Drifting into racism - by Dr John Robinson

Drifting into racism, the destruction of New Zealand social structure 



No, Monsieur le Comte, you shan’t have her! You shan’t have her. Because you are a great noble, you think you are a great genius! Nobility, a fortune, a rank, appointments to office: all this makes a man so proud! What did you do to earn all this? You took the trouble to get born - nothing more. Moreover, you’re really a pretty ordinary fellow. While as for me, lost in the crowd, I’ve had to use more knowledge, more brains, just to keep alive than your likes have to spend on governing Spain and the Empire for a century. (The barber scorns the count, in The Marriage of Figaro, Pierre Beaumarchais, 1778, which was made into an opera, The marriage of Figaro, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1786)

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. (Two dictators, the dominant pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, in Animal farm, George Orwell, 1945)

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less. (Humpty Dumpty, in Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll, 1872)




I have taken a particular interest in the history of New Zealand, and have written of the true story, as near as I can get, based on observations of the time, and refuting many current myths. At the same time I follow the swirling debate.

I am a socialist, of the old left. What is now labelled as ‘the left’ has little in common with the ideas and designs of a previous age, and the great majority of those now calling for equality are from the right (which distresses me). Some have noted the adherence of the new ‘left’ to a desire for race-based separation and have chosen to label it as ‘Marxist’.

As there is no basis for this modern racism in the works and ideas of Marx, I sent off an angry email (we do discuss these issues, warts and all, including our differences).

Quite reasonably, I was asked if I could write something about how the old left has converted itself into its mirror image. If it is not ‘Marxism’, then what has been going on? My effort to respond ballooned out to this tract. The evolution has in many ways been puzzling; it just happened as policy drifted in the absence of any firm understanding of the principles of governance and policy development. That is the New Zealand way.

Most significantly, the new racism, with calls for separate rights, has become National Party policy guiding the action of the recent government. Those ideas are now accepted across the political spectrum, by politicians, academics of all persuasions, even by churches; this is not a feature of the left, it is everywhere.

I was born in 1940 and have lived through these times. Although very much a minor, fringe player, I have lived through that drift. This book is then a mix of recollections and comments, based on my experiences and research.

New Zealand has always been the recipient and willing follower of whatever idea becomes current in the western world. The movement away from facts and truth to ‘credibility-driven’ decision-making (along with divisive ‘identity politics’) has followed those trends, mainly coming from the USA.

This is then an attempt to provide a logical description of an illogical age. All the world is mad and I sit firmly outside this world of spin. Can I then claim sanity? As the old Chinese curse has it: “May you live in interesting times”. We certainly live in probably the most “interesting” period mankind has ever known; it is fascinating to observe the breakdown of a highly developed society.

To understand the New Zealand story, as well as the evolution of Marxism and other socialist thought, we need to go back to the time of great change in thinking of a few centuries ago, around the time when Europeans came to the South Pacific.

The Eighteenth Century, known as the Age of Enlightenment and Reason, saw a great movement against inherited difference, whereby the chance of birth had determined a person’s position in society, be it noble or slave. The quoted call of the Barber, Figaro, in his competition with Count Almaviva for the hand of his love, Susanna, was one of many expressions of this widely felt desire. It soon became the base of a popular opera.

Equality and freedom became the rallying cry for the American War of Independence (1769-1781) and the French Revolution (1789-1799). The belief that one’s position is determined by some accident of birth, with some chosen group (such as the pigs in Animal farm) born to rule, was refused. The ever-present danger of a resurgence of privilege of some new group, under some new form, was recognised by George Orwell in 1945. We should remain vigilant and opposed to this divisive claim of separate privilege in the twenty-first century.

Many of those ideas of universal brotherhood and equality came from Britain. One important movement seeking to understand the world free from the shackles of imposed ideology or religion was the Lunar Men, 1730-1810. This Society was particularly interested in chemistry and its industrial application but discussions ranged widely across many aspects of the emerging manufactured products and scientific techniques arising from the Industrial Revolution.

