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Don Brash

Dr. Don Brash
Former Governor of the Reserve Bank and Leader of the New Zealand National Party from 2003 to 2006 and ACT in 2011.



Earlier this month, something shocking happened at Waitangi.

And no, I’m not referring to my being shouted down at the Lower Marae. That was rude, but not shocking – indeed, perhaps I should have expected it.

No, I’m referring to the total inability of the Prime Minister to answer two very simple questions about the Treaty of Waitangi.

She was asked what the first Article of the Treaty provided. She admitted she hadn’t a clue.

She was asked what the second Article of the Treaty provided, and again she admitted she hadn’t a clue.

A few days ago, I asked a journalist if she could tell me what the first two Articles of the Treaty were, and she couldn’t, but knew that the Treaty was about partnership. I wasn’t asking her to recite the exact wording – though given how short the two Articles are it might not be unreasonable to expect many New Zealanders to be able to do that.

I was simply asking her, as the Prime Minister had been asked, what the first two Articles of the Treaty provided. And she didn’t know, talking instead about partnership.

I suspect that that ignorance is widespread, despite the fact that all political parties claim a commitment to the Treaty, and to its so-called principles. And fundamental to those so-called principles is partnership.

Several points to make.

First, the word “partnership” does not appear anywhere in the Treaty. Nor does any other word that might be regarded as a synonym of “partnership”. And that’s true whether we’re talking about the English-language draft from which the Treaty was translated into Maori, the Maori language version of the Treaty (the official version of the Treaty), or the so-called official English version of the Treaty. The word simply does not appear.

Second, the word “partnership” implies two or more distinct parties to a relationship. But almost 180 years after the Treaty was signed, there are no longer distinct parties. We and our ancestors have formed relationships and married without regard to racial distinctions. Nobody in New Zealand today has exclusively Maori ancestors. Most of those who have a Maori ancestor have more ancestors who are not Maori.

We have allowed people who have one Maori great-grandparent – and seven non Maori great-grandparents – to speak as if they are part of an oppressed minority, suffering still from what their non-Maori great-grandparents did to their one Maori great-grandparent.

Third, one of the most insidious implications of talk about “partnership” is the claim that in 1840 the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty did not really cede sovereignty to the Crown at all. In an astonishing report issued in 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal claimed that the Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty agreed to share power and authority with Britain, but did not cede sovereignty – in other words, did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people and territories.

But as historian and Treaty specialist Professor Paul Moon of AUT made clear at the time, the Tribunal’s conclusion was “manifestly wrong”.

Chris Finlayson, at that time Attorney General and Minister in Charge of Treaty Negotiations, and somebody well known for having considerable sympathy for Maori aspirations, said in reaction to the Tribunal’s report that there was “no question that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand”.

The wording of Article I of the Treaty is quite unambiguous. It makes it totally clear that the signatories ceded “to the Queen of England forever the entire sovereignty of their country”.

And it is abundantly clear from the speeches made by many chiefs at the time that they understood they were being asked to surrender to a higher authority. Several objected strongly, and said they would not accept that they would have less authority than Governor Hobson – but nevertheless eventually did sign, presumably because of the benefits they could see of a higher authority putting an end to inter-tribal warfare and fending off any French involvement.

One of the chiefs who signed, Tamati Waka Nene, was described on his tombstone as a “Chief of Ngapuhi, the first to welcome the Queen’s Sovereignty”.

Twenty years after the Treaty was signed in 1840, at a conference of many scores of chiefs at Kohimarama, speech after speech spoke of the benefit of having the Queen as the highest authority in the land.

Sir Apirana Ngata, writing about the Treaty in 1922, said that “the Treaty made one law for the Maori and Pakeha. If you think things are wrong and bad then blame our ancestors who gave away their rights in the days when they were very powerful”.

Moreover, with very rare exceptions, the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders with a Maori ancestor have behaved as if sovereignty was ceded in 1840:

* they’ve served in the Police and the Armed Forces;

* they’ve bought and sold assets, registering those transactions with an agency of the Crown;

* they’ve paid income taxes and GST;

* they’ve been employed by the Crown as teachers, nurses, and bureaucrats;

* they’ve accepted unemployment benefits, New Zealand Superannuation and other benefits;

* they’ve accepted treatment in public hospitals and from highly subsidized doctors;

* they’ve been educated in public schools and universities;

* they’ve travelled overseas on New Zealand passports;

* they’ve accepted large sums of money from the Crown in resolution of so-called historical grievances.

Very strange behaviour if Maori haven’t accepted the sovereignty of the Crown.

And yet we continue to get what I can only describe as willfully misleading stuff printed in our media. Just a week or so back, for example, the Sunday Star-Times carried an article about the Treaty by Hinemoa Elder. She correctly quoted the first Article of the Treaty as providing for Maori chiefs to cede to the Queen “absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of sovereignty” but then notes, astonishingly, that Article 1 “speaks to sharing power”. Of course it does no such thing.

Politicians as different as David Lange and Winston Peters have long rubbished the idea that the Treaty created a partnership between Maori and the Crown.

Interviewed on Australian television in 1990, when he was Attorney General, Mr Lange asked:

Did Queen Victoria for a moment think of forming a partnership with a number of signatures, a number of thumb prints and 500 people? Queen Victoria was not that sort of person.

In a major speech a decade later, in November 2000, he elaborated on this point and because of the huge importance of the issue, and because we now have a Labour-New Zealand First Coalition Government, it is worth quoting from this speech at some length:

Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both….

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the Treaty in statute. The Treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts….

The Treaty is a wonderful stick for activists to beat the rest of us with… It’s been the basis of a self-perpetuating industry in academic and legal circles. Many on the Left of politics who sympathize with Maori aspiration have identified with the cause of the Treaty, either not knowing or not caring that its implications are profoundly undemocratic.1

Winston Peters, now Deputy Prime Minister and Maori himself of course, speaking in Paihia a couple of years ago, described the idea that Queen Victoria would have entered into partnership with some 500 chiefs, many of whom were illiterate and none of whom she had met, as “absurd”.

Retired District Court Judge and Canterbury University law lecturer Anthony Willy noted a few years ago that “Maori and the Crown are not partners in any sense of the word. It is constitutionally impossible for the Crown to enter into partnership with any of its subjects. The true position is that the Crown is sovereign but owes duties of justice and good faith to the Maori descendants of those who signed the Treaty”, and of course to all New Zealanders.

But wait, Maori radicals will say. You’ve forgotten about Article II. On the contrary, under Article II “the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the chiefs and tribes and to all the people of New Zealand the possession of their lands, dwellings and all their property”. The Treaty made it clear that the Queen was not proposing to dispossess the chiefs of their property rights, and made it clear that if and when they wished to sell their property they should do it through her agent – a way of protecting Maori from unscrupulous European buyers.

So there can be not the slightest objection to what the Treaty said, particularly given that the third Article guaranteed to all New Zealanders, “in return for the cession of sovereignty”, the “rights and privileges of British subjects”, in other words the same rights.

Despite that, successive Governments have behaved as if the Crown is in some kind of partnership with those who have a Maori ancestor. Indeed, the so-called “principles of the Treaty”, a concept dating back no more than three or four decades and invented initially by the Fourth Labour Government, routinely talk of partnership. Subsequent Governments have adopted the same approach.

