the New Zealand Herald recently reminded me that the poor and dispossessed who are my family and my closest friends are not being treated with respect or as relevant to these processes and that Maori elites are complicit in perpetuating this poverty without remorse. The articles raised a serious moment of introspection on my part.

I hope this contribution will enable the Maori who aspire to the ranks of the Iwi Leaders Forum to reflect on whether they are in fact leaders of our people or followers of a New Right process that is designed to disenfranchise tangata whenua and nullify the guarantee of independence of Aotearoa in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. By embracing a modern version of integration that has all the zest, scale, speed and power of the old industrial-era capitalist imperialism, they are ‘leading’ a systematic onslaught on the Maori way of life.

Who is the Brown Table?

Hikina Te Arai

Lifting the Veil

In a recent submission to the UN Special Rapporteur, James Anaya, the National Chairs Iwi Forum (NICF) claims that it represents more than 400,000 Maori, over two-thirds of the Maori population, and is portrayed as the new frontier of Iwi Maori, the global entrepreneurs.16

Both Mark Solomon and Tukuroirangi Morgan17 have suggested that the National Iwi Chairs Forum actually numbers approximately 70 people who convene quarterly to discuss a broad agenda. It is not clear who these people are and upon what right of representation they claim to speak on issues.

Ironically, most of those Maori they represent have to go to the website to find out who their ‘leaders’ are! A search of the website suggests that the National Iwi

16 Background Paper, Iwi Chairs Forum to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freeds to Professor James Anaya located at p1

17 Questions posed at the Hui – a – Motu Iwi Leaders Working Group on Climate Change 10 November 2009 Rydges Hotel Rotorua.


Chairs Forum is a self-defined group of individuals who meet regularly, and who are chairs of their own iwi runanga, tribal trust boards or other tribal corporate entities, what is commonly referred to as Iwi Authorities.

Attendance at the NICF is ‘restricted’ to elected chairs of hapu/iwi entities of this kind who are purportedly mandated to represent their constituents in the Forum. Their website names Mark Solomon (Chairperson of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu), Tuku Morgan (Chairperson of TeArataura), Raniera (Sonny) Tau (Chairperson of Te Runanga o Ngapuhi), Professor Margaret Mutu (Chairperson of Te Runanga o Ngati Kahu), Toko Renata (Chairperson of Hauraki Maori Trust Board), Ngahiwi Tomoana (Chairperson of Ngati Kahungungu Iwi Incorporation) and Api Mahuika (Ngati Porou) as Iwi Chairs who make up the Forum. Apparently, the further 63 or so individuals have not notified the website manager of their details, which makes it difficult to ascertain the Forum’s actual membership. However, the two forums that I have attended certainly suggest a broader group attends these meetings, but that the business of the forum is led by the iwi Chairs profiled on their website.

The seven named individuals seem to perform an executive function for the broader NICF, supported by a secretariat. Various Iwi Leaders Working Groups (ILGs) are formed around specific issues, such as water, climate change, public private partnerships, foreshore and seabed, whanau ora and geothermal, where they ‘consult’ at the kind of invitation-only hui that I describe below. These groups operate in similar ways, in that the ILG on a particular issue engages directly with government, endeavours to hui with Iwi and hapū representatives at hui they organise across the country, and report back to each National Iwi Chairs Forum. What is interesting is that the ILGs seem to rely on mandates effected at the Forum’s own quarterly meetings to suggest that have been confirmed in a representative capacity for iwi katoa.18

18 See discussion for example of the establishment of the Iwi Leaders Working Group (ILG) on Foreshore and Seabed which was formed at the Hopuhopu Iwi Chairs Forum on 20 August 2009 in Background Paper, Iwi Chairs Forum to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms to Professor James Anaya located at
p 9. This group by 26 August 2009 was seeking a number of commitments from the Government.


A closer examination of the genesis of the NICF shows that it mainly comprises men who are chairpersons or members of the 57 Mandated Iwi Organisations (MIO) that were established to satisfy the criteria to receive fisheries settlement assets following the Sealords Deal. In an interview with Koha reporter Tina Wickliffe, Tukuorangi Morgan noted that approximately 51 of the MIO are or have been represented at the Forum.19 Most of these organisations have by no means secured mandates from the constituent members beyond the single issue of fisheries settlement management or management of settlement funds. Debate between iwi on how to share that settlement took years, as did setting up the necessary iwi corporate structures to manage the proceeds.20 The Maori Fisheries Act 2004 led to the first distribution to iwi of fish quota, cash, and shares in Aotearoa Fisheries Ltd in September 2005.

According to its website, in the five years since its inception the National Iwi Chairs Forum has operated in two main areas: hui convened of national Iwi Chairs to consider strategic issues; and working groups established at the behest of the NICF to prepare discussion papers around strategic matters. Tuku Morgan, Ngahiwi Tomoana, Mark Solomon, the late Sir Archie Taiaroa, Professor Margaret Mutu and Api Mahuika are all said to have been convenors at various times on various matters under consideration by the Forum. The NICF identifies issues of concern to all Maori – or a very broad range of whanau, hapu and iwi – and sets up working groups to address them. Each working group is convened by an Iwi Chair. These working groups may co-opt expertise from amongst their bodies. These are the bodies that have become known as “Iwi Leader Groups” because their membership aims to become that of leaders in the respective issues as identified.

19 Wickliffe,; T,; ‘Lifting the Veil of Secrecy’, Koha ,Issue 7, p.5, Published by FOMANA Capital Ltd September 2010.
20 As Lord Goff noted Treaty Tribes Coalition v Urban Maori Authorities [1997] 1 NZLR 513, 517 (PC) Maori have found the task of dividing the fisheries resource to be “an extremely challenging process”; See also Te Runanga o Wharekauri Rekohu Inc v Attorney-General [1993] 2 NZLR 301; Waitangi Tribunal, The Fisheries Settlement Report Wai 307 (Department of Justice, Wellington, 1992).; Te Runanga o Muriwhenua v Te Runanganui o Te Upoko o Te Ika Association Inc [1996] 3 NZLR 10, 16; Te Waka Hi o Te Arawa and others v Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission (4 August 1998) unreported, High Court, Auckland Registry, CP 395/93 (Wgtn) Anderson J.


In addition to its website, the NICF claim to have a communications network, largely through email, to exchange information with “iwi katoa”, and there are email streams that develop amongst iwi leadership groups on specific issues. However, when I asked who was part of the email stream, I was advised it is mainly the 50 or so representatives that had been invited to the Coronation meeting in 2007 that had formalised the group, but that it was a very fluid matter.21 I am still waiting for a copy of the list of individuals who were purported to have mandated the creation of the forum, which Tukuroirangi Morgan promised would be made available to me following a meeting with the Iwi Leaders Working Group on Climate Change in Rotorua in November 2009.

One of the strident criticisms is that a self-selected group of iwi authority chairpersons and their advisors have sidelined traditional communities and their tikanga Maori processes of engagement, such as regularly convened advertised hui that hapu and iwi leaders have maintained prior to fundamental decisions being made that impact on the lives of the community that they purport to represent. There is no vetting process on those attending this National Iwi Chairs Forum: the chairs who register as attending claim to do so under the mana of their electing body; but there is no clear indication whether in fact the electing bodies or those hapu and whanau they represent, have mandated the participation of these individuals on the broad range of issues under consideration. Their status as ‘leaders’ purports to eliminate, or at least relegate from relevance, other figures of authority that their people might look to for direction, even though there is the often-token attendance of some elders in these meetings.

A New Maori Hegemony

It is no coincidence that the National Iwi Chairs Forum, (NICF) where the Chairs and Convenors and Advisor of Iwi Leaders Groups conduct their consultation with each other and a small extended circle, emerged at a time when the first

21 Hui-a-Motu 10 November 2009 at Rydges Hotel ILG (Iwi Leaders Working Group) on Climate Change


distribution of capital into Maori communities was anticipated following finalisation of the principles of allocation to be applied to the Sealords deal. Apart from Tainui and Ngai Tahu, and perhaps one or two other iwi groups, this was to be the first allocation of cash to Iwi corporates since the inception of the Treaty Settlement framework and it was eagerly awaited by the brown bureaucracy that had grown in anticipation of this.

This group of Iwi Authority representatives are joined in the NICF by chairpersons from other organisations, like Tribal Trust Boards, and Runanga. There is also emerging representation from the corporate arms of Post Settlement Governance Entities required to be established by the Office of Treaty Settlements to receive settlement assets, so that Tukuorangi Morgan, for example, claims to represent Te Arataua, rather than the Tainui Parliament, the Kauhanganui.

The culture that the new Maori elites have adopted increasingly demands that Maori entities be run on business lines, mirroring the model of the Treasury and the Business Roundtable.

Paepae rangatira are categorised as symbolic, lacking in the requisite expertise to risk allowing them to have even a minimal amount of control of economic concerns. The strident demands for a separation of governance from management have accompanied efforts to diminish the role of governance and inflate that of management in an effort to reverse their hierarchical status. In so doing they have actually advocated a disconnection of tangata from their whenua.

This empowerment of corporatised iwi structures has been driven by two discourses.22 The first centred around the rationale that the commercial, social and regulatory functions of government departments should be separated, which

22 In two consultation documents called “Te Tirohanga Rangapu” and “Te Urupare Rangapu” approved Iwi authorities were to be created to deliver certain programmes, usually in health or social welfare. Iwi were to be agents and service providers for the Crown operating with appropriately indigenized Pakeha structures.


had commenced during the Rogernomics era. The second was the State’s need for a mechanism to manage settlement of Maori interests that were guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi and which had threatened to act as a judder bar to the Crown agenda to privatise, and for certainty about who to deal with in the commercial environment. These discourses informed a market view of devolution through a decision-making model that only recognised the authority of those iwi groups who had been approved by the state. As Graham Smith observed: “Who names what constitutes leadership of iwi therefore is determinative of who the experts are”,23 and therefore from whom one should seek Maori opinion.

The economic agenda of the NICF was legitimised by the outcomes of a Hui Taumata that was convened in Wellington from 1-3 March 2005, which brought together a wide range of perspectives to look at ways to accelerate Maori economic growth. It was the second hui of its kind, the first held in October 1984 before the onslaught of Rogernomics. The 2005 hui was borne from the recognition that Maori had been disproportionately affected by the radical economic reforms of the intervening period and the failed closing the gaps policy. A Maori Economic Taskforce was established following the Maori Economic Summit. Prominent amongst its membership was Rob McLeod of the Business Roundtable, Ngati Kahungungu Runanga Chairperson Ngahiwi Tomoana who was later to assume the Chairperson role of the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission and Ngai Tahu leader Mark Solomon, who has been a clear driver behind the National Iwi Chairs Forum and is a convenor of one of the Iwi Leaders Groups (ILG) relating to Public/Private Partnerships.24 The other members were Bentham Ohia, June McCabe, John Tamihere and Daphne Luke, as

23 Smith G, “Kimihia te Maramatanga”, Doctoral Thesis, Chapter 5, p.103.
24 The work in this area has been progressed under Minister Sharples‘ Taskforce on Māori Economic Development. The Taskforce has a number of portfolios spanning; the primary sector; access to capital, labour force development and training, small and medium enterprise development and support; Māori branding opportunities, infrastructure investment, kaupapa Māori models of commercialism and co-investment amongst Iwi and with the Crown. Mark Solomon is leading the work stream on co-investment amongst Iwi and with the Crown. See Background Paper, Iwi Chairs Forum to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freeds to Professor James Anaya located at p 11


well as Leith Comer, Chief Executive of Te Puni Kokiri and Hon Georgina Te Heuheu, Associate Minister of Maori Affairs.25

The potential impacts of such separation seem all the more significant when we remember that the processes of individualisation allow lands and other taonga to be seen as tradeable commodities. These measures are said to be necessary to achieve the oft-quoted mantra of taking Iwi Maori from grievance to development mode. The fact that history shows the method to be dangerously flawed hardly seems to register. Instead, a new type of internecine conflict erupts,26 as the appetite for power of those who would seek to control the asset base intensifies the covetous desire to obtain more. In the Treaty settlement litigation that has resulted from the process, a central concern has been the repeated bureaucratic inadequacies that resulted in a failure to protect the interests of individuals and groups not (or inadequately) represented at the negotiating table. When the courts have been faced with these challenges they have almost always opted for the view that these are political, as opposed to legal, matters and are therefore not justiciable and have been reluctant to intervene. The difficulty is that the iwi authority structures themselves are without the apparatus to ensure proper democratic and accountability mechanisms by those who proclaim a mandate at this national level. The claims for Mana Motuhake and Political Independence by hapu are effectively

25 Te Puni Kokiri; The Maori Economic Taskforce – Kokiri – Kokiri 15 2009.
26 The Crown policy to negotiate the settlement of Treaty claims with large natural groupings with tribal interests at an Iwi level rather than at a hapu, whanau or claimant level has been the subject of much attention by the judiciary in a number of contexts from challenges to the robustness of mandates, concerns around the failure to address the needs of overlapping claims and allegations that customary relationships to land are being transformed contrary to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and settled principles of Maori Law as negotiated following the Lands case. See: The Ngati Awa Cross Claims Settlement report Wai 958 2002 The Te Arawa Mandate Report: Te Wahanga Tuarua;Wai 1150 2005; and the Tamaki Makaurau Settlement Process Report Wai 13622007; Hayes v Waitangi Tribunal HAC WN CP 111/01 10 May 2001; Waitaha Taiwhenua o Waitaki Trust v Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu HC WN CP 41/98 17 June 1998; Milroy v Attorney General [2005] NZAR 562 (CA) and New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney General [2008] 1 NZLR 318 (CA); Pouwhare v Kruger CIV-2009-485-976 High Court; Attorney General v Kenehi Mair & Ors [2009] NZCA 625; Haronga v Attorney General [2010] NZCA 201; For a full discussion of the genesis of the policy See also Annie Mikaere, “Settlement of Treaty Claims: Full and Final, or Fatally Flawed?”, (1997) 17 NZULR 425; Malcolm Birdling, “Healing the Past or Harming the Future? ‘Large Natural Groupings’ and the Treaty Settlement Process”, (LLB(Hons) Research Paper, Victoria University of Wellington, 2003),12.


surrendered to the Iwi Leaders quest for greater participation and influence in the New Zealand Economy.

The result is a new Maori hegemony that sits within a national one. This Maori hegemony emerges out of the new iwi leadership’s assumption of a high caste status, because members of the NICF or their delegations are increasingly the only individuals that the Crown sees as relevant on Maori issues. Yet the status of the NICF exists within a framework of authority that has been created or redefined within the settlement process to accommodate the requirements of the Office of Treaty Settlements as part of the Crown’s Settlement Policy. The process of Crown approval and recognition by the Office of Treaty Settlements, prior to the determination of what and how much the Crown will grant in settlement, reflects the old patterns of the Native Land Court and highlights the broader and more obvious subordination of traditional Maori processes of decision-making. The compliant acceptance of this state of affairs, by the few for the many,27 illustrates the continuing subjugation of Maori to a neo liberal economic hegemony to protect the stability of the construct of Crown unitary sovereignty.

It is unsurprising that the coalescence of the Iwi Chairs leadership into a national body called the National Iwi Chairs Forum has brought with it a desire by the Crown to entertain national settlements on key resources like climate change, freshwater, geothermal, foreshore and seabed and public private partnerships. Rather than dealing with these issues in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi

27 Many chairs of the National Iwi Chairs Forum (NICF) like the late Archie Taiaroa, who was also a former Chairperson of the now defunct National Maori Congress, have a long history of fighting for the rights of iwi and hapu to maintain their mana motuhake and political sovereignty. Sir Archie Taiaroa was the Co-Chairperson with the late Sir Hepi Te Heuheu at of the Hirangi Hui convened to consider a Pan-Maori response to the questions of the controversial Fiscal Envelope Policy. The difficulty in the present regime is that the models of settlement being agreed to by many of the Iwi Chairpersons and their constituents (like the statutory boards created over Waikato River and the Rotorua Lakes in the past) are still models of participation and management of policy within the Crown’s rubric of authority which denies the legitimacy of tino rangatiratanga in the modern context and highlights the fact that the Crown Treaty Policy Framework is still in the main unilaterally developed by the Crown. Furthermore the question must be posed do Iwi Chairs have the mandate to interface on these issues with the Crown by the peoples at the grass roots whom they purport to represent on matters when their organisations focus is quite often limited to particular land management or fisheries management issues.


guarantees, the Forum seems to be promoted and accepted as a Maori issue one- stop shop.

This upper layer of Maori society, created to engage with the Crown, provides a convenient interface that makes it unnecessary for the Crown or the anointed leaders to communicate directly with those intransigents who refuse to relinquish their identities. When it is seen in this context, the newly constructed layer of Maori leadership seems to be a quango which the Crown then resources as part of its specific consultation requirements in the expectation it will generate an acceptable Maori view.

Not only is this obstructive of the direct relationship foreshadowed and guaranteed by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which is one between Nga Rangatira o Nga Hapu and the Crown; it is indicative of a more fundamental fact that the group’s accountability is not to our own kaupapa. It is not unreasonable to assert that the Crown is seeking to engineer a Treaty partner in its own image that is subordinate to it.

The Complicity of the Maori Party

These developments require consideration within the context of the Maori Party’s willingness to relinquish its responsibilities to an elite group of Iwi Chairs whose ‘Maori view’ enables its coalition partner to achieve what it needs, while claiming it has clean hands.

When the Maori Party stormed into Parliament on 15 September 2004, securing four seats and upsetting Labour’s safe and complacent hold on the Maori electorates, it set in train a rethink of the way Maori political participation with the mainstream parties would be managed. In the honeymoon period following the Maori Party’s entry into Parliament they were courted by a range of Maori interests, not the least of which were many who later became prime movers in the National Iwi Chairs Forum. Hui were called at venues like Pukawa, Waitangi and Ngaruawahia, the Kingitanga stronghold, with Tuku Morgan taking a


prominent role that built on relationships with the Maori Party leadership he had nurtured during its years in opposition.

The relationship has been cemented over time with meetings being convened at these gatherings by Iwi leaders, ostensibly to brief the Prime Minister and his cabinet colleagues about business that the National Iwi Chairs Forum has discussed, with Maori Party leaders Sharples and Turia invited to attend. According to Tuku Morgan, it was one such gathering, which happened to coincide with the coronation commemorations in 2007, at which the National Iwi Chairs Forum was formalised to promote Maori-Crown relationships.28 The relationship has no doubt assumed greater prominence in this latest Parliamentary term since the Maori Party cut a deal with National, who had already achieved a coalition agreement with ACT.

In a Parliamentary debate on the Foreshore and Seabed Hone Harawira put it this way:

“Te Ururoa’s line was basically that the Maori Party is happy to allow this matter to be settled by the Iwi Leaders Forum as the best group to represent Maori in negotiations, given that every member is an elected member of their own iwi.

And there is undoubtedly considerable support for that point of view, but if I can be so bold, I suggest that that is not necessarily the view held by the tens of thousands of people who have voted for the Maori Party over the past 5 years.

In fact, going back to when the Maori Party was still just a twinkle in somebody’s eye, I bet that if I’d asked the 40,000 people who marched on parliament back in 2004 whether they thought the Foreshore and Seabed debate should be settled by the Iwi Leaders, I reckon 39,500 of them would have probably said no”.29

This summarises the difficulty which these undemocratic processes present and how the Maori Party has positioned itself in the process.

28 Wickliffe; T; Lifting the Veil of Secrecy Koha Issue 7 p.5 Published by FOMANA Capital Ltd September 2010;


Lessons from History

To demonstrate the inappropriateness of such a remedy, let me juxtapose it against the practices of the colonial institution that is perhaps most consistently seen as one of the major causes of grievance, the Native Land Court. The Waitangi Tribunal has found that the Native Land Court was designed to ‘nail home’ British ascendency following conflict by picking apart the communities that Maori had historically looked to for protection. It was “designed openly to destroy tribal titles … [and] flatten out the network of rights”.30 In this way, the interests of hapu were transformed into an individualised form of private ownership to be held by a select group on behalf of the collective. The collective size of the asset conveniently masked the miniscule and paltry fragments of individual interest, and “whether by reason of debt, greed, or unfamiliarity with the new system, … [the select elite] started to act as individuals and not as kaitiaki on behalf of their people”.31 As the people were cut out, so too was their ability to enforce the accountability of the leadership in accordance with tikanga.32 It was within this imposed reality that a Maori vulnerability was created and exploited.

History is repeating itself. The process that is now being adopted to remedy prejudices that flow from injustices inflicted upon Maori is a process of transferring assets from collective Maori ownership to control by an elite – a process that has been repeatedly criticised for the intergenerational impoverishment that it imposed upon Maori in the past.

The destruction of Maori communities and the subordination of their interests to achieve economic imperatives appears to be so fundamentally ingrained into the political psyche that it is as much a part of New Zealand Culture as Buzzy Bees and Picture Tea Towels.

30 Waitangi Tribunal, Turanga Tangata Turanga Whenua, WAI-814, 2004, p.436. 31 Ibid, p.438.
32 Ibid.


Riding the Tide of Discontent

To put these developments in a broader context, the Fisheries Act was passed when Don Brash and the National Party had whipped-up anti-Maori, anti-Treaty sentiment into a frenzy – the Iwi versus Kiwi dichotomy. One commentator suggests it was these events, coupled with the widespread protests by Maori following the Ngati Apa decision and the Labour Party’s entrenchment of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, that became a call to arms for Ngai Tahu Chief Executive Mark Solomon to organise corporate opposition.33 It is claimed because of this he went to see the late Queen Dame Te Atairangi Kaahu to get the royal seal of approval for a pan-tribal coalition to drive Maori interests and concerns.

But there is a major element missing in this explanation of the genesis of the National Iwi Chairs Forum. What is clear to me was that like the protest movements of the 1980s, the Foreshore and Seabed debacle of 2004, which saw the creation of the Maori Party, had mobilised Maori back onto the streets in numbers that had not been seen for a decade or more. It is estimated that over 60,000 Maori participated in the Hikoi that followed the clamour for direct action after the Labour Party’s leadership, the Prime Minister and Attorney-General, rejected the Ngati Apa decision.

In the thirteen day journey from the Far North to Wellington, Maori organised protests in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo, Whanganui, Wairoa, Napier, Waipukurau, Palmerston North and New Plymouth in outrage at the largest confiscation of lands to have occurred since the early colonial period. Networks that had long lain dormant since the 1980s were reactivated. The initial call came from Ngati Kahungungu elders to Hikoi in the spirit of Mana Motuhake and Kotahitanga. Then the leadership and former organisers of WAC, (Waitangi Action Committee), Te Kawariki, Te Kotahitanga o Waiariki and the Peace Movement Aotearoa called for a national co-ordination of direct action.

33 Wickliffe,; T,; ‘Lifting the Veil of Secrecy’, Koha, Issue 7, p.5, Published by FOMANA Capital Ltd September 2010.


Old heads were joined by a new vanguard of energetic young women leaders of the Tino Rangatiratanga Movement. Kura Kaupapa networks were tapped into and hapu and marae committees were approached in the style of the Great Land March to take responsibility for various legs of the journey to Parliament when it became clear that the Labour Party was to entrench the ownership of these remnants of the coastline which sit outside general title (some 30 per cent of the total land mass involved) into Crown hands. The huge inequity which still subsists in the recently introduced Mark II version of this law, is that Maori were to be conferred the opportunity to negotiate limited rights to these lands as proscribed by statute, while vast stretches of the coastline which are already in private ownership, remained untouched and outside the confiscation and regulatory regime.

The NICF have capitalised on that momentum for change. Surfing on the tide of discontent they have assumed the space that grass roots activists created and promoted neo liberal goals, such as the right to exploit the vast natural resources under the sea, that are more in keeping with capitalism than with the tino rangatiratanga that was being called for. Significantly, they have moved also to assume the role that had previously been occupied by the earlier Crown construct, the New Zealand Maori Council, in this regard.

Te raukawa a Rerenoa Piri ki te Punui
He kaioraora

Like the parasite of Rerenoa That clings to the Punui Devouring its essence alive

Separating Tangata from Whenua

Ironically, many groups who had argued that it is for iwi to determine what constitutes an iwi and who also represents iwi, became legally incorporated to take advantage of the opportunity offered by Labour’s Iwi Runanga Act. It is apposite to remind ourselves that this Iwi Runanga legislation did not survive because the proposal was considered to be a “monoculutral document which undermined the tribal base of Te Ao Maori, misinterpreted cultural values,


cultures and beliefs of the Iwi and sought to regulate tribal affairs in a manner that was inconsistent with customary beliefs”. 34

One cannot under-estimate the influence of the Fisheries Commission ideologues, Shane Jones and Whaimutu Dewes, in this reorganisation of Maori communities into iwi corporates either. 35 Both had been prominent advocates in the Iwi Corporatism debates generated by the Iwi Runanga Bill, with Shane Jones being part of a later attempt in the 1990s to develop what he termed an elite paepae, a taumata to be created as the authoritative voice comprised of representatives of four organisations – the Maori Women’s Welfare League, Maori Congress, the Maori Council and the Federation of Maori Authorities. But this idea foundered, as has the visibility of many of these organisations, with only FoMA maintaining any prominence in the national Maori political scene today and the New Zealand Maori Council under review.