When the National Party was in Opposition between 1999 and 2008, it talked boldly about a single standard of citizenship and promised to scrap separate Maori electorates – Bill English made that commitment, and so did John Key and I.

But in Government, the National Government not only made not the slightest attempt to scrap separate Maori electorates,

* they foisted co-governance on many local governments (including the Independent Maori Statutory Board in Auckland),

* passed the Marine and Coastal Area Act enabling Maori tribes to lodge claims for customary marine title over the entire coast (and promised generous taxpayer funding to cover the legal costs of these claims),

* continued favourable tax treatment of the businesses arising from Treaty settlements,

* amended the Resource Management Act to give a major role to Maori tribes in local government decision-making,

* allowed the Education Council to foist a radical interpretation of our history on our school system,

* signed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People,

* and appeared to agree that Maori have rights and interests in water akin to ownership despite the longstanding common law position that nobody owns water.

And now we have a Government which has even established a separate ministerial portfolio of Crown-Maori Relations. The website of that department states that “the Crown and Maori will act reasonably, honourably, and in good faith towards each other as Treaty partners”. Other material issued by the Minister (Kelvin Davis) speaks of the need for a “true partnership”.

The consultation which the Minister had with Maori New Zealanders last year recorded many complaints that the Crown often acted without “Maori approval”, as if Maori New Zealanders had a special right to be consulted above the rights enjoyed by other New Zealanders and indeed had a right to veto Government decisions.

The 14 members of the Hobson’s Pledge council wrote to Kelvin Davis in May last year to express our grave concern at these developments. We copied the letter to the leaders of all the other political parties in Parliament. We received not a single reply.

And this is why the Prime Minister’s rather extraordinary ignorance of what the Treaty provides is so serious. She has been swept along by the nonsense that the chiefs did not cede sovereignty but instead entered into a partnership with the Crown. There is a serious danger that it is this nonsense which may be taught in our schools, under the guise of teaching New Zealand children our “true history”. True history? Bollocks. It is long past time for the majority of New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori, to say “enough”.

1. Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture, 18 November 2000.



Can I begin my comments today by saying how much I appreciate your invitation? I have no doubt that some of you see me as a racist of the worst kind. It is a great tribute to you that you are nevertheless willing to have me here today, at this place of great importance in our history, even though you may disagree with me on a whole raft of fundamental issues.

Perhaps we are continuing a tradition which dates back to 1840, to the Treaty which we remember this week, when people with very different views met and reached an agreement which affects all our lives to this day.

So I thank you for inviting me to speak.

When Rueben Taipari invited me, he suggested I touch briefly on my own background – he had recently read my autobiography, and suggested that there were aspects of my life which most people are not aware of.

And he suggested I should comment on how Ngapuhi, and perhaps Maori New Zealanders generally, can best improve their economic status. I’m willing to do that, though I will do so with great trepidation. I don’t know nearly enough about the circumstances of your iwi and hapu to do that with confidence, so my observations will be tentative.

Before I do either of those things, let me briefly comment on my views on Te Reo. You will have heard, and perhaps been surprised, that I began today with a mihi. Yes, I can, when properly coached by a Ngapuhi chief, say a few words in Te Reo!

And to be perfectly clear, I was enthusiastic to do so in this context.

I have absolutely nothing against the Maori language and for many New Zealanders it is a vital part of who they are.

What I have objected to is two things.

First, the use of the Maori language where almost nobody can understand it seems to me to be totally inappropriate. When I was young – and that’s quite a few years ago now! – if anyone spoke in Maori in an environment where at best a tiny minority understood it they immediately translated. I thank the organisers of events this year for providing simultaneous translation earpieces to those of us who don’t speak Te Reo.

I first made a comment on this issue in relation to the use of Te Reo on Radio New Zealand, or RNZ as they now prefer to be called. I came across the same issue two weeks ago when I was briefly in China. I had reason to call the New Zealand embassy in Beijing, and was astonished to find that the phone was answered with a message in Te Reo, followed by one in English, and followed finally by one in Mandarin. I would guess that not one person in a thousand calling the New Zealand embassy in Beijing understands Te Reo.

Secondly, I have spoken out strongly against making the teaching of Te Reo mandatory, as some politicians and others now advocate. I am entirely comfortable with taxpayers providing funding to teach Te Reo to those who want to learn it, and to fund Maori TV and a number of Maori language radio stations – it is a valuable treasure to many New Zealanders.

But it seems to me that for most New Zealanders it has no practical value. As you might expect from a person with an economics training, I look at the cost of every new proposal – and by cost I don’t just mean the dollar cost, but the opportunity cost. What do we have to drop from the school curriculum in order to make time to teach Te Reo? Do we have less maths, less history, less science, less physical education? Something would have to be dropped to make space to teach Te Reo.

Without question the most important language for all New Zealanders to speak, read and write fluently is English – not just because it is the predominant language of this country but also because it is the only truly international language.

Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world, followed in turn by Spanish and then by English.

But the total of those who speak English exceeds that of any other language.

When I was Governor of the Reserve Bank, I used to attend annual meetings of the central bank governors from the entire Asian region – from Mongolia in the north, through East Asia, South-East Asia, Australia and New Zealand, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Iran – a huge sweep of mankind. Every meeting was conducted in English, with no translation provided. It was just assumed that everybody who had reached the status of central bank governor could speak English.

English is the language of international commerce and of science. It is the language of aviation. When a Lufthansa plane, with a German pilot, lands in Frankfurt, the pilot speaks to ground control in English. Legislation in India is in English. In Singapore, it is compulsory for everybody to learn English.

Tragically, too many New Zealanders don’t have the strong knowledge of English they need to prosper in the modern economy. I have never forgotten being told by the manager of a small company in Hawke’s Bay that he couldn’t hire most of those who applied for a job as a forklift truck driver because they couldn’t read well enough – couldn’t read labels on the pallets, couldn’t read the safety instructions.

It was for good reason that in decades past some Maori parents insisted that their children learn English: English was the passport to the modern world. It still is, and it probably will be for the next century at least.

As I’ve mentioned, in inviting me to speak today Rueben Taipari said that he had recently read my autobiography. He said it showed a side of Don Brash that most people are not aware of.

So let me briefly, and in the Maori tradition, explain where I’ve come from.

I called my book “Incredible Luck”. And I called it that because I’ve been extremely lucky in many different ways.

First, like everybody else, I’m lucky to be alive. When you think about how many things had to happen for each of us to be born – for our parents to meet, for our grandparents to meet, for our great-grandparents to meet, and so on back through thousands of generations – the odds against being born who we are are absolutely extraordinary.

Second, like all of us here, I was born into the most extraordinary time and place in human history. When your ancestors arrived in this country centuries ago, it was by means of a dangerous sea voyage which lasted weeks if not months. When my ancestors arrived here in the 19th century, they too would have endured months of difficult and unpleasant travel. Today, we take safe and fast air travel for granted; we take for granted being able to communicate without cost with people on the other side of the world – I was coached on the mihi with which I began my speech today by a Ngapuhi chief talking from the other side of the world while he was visiting Beijing. We take for granted that we can watch events on the other side of the globe from the comfort of our homes. It never occurs to us that we might die of a tooth infection. Just a century ago, a tooth infection could be fatal.