Given this history, it is not surprising that one of the strongest criticisms of the National Iwi Chairs Forum is that it is not democratic and is made up of a very small sector of the Maori community who has little, if any, direct accountability to the whanau and hapu it serves.

The people at the grass roots, and until recently Maori women, were practically invisible in the delegations that have met with various government Ministers of the Crown on the issues of the Foreshore and Seabed replacement legislation, Emissions Trading Scheme and Public Private Partnerships. More disconcerting is that those most directly affected by these policies, Maori communities themselves, seem to be irrelevant in the whole process of reporting and accountability and are forced to rely on media releases and the nightly state-funded television programmes Te Kaea and Te Karere for information on what the ILGs or the NCIF is up to. It has not gone uncommented either that during the Waitangi commemorations the Iwi Chairs Forum prefers to meet in

34 NZPD, 6 December 1989, 14429.
35 In Crown Proposals for the Settlement of Treaty Claims the Crown also claims that it wishes to be sure that the assets and resources transferred to Maori were managed and administered within a proper legal structure.


hotel venues at Haruru Falls and the Waitangi Copthorne, away from where the public debates are occurring around Te Tiriti at Te Tii Marae, again denying hapu and iwi the right to have an understanding and input into the matters under consideration. Their style of operation is quite distinct from that which operated during the era of the National Maori Congress, which actively encouraged representation of up to 5 delegates from each of the iwi participants with specific representation for Rangatahi Maori, Women and other sectors of the community.

What is also clear is that over a relatively short period the NCIF Executive has emerged as the key stakeholder group which appears to determine the Maori Party’s position on fundamental issues, and the Maori Party has acted as a doorman to allow them access to the key cabinet strategy committee on Treaty Issues comprising National Party Members of Parliament Bill English, Gerry Brownlee, Chris Finlayson, the Prime Minister, John Key and Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. I use this metaphor deliberately, because in the words of Tuku Morgan in an interview conducted in Te Reo Maori with Waihoroi Shortland on the Maori Television commissioned programme Te Tepu:36

Ko te tokoono nei – ka hoki mai au ki te tokoono nei, a, kia ahua nei, he torutoru ana, he, nga mea o te Ao Maori ka taea te totoro atu te patoto i runga i te kuaha o te Pirimea, ka tuwhera mai, ahakoa he aha te kaupapa.

This six, back to the six. I think there are very few Maori who can knock at the PM’s door and it will open, whatever the issue.

He torutoru ana i nga mea pera ana.

Very few people can do that.

Ka mutu, ahakoa ka whakaturia ko tena ko tena ko te mahi uaua rawa atu ko te patoto i runga i nga kuaha o nga Minita nei, ka tuwhera mai, ka tomo atu tatou ki roto ki te atawherawhera i o tatou kaupapa.

Whilst different people are chosen, what’s really difficult is knocking at these Ministers’ doors, to open up, to let us in, to discuss our issues adroitly.

36 Te Tepu, Series 6, Episode 15. Transcript from Interview with NICF leader Tukuroirangi Morgan by Waihoroi Shortland.


Na, koira te mahi nui ki ahua nei.

I think that’s the main task.

Na reira, he mama ake, kia tuku ma te tokoono nei, nga kuaha nei e pa – e patuki atu, e patoto atu, kia tere te puta atu to matou ki roto, ki te ata hamahama i te tepu ki mua i te aroaro o te kawanatanga, ki te mea atu, e, anei e te whakaaro o te iwi Maori puta noa i te motu nei.

You see, its easier, to let this six beat against these doors, knock on these doors, to enter quickly to hammer the table in front of Governmentt to say, hey, here is what Maori around the country think.

As even prominent right wing commentator Matthew Hooten has observed: “The Groups inter relationships with iwi, the Maori Party and the Government are murky. The Group does not claim to speak for all Maori, but behaves as if it does.”37 I will use the case studies of the ETS, Tree Lords and Whanau Ora to illustrate the point.

The Hijack of the Maori Development Agenda by ILG The Emissions Trading Scheme

In 2002 the Labour-led government passed the Climate Change Response Act to enable New Zealand to meet its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Just prior to Xmas 2006 on 18 December, the Government released further information on NewZealand’s options in responding to the issue of climate change. The Ministry of Environment planned 11 regional consultation hui with Maori to occur between 12 February 2007 and 14 March 2007, with final submissions due on 30March. The process of consultation was prescriptive. At each hui, attendees were required to discuss the information and to select a single representative to a Climate Change Maori Reference Group38 for a twelfth

37 Hooton Matthew: Foreshore & Seabed Issue Risks Going off the Rails Exceltium Corporate & Public Affairs Quarterly; Summer Edition 2010; p.10.
38 L Tukua, S Wilson, A Houkamau, J Ruru, T Paenga, M Black, S Clair, T Wilson, H Ruru and M Skerrett see Figure: Relationships with the Iwi Leadership Group Ministry of Environment.


consultative hui on 29 March 2007, which had been added as an afterthought. Final submissions on ETS were due the next day, on 30 March 2007.39

At all of the 12 consultation hui, the principal concerns of the participants fell into four broad categories: the focus of the emissions trading scheme was too strongly on economics at the expense of the environment (with environmental benefits unclear); the need to ensure the obligations of Te Tiriti were provided for; the need to give paramouncy to a Maori world view and a broad Tikanga Maori approach; and that there appeared no obvious way for Maori to have meaningful and ongoing input in the scheme. Moreover, the largest and richest industries were being protected from the cost of their polluting with the burden being shared across all other sectors. Major criticisms of the consultation process included the lack of any analysis of the effects on Maori.

On 24 July 2007, the Maori Reference Group (MRG) had met with Ministers of the Crown David Parker, Michael Cullen and Parekura Horomia to hear the Government response to their submission.40 What is clear is that right up to this point the Crown representatives had also maintained strategic relationships with the Federation of Maori Authorities (FoMA), who claimed to be acting in a representative capacity not only for their members but also for and on behalf of all Maori who own land or were Crown Forest License (CFL) claimants to pre-1990 forest lands and substantial post-1989 forests. 41 There was no sign of formal recognition of the NewZealand Maori Council in this process of engagement, which is highly unusual given their joint role in cementing obligations via the courts with respect to the proposed sell down of the New Zealand State Forests and the consequent passing of the Crown Forest Assets Act some 20 years earlier and the statutory function that is the preserve

39 New Zealand Ministry for the Environment (2007), Consultation with Maori on Climate Change: Hui Report, Ministry for the Environment, Wellington.
40 Submission on Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Iwi Leadership Group and Maori Reference Group Executive, 29 February 2008.

41 Federation of Maori Authorities: Submission to the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee.


of the New Zealand Maori Council to act in a representative capacity for all Maori.42

The very next day, Ministers Cullen, Horomia and Jim Anderton met with “a collective of iwi leaders”43 to outline the Government’s preferred response to the question of climate change. From this collective, an Iwi leadership group was then established, which included Apirana Mahuika, Timi Te Heuheu and Mark Solomon for the ILG and Paul Morgan for FOMA. Interestingly the NCIF background paper confirms that the ILG working party was established in October 2007 but does not note at which meeting of the NCIF that this was confirmed. None of these individuals had been selected from the 12 regional hui to represent the Maori opinion on ETS. Their leadership of the process was assumed following the meeting with the Crown Ministers. They were initially called the Climate Change Maori Leadership Group, but has since been changed to the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group, and is usually now referred to as simply the Iwi Leadership Group (ILG) speaking on issues less directly related to climate change.

In October 2007, the government conducted a further 12 consultation hui specifically on the ETS and engaged new technocrats, the Maori Reference Group Executive (MRGE) of Roger Pikia, Jamie Tuuta and Lisa Kanawa to facilitate a process of engagement with Maori assisted by consultancy group Iwi Corporate Solutions lead by Willie Te Aho.44 In addition, a report was commissioned on the

42 Maori Community Development Act 1962 ss 17 and 18.
43 Submission on Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Iwi Leadership Group and Maori Reference Group Executive, 29 February 2008.
44 The Ministry of the Environment also supported participation of Maori Reference Group members at each of the regional hui and supported additional hui for the Maori Reference Group on 25 September and 25 October 2007; a Maori leadership-lead National Maori Climate Change Hui on 3 September and 26 October 2007; a National Maori Forestry Hui on 8 November 2007; and weekly meetings of an executive of Maori Reference Group during October and November. Finally, government support was also provided for the transportation, accommodation and meals for members of the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group, Maori Reference Group Executive and secretariat to meet with Ministers and attend all national hui including the most recent one held on 18 December 2007.


Maori impacts from the ETS – Interim High Level Findings by Chris Karamea Insley and Richard Meade.45

The Maori Reference Group organised a National Maori Climate Change Hui in Rotorua in October 2007, with three subsequent hui in November, December and February 2008 held in Hamilton and Wellington. A statement in a letter dated 13 December 2007 from the Iwi Leadership Group to Ministers Cullen, Anderton, Horomia, Nanaia Mahuta, Trevor Mallard and Parker in response to an Officials’ Report is telling: “… we have advocated on two platforms. The first platform is the Treaty of Waitangi and the second is the Maori Economy. Due to the tight timeframes and the economic nature of the ETS, we have focused on the economic impacts.”46

The Iwi Leadership Group (ILG) and Maori Reference Group Executive (MRGE) gave a joint submission on the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee on 29 February 2008 claiming that their position had been unanimously supported by Iwi leaders that met at Waitangi on 4February 2008 (and again on 20 February 2008 at Pukawa).47

Parallel to this process, the Maori Party had been developing its own policy approach to the question. The Maori Party Minority report on the Bill, which was eventually released early in 2009, very much reflected the matters that had been promoted by Maori during the consultation hui. The report stated that: “the nation needs to grapple with the notion of sustainability and the increasing challenge posed by a changing climate system and pending peak oil to think and live differently, to live sustainably”,48 and opted to oppose the ETS in favour of the imposition of a carbon tax. The gravamen for this position was expressed

45 Dated 23 October 2007.
46 Mahuika, Apirana (for and on behalf of the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group), Letter of 13 October 2007, Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group Response to Officials Report.
47 Submission on Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill to the Finance and Expenditure Committee, Iwi Leadership Group and Maori Reference Group Executive, 29 February 2008.
48 Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 114.


this way: “an ETS allows sectors to pollute and trade up to the Kyoto target, but … does not include incremental emissions reduction targets in its design. With the emphasis on trading – establishing and maintaining the conditions for it – the overarching problem of unsustainable economic growth remains unaddressed.”49

Labour’s law was passed. Prior to the finalisation of the scheme in late 2009 the Iwi Leaders Group (ILG) and Maori Reference Group (MRG) convened a further 6 hui over a period of 12 days called between 28 October 2009 and 10 November 2009.50 Despite the short time period, the ILG claim over 170 attended the hui with the highest turnout being 92 people at the National Hui in Rotorua and the smallest turnout 2 people at the Nelson hui. That is, 170 people out of the 500,000 estimated Maori population. The ILG claimed in their report of these meetings that the “caliber” of the attendees at each of the hui meant the group had a significant level of support from Maoridom for their proposal.

As one who attended the hui in Rotorua in this round of consultation on this matter, it needs to be emphasised that these meetings are by no means well advertised, open and transparent in their purpose and objectives. There is little material distributed prior to hui and the hui themselves are conducted not by the Iwi Leaders Group, (ILG), but by the technocrat advisers that are in their travelling road shows. In the instance of the ETS, the ILG secretariat comprised a group aptly named Iwi Corporate Solutions, Willie Te Aho, his wife, Linda Te Aho and employees Gina Rangi and Mahinarangi Maika with Mr Te Aho being the

49 Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee: 113. Specific reasons for opposing the ETS also included a) an ETS will not make a significant contribution to lowering our domestic emissions; b) the Maori Party was unconvinced that the market is the best mechanism to set prices on carbon; c) the current mode of living in developed countries is not sustainable into the future d) the urgency of the climate-change crisis demands the development and implementation of an effective scheme that is not reliant on whether or when the price of carbon increases to a sufficient level to incentivise change; e) intensity based allocations and subsidies distort the market model by allowing businesses to increase their emissions without penalty and be rewarded for it.

50 Climate Change Leadership Group Position Paper, 13 November 2009 prepared for the Maori Party located at 14T165354Z/13%20Nov%20ILG%20position%20paper%20for%20Maori%20Party.pdf


main interface between hui participants and the group.51 Much of the advice that was proffered in support of the ILG’s position on the ETS was not available for distribution on the basis of the commercial sensitivity of the matters. Even more worrying was that the ILG’s position had by October 2009 departed from the Maori Party minority view that had opposed the government’s scheme because of its relative ineffectiveness and inequalities, including the subsidisation of the nation’s largest polluters at the cost of households and small-medium businesses.52

Although the Maori Party were not willing to talk about its relationship with, or the effect of lobbying by, the Iwi Leadership Group or the wider NICF for that matter their positions on an emissions trading scheme by this time were closely aligned. Newspaper reports at the time suggested that individuals amongst the ranks of the Maori Party National Council tried a last ditch effort to seek commitment to the earlier minority report position on the basis of the burden the scheme would place on low income households.53 The party’s co-vice president, Te Orohi Paul, issued a statement to make it clear the party was not about to “welch” on the deal with the government, although this specific matter had not been part of the Maori Party-National Party relationship agreement.

Tree Lords

These developments cannot be understood in isolation from the commercial forestry interests in the Treelords settlement. On 25 September 2008 the largest ever Treaty of Waitangi deal, since the 1992 Sealords fisheries arrangement, passed into law. The Central North Island Forests Land Collective Settlement Act legislated the so-called Treelords deal which involved $195.7 million of Crown forest land covering 176,000 hectares, plus about $223 million in land rentals

51 See diagram consultation-hui -Feb08/html/figure/page8/html
52 Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee, see also Sustainability Council of New Zealand Media Release 12 November 2009. Households would bear half the total costs resulting from the proposed changes to the ETS during its first five years (52%), while accounting for just a fifth of all emissions (19%). Pastoral farmers would gain a $1.1 billion subsidy and pay the equivalent of 2% of their fair share of the Kyoto Bill during the first five years of the scheme, while large industrial producers would gain a $488 million subsidy.
53 Trading-Scheme


that had accumulated in the Crown Forest Rental Trust since 1989 and an annual income stream of $13 million. It was also a significant new step in that it was a treaty settlement across several tribes, rather than a pan-tribal or individual tribe-Crown disposition.

Crown Forestry Rental Trust (CFRT) annual reports show $57 million was paid out in costs to effect the deal since 1990, with $30 million of that allocation directly attributed to the five year period in which the Treelords Agreement in Principle was negotiated and then signed. Almost $20 million went on expenses for iwi representatives to meet and negotiate among themselves regularly. Part of the $57 million was spent also on lawyers (in the processes of litigation and lobbying over the period), consultants and those paid to implement the deal. Significantly this expenditure did not include the further allocation from Treasury that was allocated as part of the expenses to conclude the deal in 2008. What is known is that individual iwi facilitators who were initially engaged to facilitate information flow between the Crown and those iwi engaged benefitted significantly from the arrangement. George Asher, was reported to have earned $88,000 during May and June 2008 from Crown Forestry Rental Trust alone. Two other iwi facilitators, Matt Te Pou and Graham Pryor, earned $67,500 each over the same period. The Treasury increased the spending on the deal’s iwi facilitators by $90,000, although it refused to confirm each person’s cut. Mr Asher confirmed in an interview with the New Zealand Herald that the negotiations component of the settlement cost about $5 million, including administrative support.54

Provided the Government was able to pass its emissions trading legislation, the Central North Island (CNI) collective of iwi covered by the settlement reportedly stood to gain it about $40 million in carbon credits as part of the Treelords deal. National opted to carry over these elements of Labour’s ETS scheme. It is not insignificant that the Climate Change Leadership Group relied heavily on the CNI Iwi Holdings Limited meeting of 5 November 2009, held at the Te Puni Kokiri Offices, Rotorua, to provide evidence of support for its position. The Maori Party

54 Tahana Y, New Zealand Herald, 4 July 2009


abandoned its earlier opposition to the scheme and supported the Bill. In response to a question about what it wanted in return, Turia replied: “in the end, it’s not so much particularly what the Maori Party want, it is what the Iwi Leadership want, and they are the ones who have been leading the dialogue, they have been asking us to definitely sign up for it.”55

What the ILG and the Maori Party did not point out was that the scheme would entitle Maori to less than half the compensation that is being paid to other classes of owners. Pre-1990 forestland owners will receive compensation of up to 60 emissions units per hectare, if the land was acquired before 31 October 2002. Owners of land sold after 31 October 2002 receive only 39 units per hectare. But successful claimants to CFL land transferred after 1 January 2008, most likely to be Maori beneficiaries of Treaty settlements, would receive only 18 units per hectare. In return, as highlighted in the Ngai Tahu and FOMA Submissions to the Select Committee examining the National government’s revised ETS scheme, the ETS would encumber property rights, and impose real and heavy costs on using and developing assets, with a particularly prejudicial effect on those transferred under Treaty settlements. At the end of November 2009, a deal was reached with ETS which provided an extra $24 million for the home insulation scheme, targeted specifically at low income homes, a specific requirement to consult on fisheries, forestry and agricultural allocations; on future targets and on any complementary measures. A side deal with Ngai Tahu and four other iwi in which they get a 70-year lease on 35,000 hectares of DoC lands and 100 per cent of any carbon credits earned for the period of the lease and an all expenses paid junket to Copenhagen for two members of the Iwi Leadership group, Roger Pikia of CNI Holdings Ltd and Chris Insley of Ngati Porou Forests Ltd.

The New Restructuring

55 Turia T;18 October 2009 in Transcript of interview with Guyon Espiner on ‘Q&A’ Sunday October 18 2009 p 5


This process has not been an isolated one. Parallel to this process of policy development, regional consultation and then intervention by an elite group of men in the name of the Iwi Leaders Group has occurred on a number of key issues since the Maori Party/National Party cooperation agreement. Private Prisons, Public Private Partnerships and most recently the Water Forum have followed the same process of engagement almost exactly. Perhaps most disconcerting is that the Whanau Ora policy initiative has now been hi-jacked by the same interventionist approach, so that the Iwi Chairs are active voices in the privatisation of social services and demanding the right of veto over providers who have expressed interest in delivering whanau ora programmes.

Whanau Ora

A report was prepared by the Taskforce on Whanau-Centred Initiatives for Tariana Turia, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector. Bill English joined Maori Party co-leader and proposed Whanau Ora minister Tariana Turia at Te Puni Kokiri for the public launch of the taskforce report in April 2010.

The Taskforce developed a framework based on a review of relevant literature, the experiences of health and social service agencies, an analysis of oral submissions received at 22 hui throughout the country during October and November 2009 where over 600 people attended, and over 100 written submissions from individuals and organisations. Common themes emerged, particularly the need for Whanau Ora to demonstrate a ‘Maori heart’, ensure local representation in decision-making, minimal bureaucracy, sustainability and adequate resourcing, a research and evaluation component and quality relationships between whanau, providers and iwi. Funds were to be diverted from existing state agencies into a new Whanau Ora Trust which would contract out work to service providers to deal with the problems on a whanau basis. In other words, where an individual family member had health, education or justice system problems, the individual would be viewed as part of their whanau and the whole whanau would be engaged in finding solutions. The Taskforce also promoted collaboration and shared infrastructure in the wake of the proliferation of semi-autonomous Maori provider organisations who had


emerged within the framework of commercial contestability of Health PHOs and Education PTEs since the 1980s restructuring of delivery of these services.

An Iwi Leaders Working Group was confirmed at Waitangi during the Treaty commemorations in early 2010 to engage with the Crown on the policy. Its mandate was to achieve the following visions for the contributions of Iwi to realising Whanau Ora: a Joint Treaty partner approach to defining Whanau Ora outcomes and supporting the rollout of Whanau Ora; Iwi-led implementation of Whanau Ora in their respective tribal areas; and Whanau Ora pilots.56

By May 2010 the idea of the Trust to devolve the services had disappeared and the budget had been slashed to just 4% of the original proposal. As Nanaia Mahuta pointed out in a media release “Tariana Turia must have felt a little short changed after the government decided to allocate a mere $33.5 million dollars a year for 4 years to fund Whanau ora, $800 million dollars short of what she first expected. In the case of the Whanau Ora funding it looks as if Tariana is robbing Paula to pay Pita.”57

More significantly, Maori grass roots community workers were starting to describe Whanau Ora as the new restructuring and openly asking Maori Party Members of Parliament to explain why Whanau Ora, which was once a overarching programme designed to overhaul the delivery of social services to Maori with funding of $1 billion, had morphed into a small scale programme for all New Zealanders, being run out of Te Puni Kokiri on a budget less than that of John Key’s cycle way.58 Questions were also posed around how to qualitatively assess the new project and how much of the allocated budget will be utilized by Te Puni Kokiri to just roll out the project.

56 p 11
57 Mahuta Nanaia, Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party, 6 May 2010

58 Maori Legal Forum, July 2010, Question by Tipene Marr of Ngati Rangitihi and Dr Marilyn Brewin, Director of Research, Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga to Member of Parliament for Tai Tonga Rahui Katene.


In a familiar pattern, Ministers of the Crown (this time Paula Bennett) met with the Iwi leadership Group in August 2010 imploring them “ as respected leaders to go back to hapu, iwi and your whanau … and say it’s time to face up to the systemic violence in their communities.”59 Tariana Turia was defending the corporate leaders as those that would best provide the solutions in the industry of misery that Whanau Ora is directed to alleviate, despite the obvious lack of expertise or even involvement by many of the more prominent members of the ILG in programmes for the elimination of violence. She complained at the same meeting: “…We receive a daily diet of messages which express sincere concerns about the role of iwi. They use the term ‘corporate iwi’. I tell you what – when you are part of a Government there is nothing more disheartening than to hear such criticism from our own; of people who are trying to move us forward.”60

Reflections on where to from here?

In his reflections on Maori Sovereignty, Bruce Jesson reminded Pakeha that Te Tiriti o Waitangi foreshadowed a community that both Maori and Pakeha are part of.61 He understood the Maori Sovereignty movement as a force of resistancetoacapitalisteconomythatcommodifiednatureandhumanity. Inthe debate on who we are as a nation, we need to re-examine our understanding of national identity and our heritage, and to confront the ongoing process of colonisation that dispossesses Maori of resources for the benefit of others, as if we have no prior right or relationship to this part of the planet. The challenge by its nature requires Pakeha to break apart from the hegemony of State practice to align with Maori, not just to confront injustice, but to also dispense with a constitutional framework from which injustice is a natural product.

59 Bennett Paula, Press Release, 23 August 2010

60 Turia Tariana, Address to Iwi Leaders Forum 19 August 2010

61 Jesson, Bruce, Waitangi A Pakeha Issue Too, first published in Auckland Metro, 1983, p.109, and subsequently in Andrew Sharp (ed) To Build a Nation Collected Writings 1975–1999 , Penguin, Auckland, 2005.


To achieve this, Jesson reminded us that we must set serious goals for our nation and ourselves.62 Facing this challenge will involve a reinterpretation of sustainability and economic development and, in light of the discussion this evening, what the Iwi Leaders would have us believe tino rangatiratanga, Maori Sovereignty to be. There is no magic bullet; yet the challenges that confront us are urgent and require immediate action. That means believing in and articulating the values of a pathway to real alternatives sourced in Kaupapa Maori.

While traditional approaches to development focus on achieving growth, believing that this would “trickle down” and benefit everyone, I believe that people must be at the centre of the development process. I look to our own conceptual framework around the term tangata whenua to confirm this. Because the present economic growth model is premised on the commodification of taonga for profit and the separation of tangata from whenua to achieve this, it is problematic in a number of ways. Economic growth of this kind is not enough to achieve human development or to maintain the ethic of community well being which lays at the heart of constructs like whanau (family), hapu (community) and iwi (nation), which are the esteemed institutions of society expressly stipulated to be protected in Te Tiriti. As Jesson reminds us, a community depends on continuity. A nation and its institutions depend on continuity too. We as tangata whenua require our tangata to be connected to our homelands in more than a notional way.

In their haste to break away from tight control of the state and poor socio-economic status, the ILG have turned towards forces of globalisation for emancipation, either not recognising that they were being manipulated towards new forms of colonialism and domination or unable to identify any real alternative to achieve their goals. Their behaviour, in part, mirrors the inability of Aotearoa New Zealand as a nation to confront the problems of constructing

62 Jesson, Bruce, There have always been Alternatives: Only their Purpose is Mad, Dunmore Press Ltd, 1999, p.216.


alternatives when there has been such a systemic failure from our experiment with neo liberalism over the past 25 years.

Notwithstanding this, the Government process has been one of concerted co-option of Maori elites to maintain this particular agenda. Consultation has been organised by successive Governments on their terms. From the beginning, the Government has imposed unrealistic timeframes for Maori to understand all the issues and implications, to discuss widely and form opinions on this, and to communicate these to the Government. At each stage, groups have become smaller and less representative by requiring the consultation hui to elect only one representative each to form a group that was to represent all Maori (without the time to make this possible), or by reducing that group to an executive (presumably because of commitments and time constraints), or by the Iwi Leadership Group becoming the interface with the Crown.

Despite the feedback from the consultation hui that the focus was too economic, for whatever reason at each stage of the consultative input, the technocrats and advisers have focused more on the economics of ETS and devolution of contractual relationships and benefits to Iwi Corporates, and less on the other concerns, such as impacts on the environment and retention of a Maori worldview safeguarding Treaty relationships. This behaviour has culminated in the Maori Party completely changing or adapting its policy and objectives in line with the Iwi Leadership Group’s edicts. There is a huge sense of urgency, created in part by the media hype, to roll out initiatives with very little analysis or understanding of the philosophy of the policy or imperatives on their delivery.

In the current context, Maori are the losers as it is their assets and resources exclusively that are captured within a confiscatory regime. The ire of the general public is inflamed by mis-information campaigns which suggest that the slight possibility that Maori might achieve some small redress is a windfall that they are undeserving of. The Seabed and Foreshore is a classic example. Politicians and the media whipped up a furore about the right of Kiwi to suntan on the beach. Having nationalised these resources, and denied any traditional


relationships to the Takutai and Papamoana that Maori may possess, the government is licensing transnational companies like Petrobras to mine the petroleum and other mineral deposits which subsist in the continental shelf.

This highlights the old Marxist notion of a false consciousness: Maori are defined in opposition to what is good for the nation and are told to forgive, forget and move on. We are told we must accept an identity that we are not. Unfortunately the denial of rights and confiscation continues and there is nowhere to move to, so they take to the road. Ostracizing the indigenous in their own lands when they succeed is not a new policy, at least not to this country, obvious examples being the imprisonment of Te Kooti at Wharekauri, Te Whiti and Tohu in Dunedin and Rua Kenana and Mokomoko in Mount Eden. More recent examples include the late Eva Rickard, the late Syd Jackson and the late Niko Tangaroa. It is important to note that none of these people were imprisoned for acts of violence, even though state-sponsored violence was inflicted on them.

The employment of policies of Realpolitik to ‘radicalise’ Maori views serves to legitimise the ongoing intentions of the state to proceed with its agenda and to deny Maori participation in the debate. Issues of justice and policy are reflected instead as issues of racial difference. Once Maori are separated in such a way, the task then turns to creating an elite class that will sycophantically agree to the agreed policy objectives on behalf of those who didn’t elect them to undertake such roles.

But Pakeha New Zealand are losers too. They have been victims of the same process of corporatism that distances decision-making and denies effective participatory democracy.

We need to halt this process. Achieving this requires a mass movement that is dedicated to a sustained struggle, including education, participation, engagement, debate, organisation, action and reflection. It needs to be all-pervasive, with tentacles reaching to the hearts and minds of all of the sectors of our communities and to the pulse of our nation. I have actively campaigned


for a Planning Council, democratically elected by Maori responsible for the design of a process of decolonisation where the process of formulating the goals for Aotearoa New Zealand are as important as the goals themselves. Jesson himself saw this kind of strategy as an important step to restore democratic processes to Aotearoa New Zealand, citing the 1984 Economic Summit and Royal Commission on Social Policy as potentially hopeful precedents that have been suppressed and by-passed by the Cabal that imposed their agenda of neo liberalism.63

Challenging economic ‘reform’ and trade liberalisation also requires a critical perspective on development. There is almost no one today asking questions that used to be asked in the 1970’s — the decade of independence for some Pacific Island states — such as ‘Development for whom?’ and ‘Who decides?’ Despite the proliferation of Maori Doctoral theses in the last decade there are very few forums of the kind where I was nurtured in the 1980 Sovereignty movement, which looked for solutions from within our communities and consciously set about providing the tools of analysis to dismantle the barriers to debate between and amongst wahine and tane, Urban Maori and Traditional Communities, Maori and Pakeha.

The future Constitutional arrangements of this nation are the key to social, economic and ecological wellbeing of us all. Ironically, a single outstanding issue in the relationship agreement between the National Party and the Maori Party holds the opportunity to develop this kind of debate and for the Maori Party to redeem its claimed commitment to the kaupapa of Te Tiriti. At the Hirangi Hui, which was the last significant attempt by Maori as a nation to grapple with this issue, there was agreement that what matters now is not so much the details of a Treaty-based constitution or the flow-on constitutional arrangements, but a commitment to a constitutional review jointly undertaken by Maori and the Crown for the purpose of developing a New Zealand constitution based on the Treaty of Waitangi and, among other things, fully recognising the position of

63 Jesson Bruce, There have always been Alternatives: Only their Purpose is Mad, Dunmore Press Ltd, 1999, p.221.


Maori as Tangata Whenua. Hui participants discounted the possibility of durable Treaty settlements without fresh constitutional guarantees and a final break with colonial laws and processes.

Any such process must be seen as a truly independent discussion, distinct from and not accountable to Te Puni Kokiri or the Department of Justice or the new quango, the Iwi Leaders forum. It must be accountable to the communities from whom and for whom the programmes of change are being discussed and evolved, and must actively facilitate their participation. For this mechanism to be effective, the Iwi Leaders model must be rejected and an independently resourced secretariat established to convene a series of constitutional hui and forums to discuss the future of our nation that engages meaningfully with all Maori communities and report back to them. The mandate must be grounded in the ongoing entrenchment of the guarantees of the Declaration of Independence 1835 and Te Tiriti o Waitangi, and seek to identify a constitutional framework whose principles and processes can equip us to confront the ecological, social, economic and spiritual challenges of the 21st century, and the crises of food, climate, energy and finance that are the legacy of the failed global market model.

While I am not a Republican, this is another point where my thinking for change converges to a point shared by Jesson. In modern Aotearoa we must move to a model of government which is not focused on just settling the grievances of our colonial past, but on building one where there is trust and respect amongst the communities that co-exist. The Constitutional Taskforce I envisage therefore to assist this process must also include non Maori community leaders working with their communities distinct from state control as part of this process. I am sure just by posing this solution, a whole lot of other questions immediately are raised, like who are these people and how are they selected and to whom are they accountable? New Zealand as a small nation can easily answer this question for themselves. Nominations for community representatives are not unknown in the not for profit sector with processes of engagement and report back part of the range of accountabilities to any successful nominee.


We as a nation need to formally engage in this process of transformation, which must be designed, controlled and implemented with the equal participation of the tangata whenua and other citizens who have made Aotearoa New Zealand their homelands. This plea is not new. What is new is the growing groundswell of voices joining those of the late Bruce Jesson and myself for a process to commence to take on the entrenched power and influence of the finance elite and others who have hijacked our nation. We should not allow the momentum of those pleas to dissipate.


Robert Wade 2009: How to Stop the Money Men from Taking Over the World

Robert Wade[1]


What a great title, Only Their Purpose Is Mad: The Money Men Take Over NZ. Jesson adapted the first part  from Herman Melville’s Captain Ahab, who in a rare moment of self-awareness says, “all my means are sane, my motive and my object mad”. Ahab was indeed very  rational in his pursuit of his goal of hunting down the whale which had sunk his ship and caused him to loose a leg; he was not a madman. But he was gripped obsessively by his goal or purpose, and the combination of rationality and obsession produced the ultimate disaster.

Continue reading Robert Wade 2009: How to Stop the Money Men from Taking Over the World

Michael Lee 2008: Strangers in the 21st Century: Auckland and New Zealand politics without Bruce Jesson

Strangers in the 21st Century

Auckland and New Zealand politics without Bruce Jesson

Lecture on behalf of the Bruce Jesson Foundation Maidment Theatre,Auckland University. 6 October 2008. Michael Lee

Taking up Bruce Jesson’s books again when I began to prepare for this lecture – and reading again that clean, simple, but incisive writing style, the wry self deprecating humour and the clever use of the dialectic – reminded me how much the New Zealand political scene, had been diminished by Bruce Jesson’s passing in 1999. Interestingly it brought back to me the feeling I had when Bruce died – how to articulate this? Many of you I guess must have experienced similar feelings yourselves. But for me especially in terms of politics, that extra interest, that intellectual challenge, the extra spark that Bruce Jesson brought to New Zealand politics had gone for good. And we are all the poorer for it.

The title of this lecture ‘Strangers in the 21st century’ has different layers of meaning – on a personal level, for me it is about operating in politics in the absence of the advice and intellectual companionship of Bruce Jesson. In a wider sense it relates to our society’s alienation from the past and its uncertainty – uncertainty perhaps is not the right word – lack of contemplation – about the future. It was argued by Bruce on more than one occasion (for instance in the chapter The State of Amnesia in his last book Only their Purpose is Mad – that we New Zealanders are careless – perhaps deliberately forgetful – about our history – and there is a price we pay for that. As the Roman politician Cicero once said – “to live in ignorance of the transactions of the past is to always live as a child.”

So I want to talk a bit about history – specifically (and not surprisingly I guess) the history of local government in Auckland. History does repeat itself as Hegel and Marx famously noted. I think that in examining Auckland’s history we can discern recurring tendencies and patterns. This I believe can be instructive for how we can

better manage and develop Auckland now and in the future. This will lead me to the present day debate on the restructuring of Auckland local/regional government, specifically in terms of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. Finally I would like to pose the question – that if major changes to the governance, the constitutional arrangements of Auckland, are deemed essential – then what about the country as a whole.

At the outset I should point out that I count myself lucky in not only having known Bruce Jesson as a friend, but I also was fortunate to have served alongside of him during what I believe to be some of the more dramatic and important events in the recent political history of the Auckland region – when the continued public ownership of the Ports of Auckland and other regional assets hung in the balance. During those rather tumultuous months of 1992 after being elected to the Auckland Regional Council soon after Bruce and due to an ARC convention about seating members in alphabetical order, we sat next to each other in the debating chamber. That was an unforgettable experience for me.

Now to begin the story, the first steps towards the establishment of local government for pakeha settlers came in 1845 when the Colonial Office in London decided that New Zealand should have formal local government (part of getting the colony to pay for it own upkeep) and duly communicated this to Auckland – to the new Governor George Grey. By all accounts this was not well received at Government House.

I quote from Edmund Bohan’s biography of George Grey, To Be a Hero:
“During 1845 Earl Stanley (Secretary of State for the Colonies) had ordered the establishment of elective municipal councils in Auckland, New Plymouth, Wellington and Nelson, with powers to pass by-laws and levy rates. Grey, having so easily disposed of Adelaide’s once troublesome council now wrote to Stanley to express his fears that the greedy speculators and merchants who swarmed in Auckland would be those most likely to be elected to local bodies by the ignorant settler masses.”

A draft constitution for New Zealand drawn up in London proved to be unrealistic for local conditions and Grey managed to avoid implementing it while he drew up his own more practical constitution, which came into force in 1853. George Grey’s

constitution provided for elected provincial councils in Auckland, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago, Taranaki and Nelson.

As Grey predicted the settler capitalists quickly ascended to political power in the colony but despite Grey’s contempt for them – especially the Auckland settler capitalists – it wasn’t too long before Grey found himself in an unholy Alliance with the Auckland business set when it instigated the invasion of the Maori King’s lands in the Waikato. Of course for them the New Zealand War was purely about seizing land for speculative purposes, for Grey the motive for war was all about Empire and Imperial sovereignty.

After an inauspicious start, local government in Auckland for a time became the responsibility of the Provincial Council, which worked reasonably well. Unfortunately from the outset the provincial councils and the central government could not get on – and bickered constantly. The situation became so bad that the Auckland provincial council even thought about seceding from the rest of the colony. This unhappy state of affairs lasted until the provinces were abolished by the central government in 1876

After the capital was transferred to Wellington in 1865 there was renewed pressure for local government and yet another Auckland City Council was established in 1871 and this same body has remained in existence to this day.

Not surprisingly, the free-wheeling individualistic culture of Auckland – very much based on speculation and subdivision of land, resulted in a city which sprawled out in a haphazard fashion and which continually tended to outgrow its infrastructural carrying capacity. I am deliberately simplifying things here because Auckland’s early leaders did create a number of beautiful buildings, in my opinion, far superior to anything done in more recent times – I am talking about the Town Hall, the Customs Building, the Ferry Building, the Central Post Office, what is now the art gallery, and of course the superb Auckland War Memorial Museum.

However for its first 100 years or so, Auckland’s main infrastructural problems related to the supply of bulk water and especially the disposal of sewage – both of which proved to be inadequate to cater for the constantly growing population. Over those years the city experienced periodic crises because of this. The chronic sewage disposal problem was underlined in 1888 by a serious outbreak of typhoid in Auckland.

Up until the mid 20th century then, it was sewage and not transport, which caused the major headaches and was the focus of considerable public and political debate in Auckland.

For the first half of the 20th century raw sewage was conveyed by the Hobson Bay sewer line and dumped into the sea at Orakei (the holding tanks are where Kelly Tarlton’s aquarium is today). As the city grew in size the pollution of the harbour and neighbouring bays from this sewage became greater and increasingly offensive.

Eventually in 1931 the authorities decided on a major new scheme in which Auckland’s sewage would be conveyed by an undersea pipe to Browns Island where after minimal treatment it would discharged out of sight and out of mind into the Rangitoto channel. The Browns Island affair as it came to be known turned out to be an extremely bitter, acrimonious business, which ran on for nearly 25 years. This cause celèbre led to the launching of a previously unknown businessman Dove-Meyer Robinson into local body politics. Robinson became a leader of what was probably the city’s first urban environmental group, the Auckland and Suburban Drainage League.

Robbie, as he came to be known, eventually concluded that the best way to fight the system was to take it over – which he proceeded to do. He was elected to Auckland City Council in a by-election in 1952, and in 1953 he was followed by four of his ‘United Independent’ supporters including Professor Kenneth Cumberland future head of Geography department at Auckland University. Together they proceeded to take control of the Drainage Board and halted the Brown Island project – though contracts had been signed and construction was already underway – (imagine that?).

To settle the vexed question of the city’s sewage disposal, they called in a panel of international experts, which recommended the revolutionary technology of oxidation ponds and for these to be located at Mangere. This happily was exactly the solution Robbie had always wanted. Robbie was elected Mayor in 1959 by grateful Aucklanders and and re-elected to that office for a record six times.

Apart from the legacy of a clean Waitemata Harbour, Robbie’s capstone achievement was the establishment of the Auckland Regional Authority in 1963.

All throughout the 20th century parochialism, infighting and a chronic lack of unity had been an unhappy feature of Auckland local government. By 1960 there were 32 territorial authorities (city, boroughs and counties) and some 15 ad hoc bodies. In the post World War II era when Auckland’s population began to grow rapidly, there was a realisation by some of the more farseeing city leaders that if Auckland was to cater for that growth some sort of strong and co-ordinated regional planning and development authority was required. In 1963 after three attempts, the Auckland Regional Authority Act was passed through parliament – after years of intensive lobbying by Robinson and others.

The ARA was the New Zealand’s first regional government since the abolition of the provinces. Its responsibilities included bulk water supply, sewage reticulation and treatment, public transport, waste management, management of Auckland International Airport, the Waitakere Ranges Centennial Memorial Park – and regional milk distribution.

The new Authority quickly embarked upon an era of major infrastructural development, which I will call the era of Post War Building.

In terms of bulk water supply, from 1965 to 1977 the ARA built five new major dams in the Hunua and the Waitakere ranges in 12 short years, doubling the number of dams and increasing Auckland’s bulkwater storage capacity by over 385 %. At the same time Robbie’s baby, the Manukau Sewage Purification Works, (now called Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant) and the network of main interceptors and pump stations were comprehensively upgraded

The ARA also constructed four major landfills and two refuse transfer stations processing about 70 per cent of Auckland’s rubbish.

The ARA also started buying land – mainly coastal land as part of the regional parks network. From the 1950s regional planners like F.W.O. Jones realised the need to protect outstanding coastal landscapes from the subdivisions which began to appear after the war. Also as Auckland was some 400 km from the nearest national park, provision would need to be made for the recreational needs of the region’s growing working population.

In terms of public transport throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties, the ARA building from the assets of the old Auckland Transport Board progressively bought up and amalgamated numerous private bus companies. By 1989 the ARA was operating the country’s largest urban bus fleet.

Faced with the growing problem of traffic congestion the ARA also built regional roads, including the Greenlane to Balmoral arterial, the Avondale NewLynn by-pass, upper Queen Street to Dominion Road, the Pakuranga Highway and Bridge and the upper harbour crossing at Greenhithe.

However, one of the most interesting and visionary ARA projects was one that never came to fruition. Known as Robbie’s Rapid Rail this was an ambitious scheme to upgrade, extend and electrify Auckland’s suburban rail network. It was developed by the ARA and the New Zealand Railways Department, and energetically promoted by Dove-Meyer Robinson. In 1975 the project had gained the approval of the Kirk Labour government but tragically it was thrown out in 1976 by the incoming National government of Robert Muldoon.

The rejection of Robbie’s Rapid Rail, followed by the completion of the massive Mangatangi Dam in 1978 – signalled the beginning of the end of the era of Post War Building in Auckland.

By the 1980’s the ARA had began to fail.

Its difficult to explain why such a successful organisation should fail. The oil shocks of the 70s perhaps led to a loss of confidence. A rather hostile National government was followed by a Labour government in 1984 which was as we know preoccupied with a free market agenda and was essentially indifferent to the building of infrastructure. The new wisdom from Wellington was that the market having at last been unleashed would now take care of most things. Centralised planning had become ideological anathema. In the brave new world of Rogernomics, of ‘crash on through’ deregulators and ‘dashing corporate raiders taking on the world’, the ARA began to appear somewhat clunky and old-fashioned.

There also remained the old problem – the so called ‘Auckland disease’ – hostility from the city and borough councils, which resented the ARA’s growing domination and objected to its cost on their ratepayers.

In 1983 a ticket largely organised by anti-ARA Mayors and borough councillors, calling themselves, with a distinct lack of historical authenticity, the ‘New Deal’, succeeded in winning control of the ARA. The ‘New Deal’s’ political programme was to prevent the ARA from doing what it was originally designed to do – in fact stopping it from doing much at all.

For all of these reasons the ARA stopped doing major capital works – yet the city continued to grow faster than ever. When the big infrastructure projects ground to a halt, the ARA lost momentum, it lost self-belief and soon enough it lost public support. Once it stopped doing major public works the ARA became a large, bureaucratic slow-moving target.

Auckland entered what can only be described as a period of distinct mediocrity – this was the time of a generation, in both politics and business, which reaped but did not sow.

What is interesting about the so-called ‘New Deal’ era was that the long standing tensions between the regional authority and the territorial councils became internalised – brought within the walls of the ARA as it were – consequently

throughout the late 80s and early 90s the ARA became known for its political fractiousness.

1989 was a critical year for local government in Auckland. This was the time of the second wave of reforms of the Labour Minister of Local Government Michael Bassett, which involved major local government amalgamation. The winners were the new bulked-up city councils (in those days they were called the ‘super cities’) – the losers were the innumerable boroughs and county councils. The ARA which been strengthened by Bassett in terms of its elected representation in a first wave of reforms in 1986 was now given 80% of the shares of the former Auckland Harbour Board, now reconstituted as a port company. But at the same time the Authority had its named changed to the Auckland Regional Council. I believe there is a lot in a name – the ARA to a degree had not only lost its raison d’être, it had also in some ways lost its identity.

In 1988 ARA members had employed one of the new generation of high-flying CEO’s, Colin Knox (soon to be empowered under legislation to be the sole employer of council staff). This was controversial because when the new CEO was given a generous private sector-style salary package (including an inducement payment) it appeared to the media and the ratepayers as extravagant. Things got worse when the members were persuaded to build themselves a brand new headquarters – New Regional House. Unhappily this entailed a large debt (arranged by Fay Richwhite) at a usurious interest rate. During a time of economic recession the flash new building was seen as the height of self-indulgence. The word ‘profligate’ started to appear in media reports about the ARC. The more bad publicity the ARC generated – the more the council turned to expensive public relations consultants to improve its image – but rather than improving the ARC image, the pr effort itself drew more bad publicity.

This all was decidedly unhelpful and just as the New Right revolution began to burn its way through to local government .

The full blast of the New Right hurricane arrived in 1990 with the National government in the form of the Local Government Minister Warren Cooper. On form this guy was always going to be a problem for regional government in Auckland.

Here was a new Minister of Local Government who was not only a rural South Islander, a hardline conservative and a Neo Liberal but also and perhaps most menacingly of all – a former small town mayor. The new Minister made it known he had no time for regional councils and wanted rid of them – especially the ARC.

In 1989 legislation had been passed forcing local bodies to corporatise their services – this particularly impacted on the ARC, now faced with the threat of abolition the ARC restructured itself fundamentally, corporatising its service departments, appointing boards of outside businessmen to run them and progressively removing them from direct political accountability. This was part of a phenomenon the then head of Political Studies at Auckland University Professor Richard Mulgan dubbed ‘Rogerpolitics’. Some of the ARC members objected – but most were demoralised. Everyone knew by then what the next step would be – privatisation. Meanwhile the city councils were formulating their own plans to take over the ARC assets.

It was about this time that Bruce Jesson was first elected to the ARC after scoring an upset victory standing for the new left wing Panmure Alliance in a highly publicised by-election.

This was of course budget year 1991/92 – the fiscal year of ‘the Mother of all Budgets’ and as a direct result there was a widespread mood of public anger – and mounting opposition to public asset sales. The new Alliance was the political beneficiary of all that anger. As an illustration of the tone of the times, the Alliance led in the opinion polls over both National and Labour and in February 92, came within a whisker of winning Muldoon’s old blue ribbon seat of Tamaki.

This is how Bruce saw the ARC when he walked through the doors in late 1991. “It [the ARC] had become a house very much divided against itself…I found staff members and councillors conspiring (successfully) against the chief executive Colin Knox. Councillors would spit insults at each other across the members room where councillors sipped their g & t s after the meeting. The ARC’s disunity left it vulnerable to attack from the city councils of the region who saw it as a competitor for influence and rates; and from Wellington bureaucrats who thought that services such as ports, buses and tips should be privatised.

The bad press that the ARC received was related to the debt associated with Regional House and this, as much as anything else, was the source of acrimony among the councillors… At that stage, I would say that the ARC councillors lost their sense of purpose, and that the acrimony prevented them properly defending the public service goals of the ARC.”

Early in 1992, the ARC, under pressure from the Government, and the usual suspects (Fay Richwhite was the sales agent) was poised to sell its 80% shareholding of the Ports of Auckland.

By co-incidence in December 1991, a month after Bruce’s election I was selected by the Alliance for a by-election for the ARC seat of Auckland Central. When I walked through the doors of the ARC in February 92 the Council was in a pretty advanced stage of selling the port. Meanwhile a fiery public campaign against the port sale was being whipped up by talk-back radio host Pam Corkery – (which I believe I helped instigate through a talk back call I made the day before voting closed for the Auckland Central by-election). The radio campaign fuelled an enormous public petition against the sale, which eventually filled a whole room and ARC members were invited along by Radio Pacific to view it. Some ARC members who had been supporting the sale began to waver.

Meanwhile the sale process was proceeding to timetable. Bruce and I thought it important that we seize the initiative – so we put together a Notice of Motion, with some help from other ARC members like Paul Walbran, calling for the Council to abandon the sale and cutting off funds for the sales process.

As a new member (I had come straight off a ship) the 28 member ARC struck me as being rather like parliament in those days. Not only because ARC members at that time were elected from parliamentary seats including two Maori seats – a legacy of the first Bassett reforms – but debates were invariably long and often heated – punctuated with noisy interjections and obscure points of order. The late Keith Hay for example might lead off a typical oration beginning “Mr Chairman, members of the Authority – when I left the Labour Party in 1946 with John A Lee…” and so it would go on.

Our notice of motion to halt the port sale had gained a huge amount of public interest, thanks to people like Philip English at the NZ Herald, and was debated in an atmosphere of high drama – it was supported by the other new Alliance members and supporters but also by old-fashioned conservatives like Keith Hay and Alan Brewster and by mavericks like David Hawkins, June Hieatt. In the end, the sale of the Port was effectively aborted by the narrowest of margins. This was the first defeat for a major asset sale up until that time.

Though this unexpected revolt embarrassed the National government, it was even more grimly determined to push through legislation to break the ARC in half and to strip its assets. Under the Local Government Reform Bill (No.2) of that year, ARC assets including Ports of Auckland, the Yellow Bus Company, Northern Disposal, Watercare, downtown properties, and the ARC debt (mainly on Regional House) – and Regional House were to be ‘divested’ to a new body – the Auckland Regional Services Trust (ARST). The ARC was to be left with the rump functions of environmental management, RMA planning and regional parks. In that legislation the ARC was expressly forbidden to own public transport infrastructure.

The Regional Services Trust, which was totally unique in New Zealand local government – it was clearly custom-designed to be an agent of privatisation. In terms of its constitution it had only one saving grace – its trustees were to be democratically elected. But the catch to this was that the trustees had to be elected at large – and the electorate was the whole Auckland region – some 700,000 voters. This was clearly designed to ensure that only very rich individuals or very well resourced political machines like the Citizens and Ratepayers would stand much of a chance of winning seats on it.