And while New Zealand is a long way from being perfect, it is nevertheless a place where all children are provided with almost free education, where healthcare is highly subsidized, where our daughters have the same opportunities as our sons, where nobody is jailed for criticizing the Prime Minister. It’s a country ranked by the Legatum Institute in London as the second most prosperous country on the planet, behind only Norway. (That is not to say our per capita income is the second highest on the planet – the assessment included a range of other factors measuring the quality of life, what the Prime Minister might describe as “wellbeing”.)

Indeed, when Jeremy Clarkson, the star of Top Gear, visited New Zealand a few years ago, he said that visiting our country made him question the wisdom of God. If God really did have perfect knowledge and perfect foresight, why would he have his only son born in a lousy place like Bethlehem, when he could have been born in Palmerston North?

Your ancestors no doubt signed the Treaty for a variety of reasons, but none of those who signed 179 years ago could have imagined the vast improvements in the status of women, the enormous improvements in healthcare and life expectancy, or the benefits which modern science has conferred on all of us. Yes, some of us have benefited to a greater extent than others, but all of us are vastly better off today than our ancestors were in 1840.

But third, I have been lucky because of the parents I had. They were not wealthy. My father was a Presbyterian minister on a very modest salary; my mother was trained as a milliner and, until well into mid-life, had only a single year of high school education. Until I was at high school, most of my clothes were made by my mother. Every week we had one or two meatless days – allegedly because that was good for our health, but in retrospect I realise that that was at least in part because we couldn’t afford meat every day. And I regard that background as one of my huge advantages: I learnt that nobody owed me a living.

Rueben pointed out to me that my autobiography also admitted to failures in my life, and yes, I’ve had many of those.

I structured most of my book around a metaphor. In the 1960s, the US Air Force developed an experimental aircraft called the Bell X-15, designed to test the strength of various alloys at very high speeds. The Bell X-15 still holds the record for the fastest manned flight ever. It reached an altitude of 100 kilometres – some ten times the altitude at which commercial jets typically fly – and speeds of 7,000 kilometres per hour.

But it only reached that altitude, and reached those speeds, because it was launched by being dropped from another aircraft at 40,000 feet. I felt that, by being born in New Zealand with the parents I had, I had the advantage of being launched from 40,000 feet, and I analysed my life into what I regarded as successful “flights”, partially successful “flights”, and dismal failures. I won’t recount those failures now, but there were plenty of them! I console myself with the thought that those who’ve never made mistakes haven’t been brave enough!

So much for my personal story. Rueben suggested that as Ngapuhi wait, and wait, for their turn at settling with the Crown, I should make some observations about how to improve the economic status of Maori New Zealanders, and Ngapuhi in particular. As I’ve said, I’m willing to do that, though I do so with great trepidation.

The first observation I want to make, however, I make with some confidence. Most Maori New Zealanders will never become economically prosperous through Treaty settlements.

Nobody knows at this stage what the total of all Treaty settlements will be. But let’s suppose it’s $5 billion – five times the original so-called “fiscal envelope” that Jim Bolger envisaged back in the nineties. Let’s assume also that that total is invested to yield an average of 5% per annum in perpetuity. And finally let’s assume that 15% of New Zealanders, or some 750,000 people, are entitled to a share of that. That would increase the annual income of each Maori New Zealander by the grand total of just $333 – better than a kick in the pants but certainly not enough to transform the economic status of Maori New Zealanders. (Incidentally, I owe this insight to Ngati Porou leader Sir Rob McLeod.)

So waiting around for a Treaty settlement would be a tragic mistake. Of course, for some Maori the Treaty settlements have been the source of considerable income – they are the directors of the companies established to manage the assets received in Treaty settlements and their legal advisers (both Maori and non-Maori).

But for far too many Maori the Treaty settlements have delivered little or nothing – just walk down the main street of Huntly to see what I mean, despite the very substantial settlements which Tainui has received.

And to the extent that some Maori New Zealanders have been lulled into the false notion that their prosperity will be assured once the Treaty settlement has been made, the long-drawn-out settlement process has almost certainly done lasting damage to the economic well-being of Maori.

That was one of the two reasons why, when I was National Party leader last decade, I committed the next National Party Government to a policy involving one further year to lodge a grievance and a maximum of five further years to resolve all outstanding grievances. I believed it was crucial for Maori that the process was hastened, because as long as too many Maori retained the false notion that their economic prosperity would be assured once the settlement had been made, there was a risk that too many Maori would remain passive, waiting around for their Treaty settlement, and that would be totally contrary to the interests of Maori.

(The other reason why I wanted to put a finite deadline on the settlement process was because I knew that the longer the process dragged on, the more impatient the Pakeha community would become, wrongly believing that a high proportion of all tax revenue would be devoted to compensation.)

More generally, there must be at least serious doubt whether the positive discrimination intended by successive governments over the last half century to assist the economic status of Maori New Zealanders has actually worked as intended.

More than a year ago, The Economist magazine had an article about the effects of positive discrimination in favour of Malays in Malaysia. The article noted that the positive discrimination had been introduced with the very best of intentions, to improve the lot of Malays as compared with other Malaysians, mainly Chinese and Indians. But the effect had been to benefit a small minority of Malays, while leaving most of the Malay population not much better off.

And that experience is surely directly relevant to New Zealand, with more and more special programmes reserved for those who chance to have a Maori ancestor. These include:

* different entry standards to medical school and some law faculties,

* appointments to local government committees without democratic process,

* required representation on every government board or agency,

* separate government funding for Maori tourism,

* exemption from corporate tax for the businesses arising out of Treaty settlements,

* taxpayer funding for customary marine title claims,

* a legal requirement that Maori have special entitlement to be consulted on environmental planning laws, and

* mandatory respect for Maori spiritual rites and process despite New Zealand’s officially being a secular society.

As in Malaysia, these benefits were originally intended to lift the incomes of Maori New Zealanders, which on average lagged behind those of other New Zealanders. But they have now come to be regarded by a great many Maori as privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of landing in New Zealand prior to European and other settlers.

And who benefits from these race-based entitlements? Assuredly not most ordinary Maori.

Not only have most Maori not benefited at all from this growing affirmative action, many have been positively harmed by it.

Why? Because it has led many Maori to assume that other taxpayers owe them a living, and that in due course other taxpayers will have to discharge that obligation.

What on earth could be more demotivating than to be told, again and again, that your poor education, your poor housing, your low income or inability to get a job is not your responsibility at all – it’s the fault of a grossly unfair system arising from injustices done to some of your great-grandparents by some of your other great-grandparents?

It is surely not in the least surprising that too many people with a Maori ancestor are unemployed and poorly educated – the present environment positively encourages helplessness.

It is significant that Maori New Zealanders who migrate to Australia often do much better than those they leave behind. To some extent, that is because those who have the courage and the initiative to take themselves off to a new country are almost by definition those with “get up and go”, and so more likely to succeed wherever they end up.

But I suspect that part of the reason why Maori New Zealanders in Australia seem to be more economically successful than those they leave behind is that those who migrate know they can’t look to anybody but themselves for their success: the Australian government doesn’t owe them anything more than it owes any other immigrants.

I have always believed that government should lend a helping hand to those who are down on their luck, those who are sick and those who are otherwise unable to help themselves – hopefully in a manner that doesn’t demotivate the recipients of that help. But I believe it is absolutely fundamental that that help should be based on need, and not on ethnicity.

It is a huge tragedy for all New Zealanders that we appear to be on the same destructive path that Malaysia is on. Unless we move decisively to a new path, it will not end well for most Maori.

Not only does positive discrimination create a demotivating sense of entitlement, it is also patronising – it appears to imply that without such positive discrimination Maori New Zealanders can’t quite make it, that they’re not as capable as other citizens. If I were Maori, I would find this grossly insulting. We know, from the huge success of many Maori in New Zealand and internationally, that they are as capable as any other New Zealanders. Just look at how many political leaders in Parliament are Maori – a quarter of the total, including the leaders, deputy leaders, or co-leaders of every party in Parliament! Constantly suggesting that Maori need special assistance to compete with others is insulting and demotivating.

Moreover, as one Maori elder pointed out to me recently, we know from history that those who succeed most spectacularly are often those who, far from being the beneficiaries of special entitlements, are the victims of political persecution and discrimination – think of the enormous success of the Jewish people, in science, in banking, in retailing, in technology and in economics. They didn’t achieve those things through positive discrimination – they achieved them despite being the victims of widespread anti-Jewish sentiment and sometimes violent persecution.

On a smaller scale, the Quakers and the Huguenots had similar success despite, or perhaps even because of, the discrimination to which they were subjected.

A crutch may sometimes be essential, but becoming dependent on a crutch never enables its user to walk unaided, let alone to run.

Let me make one other point about the dangers of dependence. Many years ago, at the advent of the modern welfare state, Sir Apirana Ngata, in my opinion one of New Zealand’s greatest Maori leaders – and a man I was privileged to put on New Zealand’s $50 bank note – warned of the serious damage which the welfare state would do to Maori society. He believed that readily available welfare would erode the proud tradition of independence which most Maori had. And I believe his warning has been amply borne out, with a disproportionately high proportion of those on the unemployment benefit, and on the single parent benefit, being Maori.

Decades after he gave that warning, when I was Governor of the Reserve Bank, I met with a prominent kuia at her request. She wanted to talk about Maori unemployment. After a very long discussion, I finally asked her what she would want me to do if by some chance I found myself in the position of a benevolent dictator. Without hesitating she replied “Abolish the dole with effect from the first of January”.

I thought at first she was joking, and asked her to explain herself. She said that “Unfortunately too many of my people don’t have many skills. They can’t live well on the dole but with three or four of them in the same house all getting the dole, and a few under the table cash jobs, they can live adequately on the dole, and that’s a disaster.” She was deadly serious, and in a sense was simply echoing what Sir Apirana Ngata said 80 years ago.

I don’t believe New Zealand can abolish the dole, but I have a good deal of sympathy with politicians like Shane Jones who make it quite clear that one of his main objectives in politics is to “get the bro’s off the couch”. And I suspect he wants to achieve that not to save money for taxpayers, though it would do that also, but rather because life on the dole is obviously leading nowhere, or at least nowhere good. It’s a shameful waste of young Maori lives.

Today, I’ve suggested that Treaty settlements, no matter how generous, will not provide economic prosperity for most Maori. I’ve suggested that positive discrimination may hurt more than it helps.

Well, what would help? I hope that Ngapuhi can quickly reach agreement with Government on the terms of their Treaty settlement so that you can start looking ahead, not backwards. I hope that we can all accept that Maori New Zealanders are every bit as competent as other New Zealanders, so that we can move to helping people on the basis of their need, not on the basis of who some of their ancestors were.

But beyond that, what would help? I don’t think any outsider, no matter how well qualified, is able to suggest particular industries that you should invest in. And I’m not qualified to comment, for example, on whether the law needs to be changed to enable Maori to make better use of communally-owned land, though the Government announcement of a few days ago, providing taxpayer money to Maori enterprises where banks are reluctant to lend, certainly suggests this is an urgent need.

But what I would say without any fear of being contradicted is that in the 21st century being well educated is an absolutely crucial ingredient to economic success. That does not necessarily mean getting a tertiary qualification, but it does mean coming out of secondary school having a strong ability to read, to write, and to reason logically.

And for that reason I think it is a matter of enormous regret that the current Government has been so strongly opposed to partnership schools – on the evidence to date, those schools provided enormous benefits to those pupils lucky enough to get into them, and that appeared to be especially true for those Maori pupils who were not well served by the traditional state schools. (I seem to recall that the Member of Parliament for Northland, now Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, said he would resign if a Labour-led Government abolished partnership schools.)

Finally, let me make a few closing remarks about where we are as a country.

I think we are at quite a dangerous junction. Many Maori New Zealanders feel they have been left behind by the rest of the country and perhaps that’s an especially strong feeling up here in Northland. Too many Maori are unemployed; too many Maori are in prison; too many Maori are coming out of school unable to read and write; too many Maori are living in poverty. Too much of what successive governments have tried to do to help hasn’t helped, and in some cases has positively hurt.

On the other hand, many non-Maori New Zealanders have become increasingly impatient with the never-ending Treaty settlement process, and more particularly impatient with the constitutional preferences which have increasingly been written into law.

A great many New Zealanders reject any notion that the Treaty of Waitangi created a “partnership” between Maori and the Crown, a partnership which has been described as absurd by politicians as different as David Lange and Winston Peters. Yet this is the interpretation which is more and more taken as the foundation of Government policy.

At some point, hopefully soon, we will need to determine whether we really believe in Article III of the Treaty. That affirmed the equality of political rights for all New Zealanders. At that point we really will be able to say, with Governor Hobson, “he iwi tahi tatou”, “we are now one people”.  (Maori greeting abridged)

Don Brash, 5 February 2019


And you dare not suggest that the Enlightenment civilization brought to New Zealand by the early British settlers was significantly more advanced than the Maori culture of the early nineteenth century, even though early nineteenth century Maori had no written language, had not yet invented the wheel, and were still practising cannibalism.

You may not even question the proposition that Maori are indigenous, even though Maori myths themselves talk about Maori arriving by canoe from a distant place within the last 1,000 years, vastly more recently than humans arrived in North America some 15,000 years ago, or in Australia more than 50,000 years ago.

It is regarded as racist to suggest that all New Zealanders should have equal political rights, despite that being the clear meaning of Article III of the Treaty of Waitangi and the only basis for a peaceful society in the long-term.

And the mainstream media censor any who would argue that case. As some of you know, Casey Costello and I were the two spokespeople for the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, an organisation committed to advancing equal citizenship in New Zealand. We got almost no media coverage, despite issuing umpteen press statements, and when we did get media coverage most of it was focused on me: I could be caricatured as an elderly white male racist. Casey couldn’t be: she is a young woman of Ngapuhi and Anglo-Irish ancestry, so didn’t fit the need to describe Hobson’s Pledge as a male, white, organisation.

Several months ago, I wrote an article about the way in which affirmative action in favour of Malays had damaged most Malays, based on an article from the well-respected British weekly The Economist. I noted the parallels with New Zealand. I submitted the article in turn to the Sunday Star Times, the Herald on Sunday, the Otago Daily Times, and the Listener. All declined to publish it........