But the government officials who designed the Trust were to be confounded again. In the local body elections of October 1992 in a remarkable political campaign organised by Matt McCarten, the Alliance under the slogan ‘We won’t sell out, captured the ARST and Bruce became chairman.

The government and its officials though obviously surprised at the turn of events – reassured themselves, that because of the level of debt, Jesson and his colleagues would have to privatise the port and be forced into a humiliating back down. Again they were to be confounded. After years of advising politicians – ‘There is No Other Way’, the Wellington bureaucrats apparently had actually come to believe it. Bruce and his colleagues in a manner remarkably reminiscent of the way Robbie and his supporters captured the Auckland Metropolitan Drainage Board exactly 40 years before, took hold of the ARST and proceeded to transform its purpose to serve the public interest. They refused to sell assets.

Though they kept their promises or actually because their kept their promises what came to known in the media as ‘the Alliance dominated ARST’ did not get an easy ride. As Bruce explained in his Metro article ‘An Accidental Politician’ of November 1995.

The Alliance had made a lot of enemies in its brief existence, both nationally and in local government. We must have seemed insufferable with our belligerence and holier-than-thou politics. Now, we were the focus of attack and I was the obvious target.

For those three years Bruce was forced to live his life on a political battlefield. The attacks came in from all sides. Not only from the right wing media, but also from the Labour Party which saw the Alliance as a deadly rival, and behind the scenes to a degree even from the Alliance itself! As Bruce put it so memorably in the same Metro article:

“The situation of the trust was difficult enough as it was. The trust as a totally new body, was moving onto other people’s territory and we found ourselves at the centre of an incessant squabble. We squabbled with the ARC over the divestment of the assets and debt from them to us. We squabbled with the Auckland City Council over our jointly owned downtown properties. We squabbled with nearly all the councils about the control of the water and wastewater system. I had always thought of myself as a meek and mild little man, but I now discovered a cantankerous and stubborn side of my nature. After squabbling all day with other politicians, I would go to an Alliance meeting of an evening and squabble with them as well.”

To keep the ARST afloat in its first few months without selling assets ARST Chief Executive Mark Ford with a small group of financial advisers formulated a subordinate debt arrangement with the ARC – the debt to be repaid over 15 years. When Bruce retired from politics in 1995 the ARST assets were worth $1.8 billion dollars and as he pointed out in 1999 “few private sector companies performed as well during the six years the Trust existed”.

To the consternation of the political establishment a viable alternative to privatisation had been created – holding on to public assets – and managing them to create public wealth in the public interest. “Economic Jessonism” – perhaps we might call it. This completely flew in the face on neo liberal conventional wisdom. I have absolutely no doubt that the remarkable success of the ARST between 1992 and 1995 was to have an important influence on the Labour-led government some ten years later.

Since that time the profits from the Port and other regional assets have been a key funder of Auckland transport and storm water projects – and are now virtually taken for granted in Auckland. It is hard to imagine how we could have embarked on the recent transport and other infrastructure upgrades without it.

The ARST had proved to be remarkably successful but ironically – not in the way it was designed for. For the New Right officials in Wellington it had been an embarrassing failure – therefore it had to go. In 1997, the officials went back to the drawing board and created Infrastructure Auckland (IA). This time there were to be no elected trustees. At the same time there was another attempt to sell off the regional assets by the National Government led by Jenny Shipley and Maurice Williamson – which once again ran into widespread public opposition and also from the Auckland mayors who had their own ideas about where the assets should go. But in a last gasp blow – the National Government recklessly forced the privatisation of the former ARC Yellow Bus company which was purchased by the Scottish company Stagecoach.

The name ‘Infrastructure Auckland’ was also quite revealing – because by the mid- 90’s Auckland’s outdated infrastructure was beginning to reveal the consequences of

years of neglect. First of all the draught of 1993-94 showed Auckland’s bulk water storage to be inadequate, the Mangere Wastewater Treatment Plant had reached capacity, and early in 1998 there was a major power outage in the CBD which was so bad it made international headlines. Bruce and I, Paul Walbran and Bruce Hucker anticipated these problems when we helped drew up the Alliance Greater Auckland Plan in 1995. Though the water, wastewater and power problems were eventually fixed by Watercare and the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust respectively, the most deep-seated and intractable problem transport – grew increasingly serious with chronic traffic congestion and the city close to grid-lock. Chickens were coming home to roost after years of neglect by the state and by the region.

Interestingly in 1998 the regional assets were not handed back to the ARC but instead to the city councils. The councils were also gifted the shares of WaterCare.

In 2004 the political wheel turned once again and the Labour government returned the remaining IA assets including the 80 % shareholding in Ports of Auckland to the ARC, in the form of Auckland Regional Holdings. In 2005 proving the wheel had really turned, ARH bought back the 20% of shares in the Ports of Auckland which the Waikato Regional Council had privatised in 1993.

But in other respects Auckland was very much as Bruce Jesson described in his 1995 Accidental Politician article.
…Auckland remains a political mess, despite the local government reforms. There are four cities, three district councils, a regional council and now the trust. There is little cohesion at a regional level and constant squabbling among the politicians. The place is very much like a collection of medieval fiefdoms, from which the politicians ride forth to do battle with each other. Sometimes the cities were fine to deal with. Barry Curtis, the mayor of Manukau was always courteous and helpful. Sometimes they were difficult. Waitakere City councillors always seemed well meaning but obsessive. And Auckland City was invariably obnoxious.

It would be tempting to blame Les Mills, with his bombastic assertive style, for the arrogant tone of Auckland City, but that wouldn’t be fair. Arrogance is steeped in the culture of the place. The officers are as bad as the politicians. It dates back I suppose, to the days before local government reforms, when Auckland City regarded

itself as the premier city in a region of tinpot borough councils. The intercity rivalries used to cause some embarrassing bickering at the mayoral forums. Les Mills would try to dominate proceedings. Barry Curtis would stand on his dignity and insist on the last word. Usually he would get it, but it sometimes took a long time.

The ongoing tensions between the city councils and the regional council surfaced once again in September 2006 when amidst widespread public protests at council rates increases, the Mayors of Auckland, Manukau, North Shore and Waitakere City were revealed to be planning what became known as the ‘Mayoral Coup’.

Though there was much talk at the time about a ‘super city’ – the Mayors actually advocated three cities and a ‘Lord Mayor’ and proposed that they themselves be appointed to the ARC as of right, along with ‘business leaders’ and even central government politicians and officials. They also called for the 2007 local body elections to be postponed. Essentially the ‘Mayoral Coup’ was an attempt to take control of the ARC assets and also to annex neighbouring councils Franklin, Papakura and Rodney. Waitakere, much to the indignation of its councillors, was also to be carved up. However the Mayors’ scheme was so transparently self-serving and essentially flaky that the whole scheme quickly collapsed amidst widespread public ridicule. In response the ARC proposed that the councils engage on ways to reform the Auckland local government system.

A formal process called ‘Strengthening Regional Governance’ involving all the councils was gotten underway with central government encouragement and a sort of consensus was cribbed together. The results were presented to the government which quite understandably was not especially impressed. In response it called for a Royal Commission on Auckland Local Governance clearly in the expectation of fundamental change.

In formulating the ARC submission to the Royal Commission we tried to keep in mind why there was Royal Commission in the first place – essentially this is because of widespread public dissatisfaction with local government in Auckland. There are I believe two principle reasons for this unpopularity – the cost of rates and user charges like water which in recent years have risen significantly higher than the CPI. The

second reason is a perception of arrogance in the way local bodies deal with the public. I believe these two problems are to a large degree interrelated and probably relate to the corporate culture that is one of the most persistent legacies of the neo liberal colonisation of the public sector of the 80’s and 90’s.

Despite the assertions of the councils, in my opinion in recent years a far too greater slice of the rate-take is consumed in the administration of the councils themselves and on a whole network of contractors, consultants and consultancy houses. Furthermore a lot of these costs appear to be duplicated between the councils. As David Shand reported in his Local Government Rates inquiry of 2007, on present trends local government rates will become unaffordable to a large number of people – especially those on fixed incomes within 10 years.

As a result of the neo liberal influence, the old-fashioned ethic of public service and democratic accountability have been progressively weakened.

In formulating the ARC submission we were therefore confronted with a dilemma: How to achieve the regional cohesion and unity that many Aucklanders have been calling for, for over 100 years – genuine regionalism – but also at the same time how to retain and indeed restore genuine local government for local communities.

The ARC proposal for Auckland is radical but we believe this approach is the best way to deal with the persistent problems of fragmentation, rivalry and inefficiencies leading to the growing costs of local government. Essentially Auckland has outgrown socially and economically the present three-tier, eight council governance model. We believe it needs to be replaced by something much more efficient and cost-effective and indeed more democratic.

Therefore we are calling for the ARC and the other seven city and district councils to be abolished, to be replaced by a single Auckland unitary authority, which we suggest should be called the Greater Auckland Authority.

Essentially what we propose is in effect a single organisation but with two tiers of governance – what I would call ‘the One and the Many.’ A regional tier the Greater Auckland Authority – and a local tier comprising some 30 community councils.

Under this model all council assets and land would be owned in common by the unitary authority: local community councils would be responsible for defined local assets and activities and the GAA would be responsible for regional assets and projects.

The Greater Auckland Authority would be in charge of transport, bulkwater, wastewater and stormwater, waste management, heritage protection, RMA planning, regional amenities like the Museum, art gallery and zoo, the regional parks network, the volcanic cones. It would be responsible for a standardised building consent and a single rates bill. We envisage the Greater Auckland Authority would be administered by some 22 members elected from parliamentary seats including 2 or possibly 3 Maori seats,

On the other hand the Community Councils largely based on the present day community boards would provide local democracy, and be responsibility for local amenities, roads, parks and libraries. The Community Councils would have greater responsibilities and therefore greater standing in their community than the present community boards. The elected members of community councils would be called ‘councillor.’ Unlike the community boards, community councils would have their rights and responsibilities protected by statute.

Conversely, the community councils would be constrained from legally challenging the activities of the Greater Auckland Authority for some parochial purpose, – after all they would be members of the same unitary authority. In other words checks and balances would be essential.

Under the ‘One and the Many’ model there would be significant opportunities for close cooperation between the Greater Auckland Authority and community councils, for instance through joint committees and working parties.

Let’s be in no doubt that what the ARC has proposed to the Royal Commission is a very powerful governmental entity for Auckland. There would therefore need to be checks and balances between the regional and national levels of government just as with the regional and local level and a clear division of labour. But again one can see the opportunity for joint task force approaches between regional and central government agencies to tackle major infrastructural problems, similar to the way ARC, ARTA and Ontrack will be working on electrification of the Auckland rail network.

As I have pointed out Transport – or more to the point chronic traffic congestion has been a major problem for Auckland in recent decades. The good news is that after almost two decades of neglect the present Labour-led government has done a huge amount for transport infrastructure in Auckland and so has the ARC, ARTA and indeed the city councils. But the fact remains that in terms of rapid transit we still lag some 50 years behind Wellington – which is now embarking on a second generation of rail electrification – Why is this? Well the reasons are intimately tied up with Auckland’s political history.

As I noted earlier, the biggest infrastructural headache for Auckland up until the mid 1950s was sewage disposal. Transport – especially public transport was not a problem. Auckland had an excellent electric tram service supported by trains and harbour ferries. In terms of rail transport thanks to the research of Dr Chris Harris which was referred to in Chris Trotter’s recent book No Left Turn, we know that in 1947 the Ministry of Works had plans to electrify and comprehensively expand the Auckland suburban rail network in a similar way to Wellington.

The MOW plans remained on the books until 1954 at which time the Holland National Government in the form of the Minister of Transport, Railways, Works and Housing Stan Goosman managed to persuade the Auckland City Council to agree to their abandonment. Harris points out that the day after Auckland City Council agreed to effectively ditch the rail plans, the government signed the contract to build the Harbour Bridge – a cheaper than originally planned harbour bridge at that.

Harris argues that these decisions were conscious and deliberate and taken at the highest level of government to ensure Auckland was developed along a California/Texas American model – Trotter goes one step further and proposes that this was a form of social engineering. This may well have been the case for the result was an Auckland transport system, designed to give priority to the private automobile, and a city designed on motorways, shopping malls and sprawling suburbs and subdivisions – somewhat different to the more compact European style design of Wellington and Melbourne. And this is essentially what we have in Auckland today.

This scenario is strongly supported when one takes into account what happened to Auckland’s electric tramway – in other words light rail. The decision to end the tram service was taken soon after the rail decision and from 1956, 72km of tram tracks extending all over the isthmus were systematically ripped out at great cost – one must surmise the purpose was to ensure electric trams could never be economically restored. These decisions had a profound influence on Auckland’s future urban design and quality of life. A graphic illustration was the impact on public transport patronage. Up until 1956 when the population was just over 400,000 people public transport patronage in Auckland had exceeded 100 million passenger trips per year – after 1956 and the demise of the popular and convenient trams, patronage almost halved to around 57 million trips per year. From 1956 Auckland almost overnight went from having one of the best public transport systems to one of the worst. In 2008 with a population nearing 1.4 million people, Auckland’s public transport system, which is still largely dominated by buses, carries just over 54 million trips per year – at a cost of around $140m per year in public subsidies. The tramway in contrast, made a modest profit for the city.

Exactly how and why this decision was made is unclear – this part of Auckland’s history remains obscure and requires further research. One thing we do know is that at that time the Auckland City Council was still bitterly divided over the Browns Island sewage affair. Perhaps Dove-Meyer Robinson and his newly elected colleagues were distracted with the task of replacing the Browns Island scheme with the oxidation ponds at Mangere. Robbie certainly tried to make up for it some twenty years later but by then it was too late.

But then again its never too late – as Bruce Jesson pointed out in the last chapter of Only their Purpose is Mad. “There are no final victories in politics” – to which I might add and “no final defeats either.”

Today I am advised that this week the government is considering on an order-in- council allocating fuel levy funds to enable Auckland to begin what should have been achieved in the 1950s. So at long last we will be able to electrify the Auckland rail system, and embark on building the inner city loop, and hopefully extending rail to Auckland International Airport.

Auckland of course cannot complete these sorts of projects on its own – these projects are of national importance and therefore their success requires not only the support but the absolute commitment of the state. On this score the National Party’s position in regard to Auckland rail is a cause for concern.

Bruce Jesson was vitally concerned about Auckland and could be even said to have been, like Dove Meyer-Robinson, a saviour of Auckland – but he wasn’t just concerned about Auckland – and neither should we be. Bruce was concerned about New Zealand – he was a nationalist – a republican – all his adult life. The last article he wrote – just before he died was called ‘To Build a Nation’ which set out very optimistically his hopes and aspirations for New Zealand.

Bruce in his last years had become a firm admirer of Helen Clark. And Bruce’s confidence in Clark really is testament to his prescience because Helen Clark has grown over the years to become one of New Zealand’s most outstanding Prime Ministers. Had Bruce lived no doubt through his writing, he would have had an active and constructive influence on the fifth Labour government – or Labour led government. He would have generally agreed with and applauded the Cullen fiscal/economic approach – similar in many ways to that which he helped formulate for the ARST. He would have admired the logical progression and coherence (seen from hindsight at least) of the Cullen National Superannuation fund, Kiwisaver, Kiwibank (an Alliance initiative of course) and Kiwirail and the major investment in transport infrastructure. He would have also applauded the implications of these initiatives in terms of New Zealand economic nationalism.

He would have been critical though I imagine, of a lack of progress towards constitutional independence – in other words towards a republic. Bruce after all as Andrew Sharp has reminded us was not just a New Zealand nationalist, he was a New Zealand patriot.

The question of nationalism has always been controversial amongst the Left – and mostly the NZ Left has been suspicious or merely indifferent to it. There are of course arguments for this but Bruce rejected those arguments – and I believe he was quite right to do so. Many of the social problems we face today I believe comes from a lack of national direction and national self-belief. This lack of overall national direction affects the body politic, the public service and I believe the whole of society. The fact is the country has no overarching organising principle or idea – nowadays the national interest seems to limited to aspiring to economic prosperity – and for success on the sports field.

Whether people like it or not the vision of Empire was once the organising concept of New Zealand – George Grey was prepared to fight a civil war over it and New Zealand as a nation made huge sacrifices in blood and treasure in the two World Wars for it. But the British Empire is long gone. Nowadays – there would be a tendency to scoff at the very idea of the British Empire – especially amongst people like us. But despite this New Zealand still clings stubbornly to the vestiges of British Imperial rule. Whether or not we appreciate the essential absurdity of New Zealand’s Head of State living on the other side of the world – most people would agree that the British monarchy is increasingly irrelevant to this country. The disinclination of the Royal Family to send a representative to Sir Edmund Hilary’s funeral this year drew quite a lot of criticism – but in my opinion it was perfectly understandable. I think there was a subtle message being signalled from London (rather like the missives from London in the 1840s) – the new message from London is – that just as the Britain has come to terms with the ending of the British Empire then perhaps it is time that New Zealand did as well

New Zealand for its part seems to have become stuck in a pro-longed adolescence – living on the face of it a normal independent life but privately unable to bring itself to

leave home. What I find interesting (and irritating to be frank) is the increasing tendency in recent years for bureaucrats and people in general to refer to the state, or the New Zealand Government as ‘the Crown’. I am not arguing here for a rejection of the British heritage – quite the contrary – but I think we need to apply our energies to create a new national vision to replace the vision of Empire – which gave our ancestors so much confidence and faith in their destiny. We no longer have that confidence and certainty in New Zealand and I believe we are a weaker society for it.

Before he died Bruce called for a new nation building exercise with republicanism as its focal point. For Bruce republicanism was not merely about making a nominal change to the head of state but and I quote “reviving and extending the concepts of citizenship and democracy…and combining the issues of national identity, egalitarianism and democracy.” For Bruce nation building was about “creating a cohesive society that can act internationally with some sense of purpose.”

What has this to do with the governance of Auckland – I believe quite a lot actually. There is a lot of talk about Auckland being New Zealand’s only ‘World Class City’, or being ‘World Class’ at this or that – but actually when you think about it – it is difficult to see how New Zealand can be ‘World Class’ let along Auckland, when New Zealand is not really a fully-fledged independent nation. In the day’s of Empire, within the living memory of many, Auckland was proudly known as the ‘Queen’s City’ – which was more than a mere catchy brand – it was an assertive political philosophical statement. But those days have gone and since that time in many respects in terms of its identity Auckland has lost its way.

Our city scape tends to reflect this loss of greater purpose. As we have become too much a dependent, derivative, international branch office economy, so our city has become jammed with cheap ugly buildings.
The city needs a new overarching vision – or organising principle. I am not talking about branding or marketing gimmicks which are about the business of attracting visitors and making money – they may have their purpose but are not about the cultural aspects of building a city society. As Bruce Jesson said in the last chapter of his last book “Nation-building is not about concocting an image of New Zealand for the benefit of the rest of the world. It is not a ‘branding exercise’…which is how some

politicians treat it. Nation building is an internal matter, not an external one, for our benefit rather than the benefit of others.”

Our vision for Auckland should be of a city/region, which in terms of its built environment and quality of life aspires to match the sublime qualities of Auckland’s natural environment and for its people to have a unifying sense of purpose and national destiny. I would like Auckland to be known as the first city of the New Zealand Republic. I am sure Bruce Jesson would have agreed.


Laila Harre 2007: Union Relevance in Aotearoa in the 21st Century

Union Relevance in Aotearoa in the 21st Century

Laila Harré
National Secretary National Distribution Union Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture Auckland University
9 November 2007

Whanau, friends, comrades and fellow inquirers.

My aim this evening is to re-state the case for trade unionism in Aotearoa in the 21st Century, to review the struggle for union relevance in the 20 years since labour market deregulation took hold in New Zealand and to present some challenges, and dispense some advice, to a few key players – unions, employers and policy makers.

I want to demonstrate why union efforts to give workers a voice and to build workers’ collective power matters. And why all of us should care greatly about how well unions do.

There being a paucity of public discussion on these matters I do this with some trepidation. It is a mixed blessing to be given the privilege of this platform on this subject and I take it seriously.

Given the approach our friend, mentor and comrade, Bruce Jesson, in whose memory this annual lecture is delivered, took to his intellectual duty I suspect I am more likely to be accused of being too careful than too cruel.

Perhaps that is a product of the times in which we find ourselves renewing unionism.

As the late Moss Evans, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in Britain is reported as once having said, “When I look in the mirror when I am shaving I don’t see the face of a man who will bring down capitalism”.

Of course like your typical union member today, I don’t get to first base on this one. I’m female.

But as Evans was observing, while the ordinary work of unions has remained unchanged over a century – to organise around workers’ demands for better pay and conditions, a voice at the table and protection from unfair treatment at work – the decades have blurred their strategic purpose.


If union’s relevance were to be measured by union membership numbers then we have to advance from the premise that our relevance can no longer be assumed, at least from the perspective of a majority of workers. Since 1991 union membership has fallen from 50 per cent to 22 per cent overall. As few as 12 per cent of private sector workers are now union members.

Of course the likes of Business Roundtable’s Roger Kerr concludes from the fact that “Only one worker in five now belongs to a union in New Zealand; [that] most want to be treated as individuals rather than as parts of a collective ‘lump of labour’.” ( 2004/040122yeahright.htm).

A much more likely explanation is found from the context in which choices to join, or not join unions, are offered to and made by workers.

Evidence provided in the 2003 New Zealand Worker Participation and Representation Survey and reported by Boxall, Haynes and Macky in the recently published and invaluable comparative study “What Workers Say” suggests that lack of access to unions is a primary factor in low union density.

If actual membership were combined with the number of workers who say they would join a union if there was one in their workplace potential union membership reaches 36 per cent in the private sector and 60 per cent in the public sector, or nearly 40 percent overall. That is not such a distance from the 50 percent achieved under compulsory unionism, and this despite the enormous barriers erected in the 1990s between workers and unions.

That’s the good news. I’ll come back to more of those numbers in a bit because who those potential union members are and where they work presents us with our greatest organising challenge.

What the unmet demand for union membership tells us is that something has driven a wedge between workers and their desire to express a collective voice through unions.

The first culprit is the industrial relations framework itself.

From the 1894 Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act until the 1991 Employment Contracts Act industrial relations legislation recognised unions as the primary representatives of workers when it came to the settling of incomes and other working conditions. Unions had a statutory role in the negotiation or arbitration of industry and occupational collective agreements, ‘awards’. Awards provided for comprehensive minimum terms and conditions of employment binding all workers and employers in an industry or occupation.

A system of ‘relativities’ operated between awards.


This meant that gains made through collective action by well-organised and strategically located groups of workers influenced the outcomes for others.

However the relationship of the well-organised core to the apparently dependent remainder of the unionised workforce was not one of host to parasite.

At the risk of appalling any classical scholars among you, it perhaps could be said to more closely resemble the more complex relationship of sultan to harem.

In No Left Turn (p 175) Chris Trotter describes how the introduction of compulsory trade union membership by the first Labour Government saw “tens of thousands of formerly unorganised workers [pour] into the hitherto tiny unions set up to represent clerical workers, hotel workers and shop assistants. The new ‘conscript’ unionists were the key to power.” Chris’s context is the internal factionalism within the labour movement of the day.

But at a movement level these so-called “conscripts” and the direct interest they had in the outcome of union struggles through the system of relativities was an important factor in legitimising those demands and the industrial action taken in support of them.

The Employment Contracts Act in 1991 abolished the award system in favour of direct wage and conditions bargaining between employers and individual workers.

Individual bargaining could be aggregated at an enterprise level but could not occur across an industry or occupation without the agreement of each employer. Industrial action to get that agreement was illegal.

Compulsory unionism disappeared with the awards.

Union organising rights, including rights of access to workplaces for recruitment were removed. The word ‘union’ did not appear in the legislation, which reduced us to ‘bargaining agents’, a role that did not require any democratic workers’ organisation and was shared with all manner of groups and individuals, including private sector consultants facilitated and even paid by employers.

Collective Employment Contracts drafted for employers’ by consultants and offered to workers on a take-it-or-leave it basis were both legal and normal. Remember this point when I discuss the threat posed by National’s announced industrial relations policy to the embryonic growth of unionism in places like shops and the hosoitality sector.

For unions to maintain collective bargaining across all the workplaces that had previously been covered by awards was an impossible task in these circumstances. Bargaining in multiple enterprises would require enormously


greater resources than representation at an industry or occupational level. That would require more members, not less.

A bosses’ charter, the ECA attacked workers’ rights to organise and bargain in order to attack the protections that bargaining had delivered over generations. Protections that were now called “rigidities”. Conditions which put a brake on working hours and job insecurity like penal rates, casual loadings, and overtime pay were the first to go. Not content to stop there employers drove basic wage rates down to a minimum wage well below the old awards.

In the face of this assault on its most fundamental job – collective bargaining – the union movement at this point failed to recognise the strategic choices available to it.