Read Don Brash’s full NZCPR guest commentary here > https://www.nzcpr.com/is-freedom-of-speech-under-threat-in-new-zealand/#more-25072

Why I disagree with Gareth Morgan

In recent weeks, Gareth Morgan has written several articles for the “New Zealand Herald” promoting his book on the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi for modern New Zealand. Then a couple of days before Waitangi Day I had a call from David Fisher of the “Herald” telling me that Dr Morgan would be going to the Orewa Rotary Club to give a speech criticising what he called “ignorant Brash-think” about the Treaty. I made some comments suggesting that I disagreed quite fundamentally with his views and they appeared in the “Herald” the following day. Later that day, I got a phone call from one of Dr Morgan’s staff (Gareth must have been too busy to call me himself) inviting me to attend the speech and make some comments in reply. After giving the matter some thought, I accepted the invitation and have no regrets that I did so.

It was obvious that Dr Morgan had chosen the venue for maximum media impact, with my attendance also designed to increase the media appeal. And there were certainly plenty of media in attendance – arguably as many media people as other audience members. It turned out that, while we spoke at the premises used by the Orewa Rotary Club, this was not a meeting of the Orewa Rotary Club, which no doubt explains why the audience was so tiny.

Because the “debate” – really a speech by Dr Morgan and a relatively brief reply by me, followed by a small number of questions from the audience – attracted some media attention, I accepted Muriel’s invitation to write a brief piece on why I disagree with Dr Morgan.

Let me first acknowledge that Dr Morgan and I agree on some issues. He is opposed to separate Maori electorates, Maori wards in local government (and by implication the Maori Statutory Board in Auckland) and quotas for Maori in educational institutions. Granting any group special rights is contrary to Article 3 of the Treaty he believes, and I totally agree with that.

Having these special rights is also patronising, and implies that Maori aren’t quite competent enough to have their voices heard in the political arena, or get into some university courses, without a special leg up. Of course that is nonsense: when I was in Parliament, there were 21 Maori in Parliament – roughly the same percentage of Maori Members of Parliament as Maori are in the wider population – only seven of them elected in the Maori electorates. The other 14 were elected in general constituencies or were placed in a winnable position on a party’s list. (Ironically, the person who chaired our debate in Orewa personified that fact – she was Georgina Beyer, herself Maori, who won the rural electorate of Wairarapa for the Labour Party in competition with Paul Henry.)

Similarly in Auckland: the first election of councillors after the super-city was established in 2010 saw three people of Maori descent elected – not in Maori wards but on their own merit – and again three Maori out of a total of 20 councillors meant that Maori on the Council were in roughly the same proportion as Maori in the general population.

But as explained in his recent Ngapuhi speech, Dr Morgan’s basic position seems to be that –

“.. the Treaty is whatever a reasonable person’s view of the following four taken together leads them to – not any one taken in isolation, but all taken together:

1) Treaty of Waitangi
2) Te Tiriti O Waitangi
3) Principles of the Treaty
4) Post-1975 Consensus on the Treaty.”

And I think that that is nonsense. The so-called principles of the Treaty have often been referred to, frequently in legislation, but have never to my knowledge been fully explained, let alone agreed. And to refer to a “post-1975 consensus on the Treaty” is again a meaningless concept – I know of no such consensus, and the whole reason for the ongoing debate is that there is no consensus about what the Treaty means, or should mean.

In one of his “Herald” articles Dr Morgan talked about Maori having a partnership with the Crown, making us, in his words, “one nation, two peoples”. I also think this is nonsense, Lord Cooke notwithstanding. The idea that Governor Hobson envisaged the British Crown – the representation of the most advanced country in the world at the time – forming a partnership with a disparate group of Maori chiefs who were, at that time, scarcely out of the Stone Age, is ludicrous. Moreover, to speak of New Zealand in 2015 being “two peoples” is equally silly: the overwhelming majority of people who identify as Maori also have some non-Maori ancestors, frequently a non-Maori parent, while “non-Maori” are no longer exclusively European but embrace a very wide range of ethnicities.

So I disagree with Dr Morgan’s starting point, and as a result I disagree with many of his conclusions.

I think making the teaching of te reo compulsory in primary school, as he advocates, would be a complete waste of valuable teaching time for most New Zealand children, many of whom can’t even read and write well in English – which is not just the dominant language of New Zealand but is also the dominant language of the whole world. Being able to read and write in English is of fundamental importance to all New Zealanders, whatever their ancestry. And yes, there may be merits in terms of brain development in learning a second language at an early age, but if a second language is to be learnt it should be one which would be of benefit in the wider world, such as Mandarin or Spanish. (Interestingly, I took part in a Maori TV programme a few years ago, on a panel of six people discussing whether te reo should be a compulsory subject in primary school. Even though I was the only non-Maori on the panel, the panel voted by clear majority against making the teaching of te reo compulsory.) Of course if resources were infinite – so that we could teach te reo without crowding out anything else in the school curriculum – then why not learn a whole bunch of languages? But as an economist Dr Morgan should know better than most that resources are not infinite: teaching te reo would have an opportunity cost – something else would have to drop out of the curriculum.

The idea of having an Upper House with 50% of its members being Maori, which Dr Morgan also advocates, strikes me as utterly absurd, and totally at odds with any concept of democracy.

Many of our problems today stem from the way in which Te Tiriti O Waitangi – the real Treaty, which Maori chiefs signed – has been reinterpreted to suit the desires of modern-day revisionists. But its meaning is totally unambiguous.

The first clause involved Maori chiefs ceding sovereignty to the British Crown, completely and forever. And there can be not the slightest doubt about that. That Maori chiefs understood that at the time is abundantly clear from the speeches made by the chiefs themselves, both those in favour of signing and those opposed to it. This was further confirmed by a large number of chiefs at the Kohimarama Conference in 1860, and confirmed again by Sir Apirana Ngata in 1920.

The third article of the Treaty provided that all Maori – “tangata Maori, katoa o Nu Tirani” – should receive full citizenship rights – and this included the many slaves of other Maori, most being held in abject conditions and often the victims of cannibal feasts. Today, we tend to see this clause as no big deal but in 1840 it was an extraordinary thing for the Queen’s representatives to offer – nothing similar happened for the Australian aborigines, or the American Indians. All Maori, no matter their status, were offered the “rights and privileges of British subjects”, putting them on a par with every other British subject – not, it may be noted, ahead of other British subjects but on a par with them.

The second clause is what has caused so much angst. Actually, the clause is redundant since all it does is guarantee the right of citizens to own private property, and British subjects have this right anyway. But note that the guarantee was made to all the people of New Zealand – “tangata katoa o Nu Tirani” – in clear distinction to the third article which specifically applied only to Maori – and “all” means “all”. In other words, rights of ownership were guaranteed to all New Zealanders, not just to those with one or more Maori ancestors.

There is ongoing debate about what “tino rangatiratanga” meant at the time but it is impossible to believe it meant what modern-day revisionists try to take it to mean. Why on earth would Hobson have asked Maori chiefs to sign a Treaty involving the complete cession of sovereignty in the first clause if the second clause contradicted that first clause?

Let me say that I have always supported the payment of compensation by the Crown to any New Zealander, Maori or non-Maori, who can establish with a reasonable degree of certainty that their property has been illegally confiscated by the Crown. There are clearly suspicions that some of the claims which have been settled in recent times have in fact been settled on several previous occasions, and that brings the settlement process into disrepute. But in principle nobody can object to the Crown paying compensation to any New Zealander whose property has been illegally confiscated.

So in summary, I like the Treaty: it is a very simple document recording the cession of sovereignty by the Maori chiefs who signed it; extending to them in return the full rights of British subjects; and guaranteeing to all New Zealanders the right to own property.

But it does not require us all to learn te reo; it does not provide for separate Maori electorates or Maori wards; it does not give Maori a power to veto RMA resource consents; it does not give Maori any preferential rights over natural resources; and it certainly provides no basis for an Upper House with half its members being Maori.

Don Brash: Nationhood Speech at Orewa

Wednesday Jan 28, 2004

An address by Don Brash, Leader of the National Party, to the Orewa Rotary Club this evening.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is the second occasion on which I have addressed your Club on the last Tuesday of January, and I very much appreciate your invitation.

Soon after becoming leader of the National Party, I outlined my five main priorities.

First, we must, as a country, take vigorous steps to counter the long-standing relative decline in New Zealand incomes, which sees our per capita incomes now around $180 lower per week – or about $9,000 per year – than those enjoyed by Australians. The Labour Government is doing nothing to bridge this gap, but is instead erecting barriers to faster growth at almost every turn.

Second, we must deal with the fact that too many of our children leave school massively handicapped by illiteracy and innumeracy. Today's education system is failing many of our children, particularly the least privileged. If education is the passport to a better future, too many of our children currently have no chance of getting there. The Labour Government is failing to deal with this issue, and has made things worse by removing the elements of parental choice which the National Governments of the nineties introduced.

Third, we have to face the reality that traditional kiwi values are being destroyed by a government-funded culture of welfare dependency. National will stop communities wasting away on welfare. Sitting at home on welfare should never be an option, as the Labour Government seems to believe.

Fourth, we must deal with the issues of security, and especially the current half-hearted attitude towards enforcing the law in New Zealand. Under a National Government, when people step over the line which marks the boundary between honest and criminal activity, between civilised behaviour and that which preys on the community, they will be punished. Labour, by contrast, appears to be much more concerned with the rights of the criminal than with those of the victim.

And fifth, the topic I will focus on today, is the dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand, and the development of the now entrenched Treaty grievance industry. We are one country with many peoples, not simply a society of Pakeha and Maori where the minority has a birthright to the upper hand, as the Labour Government seems to believe.

Over the next few months, I plan to give a major speech on each of my five main priorities, but today I want to speak about the threat which "the Treaty process" poses to the future of our country. I am focussing on this topic because, just before Christmas, after Parliament had risen for the year, the Government announced its foreshore and seabed policy, a policy with potentially huge significance for the future of our country.

So let me begin by asking, what sort of nation do we want to build?

Is it to be a modern democratic society, embodying the essential notion of one rule for all in a single nation state?

Or is it the racially divided nation, with two sets of laws, and two standards of citizenship, that the present Labour Government is moving us steadily towards?

But the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi was expressed simply by then Lt-Gov Hobson in February 1840. In his halting Maori, he said to each chief as he signed: He iwi tahi tatou. We are one people.

A number of issues flow from this. They are complex, highly sensitive, even emotionally charged.

But I believe in plain speaking. So let me be blunt.

Over the last 20 years, the Treaty has been wrenched out of its 1840s context and become the plaything of those who would divide New Zealanders from one another, not unite us.

In parallel with the Treaty process and the associated grievance industry, there has been a divisive trend to embody racial distinctions into large parts of our legislation, extending recently to local body politics. In both education and healthcare, government funding is now influenced not just by need – as it should be – but also by the ethnicity of the recipient.

The Nelson-Tasman Primary Health Organisation is a good example: PHOs are explicitly established on a racial basis, and the Nelson-Tasman PHO is required to have half of the community representatives on its board representing local iwi, even though the number of people actually belonging to those local iwi is a tiny fraction of the population covered by that PHO.

Much of the non-Maori tolerance for the Treaty settlement process – where people who weren't around in the 19th century pay compensation to the part-descendants of those who were – is based on a perception of relative Maori poverty. But in fact Maori income distribution is not very different from Pakeha income distribution, as sociologist Simon Chapple pointed out a couple of years ago in a much publicised piece of research.

Maori-ness explains very little about how well one does in life. Ethnicity does not determine one's destiny.

It is the bottom 25 per cent of Maori, most of them on welfare, who are conspicuously poor. They are no different to Pacific Islanders or other non-Maori on welfare; it's just that there is a higher percentage of them in that category.

Let me now counter some of the myths of our past. Too many of us look back through utopian glasses, imagining the Polynesian past as a genteel world of "wise ecologists, mystical sages, gifted artists, heroic navigators and pacifists who wouldn't hurt a fly".

It was nothing like that. Life was hard, brutal and short.

James Belich shows us that, once guns fell into Maori hands in the early years of the 19th century, ancient tribal rivalries saw Maori kill more of their own than the number of all New Zealanders lost in World War I. Probably 20,000 Maori were killed by Maori in the 1820s and 1830s.

Equally, however, the initial Maori contact with Europeans was hardly a contact with the cream of European civilisation. The first Europeans that Maori encountered were explorers, whalers, escaped convicts from Australia, and then settlers hungry for land to build a new life. Many were none-too concerned about the niceties of the Treaty. And none possessed any appreciation of the interpretations of its meaning that some are trying to breathe into the document today.

Any dispassionate look at our history shows that self-interest and greed featured large on both sides. Pakeha tried hard to separate Maori from their lands, and usually succeeded, although at various points the Crown endeavoured to ensure that proper procedures, consistent with the Article 2 guarantee to Maori that they were able to sell freely and fairly, were upheld.

Yet in spite of these problems, and in spite of all the turmoil, the shocks from the collision of two cultures and the chaos of unprecedented social change, the documentary evidence clearly shows that Maori society was immensely adaptable, and very open to new ways. That adaptability and resourcefulness, that openness to opportunity, that entrepreneurial spirit, is something that survived the trauma of colonisation, and is today reflected in a Maori renaissance across a wide range of business, cultural and sporting activity.

We should celebrate the fact that, despite a war between the races in the 1860s and the speed with which Maori were separated from much of their land – partly through settler greed, partly through a couple of generations of deficient leadership by some Maori – our Treaty is probably the only example in the world of any such treaty surviving rifle shots. Those who said a hundred years later that New Zealand possessed good race relations by world standards weren't wrong. While we try to fix the wrongs of the past, we should celebrate the good things and shared experiences that underpin our nationhood.

All Maori got the right to vote, and had it long before 1900. By the 1930s, they possessed equal rights of access to state assistance, be it pensions or subsidised housing loans or access to education. One standard of citizenship was gradually working, and the gaps that existed in every other colonial country were closing here as Maori took advantage of full employment.

Although he listed a number of land grievances in his centennial speech at Waitangi on 6 February 1940, Sir Apirana Ngata told those present that in the whole world it was unlikely that any "native" race had been as well treated by settlers as Maori.

Let me be quite clear. Many things happened to the Maori people that should not have happened. There were injustices, and the Treaty process is an attempt to acknowledge that, and to make a gesture at recompense. But it is only that. It can be no more than that.

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.

There are a few radicals who claim that sovereignty never properly passed from Maori into the hands of the Crown, and thus ultimately into the hands of all New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori. They are living in a fantasy world. These claims come from the more radical Maori end of the spectrum. They can be seen for what they really are: a negotiating position.

What worries me about the current Treaty debate is that we find ourselves now, at the beginning of the 21st century, still locked into 19th century arguments.