In 1991 unions still had significant reserves, a considerable workforce of paid officials and leaders in a large number of workplace. In 1991, and in the years immediately following it, there was no end of injustices to workers to organise around as a movement. The monumental blunder of the Council of Trade Unions to organise industrially and politically against the ECA foreclosed on the opportunity to unify a labour movement wracked by the divisions that had been driven into it through the term of the 4th Labour Government. Instead of taking this chance to heal and empower the movement through collective action, the CTU’s actions entrenched those divisions.

What’s more there was a complete failure to anticipate the impact that the loss of bargaining power among the increasing number of workers in the service industries would have on union membership, the union movement and wage and conditions across the whole workforce. The opportunistic approach of some unions to the introduction of contestability fell right into the deregulators’ hands.

It’s almost too depressing to imagine now what might have been possible had the CTU followed a path like that taken by the Australian council of Trade Unions in the face of Howard’s reforms. There an aggressive political, industrial and community campaign has made industrial relations a major political issue and given a high and positive profile to unionism. This has greatly reduced the usual effectiveness for the right of using Labour’s association with the unions as a campaign weapon against them. It has provided Labour with a crucial and positive area of differentiation. And it has probably reduced the loss of union membership by both highlighting the need for collective protection and improving the image of the union movement. At the same time ACTU is working with unions on strategy, organising methods and the other capacity needed to respond to employer attacks and workforce change at the workplace level.

Instead in New Zealand in the 90s, unions like the National Distribution Union were fighting against membership raids into sites of traditional strength by erstwhile comrades, while having to strategically dispense with the large majority of workers


in retail workplaces in order to pour resources into holding a collective base in the largest national chains.

With their capacity and influence minimised, unions contracted their role to the direct representation of paid-up members through enterprise bargaining and individual representation, moving further than ever from a social movement orientation, with its emphasis on the representation and advancement of workers’ interests. Inter-union solidarity all but disappeared as unions representing workers in the traditionally stronger areas went into competition for members in organised workplaces.

Meanwhile trade policy and deregulation conspired to shrink the traditional union base in manufacturing, with employment growth being largely generated in the domestic services sector – the very industries where workers’ access to unions was all but shut off in the 1990s.

Privatisation and the associated introduction of competitive tendering for services back to the state sector forced thousands of jobs in previously large and unionised workplaces into cut-throat competition between an ever-increasing number of contractors. At the same time ever-growing movement of women into the labour market has created swathes of jobs in sectors previously dominated by unpaid work. By 2003 care giving for elders and the disabled was the fastest growing occupation. Union density remains highest in manufacturing at nearly 30%, and has fallen to plummet to 8 – 10% in the private services sector.

In other words the combination of a growing and new workforce, changes in the distribution of employment between industries, the industrial relations framework itself and the failure of the union movement to grapple with its strategic choice in the early years of the ECA have increased the distance between workers and unions.

This is the state in which unionism found itself in 1999 at the time of the change of Government and the introduction of the Employment Relations Act.

  • –  a relatively low and predominantly passive membership
  • –  depletion of financial reserves
  • –  a reduction of union’s role to the protection and servicing of existing

    members through enterprise collective bargaining and advocacy on

    individual employment problems

  • –  dealing with employers whose businesses had been built off a low wage

    and low employment risk platform, acutely aware of the risk unions

    represented to their bottom line

  • –  somewhat secure in the areas of traditional strength but having a minimal

presence in the key areas of private sector employment growth


The impact of all of this upheaval on wages and working conditions has been calamitous and persists.

The supermarket industry is a case in point. Before the ECA awards had provided for everything from hourly pay rates and allowances to a range of protections against casualisation. The system of relativities described above ensured that despite their passive role in the industrial relations system the wages of supermarket workers retained relativity to wages in general.

Most importantly awards took wages and conditions out of the competition between employers for market share.

The end of the award system in 1991 coincided with rapid expansion of the supermarket industry and the first supermarket “price wars”.

With labour costs a significant portion of total costs, those with lower labour costs gained an immediate advantage.

Unemployment was high at the time and new supermarkets under Foodstuffs’, Pak n Save brand, opened their doors in working class communities, offering “take it or leave it” collective employment contracts that represented a 20% pay cut to the award. The welfare reforms announced in the Mother of All Budgets meant workers who refused jobs would lose their unemployment benefits.

Although these collective employment contracts were not the product of collective bargaining, workers press-ganged into them were prevented from taking action to improve their conditions, deemed to have already exercised their collective bargaining rights.

The owners banned the union from their supermarkets and distribution centres, intimidating workers who showed interest in the union.

Meanwhile, the established supermarket chains came under huge pressure from the newcomers. What followed was a period of concessionary bargaining – where key conditions such as penalty and overtime rates were traded for a collective bargaining foothold in the industry.

From 1991 to 1994 – in just three years – youth wages in supermarkets fell by 40% and adult wages by 11%. (Conway)

In other words the industry standard was driven down by pressure from non- union workplaces, rather than driven up by unionised workplaces.

Union membership in the industry fell to about 12% of the workforce, concentrated in the Progressive chain of stores.


With the NDU’s current focus on re-unionising Foodstuffs, in the first collective bargaining across its northern wholesale arm, Gilmours, we were this week presented with a 0% offer on the standard rate of $11.74 an hour.

Despite continuing record low unemployment – 3.5 per cent according to yesterday’s and quantifiable labour and skills shortages, we are a low wage country and not a lot is happening to change that.

Between 1993 and 2003 the average annual increase in real wages was 0.7 per cent, only slightly more than half the OECD average of 1.1 per cent and the Australian average of 1.3 per cent.

From 1980 to 2001 real wages actually fell by 6.5 per cent – compared to increases in Australia of 28 per cent, Canada 39 per cent, UK 46 per cent and Finland 68 per cent).

The gender pay gap is widening again, after narrowing in large part due to wage cuts for men rather than wage increases for women.

So how have the bosses been doing?

According to a Reserve Bank study, from 2000 to 2004, corporate profits increased by 11 per cent a year. Whereas in 2000 a CEO could expect to earn eight times as much as the pay of the average worker, by 2006, the average CEO pay-packet was 19 times the average wage.

Meanwhile New Zealand holds second place in the OECD for our long working hours. One in five us works more than 50 hours a week.

Anna Berger, Chair of the US’s largest union grouping, Change to Win, places the urgent need for unionising the new workforce in the expanding service sector at the centre of the project to restore incomes and social protection:

“The myth of the new American economy… that highly aid, high tech jobs will offset the loss of the well-paid, union jobs in manufacturing; that all we had to do was re-train and re-tool; that the new economy is on the information superhighway is pure fiction.

“In reality, unless we do something about it, the new economy is a dead-end street of underpaid, high-turnover, no-benefit jobs that cannot sustain families…

“The workers of the new economy are not low wage workers in low wage jobs – they are underpaid workers in underpaid occupations.

“We should always remember that the good jobs of the 20th century were the underpaid jobs at the turn of the previous century, until workers joined together in unions – bargained contracts that provided living wages and family benefits –


won family friendly government policies – and forged a pact with corporate America that provided for economic growth and prosperity for working families.”

Low wages, long hours, a workforce separated from its collective union voice – a perfect environment for doing business.

Or is it?

Like those who profiteered from the privatisation programme, mining state enterprises for short term profits and failing to improve assets over time, employers have mined our workforce for its labour to similar effect.

If notions of fundamental labour rights and simple justice were not sufficient grounds to increase workers’ access to the collective power of unionism then the economic and social unsustainability of this toxic mixture of low wages, long and insecure working hours, and underinvestment in education and skills surely is.

With unemployment and labour force participation at historic lows and highs respectively, already long working hours and an aging workforce demanding higher levels of productivity in future, the new right’s labour market chickens have come home to roost.

Notwithstanding John Howard’s more recent efforts to “catch down” with us, comparisons with Australia demonstrate that from a similar position in the 1980s, New Zealand’s low wages have discouraged investment in capital and skill, accounting for most of the difference between the two countries in the productivity stakes.

This situation demands that the short-term approach of individual firms to maximise profit through cutting or holding labour costs down should be subservient to a national interest in raising wages, skills and job quality.

Short of a command and control approach, building the capacity of workers to organise in unions, to engage in collective bargaining and to have much greater influence on the organisation of the workplace is therefore an urgent economic task.

It is also an urgent social and democratic task.

There are obvious benefits to family and community wellbeing of increasing wages and providing a collective voice for workers on issues like secure hours and work organisation that meets the needs of today’s workforce.

But there is also a less tangible and yet vital value in unionism as a social and democratic institution in itself. Much like the unaccounted value of women’s


traditional work in the household and community, the “social capital” provided by unions has become more visible as it has deteriorated.

Unions themselves grew out of intimate communities of workers where solidarity flowed naturally between the workplace and the outside world. Important sites for worker education and leadership development, mutual support, the social capital inherent in unions was once immense.

The destruction of that community resource in the face of catastrophic economic decisions – like the closure of a plant where the union has simply disappeared – has significantly weakened the resilience of many communities with inter- generational effects. Clubs, welfare organisations, political party branches and other key social and democratic forums have been disrupted and wrecked.

But unionism’s own retrenchment to a the protection and servicing of existing members through enterprise collective bargaining and advocacy on individual employment problems has also contributed to this decline.

Neither the fee-for-service culture of unionism that prevailed through the 1990s, nor the increasingly dominant “organising model” which aims to increase the role of union members and workplace leaders so as to enlarge the capacity of unions to organise new workers into unions are sufficient. We have to incorporate aspects of both while moving beyond their boundaries, which limit the ability of unionism to deliver on our historic purpose – to broaden and deepen social and political solidarity.

So to summarise thus far before moving to my attempt to answer the question of what sort of unions we need.

First, the decline in union membership is not due to worker rejection of a collective voice on employment matters. It is due to a number of related factors: anti-union and anti-collectivist industrial relations policy, a decline in the numbers employed in areas of traditional union strength and employment growth in sectors and firms never organised and among workers never unionised, workforce and workplace change, and unions’ own strategic choices in response to these factors.

Second, the withdrawal of supports for unionism and the national industrial relations framework have had a catastrophic effect on wages, working conditions, and security and contributed to steep increases in income inequality by reducing the real and relative value of most workers’ jobs.

Finally, the costs of this catastrophe extend beyond the workers themselves to the economic, social and democratic spheres damaging our prospects to preserve national values like social solidarity and justice under threat from globalisation and market forces.


So how is our recovery going and what more can we do as unions to reverse the loss of workers power and workers organisation at a workplace, community and national level?

A change of Government in 1999, the restoration of union organising rights and to lesser extent collective bargaining mechanisms through the Employment Relations Act, as well as paying long overdue attention to the internal life of unions, have brought a real surge in union activity and confidence.

First, to the legislation, which provides an important backdrop to union renewal. The ERA restored the statutory role of unions as workers’ representatives in collective bargaining as well as the right of workers to take industrial action to press claims for multi-employer collective agreements. Employers and unions are required to bargain in good faith and to conclude collective agreements. Rights facilitating organising have been restored, including the ability of unions to enter workplaces to recruit and communicate with workers, paid employment relations education leave and meeting time for union members, and a requirement for employers to deduct union fees from members’ wages.

The threshold for union registration is low, requiring only the 15 members necessary to form and incorporated society. The emphasis is on independence from the employer, a critical protection against the practice of employers under the ECA to dictate the terms of collective employment contracts and thereby prevent workers from demanding genuine collective bargaining rights, including the right to strike, during the term of the agreement.

We have a long history of defining unions’ relevance and role almost entirely in terms of the industrial relations framework. Perhaps this is why some of the strategic choices that have always been available to unions, including in the 1990s – like running industry- and labour-market-wide campaigns for higher wages and building the capacity of the union membership and leadership in the workplace – have really only come into their own with these law changes.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s ‘Fair Pay – because we’re worth it’ campaign in 2003-2004 combined workplace, community, networking, public relations activities and a high media profile with the threat of strike action to pressure Government to fund public hospital employers to meet a claim by nurses for ‘pay equity’ with other, traditionally male dominated state sector professions, and nurses overseas.

The ‘Fair Share’ or ‘5 in 05’ Campaign led by the EPMU in 2005 called for a series of above-inflation pay rises cross the private sector to restore losses incurred by workers through the long-term transfer of company earnings from wages to profits. Mass stop-work meetings and industrial action were reinforced by print and broadcast advertising and a media strategy.


Unite’s ‘’ campaign launched in 2005, re-introduced unionism and collective bargaining to the fast-food sector. All national chains are now covered by collective bargaining resulting in higher minimum wages and more security of hours in this low-paid and casualised industry. The margin between youth rates and full rates has narrowed and the campaign spawned largely successful political action and collective bargaining by other unions to end youth rates. Youth-oriented events and festivals, the engagement of politicised school students, one-hour strikes, networking with social justice organisations and a high media profile were all features of this campaign.

Most recently the SFWU’s Healthy Hospitals campaign combined membership growth and activism with intense political lobbying to drive all but Spotless Services into a new industry standard for the lowest paid hospital workers. Once isolated, Spotless was targeted through a successful industrial and public relations campaign, succumbing in the end to the inevitable.

If anyone doubted the ideological quality of employer opposition to collective bargaining this case provided it. Like all other providers Spotless was promised the money by Government to meet the newly-bargained industry standard, but locked out its employees in pursuit of its right to use economic power to extract an even larger slice of profit from the public purse.

Each of these campaigns has involved elements of traditional industrial action, but were characterised much more by their community, media and public relations strategies. Such campaigns helped improve the profile of unionism and collective action. They have also created a momentum for others to capitalise on. Each time a successful battle is played out and won in the public eye the confidence of the union movement grows, other union members expectations not just of good results but worthy fights are raised, and workers not yet in unions become more interested in joining.

With the exception of the “5 in 05” campaign which was firmly directed at a moderate redistribution of the fruits of production from profits to wages in industries with a long history of collective action, these campaigns have all been driven by wage justice issues – low pay, gender-based pay, youth wage discrimination – and all organised in industries or services with a history of dependence on relativities for wage increases and a strong client or customer link with the general public.

Each has utilised that link to win. Given that the greatest potential for re-building unions lies in the domestic services sector, direct public appeals for social solidarity with service and care workers is clearly a winning strategy.

Add into this mix of wage justice issues in a business with close links to the general public an industrially aggressive employer prepared to hold its wages as near to its lower paying competition as possible, and you have the recipe for the 4-


week long lock-out of Progressive’s supermarket distribution centre workers just over a year ago.

Unlike these other campaigns, from an insider’s perspective this one bore a closer resemblance to well-managed civil defence emergency than a well-planned and strategic campaign.

I have earlier described how in the 1990s Foodstuffs used de-unionisation and wage cuts to fund price cuts, forcing pay and conditions down throughout the supermarket industry.

It was natural therefore that the NDU’s sights were directed at organising Foodstuffs supermarkets and distribution centres in order to protect higher rates at Progressive and improve standards across the industry.

Progressive’s new owners, however, had a different plan. Rather than bargain in good faith to close a $2 an hour pay gap between its three distribution centres, the company decided to go to war with its workforce and their unions.

Necessity being the mother of invention, the campaign mounted in defence of the workers’ right to collective bargaining and equal pay was driven by one overriding objective: the need to shift the economic damage of the lockout from the workers to the company. There is not time here for a full account of the battle which has been written up by me and Frances Hancock in Love Chile’s recent book, “Community Development in New Zealand.”

Nonetheless some important clues to union relevance can be drawn from a campaign that attracted unprecedented union movement solidarity, raised $450,000 from union, workplace and public donations, saw a re-emergence of sympathy industrial action in related food manufacturing, transport and logistics companies, and creative activism by many others. The union decided not to call for a customer boycott because of the way it might have been used by management to undermine our legitimacy among our much larger but generally inactive in-store membership. Despite this, spontaneous customer action stopped much of what did get delivered to the stores getting out of them, taking a heavy short-term toll on earnings and market share.

What clues are there for union relevance from this dispute?

First, a genuine culture of solidarity remains central to union movement values. Not a single union refused a request for assistance – to bolster picket lines, take up collections or provide relief organising staff – and members of ours and other unions were prepared to back the workers with collective action in related jobs. That culture extends beyond the labour movement to churches, political parties, social justice, welfare, and cultural organisations whose own social capital was invested in this battle.


Second, New Zealanders can and will back workers defending themselves against a bully – especially an Australian bully.

Third, the lack of a large union strike fund was a strength of the campaign. It made it even more important to get the workers and the union into the public eye because of the need to raise funds, reinforcing the imbalance of power between warring parties and giving workers, the union and the employer a clear measure of support. That support allowed us to achieve the primary objective of any industrial dispute which, as Matt McCarten puts it, is “to stay out one day longer than the boss”.

Fourth, and most importantly, it demonstrated the resilience and resources of workers in battle. Communities were established on the picket lines, which became the centre of solidarity, welfare and activism. Leadership in building these communities came from the workers themselves, their partners and social networks. For me, inclusion in this community was a privilege beyond description. As the campaign built public and union support workers who had mostly never taken action before realised that they were at the centre of a struggle that had much wider ramifications. Their involvement in industrial action not only brought about self-consciousness but also created new meanings and awareness of unionism as a social movement. The workers realised that they could make a difference by bringing about social change through collective action.

Finally, the truce established by the employer’s withdrawal from the battle established new terms of engagement between the union and the company. It is no coincidence that in supermarket bargaining this year the same principle of equal pay for equal work was finally implemented across the three brands and we delivered an effective end to youth rates.

So, for unions, building relevance and gaining respect from workers and employers through collective action is a must. While evidence like that produced in the NZWRPS shows that workers want to see co-operation between their union and management, they also want unions to vigorously defend their interests.

This series of successful collective action-based union campaigns has created a momentum that needs to be capitalised on by the movement.

There are three very substantial barriers to that happening.

First, no union has the capacity to extend the reach of unionism to the areas where the unmet demand for unions is greatest – among younger workers, low paid workers and those in smaller workplaces.


Second, employer hostility to unionisation and collective bargaining adds very significantly to the cost of not just recruiting but retaining members through often protracted bargaining for a collective agreement.

Third, the industrial relations framework fails to provide the kind of institutional support needed to get sufficient coverage of collective bargaining in large, low union density industries like retail and hospitality to take wages and conditions out of competition between employers.

There are many things unions can do to address these barriers, but there are others that will require greater resources from within or outside the labour movement as well as law reform to extend collective bargaining beyond its enterprise focus.

All unions are paying greater attention to the most glaring opportunity revealed by the evidence. That is, that a significant proportion of non-members, including workers in sites with collective agreements, say that the reason they aren’t in the union is because they have never been invited to join.

As well as developing the workplace and union-office capacity to recruit new staff, industries like retail with a history of bargaining in the national chains but only moderate or low membership density also need to use new ways of re-framing the problem of free riding in low or moderate density workplaces, before we will be able to minimise it.

It has been usual for unions to define free riding – that is the passing on of collectively bargained terms and conditions to non-members – as a problem of fairness. It is not fair, it is said, that one person pays fees to benefit someone else. This way of looking at the problem reinforces the fee-for-service approach to unionism and is ultimately counter-productive. Most of these free riders are opportunistic, rather than hostile.

In these sorts of workplaces, free riding is not a problem of fairness but a problem of capacity. It reduces the union’s income and fragments collective power. Without recruiting people we can’t solve the fees problem, but by involving non-members in union organisation on the job we have a better chance of overcoming the problem of collective weakness and creating a stronger link between the non-member and the union which will ultimately increase the likelihood of them joining. The prevailing attitude to free riders only feeds the cycle, as invariably in collective bargaining the employer strongly aligns their interests to the interests of non- members, acting as their patron and defender against union claims to advantage union members.

Like the NDU’s challenge in retail, in an industry like Fast Food that has 100% turnover and low worker commitment there are obvious difficulties in maintaining membership density, and retaining experienced union members. Unite has had two


other approaches to this problem. First, it resources campaigns and builds alliances with activists and community groups which allow it to maximise its impact on reputation-sensitive employers. The union actively promotes the reach of its collective bargaining across the industry, rather than the depth of its membership density. Second, Unite continues to develop a wider role to increase the value of union membership. Most significantly this has gone beyond the standard set of union discounts (which are, incidentally, a very popular membership service) to partnership with Te Wananga o Aotearoa to provide literacy, computing and Te Reo courses to union members. In true Freire-esque “Liberation through Education” is the motto.

But as already stated there is a limit to what unions already struggling to recruit many thousands of members a year just to stand still can achieve.

In the supermarket industry alone, there are 160 separately owned Pak N Save and New World supermarkets just waiting to be organised. The exceptional performance of the NDU’s Growth Unit has seen three of the largest of Pak n Saves in Auckland organised through to a first collective agreement in the last year, with three more underway. But with significant union resources necessarily invested in meeting the needs of 20,000 members in over a thousand workplaces and covered by over 350 collective agreements, the unmet demand for unionism lingers.

The retail and wholesale industry has 8.5% density. In other words about 27,200 of the 320,000 people employed in the industry are in a union. Perhaps 20% of the 320,000 are already within the reach of collective bargaining – either through union membership or free riding. This leaves 256,000 retail and wholesale workers, or the equivalent of every manufacturing worker in the country, beyond the reach of unions and collective bargaining.

The union movement must consider how it can share this responsibility with the unions on the frontline of the “under paid workers in the underpaid occupations” of the service sector.

While the Progressive dispute put any question of shared values beyond doubt, there is an opportunity just waiting to be grabbed to increase the size and reach and power of unionism beyond its present public sector and large private enterprise boundaries.

An example of the resources needed for a serious effort comes from the Change to Win coalition’s conditions for membership. These unions, which represent a majority of unionised workers in the USA, have an obligation to spend at least 20% of their income on green fields organising in core service industries.

In New Zealand terms, 20% of the estimated fees income of the trade union movement is almost identical to the total combined incomes of the NDU, the


SFWU, Unite and the Amalgamated Workers Unions, those unions in the sectors with the greatest un-met demand for union membership.

As CTU President Helen Kelly said to the Labour Party last weekend: “It is often this group of unions that is expected to do the “asking” in those areas where workplaces are numerous, the industry voice is weak, the turnover is high and the workers are not your average full time employee. If we leave it at that – many workers will not have the opportunity to become a union member.”

I will reinforce that message to the Government, but it is equally important to direct it at our own movement.

Acting on it is essential to the growth, credibility and influence of the trade union movement as a whole – and therefore to each union in it. Furthermore, it is collective culture which legitimises the public sector as a whole, where most union members work, and the breakdown of collectivism which continues to threaten it. Union participation is a major means for developing the collectivist world-view on which public support for public services depends.

So finally, to the Government, politics and public policy.

We have already seen how the relevance of unions to workers is heavily dependent on the industrial relations and public policy framework.

The fundamental purpose of the Employment Relations Act was to address the power imbalance inherent in the employment relationship through the promotion and encouragement of collective bargaining. This was the primary tool of the Labour-Alliance government for restoring a fairer distribution of the fruits of production between wages and profits.

The wage and profit figures I have used show that both more legislative support and more than legislative support will be needed to achieve this objective.

As well as providing a challenge to the union movement, the minimal capacity of unions in the private sector to extend our reach is also a public policy problem. An unmet demand for union membership under a framework that is intended to promote collective bargaining prolongs the injustices imposed through labour market deregulation in the 1990s.

If the right to organise in unions is a fundamental human right recognised by this Government, then it needs to be given greater practical support. The situation we face is a bit like offering everyone free health care and then closing 80 per cent of the hospitals. Access to collective bargaining should not be treated as an “optional extra” dependent only on the low capacity of a trade union movement gutted of resources in the 1990s.


The unmet demand for unionism and the positive view both members and most non-members hold of unions must surely outweigh the ideological objections of employers and the National Party. In their own industrial relations practice the government has shown its willingness to back collective bargaining against ideologically-motivate interests. Most recently it has been sued for insisting that extra funding for wage increases for caregivers in private aged care facilities must be delivered through mechanisms related to collective bargaining.

Direct government support for union capacity building is needed, as are stronger institutional measures to prevent employers from undermining union organising efforts and new methods to extend the reach of collective bargaining on an industry basis,

And what we don’t need is a National Party committed to rolling back the progress we are making for nothing more than the pacification of ideological employer interests. Among the most dangerous of their propositions is to empower employers to put in place non-union collective agreements. I can tell you that at our current rate of organising in Foodstuffs if such legislation were passed in 2009 there would be 10 genuine collective agreements and 150 employer drafted ones locking workers out of collective bargaining for another three years.

So, while there are many signs of revival, no end of demand, compelling reasons for workers’ voice to be heard and for their power to be mustered, the union movement remains not just relevant but of fundamental importance to the achievement of economic, social and political aspirations as workers.

As Bruce Jesson said in his book “Only Their Purpose is Mad”:

“….definite social, democratic and national goals……would be an essential element in defining the role of the nation within the global marketplace. But, as is often the case, the process of formulating those goals might be as important as the goals themselves. A democratic process whose purpose was to provide a national perspective would in itself help restore New Zealand’s democratic processes.”(p220)

Such an approach demands that we pay attention to the building blocks of our democracy, and among these our union movement.



Gordon Campbell 2006: Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture

Gordon Campbell 21 November 2006

Good evening, thanks for coming. My name is Gordon Campbell, and it is my privilege tonight to present this annual lecture which, as you know, is intended to honour the life and works of Bruce Jesson. As much as anything, it was the deeds of politicians – and the media’s failure to hold them properly to account – that impelled Bruce into his life of commentary and political action. And I think he’d have enjoyed being here tonight, to argue the toss afterwards about this topic.

I do apologise for reading this lecture. Listening to someone read a lecture must be a deadly experience. If its any consolation…for someone who writes, reading this out loud is….well, its like karaoke. The music is all in the head. Believe me, I know.

One disclaimer I should make. The kind invitation to do this lecture came before I started work with the Greens. The views I express do not reflect in any way, shape or form the views of the Green Party or caucus. I’m here tonight strictly as a former journalist, and part time music promoter.

Oddly enough, the last time I was in the Maidment Theatre just over a year ago, was to hear a musician, called Joanna Newsom. One of her songs captures in a few phrases something of what I’ve got to say tonight. So please, bear with me if I quote :

And all the books our fathers wrote are in the middle of the road
Little by little, we implode

We can’t remember what was spoke
But we stare in wonder at the smoke
What it begets is born alone
We know not now what we have known…

It’s a song about cultural amnesia, and not just with regard to the war in Iraq. I think that theme speaks to any regular viewer of the news, or of the visible workings of Parliament. The events matter, but they often don’t seem to grounded in any sense of history or context, and nor is there any opportunity to respond. It looks like a private, hermetically sealed game. To the point where, as Joanna Newsom intimates, you can start to doubt your own convictions – we know not now what we have known.

In a speech delivered this time last year, Al Gore pointed out the obvious irony of this situation. Television is now more accessible to more people than any other medium of communication in history, but its content allows for less and less genuine participation. Unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, Gore pointed out, there is virtually no exchange of ideas possible in television’s domain. “It is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers of entry that exclude the average citizen.”

Early on, people did try to get around television’s lack of true interactivity. “Soon after television established its dominance over print, “ Gore continues, “young people who realised they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation – the demonstration.” Basically, this

was a poor quality theatrical production aimed at getting the attention of the cameras ljust ong enough to hold up a brief message on a placard to the wider public. These days, even that doesn’t work any longer as an avenue for getting on the six o’clock news.

My starting point then has to be to look for the sources of what seems a fairly widespread sense of exclusion. Television keeps on telling us that its our news, that its us, that its part of our community, because patently it isn’t. Its an alien, pretending to be part of the family. But obviously television news isn’t the only source of this alienation.

Politics in also a one way street – voters don’t vote in governments, they vote out Governments whose apparent indifference to them has become intolerable, as the Helen Clark administration seems well on the way to discovering. Unfortunately, the operating stance of the political media is more part of the problem than it is part of the solution.

I’m talking in particular about the media’s gaming impulse. As the American journalist James Fallows says: “Deep forces in political, social and economic structures account for most of the frustration of today’s politics, but the media’s attitudes have played a surprisingly important and destructive role. Issues that reflect the collective interest, such as crime, healthcare, education, economic growth – are presented mainly as arenas in which politicians can fight. The press is often referred to as the Fourth Branch of Government, which means that it should be providing the information we need, so as to make sense of public problems..”

Far from making those public challenges easier to grasp, Fallows says, the media routinely makes it harder. “ By choosing to present public life as a contest between scheming political leaders, all of whom the public should view with suspicion, the news media help bring about that very result.”

Now, there are several reasons WHY the media treats politics with such corrosive cynicism. Some are more justified than others. In part, I think the cynicism serves as a shield against the humiliations they endure daily at the hands of their sources, but….safe to say, if you do convince yourself that its all crap – or all just a game, or all just business as usual – you’ve largely rid yourself of any imperative to evaluate it on any other level.

It is probably an unfair comparison, but it may be salutary. You can only contrast the stance of today’s media with the achievements of the “golden age of public service journalism” – aka muckraking – between 1900 and 1912. As journalism historian Mark Feldstein says, that period of advocacy journalism was strongly linked to many progressive reforms – and he lists among them the Pure Food and Drug Act, child labour laws, federal income taxes, the direct election of Senators, and the anti-trust prosecution of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil company – a blow against monopoly capitalism that Richard Prebble seemingly had never heard about before he sold Telecom.

The current stance of the profession has consequences for the news coverage that we receive, and affects both style and content. For the purposes of this talk, I’m classified what I see to be the key elements in this process as being one, commercialisation, two personalisation and three, the tabloid mindset.

Commercialisation is easy enough. It has to do with the concentration of media ownership – and the impact this has had on the media’s Fourth Estate role, to ensure that it remains

secondary to market forces and ratings. Media de-regulation here in the late 1980s quickly saw most of our print and electronic media fall into the hands of Australians and North Americans.

Worldwide, the concentration of media ownership has seen profits rise, while the number of journalists employed continues to shrink. The normal career path in print journalism in particular makes it look m ore and more like an apprenticeship scheme for the public relations industry. Even television is doing less, with less. As late as 1989, the CBS network had 38 foreign correspondents in 28 bureaus. Today, CBS has five correspondents in four bureaus. At home, TVNZ is being rumoured to be about lose nearly one sixth of its current workforce during 2007.

Personalisation is a bit more complicated. In practice, it refers to the relentless pursuit of the human interest angle – whereby political process is depicted as something done merely by individuals to individuals, usually without reference to the impact that class, income or other forms of privilege and opportunity have on the outcome of the story. It also elevates personal anecdotes above policy, puts victim narrative ahead of analysis, and focusses on outcomes far more often than it does on causes.

We saw much of this at work recently in the media’s handling of the Herceptin cancer drug decision. The meta-narrative of that story – Paul Krugman calls it the “media script” – was that cancer victims were being denied life saving treatment by the heartless bureaucrats down at Pharmac. Telling the story via accounts of personal tragedy is always going to be easier to present and to consume than figuring out the real balance between Herceptin’s costs and the extent of the benefits it may deliver.

A narrative of victim-hood is also easier than tackling say, the political decisions and Government priorities that give the Pharmac its skinflint mandate, which has meant that New Zealand now has the lowest per capita spend on pharmaceuticals among nine developed countries cited in a report last week by the Commonwealth Fund. Is that good for society? Hey, no one was asking last week. It was all about whether we should spend $400 million, $600 million or $900 million on a rugby stadium, and where we should put it.

This personalised approach not only dramatises and exploits the emotional extremes of individuals – it can also expose them to retribution by the authorities. This is particularly the case when it comes to stories about the welfare system. The media always wants personal stories, but the exposure can be really dangerous, for people who are already vulnerable. The beneficiaries involved may also be naïve enough to expect that the media will look out for them, and protect them.

Even more to the point, this personalising process is wide open to manipulation by politicians, and the media is usually more than happy to serve as their production crew. The two parties have gained quite a lot of experience in recent years in staging folksy photo opportunies and media events. Right now, Rodney Hide’s best chance of getting re-elected doesn’t hinge on very much at allon Act policies – but on him being taken to our hearts as that oddly emotional guy who dances badly, swims across the harbour and cooks kebabs on television.

Similarly, the media has re-packaged Richard Prebble as a loveable elder statesman, the nation’s rascally uncle. No one is churlish enough anymore to bring up his political legacy :

the sales of Telecom, Railways and a few other achievements. The game here is to maximise exposure, by choosing the sort of contexts where the opportunity for genuine scrutiny is kept to a minimum.

I thought the retirement of SIS Director Richard Woods a few weeks ago was the most striking example of the media’s love affair with personality packaging. Surprise– there were no questions about the credibility gap or the human rights issues facing the SIS and other security agencies, post 9/11. No one asked Woods why = given the SIS had three whole years to prepare its case against Ahmed Zaoui – it failed to meet the deadline to get its paperwork ready in time this year, and thus forced Zaoui and his family into another round of delays.

No one has asked why, despite this history of official bungling and delays, the part time judge hearing the review is said to be working only three or four hours a week on the Zaoui case. And in particular, no one asked Woods why – of the 39 classified files of information that the SIS plan to present against Zaoui, a whole 28 of them don’t even mention Zaoui by name. How can this stuff be so secret and so damning that Zaoui and his defence team can’t be allowed to see it – when 72% of these classified files don’t even mention him? We’ll maybe never know, because the media image was a of a wise old head, taking his leave.

The third plank is the tabloid trend in news coverage. The jury is still split on this one, and that might seem surprising. Al Gore again, sees tabloid style and content as an erosion of democracy, because it denies citizens the information they need – not only to fully participate in decision making, but in the informed discourse with each other that is the stuff of a healthy society. Bruce Jesson used to talk and write a lot about the hollowness of discourse in New Zealand, and Gore is right there alongside him in decrying the consequences.

Tabloid style demands shorter stories That’s been an undeniable trend. If you think television sound-bites are getting shorter, you’re right. If you think stories in magazines and newspapers are getting shorter, you’re right again. Count the word length of the one, two and three page stories in the Listener now compared to five years ago, and you’ll find those stories have shrunk on average by a third, and that’s the common rate of contraction in Time, Newsweek and other newsweeklies as well.

There are other symptoms. Sensational tone and celebrity driven content. The interviewing style is also …increasingly on the hyper side. Often it’s a schtick, a pantomine of aggression : news reporters get to ask softball questions in a phony, hardball fashion. If it is covered at all, politico-economic policy tends to be relegated down the bulletin, or into the business pages. At the same time, there has been a higher ratio of coverage afforded to celebrities, crime, sex and sports – or in the case of O.J. Simpson, all four at once.

If this sounds like I’m complaining about tabloid media, I am. But by doing so, there’s always a risk of romanticising what came before – like the early days of television when authority meant middle aged men in suits. It wasn’t that great. In fact, news and current affairs during the 70s and 80s tended to make a virtue out of one part of the elite talking to the other in a language and tone of exclusion – BBC accents and all. It was, in effect, a club for the educated few, claimingto be a national forum.

What it aspired to were the virtues of print journalism. Yet it now about 30 years since print lost its place as the main conduit of news in this country – although for the first 20 of those years, television news had slunk along like some low life cousin of the print media, ashamed

of its own flashiness. That all changed in 1992, when TVNZ consciously adopted the tabloid style of news coverage.

That was the year that Paul Norris, then head of news and current affairs at TVNZ, brought in the American adviser Fred Shook to transform the state broadcaster’s mode of news presentation. This included teaching journalists how to write news for the visual medium and coaching newsreaders on how to read it – or more accurately, Shook taught them how to emote their lines. This included tips on how news anchors could signal the desired response to news items, via side comments and visible reactions, thus giving viewers comfort and guidance on how they should be reacting to a given story.

All of this being based on the premise, as Norris told me in a Listener interview at the time, that “Television is not very easy to use for detailed examination or analysis of complex matters.” Mr Norris is now an astute critic of the media, and head of the Broadcast School of Journalism in Christchurch.

Not a happy state of affairs. Fourteen years ago, we entered an era when taxing the brain was seen to be a violation of television’s true and essentially visual nature. TVNZ news, to use Lindsay Perigo’s classic term, has essentially been ‘brain dead’ ever since that point in 1992, and the charter has made no visible difference.

Even so, the tabloid trend has its defenders. In their view, tabloid media are trading in different realms of subjectivity. Quite different so this argument goes, to the remnants of mainstream journalism – which, however shakily these days – still tries to present facts as if they belonged to an empirical reality. If there are any veterans of the 1990s cultural studies wars here tonight, you’ll know I’m really channelling the views of the British cultural theorist John Fiske.

Fiske believed that more information is embedded in popular culture about the prevailing power relationships in society than mainstream journalism is ever likely to uncover. As Larry Strelitz, one of Fiske’s protégés, says about mainstream journalism : “The tone [of mainstream journalism] is serious, official, and impersonal, aimed at producing understanding and recruiting belief – largely by addressing the audience from the position of one who knows, and providing information to those that don’t.”

By contrast, the tone of tabloids is conversational. It employs the language of its audience in order to promote DISBELIEF, and it provides the pleasures of not being taken in by a shifting constellation of them, the ruling others. The stance is a bit like the cynicism of the political press that I mentioned earlier, but at its best, its tone is far more playful. At its worst, it exploits and promotes the sexual and racial anxieties of its audience – particularly by directing them against foreigners and ethnic minorities.

Lets take a concrete example. A relevant one, as we head into a major debate here in New Zealand on immigration policy. Not so long ago, the term “refugee” had positive meanings. A refugee was a victim fleeing persecution, a survivor needing our help and deserving our sympathy. More recently, it has become fused in the public mind with the more negative term ‘asylum seeker’ – which carries the added sense of a foreigner seeking something for nothing, while being a drain on taxpayer funds, social services and the country’s reputation.

From there, the leap to ‘ illegal immigrant’ and ‘potential terrorist’ is a pretty short one. The tabloid media has been a key player in the transformation of language and attitudes. In a speech marking Refugee Week in Britain in 2004, Forward Maisokwadzo noted ironically how the British media had blamed asylum seekers for terrorism, TB, AIDS and SARS, for failing schools, failing hospitals, falling house prices, rising house prices, road accidents and dwindling fish stocks in British rivers.

In two sensationally untrue beat-ups, asylum seekers were blamed for snaring and baking swans on the banks of the river Lea, and for stealing and eating a missing donkey.

“If asylum seekers did not exist, ” Maisokwadzo says, ” they would have to be invented. When every major and minor problem of the day can be blamed on a small number of outsiders who make up only a tiny fraction of the population and expend only a tiny fraction of the public purse, then ..I want to put it to you that the problem has nothing to do with asylum seekers. It is a failure of democracy..”

For all that, John Fiske, who was a genuine maverick, saw tabloid media as potentially subversive. Why is the tabloid style so popular ? In his view, it was because its audience had been subordinated for centuries, and systematically excluded from conventional political discourse. Structurally, he wrote, shows like Jerry Springer, by giving open rein to conflicting voices, allowed viewers to challenge the traditional role of the news anchor. It was kind of a 90s thing. Since then, Fiske’s approach has been pretty much supplanted by Ben Bagdikian and his protégé Robert McChesney, who use more trad left analysis to trace the impacts of media convergence and de-regulation.

I think we still do need Fiske’s sensitivity to populist media and popular culture – allied to McChesney’s analysis of the impacts of media ownership and de-regulation. Its easy to be conspiratorial about big media. And its true – the media corporates do have something of a vested interest in screening the hoopla around Tom and Kate’s wedding, rather than giving their reporters a free hand and expansive budgets to chronicle the evils of growing income disparity.

I’m probably wrong about this, but I’ve never been as agitated as some by media ownership issues. If big media didn’t exist would people be any less passive, as news consumers ? Beyond a certain point of critical mass – which we reached decades ago – genuine diversity in media opinion in New Zealand all but disappeared long ago. We’ve been gleaning for content ever since.

That doesn’t bother me unduly. One, because I believe that in the United States and here at home, the private sector is reliably incompetent – you only have to look at the marriage of Time Warner and AOL, or scrutinise most issues of the Herald on Sunday to see that. Second, anyone who’s ever worked for a media conglomerate knows the various arms compete with each other even more viciously than they do with players in the outside world. And thirdly, I think the ideologies that journalism embodies are a bigger problem than who happens to be sitting in the big chair in the media boardroom.

What is the ideology of the media ? Its collective mind and the socio-economic privileges that help to shape its worldview are rarely probed. The skirmish earlier this year between Michael Cullen and TVNZ’s Guyon Espiner’s over whether the latter’s interest in tax cuts was driven by the prospect of personal gain, was not a very helpful exception. Tom Frewen

eventually estimated in NBR that the average gallery journalist earns between $65 -$85,000. That’s the top tax bracket, but it hardly explains the desire to keep banging on about tax cuts.

More likely, it probably reflects another point made by Frewen – that once journalism’s collective mindset gets fixated on a media script, no counter evidence can be allowed into the frame to disrupt the narrative. The S59 issue is a classic case. From day one, the media has framed this as an anti-smacking issue, about the rights of parents. In fact, the measure is about the rights of children, and about preventing violence against them. That perspective has never framed the news coverage of S59 – even though the international comparisons leave New Zealand with a lot to be ashamed about with respect to our record of violence against children.

The example Frewen chose was our nuclear policy. For years, the US has been telling us in various ways – hey guys we’re pretty much over it. This year, Frewen indicates, they’ve even mentioned our anti-nuclear stance is as being of help in their anti-proliferation efforts. None of this seems able to deflect the media’s insistence – – at say, the infamous Peters/McCain meeting this meeting -that it’s still a barrier to better relations.

Most days, we talk about the media in the same personalised and theatrical terms – boy, that Sean Plunket interview was rough – that the media now use to talk about everything else. Its gossip. Unfortunately, I think it tends to inflate the power that journalists have, in their dealings with government and with bureaucrats. Sure, politicians who are in opposition, or who belong to small parties certainly do need to woo the media – but the Government and the media hardly need each other to anything like the same degree. It is a tricky intersection, though. Personally I’ve found it a bit disturbing to see the degree of dependence that journalists seem to have on the spin cycle, the press release, and on the “he said/ then he said” two hander that passes for objective reporting. Not to mention the managed leak by sources with agendas of their own that journalists seem to be quite happy to serve, as the admission price for information.

Initially, when I started on this lecture. I had thought that relationship counselling might help to explain what is so dysfunctional in this exchange. But its too lopsided for that to make much sense.

Out on the margins, the best journalists try to battle against the clock to extract information from people who – thanks to the prevalence of media coaching – have been trained not to divulge it on anything but their own terms. If all else fails, the Government is often quite willing to resort to the final sanction : shut up, release nothing, and after a couple of days, the media will usually go away, starved out for lack of official comment.

For all those reasons, I’ve come to think that the effectiveness of journalists usually stands in inverse proportion to their proximity to power, especially when it comes to investigative reporting. Its not an accident that the White House press corps, for instance, broke none of the major Watergate stories. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the three US television networks screened 414 stories about Iraq between September 2002 and February 2003 – and all but 34 originated at the White House, Pentagon or State Department, with predictable results.

In most political press galleries around the globe, original research usually just means being the first person to be told something, by someone else.

So believe me, if Sean Plunket sounds a little testy some mornings, that’s the least of our problems. If it really wants to be seen as the peoples’ check on government excess – which is what its Fourth Estate privileges hinge upon – it had better start playing the part. Because more often, the ideology of the profession points it in the opposite direction. Quite some time ago, journalism came to regard its job as being to report the news, not to make it or analyse it – and as a consequence, the sayings and doings of public officials have come to dominate our news agenda.

I would argue that this co-dependency between officialdom and journalism became pathological quite a long time ago. In the name of objectivity, journalism largely shrinks from countering the spin machines of government and corporate public relations. There is a strong conservative ideology in journalism that says the format of news and current affairs should resemble a blank slate – on which the forces of the left and the right are invited to write, under equal fire from the host. I strongly disagree. I think the media outlet should be encouraged to reach conclusions based on its own prior evaluation of the evidence, and to subject the politicians to strong and persistent questioning to pursue the truth. That is precisely why the recent TV3 dioxin doco was so powerful. One other reason it was so effective was because it wasn’t shoe-horned by TV3 into a commercial television hour.

It’s a tough system to crack, though. Down at the Broadcasting Authority – for instance – the notion that fairness and balance require a theatre of conflict where all parties are subjected to the same rations of aggro from the interviewer is deeply ingrained. That was central to their verdict on TV3’s Corngate programme. So the tabloid mindset isn’t just popular with the viewers, its apparent in the thinking of the regulators as well.

In my view, that kind of ping pong dualistic thinking inhibits the media from performing its key functions: which I see as being to evaluate and to discriminate, and to pursue a responsibility for social outcomes that is rarely parcelled out equally on all sides, however rosily that might fit the textbook notions of balance. Not every story – in reality, hardly any – has two sides, neatly and equally arrayed.

My own theoretical grounding ? Such as it is, it derives from Louis Althusser and 1970s film theory, which holds that the medium IS its ideology. As I’ve said, that holds true for the media as well. Even at their best, the media’s motivating impulses are reformist, not radical. In ,my experience, most of its practitioners have bought into the meritocracy – perhaps partly because, educationally at least, they have been prime beneficiaries of it.

What I mean by that is that the days when people could walk into journalism literally off the street – as I did – are all but over. Entry to journalism now requires a degree ticket, and specialist training. That’s really quite a change. During the 1993 election campaign, I remember interviewing Jim Bolger on the National campaign plane and he asked me rhetorically at one point – how many of of the journalists in this cabin here do you think, are Catholics, or used to be ?

Quite a few, at the time. It used to mean a career in politics, or journalism, Bolger said wryly. He was referring to the strand of Christian social activism cited at the recent Labour party conference, but which is now much less common as a motivating impulse for taking on the job.

For most people, objectivity is probably the word that would come to mind if anyone ever did briung up the question of the media’s guiding ideology. Quite wrongly I think, the word has been equated with fairness or honesty. In practice, it enjoys only a fleeting acquaintance with either. I find it interesting that the objectivity ideal began as a commercial impulse 100 years ago – after the owners of the partisan press began to see it as a useful new tool of the trade, to help them extend their readership base.

Much of the time it is an excuse for a “get the two sides and go home” coverage. In political coverage, this is a particularly useless technique for framing stories about issues like immigration or national security – or any subject at all where the two major parties share roughly the same position.

For that reason, when the Zaoui review finally begins, I have a hunch that the Crown could well try a line of attack that seeks to discredit him personally – and I say that not because there is anything substantial for them to feed on, but because I really can’t see how the Crown can have any faith left in the ability of the SIS to win them this case on legal and policy grounds. The Government knows the media’s appetites. And apart from Keith Locke, there are no “two sides” with which the political media could even begin to frame a story of substance about the Zaoui case. With a couple of notable exceptions, the media have treated the subject as being too hard for them.

For many people, it is the language of objective journalism that is its real Achilles heel. Robert Fisk, when he was here earlier this year, talked about the sanitised language that that objective journalism routinely uses, particularly in its coverage of the Middle East. Fisk also objected to the way the profession’s aversion to making judgement calls on contentious issues regularly leads it into putting the aggressor and the victim onto the same, morally neutral footing. Providing history and context is treated as advocacy, and self censored out of the frame.

There have been a few attempts to fill the gap. While the mainstream media potters about within its self-imposed restraints, the so called “newsbook” has come along to fill the void. People like Al Gore, Bob Woodward, James Fallows, Seymour Hersh, Ron Susskind – and in New Zealand, Nicky Hager – have ending up doing the traditional media’s job, The news books have ended up providing the history, the context and the newsbreak research that the mainstream media has been failing to deliver.

In Fallows’ opinion, the rise of Fox television in the States may have drilled the final nail in the coffin. As he told me in a Listener interview a couple of years ago, that 100 year experiment in objectivity now seems all but over. “Essentially the change to a market driven and more partisan press has become an undo-able thing ..Murdoch has set so powerful an example of the success of mainly market minded, mainly partisan media that the rest of the media world is just having to align itself with this example. It is taking the US system toward a European system of more identifiably partisan newspapers.”

While there will always be a high end niche for sophisticated news and comment – and some of that has migrated to the Internet – the mass market will, Fallows says, steadily become more partisan.

In the States, this process is well under way. The mainstream media is being hollowed out, with partisans rising on both of its flanks. The success of Fox on the right is matched by the

popularity of Michael Moore and the parody news of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert – while at the centre, the bastions of trad news coverage, like the New Yort Times are in deep trouble.

In New Zealand, we’re not in that situation of partisan diversity, as we might find in parts of Europe. Thanks to the legacy of Prebble and his colleagues, we’re virtually at the mercy of media covergence. TVNZ’s sale of its Sky shares under National, and the Clark government’s ongoing refusal to invest in any significant way in digital media, has left control of the digital gateway in this country firmly in the hands of Rupert Murdoch.

What are we willing to do about it? Usually at this point, the speaker points at the Internet and disappears over the horizon in a visionary cloud I don’t think the Web is our salvation. Its freedoms are crucial, but they’re also vulnerable, and though I’m no expert, I don’t think the battle for control over domain naming – which is just one area where the Net is vulnerable to control – is over. In fact, if you want a new cause, or career worth fighting that may be new to you start working on copyright law.

If I can take time for an aside on that point…There’s a good reason why intellectual property rights are the leading edge of the US free trade agenda – its because copyright law is not only about commerce, but is perceived to be tool of social, economic and cultural domination. I think the battle over Don Brash’s emails, which has been waged so far as a battle over property – is very revealing, because as argued in court last week, it’s a gagging order on content of political and social importance.

For my five cents on this, I think an interesting double standard may be at work here. When employees use the office computer, the content is said to become an issue for the boss, because its his computer – that’s what licenses him to read personal communications posted on office gear. Yet Brash seems to be arguing that emails on the Parliamentary Services system are his private property – I would have thought that if anyone should be filing for redress from the courts, it should be Parliamentary Services. In other words, there’s not only a public interest in the content – arguably, there’s public ownership at stake with the emails. Once Brash put this stuff onto publically owned systems, I think he may well have lost his absolute right to object if they now become part of the public discourse.