Too many Maori leaders are looking backwards rather than towards the future. Too many have been encouraged by successive governments to adopt grievance mode.

I want, now, to briefly review the more recent history of the Treaty process.

We have moved from a badly drafted and ambiguous Treaty document of 1840 , through a long period of colonisation to an attempt to live by the simple principles that seem to underlie that document.

In 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal was established to hear Maori grievances about contemporary problems. The powers of the Tribunal were greatly extended in 1985. In a fateful decision, it was given authority to cover claims going back as far as the 1840 Treaty itself – this despite the fact that "full and final" settlements had been made with Tainui, Ngai Tahu and others, decades before.

A poorly drafted Act in 1985, coupled with inadequate attention to its implementation, allowed a major grievance industry to blossom.

Only a year later, in the State-Owned Enterprises Act 1986, the Government, not foreseeing the consequences of its decisions, made a last minute amendment to the Act. It read into the bill under urgency, without any reference back to a Select Committee, a revised section 9, which stated that "Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi".

Whether intended or not, Parliament had created a new concept – the "principles of the Treaty". But these principles were never defined – nobody had a clue what they might be. In the end, it was left to un-elected Court of Appeal judges to determine an interpretation of the Treaty's meaning that the politicians most certainly never intended.

Thus, an accident of litigation, which related to a specific provision in a piece of economic legislation, and the Court's attempt to make that legislation work without adequate guidance from Parliament, ended up by providing a basis for building an entire constitutional relationship between Crown and Maori.

Since 1987, and especially since 1999 when the current Labour Government took office, governments have included references to the "principles of the Treaty" in legislation, still without defining them. Even the Cabinet Manual now states that Ministers must specify whether proposed bills comply with "the principles of the Treaty". It doesn't define those principles either.

In 1988, there was another development of great significance. The Government's decision to sell off some of the state forests resulted in a judicial ruling that the Crown could not do so until ownership of the land beneath the trees had been determined by the Waitangi Tribunal process. To speed up what was becoming a much more drawn out process than had been envisaged in 1985, ministers came up with the idea of a Crown Forest Rental Trust that would receive the cutting fees as the forests were managed, and use the money to speed the hearing process about the land under the trees.

Far from speeding the process, it quickly slowed down. As one commentator has observed: "A growing number of bees – some busy, others drones – swarmed around this new, lucrative [Crown Forest Rental Trust] honey pot." The troubles surrounding this particular honey pot continue to this day, and only very belatedly, and after a lot of very adverse publicity, is the current Government moving to clean up the Crown Forest Rental Trust process.

The biggest problem we face with the Treaty process is a lack of leadership. For 20 years now, mischievous minds have been interpreting the document in ways that they envisage will suit their financial purposes. We need proper leadership on the issue, and the next National Government will provide it.

One principle above all others guides my thinking: The Treaty of Waitangi should not be used as the basis for giving greater civil, political or democratic rights to any particular ethnic group.

The direction in which the current Government is heading is fundamentally different and it is wrong. For the sake of our future, it must be changed.

As I've noted, there is now a wide range of legislation making reference to the "principles of the Treaty" without any definition of what that means – including the Environment Act 1986, the Conservation Act 1987, the Education Act 1989, the Resource Management Act 1991, the Crown Research Institutes Act 1992, the Arts Council of NZ Toi Aotearoa Act 1994, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

The only conclusion we can reach is that successive governments have believed that this 19th century treaty has something to say about today's SOEs and national parks, today's schools and universities, how we go about approving or declining building permits, what science we should study, what art we should look at, and even how we should regard the new frontier of genetic science!

Well, it doesn't.

Local government now also has statutory obligations with respect to the undefined principles of the Treaty. The anachronism of the Parliamentary Maori seats (created as a temporary device in 1867 when tribally-organised, rurally-based Maori still formed the bulk of the Maori population) is now being extended by Labour to include local government. Some local authorities are introducing Maori wards without regard to whether the guiding democratic principle of "one person, one vote, one value" is violated.

The Local Government Act also requires local authorities to set up special consultation with Maori, over and above the extensive consultation already required with local communities, as if somehow Maori are not part of local communities. As a result, iwi are developing a central role with respect to local government. They possess the power to veto many development projects, projects which could provide us all with jobs.

As one commentator observed recently, a number of non-Maori radicals, having climbed high into our social hierarchy, wield considerable political, economic and judicial influence, and now "constitute a powerful fifth column in the Maori cause."

It is bizarre that, in a society where the Prime Minister refuses to allow grace to be said at a state banquet, because, she says, we are an increasingly secular society, we fly Maori elders around the world to lift tapu and expel evil spirits from New Zealand embassies; we allow courts to become entangled in hearings about the risks to taniwha of a new road or building; we refuse to undertake potentially life-saving earthworks on Mount Ruapehu lest we interfere with the spirit of the mountain; and we allow our environment law to be turned into an opportunistic farce by allowing metaphysical and spiritual considerations to be taken into account in the decision process. It is a farce that could all too quickly turn to tragedy.

Spiritual beliefs are important in any society. They should be respected. They should never be mocked. But personal spiritual beliefs should not be allowed to drive our development as a modern society.

I am sure most Maori are as embarrassed by the present situation as most non-Maori are astounded. We are becoming a society that allows people to invent or rediscover beliefs for pecuniary gain. This process is becoming deeply corrupt, with some requirements for consultation resulting in substantial payments in a system that looks like nothing other than stand-over tactics.

These are crucial issues for the future of our nation. Unless they are dealt with properly, they will ultimately undermine the very essence of what it means to be a New Zealander.

Chris Trotter – who writes in the Dominion-Post in Wellington, and The Independent nationally – is not known for his sympathy for the National Party. He writes unashamedly from the political left, but what he writes is intellectually honest and always arresting. He recently asked:

"Shall New Zealand go forward into a new century as a modern, democratic and prosperous nation; or shall it become a culturally divided, economically stagnant and aristocratically misgoverned Pacific backwater, like the Kingdom of Tonga or the Republic of Fiji?"

He asked that question presumably because he thinks, as I do, that under the present Government, the answer is the latter. We're going downhill.

Now to a current problem that gets to the heart of today's mismanagement of Treaty relations. Just after the closing of Parliament last year, when MPs couldn't debate the issue, the Government released its proposals for dealing with the foreshore and seabed following a legal decision that overturned 125 years of settled law.

The simple option was to legislate to establish the Crown ownership that almost everyone believed already existed. Instead, the Government has come up with a convoluted notion called "public domain". On the face of it, it sounds good. But it leaves room for much more than just limited recognition of "customary rights", and in fact embodies vast powers, including the right to a Maori veto.

First, Government documents make it clear that the proposed "customary title" will allow the development of commercial activity arising from customary use. This "development right" will mean an expansion of traditional customary rights.

Secondly, along with commercial development, customary title also gives Maori a veto power over anyone else's development, whether commercial or recreational. As I read the papers released by the Government, anyone wanting to build a small jetty on a coastal property where customary title has been established will need iwi consent. And what we know from experience is that this is likely to require a substantial payment to smooth the path for consent.