Moreover, when one considers the difficulty in gaining access to this information by traditional channels, the means used by Nicky Hager are far more understandable.

Back to the Net. For all its influence, it is still really a political niche player when its outreach is measured by gross numbers. In the US, Pew opinion studies a few months ago showed that the overwhelming majority of teens and young adults still receive get their news information from the television networks, just like everyone else.

In other words, blogging alone will not allow us to defeat or significantly alter the upcoming immigration legislation. This I believe is looming to be the single worst prospect during the twilight years of the Clark administration.

I hope you already know about the draft immigration proposals that were released earlier this year. Briefly, they increase the powers of surveillance and powers of entry of immigration officials, reduce narrow the access to Ministerial review and discretion, and significantly broaden the use of secret information and hearsay information by officials. Cumulatively, the

measures proposed would reduce the capacity of ordinary people to challenge the crucial and sometimes even life threatening decisions taken by officials and politicians.

My point throughout this talk has been that the media is just not configured in a way likely to be of very much help. The information lies elsewhere. Already, blogs such as the always excellent No Right Turn, and the efforts of Tze Ming Mok have been invaluable sources of information on the draft immigration documents, and their contributions have put the traditional media to shame. I think what we might need to do now – given the glimpses we already have had of what our immigration policy will look like, and given our related readiness to put some of our most ancient freedoms at risk in the name of the war on terrorism -–is to pool our resources. I think there’s a need here now for an organization that functions in a way very similar to the Liberty organisation in the UK. This organization – perhaps expanding upon the existing Human Rights Foundation – would seek to bring together legal expertise and campaigners. It would serve both as a lobby group to Government and an information base for the media on issues of human rights, and to protect the freedom of political and cultural expression. I think there’s room within that mandate for centre left and libertarian perceptions to come together.

That’s probably enough. I hope its not seemed too long.. Just over there on this stage a year ago, Joanna Newsom also played some long songs – some of them almost as long as this lecture, but with far more grace. The very long song I quoted earlier ends by warning us just what it can require to finally get our eyes open, and our minds engaged :

And all the baby boys we’ve born With eyes averted from the storm Sent off to die in perfect form We know now what we have known

And I guess thats always has been the ultimate price of not being aware – that you end up by betraying your children. That prospect should be motivation enough for all of us. Thanks for listening.

And all the books our fathers wrote Are in the middle of the road
Little by little we implode
History brittle, brown and broke We can’t remember what was spoke So we stare in wonder at the smoke What it begets is born alone

We know not now what we have known

Ladies; breathe deep against your whalebones For your children come home made of stone

The terror seething sees a way
Or like the wheezing of the bay
In miniature agonies
They travel westward on the breeze Bring us all to our knees

The dappled horse, the sorrowed mare With eyes that do not see but stare

Beneath boots as black as Malachi He drives a nag into the nigh
Into the nigh

And all the baby boys we’ve born With eyes averted from the storm Sent off to die in perfect form
We know now what we have known

Colin James 2005: After the Treaty: a new fiction

After the Treaty: a new fiction

Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture

Colin James
14 November 2005

This is an honour and an astonishment: an astonishment because this occasion is grandly titled a “lecture” and I am a journalist — journalists write stories; and an honour because I think Bruce Jesson was worthy of having a lecture named for him.

I don’t claim familiarity with Bruce. But on a couple of occasions I went fishing (well, sitting on a boat) with Bruce and his generous friend Peter Lee. Once we became marooned when the motor in Peter’s venerable vessel would not start. As Peter communed with his engine and we gently rocked far out of swimming distance from Peter’s little bay on Waiheke, Bruce suddenly grinned at me. Imagine the story, he said, if the news media were to report our loss at sea, each in the incongruous company of the other, he of the “left” and I supposedly of the “right”.

In fact, we shared, I think, two interests: in policy, where it originates, how it works and what it does to people; and in the ingredients of this place, this country, which we who perch here sometimes fancy we can call a nation. But Bruce was an activist as well as an observer; as much a politician as an analyst of politics; he shaped as well as described. I just watch. The price I pay for the incalculable privilege of watching up close is to have to write down some of what I see. Moreover, Bruce was, Andrew Sharp wrote, a “patriot”. My roots are too shallow and my ambitions too small to be a patriot. I am ephemeral; Bruce has a legacy.

Bruce had a framework, marxism, into which to fit the world he studied and wanted to change. I have no such framework.

I did fall under Marx’s spell as an instantly impressionable 17-year-old university fresher. “From each according to ability, to each according to means” seemed as indisputable as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

But, while my grandfathers were working class, my parents were teachers, which stranded me in the petty bourgeoisie and so doomed me to fail the class-consciousness test. (I am a life member of the Engineers Union but that is another story). So it would not have surprised Bruce that Marx lost his grip on me when the following year my French lecturer, Max Adereth — incidentally, a marxist — introduced me to the bleak, and for me, as it turned out, inescapable, limbo of existentialism where there are no bearings other than those one makes up for oneself. My journalism reflects that: no right answers, just a stumbling search for questions, confined to the empirical, not the theoretical, to the event, not the imagination, to human muddle, not tidy templates. Journalism the way I live it operates by its own version of the uncertainty principle, all the more uncertain because its role is to haphazardly freeze-frame that everlasting wide- screen movie, The Human Condition.

My freeze-frame this evening is the Aotearoan/New Zealander of 2005. Like all freeze- frames, however, it is of a subject in motion. And, as I shall make clear later, I am here to ask for help.

By definition, to talk of the Aotearoan/New Zealander is to talk of someone who belongs in Aotearoa/New Zealand — or in Aotearoa or in New Zealand or in New Zealand/Aotearoa, for different people belong in different place-names.


So who belongs and how do they belong? Many sorts. Here’s some ways people might stake their claims:

“I belong here because my ancestors came here 650 years ago.”

“I belong here because my ancestors, or my kin, brought to these benighted shores the fruits of the finest civilisation then invented.”

“I belong here because me and my mates are in a gang or football club.”

“I belong here because my ancestors came to work the tailings after the gold rush and stayed to work the soil in the market gardens, even though they could not be citizens.”

“I belong here because I chose this place for a more prosperous or peaceful or close-to- nature life than I could have where I came from.”

“I belong here because my parents or their parents or their parents came to live a better or more prosperous life than where they came from.”

“I belong here because I was driven out of my homeland and this country kindly gave me refuge. I need very much to belong.”

“I belong here because I feel this land in my bones, its colours and mysteries, its grandeur and softness, its bounty and its ghosts.”

“I belong here because my family has farmed this place for generations and is embedded here.”

“I belong here because I share a special way of seeing and knowing the world in sport, songs and writing and art and dance.”

“I belong here because this is home and there is no other.”

This babble of belonging has prompted some to assert a hierarchy, to say: “I belong more than the others” or “I belong and those others don’t” or “I am indigenous and they are not.”

The most insistent claim to superior belonging has been from Maori. Over the past 35 years Maori have reasserted their first-arrival status, reinvigorated and claimed respect for the language, culture, spiritual beliefs and traditions, asserted self-determination and demanded redress of past wrongs.1 And the political elites have responded to those claims in law and administrative practice to a degree near-unimaginable 20 years ago. The assertions and responses have amounted to a revolution. That has made large numbers of non-Maori feel culturally insecure. Some have responded with deference; some with rejection. We have seen both in our politics in the past few years and most recently in this year’s election. It is not pretty.

But is indigeneity a sort of finders-keepers? Can only Maori be indigenous?2 I think there has been another powerful claim to indigeneity, a claim that was asserted through an “independence revolution” from the colonial mother-country.

This revolution came about not by guns or civil unrest but initially by way of an outpouring of plays, novels, music, film, dance and revisionist historical writing from the late 1970s onwards. This proclaimed a new confident expression that was a decisive

1 I have canvassed much of what follows in more detail in speeches and writing over the past two years. They are on my website,
2 Jeremy Waldron, Indigeneity? First Peoples and Last Occupancy, Quentin Baxter Memorial Lecture, Victoria University of Wellington, 5 December 2002


break with the self-conscious and half-apologetic differentiation from mother-Britain which marked both popular culture and the arts up till then. Britain stopped being Home. This place became home. This relocation was not, as many think, a response to Britain leaving us for Europe. It was a brash young generation asserting its own place in the world and stating that that place was here, in mind, spirit and body. This new expression was adolescent, for sure, and it was still British in derivation. But there has been no going back. Instead the new brash overturning of the old order infused our way of doing business and politics; it added up to a change in the value-system. There were dramatic, swift and deep policy changes, especially in economic and foreign policy. We were independent. We belonged here. We were — and are — indigenous.

One revolution is a big shock for any society to accommodate. Two at once is doubly a shock — and the policy and economic upheavals were highly disruptive and earned Bruce Jesson’s dismay and disgust. Yet our society has absorbed these shocks with remarkable resilience. The institutions, though modified, still stand. The middle class, though remodelled, still runs the show. No bus has been blown up, no political leader has been assassinated, no mass popular movement has stormed the parliamentary heights.

But there is more to come. To be indigenous requires a strong, confident culture that can accommodate new influences without losing its integrity.

That requires, in the case of the newly indigenised British-derived New Zealand culture, the reclaiming of the pre-colonial heritage, the rich history of Britain and Europe, and its integration with the new. For now the 650-year association Maori have with the land, against only six or seven generations at most for non-Maori, give Maori the firmer cultural base. The folk history of those with Maori ancestry is deep; that of the ex- British still in infancy.

But we are now, I think, on the brink of a mixing of the two cultures.

In one direction is now beginning to flow an increasing Maori and Pacific influence on the majority culture — language, kapa haka, sport, ways of seeing things in graphic arts, music, especially popular music, ceremonial ritual. No longer is the Maori dimension place-names, Ka Mate at sports events and plastic tikis. We will all over the next generation or two become of the Pacific instead of just in the Pacific — and I say “Pacific” because the link between Maori and Polynesia is being re-forged in South Auckland and Samoan and other Pacific influence is also beginning to be felt.

I call that influence on the majority culture Pacific-ation. It will profoundly unsettle many people, particularly older people. It challenges what had seemed to be settled notions about religion, family, how we speak and how we govern ourselves.

In the other direction will flow a challenge to traditional Maori culture and governance. It will not be imposed, as during the colonial period, the monocultural British period. It will develop organically with the now rapid growth of a Maori middle class.

Middle classes make wealth in their societies. And they modernise, individualise, and democratise those societies. So this rising middle class will, as it grows, challenge tradition and tikanga and those whose positions and power depend on tradition and tikanga. When will top Maori women refuse to play second fiddle to second-rate men? When will the indiscriminate display of powhiri tail off? And at what point will those on the rolls which iwi and hapu are building use their voting power to decide who governs them and how? Middle classes value science and technology and the rule of law and good management and the material wealth that can bring. So they will challenge the


capacity of whakapapa to explain phenomena and challenge whanaungatanga as a principle of organisation and say that it makes mistakes in handling commercial enterprises and social services delivery agencies.

You might call this the second advent to te ao maori of the Enlightenment — this time grown from within, not imposed from without.

This remix of the two cultures will disturb and enrich both. At some point haka will have English words, which will be right and proper when a haka speaks for the nation. Maori words adopted into English will take on new meanings. If traditionalists object the response will be: “It’s our haka, too. Those are our words now.” Cultures are not frozen, they live and evolve. So don’t be surprised if the New Zealand accent changes to reflect Maori intonation — if it shifts from New Zealand to Aotearoan. South Auckland has a lot more to say to us yet.

This intermixing will eventually take us beyond the fraught business of claiming and conceding rights, which has been at the nub of much of our politics of the past 20 years and has divided us more than it has united us. But as over the next 20 years we leave behind the rights argument and the overburdened Treaty of Waitangi on which the rights claims have been hung, that does not mean we will elide into a new monoculture, a convenient nation. Animism and the Enlightenment do not fit easily in the same mental and spiritual space. There is a great deal of cultural insecurity ahead of us yet, on both sides. And there are ethnically visible disparities in achievement, the products of underclass disadvantage, which have enormous implications for social cohesion and economic performance. Will this ethnic drag on the economy trigger white flight to other countries in search of cultural and material comfort? Already there are signs of that, at least in some of the emails I get from expatriates.

I mentioned “nation”. In my simple journalist’s calculus there are two ways to make a nation (apart from abitrarily drawing lines on a map, as after Vienna and for Africa). One is by long occupation of a place by a folk so that the land and the folk become one. Maori might lay such a claim but non-Maori are the majority and their six or seven generations is not long enough here to embed a nation. The other way to be a nation is by way of an “idea”, the American way — perhaps one might cite also the Jewish way. If we once thought we had candidates for a nation-forming idea they are unconvincing in 2005: “frontier”, “No 8 wire”, “mates”, “progress”.

Some think the idea of the Treaty, two cultures in one space in harmony, might do. But the Treaty is now too loaded with fears and invested with hope to bear such a weight. It was the creature of an imperial moment; it has more recently served as a momentary instrument of revival and reconciliation. But it is not a charter for a nation. Not least, it sets some of us apart from the rest. In a democratic age, that can’t work.

Moreover, there is a bigger earthquake building under us, which will shake this half- nation to its foundations.

We are becoming used to a world in flux: turbulence in trade, huge flows of people fleeing tyranny or seeking riches or getting an education, environmental interdependence, random terror. Many of the old nations, particularly in Europe, are losing their cultural integrity as burgeoning immigrant groups import discordant customs. Their material security is under threat from cheap or efficient Asian producers and energy is becoming expensive. Even the most powerful city in the world was not immune from attack. Some talk of a “clash of civilisations”, God v Allah. We in this tiny corner of the world are a pingpong ball on this cauldron.


But something bigger is coming for us.

For nearly two centuries we have sourced our people, our investment, our science and our ideas from Europe, North America and their offshoot, Australia — what might be called the North Atlantic sphere.

For five centuries the North Atlantic has dominated the world economy and devised its economic mechanisms. It has bestrode the world strategically, for much of the time through direct colonial occupation. It has found almost all the new science that has enriched us materially and lengthened our lives. It has thought up the ideas by which we govern ourselves and run our societies. It has produced the great innovations in art and music and writing.

We are kin with the North Atlantic. We have a privileged place at the fount of riches and ideas. This is our cultural wellspring. I say “we” because Maori are, through miscegenation, North Atlantic as well as Pacific.

Now China and India are on the rise. Of course, China has growing internal social and political tensions, economic imbalances and pressures, serious water shortages and pollution, which it must navigate on its way to sustainable prosperity and in the short term it will be buffeted when the world’s serious economic imbalances are unwound. And India is a turbulent democracy beset by grinding poverty so its economy develops at most in fits and starts. But both have great energy and strong commercial instincts which are now being given space to breathe. And both are very big.

China has long exported people. Increasing numbers of that diaspora have fetched up here. That has fuelled cultural insecurity over the past decade. Its people save. A growing proportion of investment here already comes from east Asia; that proportion will surely grow. And, of course, China is a vital trade partner and east Asia as a whole is bigger than Europe and the United States.

China is also investing in science. Over time some, and in due course a lot, of the world’s science will come from China. We might not have such ready access to Chinese science as we have had to North Atlantic science. And as China asserts itself on the world stage, it is likely also to challenge the North Atlantic’s hegemony of ideas and ideologies for political and social organisation. Our self-confidence will be tested to the core if we have to comprehend very different ways of thinking. (Just as, in the nineteenth century, the Maori had to.)

For us this rebalancing of the world will be especially intense because we are already in Asia’s strategic sphere in geography and trade and, to come, in people. In due course we will have to work out how to live with China’s assertion of its strategic interests. We are kin of the North Atlantic but not of China, though as Chinese come here in increasing numbers a growing minority will be kin of China. And India is coming up and Indians are coming here in rising numbers. We might find ourselves perched unstably at the apex of an Asian triangle.

And this will be happening at the very time we are groping for a key to nationhood. Our cultural security will be deeply disturbed.

Which brings me to the request I flagged earlier: I am here to ask for help. This is a university and as I understand universities, they are places for thinking. If I am half right about the changes looming over the next generation or so in our place in the world and in what makes a New Zealander/Aotearoan, some hard thinking is needed to develop appropriate analytical frameworks.


Hard thinking is your job. You are underfunded, understaffed and crammed with undergraduates (at least a third of whom should not be here). But that is no excuse. Jeremy Waldron, arguing the Treaty of Waitangi’s “obsolescence” in a lecture at Otago University in August, put it this way:

“We have a responsibility as tenured academics to explore different frameworks and new and perhaps disconcerting pathways of thought. If we are not prepared to do that, we don’t need our tenure and many of us are wasting our salaries.”3

The “we” in question are academics in this country, not those in the great northern hemisphere cloisters to which we customarily genuflect. And “new” is not some minor reformulation of the great authorities of the past. “New” is “new”.

And the hard thinking must be unique to this place.

Bruce Jesson recognised, Andrew Sharp tells us in the introduction to the book of his collected articles, that he was observing a unique society which required unique analysis. One of his articles refers to “working class, not in a cloth cap English sense but in a New Zealand black-singlet sense”. So he did not plonk orthodox marxism on New Zealand and expect a fit. He searched the byways of modern marxist writing for ways to make sense of this unique society, for example to explain Maori sovereignty arguments which eluded orthodox marxist analysis.

In short, Bruce respected facts, including inconvenient ones. And I respected him for that.

So, in memoriam of that respect for facts, let me offer some facts as starting points for your hard thinking. (I am aware, by the way, that “facts” are elusive and changeable and that “events” are a more convenient word. But I am using “fact” in the journalist’s sense of what I see in front of me that has not been falsified.)

My first fact is this unique society’s bicultural nature.

Bicultural here is not a subset of multicultural but an issue of power and of belonging. Many people think they can wish or ideologise it away, that if they change a few dozen acts of Parliament they can return us to a golden age when taniwha didn’t get in the way of roads and sacred Maori places were a matter for private contemplation, not public respect. But too much has changed. And the cultural intermix now under way which I talked about earlier is embedding that change. One indicator is the number of National party people, including some in high places, who feel the party’s election race policy was wrong or inappropriate or unworkable.

Tied up with this is the inescapability of dealing with Maori claims to rights and Maori educational, economic and social performance. First, Maori are not a tiny minority, as are the original indigenes in Japan or North America or Australia, nor an eradicable irritant, as in Brazil. There are too many Maori and the demographics tell us there will be many more. Their demands cannot lightly be ignored. Second, Maori became an alienated migrant underclass, similar in that to blacks in Watts in 1965 and Brixton in 1981and North African muslims in France today. Leave them alienated and this economy and society will underperform. So these matters are not just ethical matters or matters of “justice”. They are matters of self-interest for all of us who live here.

There is much to get right on rights yet. But I increasingly find younger Maori, while

3 Jeremy Waldron, The Half-Life of Treaties: Waitangi, Rebus Sic Stantibus, F W Guest Memorial Lecture, University of Otago, 22 August 2005


giving no ground on rights, are focusing on development. And that is the overriding issue for Maori now: prosperity and dignity in the modern, internationalised world. That is to fully belong.

My second fact is the Treaty of Waitangi. Logically, it should not be a fact. Times and circumstances have changed beyond recognition since 1840. But the Treaty was brought back to life in the 1980s, to heal some of the wounds from the injustices of the past and in that sense is an agent of reconciliation. It now infuses our policy, our jurisprudence and our administrative practices and some of our ceremonials. It has become, for better and for worse, part of the national consciousness. It cannot be wished into thin air.

But, third, the majority is also a fact. Neo-romantic notions about a partner-state that gives article 2 of the Treaty the same weight as article 1 run into a majority brick wall. The Foreshore and Seabed Act made that bluntly clear. The Treaty cannot dismantle the majority and it cannot disaggregate the unitary state. In any case many who have Maori ethnicity choose the majority. We are not two absolutely separate peoples.

Moreover, to give the Treaty life in the 1980s we invented two fictions: its “principles” and “partnership”. These have been valuable as public policy mechanisms to meet the particular needs of that time. But they are fictions, the majority thinks they are fictions and some future Parliament will likely trim them. So I think we can say the second Treaty period is within a decade or two of its end.

So what do we do instead? If the Treaty cannot make a nation, what can?

Maybe there is a clue in that word “fiction”. Maybe there are not two bases for nationhood but one — that “folk” and “idea” are in essence fictions, so every nation rests on a fiction. If so, it must be a fiction to which the great majority, preferably all, the people subscribe and draw spiritual nourishment from. (The French fiction is fraying right now in Paris’s suburbs.)

But if we are to find such an enduring fiction, who is to formulate it?

I can think of three candidates.

The first is you, here, in this thinking place. And that requires some of Professor Waldron’s “new and disconcerting pathways of thought”. The Lockean fiction and its derivatives, which lie behind “one law for all”, are insuffiicent in the face of the fact of biculturalism and likewise the neo-romantic indigenous rights fiction, which lies behind “Maori sovereignty”, is insufficient in the face of the fact of the majority.

The second candidate is the creative arts. Perhaps their weaving together of ex-British and Maori (and ex-Maori) will in time generate a fiction.

My third candidate is the people. We have muddled through not badly so far in our republican manner (to call up another of Bruce Jesson’s preoccupations — we are a republic in all but form in that the people ultimately do the deciding, often with only half an ear and eye on the political elites’ actions and justifications). Perhaps we can just muddle through the tensions and upsets — and the cultural intermixing — of the next generation or so and find our fiction written then in the interstices of our daily lives.

If so, if we can somehow make or find a fiction to make a nation here, I hope I am given the time and opportunity to watch, up close, a bit more of the process. A journalist — at least of my sort, a watcher not a shaper, a taker not a maker of ideas — cannot ask for more. Thank you for having me. Go and think hard.


Ani Mikaere 2004: Are we all New Zealanders now? A Mäori response to the Päkehä quest for indigeneity

Are we all New Zealanders now? A Mäori response to the Päkehä quest for indigeneity.

Ani Mikaere

Racial conflict was one of the formative experiences of New Zealand society. Pakeha New Zealanders are the products of an invading culture. As individuals we can be magnanimous or guilt-stricken, according to our inclination. But as a society we have this amazing capacity for self-deception. For more than a century we smugly believed that this country was a model of racial harmony, that we were one people. Maori radicalism has put an end to that particular delusion, and we are now in the process of putting down new layers of hypocrisy.

Those among you who knew Bruce Jesson well or who are familiar with his writing will doubtless recognise his voice in the extract I have just read: he wrote it in 1986,1 in the wake of Michael King’s book Being Pakeha.

Unlike those who have gone before me in presenting this address, I never met Bruce Jesson. From what I have been able to find out about him, however, I wish I had. I am well aware that he commanded enormous respect and I am honoured to celebrate his memory by participating in this event. And I was particularly pleased, while working on this lecture, to come across material written by him that was so relevant to the topic that I have chosen to talk about tonight.

My attention was drawn the notion of Päkehä indigeneity by a speech that Trevor Mallard made shortly after his appointment as Co-ordinating

1 Jesson, B “Race and Identity: Looking the Other Way?” Sites no.13 (Spring 1986) 14, at 15.

Minister, Race Relations. Entitled “We are all New Zealanders now”, his speech emphasized the need to put the difficulties of the past behind us in order to forge a collective sense of nationhood. Mallard expressed the hope that this new century would be about “perfecting our nationhood”, “banishing the demons from our past” and “cheering each other on as New Zealand citizens”. Of particular interest to me was his claim that:2

New Zealand has to get its British imperial past behind it. Mäori and Päkehä are both indigenous people to New Zealand now. I regard myself as an indigenous New Zealander . . .

Of course, Mallard is not the first Päkehä to speak of his feelings of indigeneity: in 1999 Michael King insisted that “[p]eople who live in New Zealand by choice as distinct from an accident of birth, and who are committed to this land and its people and steeped in their knowledge of both, are no less ‘indigenous’ than Mäori”.3

Don Brash, meanwhile, continues to pursue Hobson’s dream that we will all become one people, embracing with enthusiasm the emergence of what he calls “a distinct South Seas race of New Zealanders” and minimalising the significance of ethnicity altogether by asserting that most people treat their ethnic allegiances fluidly, with matters such as religion, profession, sports club, gender and political allegiance mattering more to them than their ethnicity.4

2 Mallard, T “We Are All New Zealanders Now”, speech to the Stout Research Centre for NZ Studies, Victoria University, Wellington, 28 July 2004.
3 King, M Being Pakeha Now: Reflections and Recollections of a White Native (Auckland: Penguin Books, 1999) at 235.

4 Brash, D “Nationhood”, speech to the Orewa Rotary Club, 27 January 2004, at 6-7.


It may surprise some of you that I speak of Mallard, King and Brash in the same breath: no doubt there will be those among you who cannot see the similarity in their positions. But while there are differences between them, from a Mäori point of view they also have much in common.

Brash’s eager anticipation of the growth of a single multi-ethnic New Zealand race is prefaced by a discussion which takes us back to the days when it was thought that identity could be measured by blood quantum. His focus on the amount of intermarriage that has taken place and the fact that anthropologists say there are no full-blooded Mäori left in the country can only be described as bizarre: many of us thought that such ideas had been safely put to rest thirty years ago. Brash’s vision of a “multi-cultural melting pot” future whereby we will all be merged into one people is so out-of-date that it would almost be entertaining were it not so blatantly assimilationist. Entertainment aside, a central feature of Brash’s argument is the somewhat petulant insistence that non-Mäori have just as much right to be here as Mäöri.

While neither Mallard nor King hankers for the day when we will all be one people, their claim to indigeneity is similarly an assertion of their right to be here. But what does such an assertion really entail? Avril Bell has this to say about the Päkehä claim to indigeneity:5

If Pakeha are to be indigenous they are cut off from their history as the descendants and inheritors of the privileges of the colonisers of Aotearoa. This history is discarded as Pakeha are ‘born’ post colonisation out of the New

5 Bell, A “We’re Just New Zealanders: Pakeha Identity Politics” in Spoonley, P et al Nga Patai: Racism and Ethnic Relations in Aotearoa/New Zealand (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1996) 144, at 156.


Zealand soil. Such a move represents a desire to be ‘born again’ New

Zealanders, disowning their parents and imagining themselves adopted . . . Little wonder, perhaps, that Päkehä seem to suffer from a deep-rooted sense of insecurity about their identity. From a Mäori perspective, there is almost an element of desperation in this quest for indigeneity, calling to mind John Mulgan’s description of Päkehä as being “a queer, lost, eccentric, pervading people looking for satisfaction”.6

This insecurity has some curious manifestations, among them defensiveness, bordering on hostility. By way of example, in 1998 New Zealand First MP Tau Henare suggested that the North and South Islands be known instead by their Mäori names, Te Ika a Mäui and Te Waipounamu. Legal academic David Round objected strenuously to the proposal, appearing on national television to debate the issue with Henare. The Evening Post ran a story headed “when biculturalism goes too far” in which it was observed:7

Round made it clear that the reason he objected to a name change was that he was fed up with what he called forced biculturalism. . . It was one of those rare moments when someone had the courage to articulate what a lot of New Zealanders privately think, but are either too polite or timid to say.

While the programme was on air, viewers were asked to call in to register their approval or otherwise of the proposed name change. At the end of the programme the results of the digipoll showed that 87 percent of those who called were opposed to the idea while just 13 percent were in favour.

6 Quoted in Simpson, T Te Riri Pakeha:The White Man’s Anger (Auckland: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986) at 12.
7 Du Fresne, K “When Biculturalism Goes Too Far”, Evening Post, 7 October 1998, at 4.


The Evening Post took this as proof that most New Zealanders opposed the proposed name change, suggesting the reason as being that:8

[L]ike David Round, they resent the feeling that this thing called biculturalism is increasingly being imposed upon them, and their own cultural heritage devalued and pushed aside in the process, with very little regard for the will of the majority.

What is fascinating about this analysis, aside from the characterisation of our colonisers as “polite” and “timid” and the assumption that an 87 percent majority in a Holmes Show digipoll is conclusive evidence as to what “most New Zealanders” want, is the suggestion that the names “North Island” and “South Island” somehow represent Päkehä cultural heritage, which must be defended at all costs. Little wonder that Päkehä New Zealand struggles with the question of identity, seeking to create cultural icons of gumboots, black singlets, pavlova, kiwifruit and the buzzy bee toy. When travelling overseas, Päkehä leap forward to perform bastardised versions of the haka and “Pökarekare Ana”, and adorn themselves with Mäori pendants in an attempt to identify themselves as New Zealanders: when in Aotearoa it is often those same people who decry any assertion of Mäori language and culture as a threat to their identity. Their cultural insecurity appears to know no bounds. Interestingly, Bruce Jesson saw a connection between these shaky cultural foundations and the status of coloniser:9

New Zealand had such a shallow culture that most New Zealanders knew little about their country’s history. Amnesia is not a recent development, but is part of the colonial condition.

  1. 8  Du Fresne (1998) 4.
  2. 9  Jesson, B Only Their Purpose is Mad (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press, 1999) at 70-71.


This takes us back to Bell’s point about the Päkehä desire to be cut off from their history as the descendants and inheritors of the privileges of the colonisers of Aotearoa. That many Päkehä would like such unpleasant matters to be forgotten or overlooked is undeniable. Brash, for example, complains:10

None of us was around at the time of the New Zealand wars. None of us had anything to do with the confiscations. There is a limit to how much any generation can apologise for the sins of its great grandparents.

Mallard insists that Päkehä “want to be trusted by their Mäori fellow- New Zealanders . . . New Zealanders do not want to be condemned and cursed as if they are the British imperialist white ascendancy colonialists”.11 And last year King argued that Päkehä were seeking what he called a ‘mutuality of respect’:12

As another manifestation of that respect, just as Pakeha were now decades away from the stance which viewed Maori culture as ‘primitive’, ‘backward’ or ‘barbaric’, so Pakeha felt that they ought not to be viewed by Maori as tau iwi or aliens, representatives of a colonising power that merely stole material and cultural resources from Maori and gave nothing in return.

Such sentiments reveal the sizable burden of guilt that many Päkehä carry about the means by which they have come to occupy their present position of power and privilege. Brash’s way of dealing with this guilt is simply to deny personal responsibility for the detrimental impact on Mäori of colonisation. Mallard’s response is essentially to demand that

  1. 10  Brash (2004) at 3.
  2. 11  Mallard (2004) at 6.
  3. 12  King, M The Penguin History of New Zealand (Auckland: Penguin, 2003) at 516.


Mäori forgive and forget. King’s approach is more sophisticated: he suggests that both sides have made mistakes by unfairly stereotyping each other, thereby implying an equivalence of fault on both sides. This has the effect of masking the fact that the wrongs were overwhelmingly committed by one side and inflicted upon the other: to suggest any kind of equivalence here, in my view, is deeply problematic.

These exhortations from Brash, Mallard and King are heavily dependent upon the need for the past to be forgotten, or at very least, not spoken about. Yet, as Jeremy Waldron has pointed out, “the determination not to forget is part of the moral respect we owe to human identity; the task of remembrance is bound up with the very being of community and individuality in the modern world”.13 To euphemise the impact of colonisation on Mäori is to fundamentally disrespect the memory of those who suffered as a result of resources wrongly taken, of language denied, of spirituality suppressed. It is also to deny the true cause of the disadvantage that so many Mäori are faced with today. Does this matter? Waldron suggests that it does:14

[T]he neglect or forgetfulness urged on us is seldom the blank slate of historical oblivion. Thinking quickly fills up the vacuum with plausible tales of self-satisfaction on the one side and self deprecation on the other. Those who as a matter of fact benefited from their ancestors’ injustice will persuade themselves readily enough that their good fortune is due to the virtue of their race, while the descendants of their victims may too easily accept the story that they and their kind were always good for nothing.

13 Waldron, J “Historic Injustice: Its Remembrance and Supercession” in Oddie, G & Perrett, R (eds) Justice, Ethics and New Zealand Society (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 1992) 139, at 143.
14 Waldron (1992) at 142.


To forget history is to allow myths to spring up in its place, myths which serve to ease the conscience of those upon whom history does not reflect well. For Mäori to collude in the forgetting of history requires us to remain silent so that the business of Päkehä myth-making and self- deception can proceed unhindered. However, I cannot accept (in the words of Mohawk legal academic Patricia Monture-Angus) that it is our responsibility to carry the guilt of the oppressor, or to silence ourselves for the sole purpose that the oppressor will not feel badly.15 To do so would be an extraordinary act of denial. Yet it sometimes appears that our colonisers demand nothing less from us, in their determination to forget or disguise the past beyond recognition and in their quest to convince themselves that history has nothing with which to reproach them. A commitment to forget is clearly something that the asserters of Päkehä indigeneity share.

Brash, for example, looks forward to the day when the categories Mäori and Päkehä will be forgotten altogether, as we amalgamate into a single new breed of New Zealander. Like King, he employs the device of false equivalence to gloss over the stark differences in Mäori and Päkeha experience over the last two hundred years. His version of our shared history, ironically headed “the myths of our past”16 engages in some major myth-making itself, suggesting equivalence of blame on both sides for the massive land-grab that took place. He opines, for example that “[a]ny dispassionate look at our history shows that self-interest and greed featured large on both sides”17 and suggests that Maori were separated from their land “partly through settler greed” and “partly through a

15 Monture-Angus, P Thunder In My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks (Halifax: Fernwood Publishing, 1995) at 63.

  1. 16  Brash (2004) at 2-3.
  2. 17  Brash (2004) at 2.


couple of generations of deficient leadership by some Maori”.18 His approach has the effect of conveniently “forgetting” that the vast majority of wrong-doing was committed on the Päkehä side.

Amusingly, Labour appears to regard it’s own stance on these matters as progressive by comparison. In 2003, for instance, Michael Cullen accused Bill English of seeking “a coalition of Pakeha fearful as to the impacts of the Treaty of Waitangi”.19 As Brash’s Orewa speech makes plain, a change in National party leadership has not altered the party’s policy in this respect. Mallard revels in making fun of National’s position, accusing them of being “backward-looking. . . stalled in the 19th, or perhaps the 18th century, . . . the inheritors of the original assimilation project” and labelling them “the successors of the Victorian colonialists who wreaked havoc in so many countries”.20 Brave words from a freshly-appointed “Coordinating Minister, Race Relations”, eager no doubt to bring some intellectual vision to the debate. Yet, just as Brash continues to cultivate a coalition of the fearful, it is equally plain that Mallard is intent on forging a coalition of the forgetful: Mäori must forgive and forget, and Päkehä must be allowed to forget, so that we can all live together as one big, happy, amnesic family.

Well, Mäori will not forget. As Mohawk Taiaiake Alfred has said “today’s challenge must be shouldered proudly because it is no less than the sacred heritage passed on by generations of ancestors who sacrificed

  1. 18  Brash (2004) at 3.
  2. 19  Cullen, M, Speech to Region Two Labour Party Conference, 5 April, 2003) at 3.
  3. 20  Mallard (2004) at 3.


and died to preserve the notion of their being”.21 Mäori understand only too well our obligation, to generations past and future, not to forget.

And the truth of the matter is that no matter how hard they try, Päkehä cannot forget either. As Bruce Jesson stated so simply, Päkehä are the products of an invading culture. Brash can bluster all he likes about the limits to which he can be made to apologise for the sins of his ancestors; Mallard can appeal to Mäori to trust him; King can insist that the colonisers did not simply take without giving anything in return; Round can defend the cultural significance of the names North Island and South Island as if his life depends on it. But whatever they might say I do not believe that any of them can truly forget. A sense of underlying unease, of unresolved guilt pervades their words. One barely has to scratch the Päkehä surface to find the guilt lying immediately beneath, guilt which manifests itself as denial, self-justification, defensiveness and, incredibly enough, a sense of victimhood.

I am aware that the picture I have painted so far is a fairly gloomy one. Yet I can see, even in the words of those whom I have criticised, some cause for optimism. To begin with there is an implicit acknowledgement from each of them that the key to their desire to feel that they “belong” here somehow lies in the relationship between Päkehä and Mäori. There is also a sense that in order for that relationship to be put on a sound footing, something has to change.

These are sentiments with which I am in complete agreement. It is plain to me that the relationship between Mäori and Päkehä is deeply

21 Alred, T Peace, Power, Righteousness: An Indigenous Manifesto (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1999) at 33.


dysfunctional. The cost to Päkehä, as I have already said, is a burden of shame that they cannot escape. The cost to Mäori is also high. When in 2000 Tariana Turia spoke about the phenomenon of Post Colonial Traumatic Stress Disorder22 many leading politicians scaled new heights of sheer absurdity in their reactions, such was their horror at being reminded of a past they wanted so desperately to forget. As a result of the madness that erupted in the wake of her speech to the New Zealand Psychological Society Conference (and it is pertinent to note the head of the Psychological Society’s public statement that her speech had been entirely appropriate in the context of the occasion) a whole new vocabulary of words that should not be mentioned in public emerged. We now know that, in relation to the Aotearoa context at least, the “g” word (genocide) is considered impolite, the “h” word (holocaust), simply unmentionable.

Regrettably, amidst all the stupidity the message that was being conveyed was completely lost. Turia referred to Native American Psychologist Eduardo Duran who suggests that the colonial oppression suffered by indigenous people inevitably wounds the soul.23 There is no doubt in my mind that Mäori continue to bear the scars of colonisation. I have already said that Päkehä guilt lurks just beneath the surface; Mäori grief and rage inhabit the same psychological and spiritual space, often unleashed by the smallest of triggers.

But I for one do not accept that this is how things have to remain. The prospect of being forever locked into the roles of oppressor and oppressed must surely be as unfulfilling for Päkehä as it is frustrating for Mäori.

  1. 22  Turia, T, Speech to NZ Psychological Society Conference, 29 August 2000.
  2. 23  Turia (2000) at 3.


The foreshore debacle has provided a timely reminder of the ease with which the Crown slips into its time-honoured pattern of threats and coercion, consigning Päkehä yet again to the role of oppressor. I find it hard to believe it is a role that Päkehä relish. I doubt whether our collective grief is something of which Päkehä are proud. I also know that the very last thing we need is Päkehä wallowing in guilt. All of us, Mäori and Päkehä hope for a better world for our children and grandchildren. If the key to creating that better world does not lie in forgetting our past, where does it lie?

I suggest that the answers may well be found in tikanga Mäori. Tikanga Mäori has been defined by Charles Royal as “ethical behaviour”, based upon fundamental principles or values.24 While the practice of tikanga may adapt over time, the underlying principles or “conceptual regulators” (as Justice Taihakurei Durie has called them),25 comprising values such as whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, aroha, mana, tapu, noa, wairua and utu, do not. Durie has pointed out that Mäori society was open to change but “protective of the fundamental norms or principles of the conceptual regulators” and that this approach “enabled change while maintaining cultural integrity”.26

I regard tikanga as the first law of Aotearoa.27 It arrived here with our ancestors and it operated effectively to serve their needs for a thousand years before Päkehä came. It was the only system of law in operation when the first Päkehä began living here amongst us. Had the

24 Royal, C “Kaupapa and Tikanga”, paper presented at the Mai i Te Ata Hapara conference, Te Wananga-o-Raukawa, Otaki, 11-13 August, 2000, at 1.

  1. 25  Durie, T “Custom Law”, unpublished paper, 1994, 4-5.
  2. 26  Durie (1994) at 8.
  3. 27  See Mikaere, A “The Treaty of Waitangi an Recognition of Tikanga Mäori” in Belgrave, M et al

Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi (Auckland: Oxford University Press, 2004) 330 for further discussion of tikanga Mäori as the first law of Aotearoa.


reaffirmation of Mäori authority in the second article of Te Tiriti o Waitangi been adhered to, the relationship between Päkehä and Mäori would have been regulated by tikanga Mäori throughout our shared history. I believe it would have resulted in a far healthier relationship than the one we currently have. While tikanga has largely been displaced by the operation of the coloniser’s law, it is still an important determinant of Mäori behaviour. It embodies a number of highly relevant principles and precedents, the application of which in a contemporary context would suggest an exciting range of possibilities for Mäori and Päkehä.

The fundamental purpose of Mäori law, as the Waitangi Tribunal has noted, is to maintain appropriate relationships of people to their environment, to their history and to each other.28 The first relationship that must be mentioned is that of people to the land. Mäori are born out of the land, conceived and given life by Papatüänuku. When a Mäori child is born, the placenta or whenua is returned to Papatüänuku. These spiritual and genealogical connections to her are what make us tangata whenua. It is a concept that can only have meaning within the context of a Mäori world view.

The spiritual connection to Papatüänuku is strengthened on a hapü level by occupation of a particular area of land, with which an intimate connection is formed over time. Landmarks within the area are associated with hapü identity, ancestors are buried there and the attachment to the land is, in the words of the Waitangi Tribunal “reinforced by the stories of the land, and by a preoccupation with the accounts of ancestors, whose admonitions and examples [provide] the

28 Waitangi Tribunal, Muriwhenua Land Report (1997) at 21.


basis for law and a fertile field for its development.”29 Thus the term tangata whenua, while referring to all Mäori by virtue of our descent from Papatüänuku, is also applied more specifically to the iwi and hapü associated with a particular area of land.

Having considered the connection between people and land, it is appropriate now to turn to the matter of human relationships. Let us begin by talking about the relationship between tangata whenua (loosely translated as hosts) and manuhiri (visitors or guests). When manuhiri go into the area of another people, it is understood that the tikanga of the tangata whenua apply. While there are variations between iwi and hapü in way in which tikanga is practised, there is no question that within the domain of the tangata whenua, it is their interpretation and application of the principles underpinning tikanga that prevails. Manuhiri from Tainui, for instance, would never dream of telling their hosts in Te Taitokerau or Te Tairäwhiti, how they should conduct themselves on their own marae or in their own area.

Nor would manuhiri ever assume tangata whenua status in another people’s domain. That is not to say that people from outside an iwi area never took up residence within that iwi’s boundaries: there are precedents that show such arrangements took place, whether on a seasonal basis (for example, for food-gathering purposes) or otherwise. But arrangements of this type were always carefully negotiated, and the consent of the tangata whenua was imperative, as was the fulfilment of any conditions they laid down. And always, it was the relationship between the two parties that mattered most. Both sides were expected to actively nurture the relationship, with the concept of utu or reciprocity

29 Muriwhenua Land Report at 23.


operating to bind them together more closely as time passed. Naturally, this understanding applied to Päkehä individuals who took up residence amongst iwi during the earliest days of Mäori-Päkehä contact. Sometimes such incorporation of outsiders in this manner brought with it an allocation of land. The Waitangi Tribunal has this to say about such situations:30

Land allocations to outside individuals. . .were not an alienation of the land but the incorporation of the individuals. A rangatira who allocated land to an individual augmented not the recipient but the community the rangatira represented, for it was the recipient who was the most obliged. The purpose was not to elevate the individual but to build the community.

It was not uncommon for marriages with local people to be arranged in such instances, as the children of any such unions would give a stake in the land by ancestry. Nevertheless, the outsider who married in would never become tangata whenua in the true sense of the word. Nor could they ever presume to take on for themselves that status. If I lived my whole adult life in my spouse’s village, for example, I would never reach a moment when I would refer to myself as tangata whenua of that place. That does not mean that I could not fulfil an important and valued role as a member of that community: it simply means that I could not assume for myself the status of tangata whenua there. I would remain manene, a stranger in a sense, albeit one who forged a powerful connection with the hapü and iwi of that place by virtue of sharing in their lives and producing children who could claim such tangata whenua status. It would be exactly the same for my spouse in the event of his coming to live in my area.

30 Muriwhenua Land Report at 25.


The point is that it is never possible for manuhiri or manene to take upon themselves the status of tangata whenua. An outsider may be incorporated into the tangata whenua group, be allocated land and other rights and may even have their place within the community cemented by marriage and children. But ultimately, it is for the tangata whenua to determine the way in which they view the outsider in their midst.

A second relationship that is worthy of consideration in the context of Mäori-Päkeha interaction is that of wrong-doer and wronged. Colonisation the world over has resulted in oppression of indigenous peoples, and Aotearoa is no exception. Despite the occasional somewhat desperate suggestion to the contrary, the fact is that iwi and hapü the length and breadth of Aotearoa have suffered almost unimaginable injustice at the hands of Päkehä, injustice that has been either sanctioned or actively perpetrated by the Crown. According to tikanga Mäori, when a wrong is committed it creates a depletion of mana and a situation of serious imbalance, not just between the parties concerned but also amongst their respective whänau and hapü. Relationships are damaged. Action is necessary to restore the mana of the people and groups involved, thereby re-establishing the balance and returning the various relationships impacted upon to a healthy state.

One of the chief means of achieving such an outcome in earlier times was the institution of muru. This required the whänau or hapü of the wrongdoer to submit to a process whereby the whänau or hapü of the victim would be free to take for themselves the offending group’s belongings, goods or produce. Treasured personal items along with food- stores and other valuable goods could legitimately be taken, houses could


be destroyed and in some instances it was possible that lives might be taken or injuries inflicted. The greater the significance of the parties involved, and the more serious the wrongdoing, the greater the extent of the muru that could be expected.31 It has been noted that whakamä, the notion of embarrassment or shame, was a pivotal concept in muru. Whakamä was felt, not just by the individual who had committed the wrong, but also by his or her whänau or hapü. The consequences of the individual’s actions were suffered by the collective group. There was also a powerful element of trust involved: in submitting themselves to the justice meted out by the wronged whänau, the whänau of the wrong- doer had no option but to trust in the other party’s ability to gauge the extent of action required to mend any damage to the multiple relationships affected. Muru was essentially restorative in nature, having the effect of restoring mana to the whänau and hapü of both offender and victim, and thereby re-establishing balance between them. Muru rehabilitated not only the victim but also the offender.

What do each of these examples offer us in a contemporary context? Crucial to the acceptance of manene or manuhiri in the domain of an iwi or hapü is their compliance with the tikanga of the tangata whenua: the outsider is granted such status and rights as the tangata whenua determine. Central to the resolution of a wrong-doing is the commitment of the wrong-doer’s whänau to submit themselves to the measures taken against them by the wronged party.

Let us return now to the relationship between Päkehä and Mäori today. It is generally assumed that the Treaty settlement process that has been in

31 Ministry of Justice, He Hinätore ki te Ao Mäori: A Glimpse into the Mäori World (2001) at 99-103; Mead, S Nga Tikanga Tuku Iho a Te Maori: Customary Concepts of the Maori (Department of Maori Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, 1984) at 31-46.


progress over the past twenty years represents an attempt to resolve the injustices of the past, and that steps such as the incorporation of Mäori terms into legislation (for example, the Resource Management Act or Te Ture Whenua Mäori) represent a genuine effort on the Crown’s part to bridge the divide between Mäori and Päkehä. But how do these developments measure up against the tikanga Mäori principles governing the relationship between tangata whenua and manuhiri, or between the wrong-doer and the wronged party?

Put simply, they don’t. The Waitangi Tribunal, for instance, while having achieved a great deal through its meticulous report-writing and its ability to operate on the proverbial smell of an oily rag, is a creature of statute, its powers subject to legislative interference – as happened, for instance, following the Te Roroa report.32 Appointments to the Tribunal are made upon the recommendation of Ministers of the Crown, it is ritually starved of resources, and its recommendations routinely ignored by the Crown. When negotiating settlements with the Crown, claimants are typically presented with a “take-it-or-leave-it” bottom line, with the Crown prepared to negotiate on minor matters only. Any legislative provisions that have unforeseen consequences (unforeseen to the Crown, that is) are either amended to ensure that the impact of Mäori concepts on the operation of Päkehä law remains minimal, or they are interpreted restrictively by the courts, or both.

The problem with this approach, in terms of a tikanga Mäori analysis, is that it is the manuhiri who are dictating the way that things should be done in the tangata whenua’s domain. It is the wronged party who is being expected to submit to terms imposed by the wrong-doer. Such a

32 Waitangi Tribunal, Te Roroa Report (1992).


method of dealing with the injustices of the past cannot possibly hope to achieve resolution. The irony of being lectured by Trevor Mallard on the necessity for Mäori to trust the perpetrators of our oppression is, quite frankly, breathtaking.

For Päkehä to gain legitimacy here, it is they who must place their trust in Mäori, not the other way around. They must accept that it is for the tangata whenua to determine their status in this land, and to do so in accordance with tikanga Mäori. This will involve sorting out a process of negotiation which is driven by the principles underpinning tikanga, a process which Päkehä do not control. There is no doubt that many Päkehä will find this challenging: their obsession with control over the Mäori-Päkehä relationship to date could almost be categorised as a form of compulsive disorder. Giving up such control requires a leap of faith on the part of Päkehä. In my view, however, nothing less will suffice if they truly want to gain the sense of belonging they so crave, the sense of identity that until now has proven so elusive.

This may seem rather intimidating to a people more used to “putting down new layers of hypocrisy”33 than confronting their most deeply-held prejudices and fears. Yet I am encouraged by the fact that there are some who are prepared to do just that. In 1986 Ray Nairn wrote of the need to get Päkehä to “name the fears they have about relinquishing control”, and looked to a time “when we can come as two peoples: Maori and Pakeha, tangata whenua and manuhiri, to negotiate a basis for our society”.34 Of course, there are Päkehä individuals who have discovered that the sky does not fall if they negotiate their personal relationships with Mäori on

  1. 33  Jesson (1986) at 15.
  2. 34  Nairn, R Sites no.13 (Spring 1986) 17, at 18.


such a basis. While that in itself is cause for optimism, I encourage them not to settle for building positive relationships with Mäori on a personal level only: I urge them to use their experiences constructively, to bring about the mind-shift required amongst Päkehä society as a whole.

Perhaps it is Mike Grimshaw who best addressed the question of Päkehä identity when earlier this year he observed: “I am a Pakeha because I live in a Maori country”.35 When you think about it, there is nowhere else in the world that one can be Päkehä. Whether the term remains forever linked to the shameful role of oppressor or whether it can become a positive source of identity and pride is up to Päkehä themselves. All that is required from them is a leap of faith.

35 Grimshaw, M “What Lies Beneath”, Listener 4 September 2004, 40, at 41.