Thirdly, Maori also gain a new role in the management of the entire coastline. Customary title will give commercial development rights, which over time will inevitably erode public access. In addition, 16 newly-created bureaucracies will give Maori a more dominant role than other New Zealanders in the use and development of the coastline, not only where customary title is granted, but elsewhere as well. All these committees will be taxpayer-funded. Maori will gain access to even more taxpayers' funds for consultants, lawyers and hui to "build capacity" to take part in this process.

It is not hard to envisage what is going to happen.

The additional costs in any development process will make a small number of people much better off, but will make all other New Zealanders, including most Maori, worse off, by slowing, and in many cases blocking entirely, the potential for development of our resources, especially aquaculture.

There are massive conflicts of interest in all of this, and they will inevitably invite corruption. Under the proposals, Maori can now be owners, managers and regulators, all at the same time, thereby ensuring their own developments can succeed. They can block others if they can show to sympathetic authorities that their customary right is adversely affected. It is astonishing that the Government could establish such a conflict-ridden model. It is an absolute recipe for disaster.

Let me turn briefly to what we mean by "Maori".

The short cut of referring to Maori as one group and Pakeha as another is enormously misleading . There is no homogenous, distinct Maori population – we have been a melting pot since the 19th century – although there is, of course, a highly distinctive Maori culture, which many people see as central to their identity.

Our definition of ethnicity is now a matter of subjective self-definition: if you are part Maori and want to identify as Maori you can do so.

The Maori ethnic group is a very loose one. There has always been considerable intermarriage between Maori and Pakeha. Anthropologists tell us that by 1900 there were no full-blooded Maori left in the South Island. By 2000, the same was true of the North Island. Today, nearly 70 per cent of 24 to 34 year old New Zealanders who identify as Maori are married to someone who does not.

And most of the rest are themselves of multi-ethnic identity, itself a consequence of two centuries of intermarriage. As a consequence, a majority of Maori children grow up today with a non-Maori parent.

Many people feel it is somehow impolite to mention these facts. But by ignoring them we create an oppositional picture of race relations in this country, and we overlook the many powerful forces that can promote social cohesion.

What we are seeing is the emergence of a population in New Zealand of multi-ethnic heritage – a distinct South Seas race of New Zealanders – where more and more of us will have a diverse ancestry. Hopefully, we will get joy and pride from all the different elements that go to make us who we are.

My own family is racially mixed. My 10-year-old gains both from his New Zealand-European and from his Singaporean-Chinese heritage.

There is plenty of evidence that most New Zealanders are happy to see New Zealand develop in this way. In spite of the heightened rhetoric from the publicists of ethnic difference, most people treat their ethnic allegiances fluidly. For many people, aspects other than their ethnicity matter much more to them – their religion, their profession, their sports club, their gender, and their political allegiance.

First, we need to look at our past honestly, not through a lens which projects current values onto 19th century New Zealand, and not by stripping away the context of the past.

The Treaty contains just three short clauses, and deals with the government of New Zealand, property rights, and citizenship. Those principles must be upheld. Where there has been a clear breach of the Treaty – where land has been stolen, for example – then it is right that attempts to make amends should be made.

But the Treaty is not some magical, mystical, document. Lurking behind its words is not a blueprint for building a modern, prosperous, New Zealand. The Treaty did not create a partnership: fundamentally, it was the launching pad for the creation of one sovereign nation.

We should not use the Treaty as a basis for creating greater civil, political or democratic rights for Maori than for any other New Zealander. In the 21st century, it is unconscionable for us to be taking that separatist path, and this Labour Government deserves to be defeated on that basis alone.

The National Party has an honourable record of resolving historical Treaty grievances. Virtually all of the major financial settlements achieved to date occurred under National in the 1990s. They included settlements for the Fisheries ($150 million), Tainui ($170 million) and Ngai Tahu ($170 million). The leadership shown by Prime Minister Jim Bolger and Treaty Negotiations Minister Sir Douglas Graham was crucial in establishing a national consensus on the need to resolve historical grievances as part of the process of reconciliation.

The settlement process has slowed considerably since Labour took office, with claims resolution bogged down due to lack of leadership and commitment.

Let me make it quite clear. National is absolutely committed to completing the settlement of historical grievances. We will ensure that the process is accelerated and brought to a conclusion. It must then be wound up. It is essential to put this behind us if all of us – and Maori in particular – are to stop looking backward and start moving forward into this new century as a modern, democratic and prosperous nation.

We intend to remove divisive race-based features from legislation. The "principles of the Treaty" – never clearly defined yet ever expanding – are the thin end of a wedge leading to a racially divided state and we want no part of that. There can be no basis for special privileges for any race, no basis for government funding based on race, no basis for introducing Maori wards in local authority elections, and no obligation for local governments to consult Maori in preference to other New Zealanders.

We will remove the anachronism of the Maori seats in Parliament.

We will deal with the foreshore issue by legislating to return to the previous status quo – the settled legal situation before the Court of Appeal decision. That is a position where for the most part the Crown owned the foreshore. In so far as there was uncertainty about the situation before, we will clarify the position. Public ownership leaves room for recognising limited customary rights, but we will not allow customary title. If this Government issues such title, we will revoke it.

Having done all that, we really will be one people – as Hobson declared us to be in 1840.

I acknowledge that there are problems of Maori socio-economic disparity in some places, mostly rural. We will focus our welfare reform efforts on those areas. We will not have entire townships, and some suburbs, on the dole.

Welfare recipients will be offered retraining, and offered some activity by which they can earn, and be seen to earn, their welfare cheque. Their children will see their parents constructively engaged in the community each day, not marginalised by it. That, more than anything, will restore their dignity.

But these are not Treaty issues: they are social welfare issues, and Maori New Zealanders who are in need are as entitled to assistance as any other New Zealanders who are in need.

Similarly, a National Government will continue to fund Te Kohanga Reo, Kaupapa Maori, Wananga and Maori primary health providers – not because we have been conned into believing that that is somehow a special right enjoyed by Maori under the Treaty, but rather because National believes that all New Zealanders have a right to choice in education and health.

Finally, we ask Maori to take some responsibility themselves for what is happening in their own communities. Citizenship brings obligations as well as rights. The Maori translation of Article 3 was very clear about that. We all have an obligation to make the effort to build a culture of aspiration – as the great Maori leaders of the past, and indeed some of the Maori leaders of the present, have advocated – not a culture of grievance. Like everybody else, Maori must build their own future with their own hands.

Most are doing that already, and it is crucially important that government policy encourages this, not discourages it.

The spirit evident in the Maori response to the new opportunities that emerged in the mid-19th century is alive and well today. It is displayed in the outstanding performance of Maori in fishing and other primary sectors, and in a range of entrepreneurial business, sporting and cultural activities.

Their efforts, their aspirations, and their focus are light-years away from the handout mentality being fostered by this Government.

A culture of dependence and grievance can only be hugely destructive of the Maori people and, if left unchecked, destructive of our ability to build a prosperous nation of one people, living under one set of laws.

In many ways, I am deeply saddened to have to make a speech about issues of race. In this country, it should not matter what colour you are, or what your ethnic origin might be. It should not matter whether you have migrated to this country and only recently become a citizen, or whether your ancestors arrived two, five, 10 or 20 generations ago.

The indigenous culture of New Zealand will always have a special place in our emerging culture, and will be cherished for that reason.

But we must build a modern, prosperous, democratic nation based on one rule for all. We cannot allow the loose threads of 19th century law and custom to unravel our attempts at nation-building in the 21st century.