Science was no longer dominated and controlled by an authoritarian church, with the rules defined by an ancient superstition, as had happened when Galileo appeared before the Inquisition 1633 and was forced to recant and deny his scientific understanding. The way was open for a challenge to dogma, as when Darwin and Wallace presented their joint paper on evolution to the London Linnaean Society in 1858. The Old Testament was refuted by scientific facts-based analysis. Science must never allow itself to be governed by any doctrine, yet that is the case in modern New Zealand where the New Zealand Royal Society demands submission to the vague ‘principles’ of a reinvented Treaty of Waitangi, thus nobbling the freedom basic to the scientific endeavour.

One of the issues discussed by the Lunar Men concerned the evils of slavery, which many members abhorred. They lobbied for its abolition.

Slavery is not a European phenomenon and has been practiced by many peoples across the world, including by Maori in pre-contact New Zealand. In the eighteenth century slavery, and the slave trade carried on by European nations including Britain, which had developed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was under attack and was gradually abolished. Slavery became illegal in Britain in 1772, the slave trade was abolished by Britain in 1807 and slavery was abolished throughout the Empire in 1833. These were times of great change, and the concept of universal humanity and equality had become well established when Captain James Cook reached New Zealand in 1769 and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. That concept of equality was clearly expressed in the instructions given to Cook and Captain Hobson.

That had been a time of changing ideas of the world and of peoples – a time when the mood was to question, not to conform, not to be forced to follow the demands of politically determined authoritarian texts.

Today is so different. The Treaty of Waitangi has become a covenant, for all to obey. That is written in the law of the land. And that legal Treaty is the very opposite to the original signed in 1840, with equality of British subjects changed into division of two races with distinctly different rights. Some citizens are the chosen ones who then rule in partnership with ‘the Crown’, which is all of us, including that separated group.

It is nonsense. It is damaging. It is openly racist. The situation is sad, and getting worse as a grievance industry, supported and paid for by the state, rips us apart.

The search for objective truth, the real facts, has been replaced here in New Zealand by reliance on emotions, guided by political advantage.

It is the principles of the Treaty that are to be applied, not the literal words … the differences between the texts and shades of meaning are less important than the spirit. … the essence of the Treaty transcends the sum total of its written words and puts narrow or literal interpretation out of place. … Neither the courts nor the Waitangi Tribunal have produced a definitive list of Treaty principles … they are ongoing and will evolve from generation to generation.1

The Treaty of Waitangi now officially means whatever the Waitangi Tribunal or the Courts may decide suits any particular case (Appendix 1). This is truly the approach to the meaning of words so simply expressed by Humpty Dumpty, to mean “just what I want it to mean”. Having declared the Treaty to be a covenant, the powers that be have taken to themselves to constantly change its meaning; whoever controls the language determines the debate and yesterday’s meaning is set to one side.

While this movement to separate identity has widespread political support in the corridors of power, being part of today’s ‘conventional wisdom’, the general public is unconvinced. Every poll for separate Maori representation in local bodies has been defeated by large majorities.

Why is this divide? Here are some thoughts.


One key element of identity politics here in New Zealand is the demand for separation of races, taking attention away from issues of class and control by the super-wealthy. While this runs counter to any socialist, or Marxist, thought, some are claiming that the new racism is driven by Marxists. I have met with many such claims, of our long infiltrated and now Marxist-dominated universities, even rants such as the left marxist communist leaning hua’s won’t give a couple of plain speaking Canadians a platform to speak their minds.

A more thoughtful comment has been provided by a friend, Andy Oakley.

I don’t think anyone openly identifies themselves as a Marxist as it comes with negative connotations. But examples of people who are ‘cultural Marxists’ would be when anyone who uses the term “my people”. We see it a lot when people believe they are representing a group, however, usually these people are not voted into any representative position, they are often just passionate and radical people.

Given those claims, it is important to consider just what Marx did say, and how a true follower of his ideas would act.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) lived at a time of great advancement of knowledge of human capabilities. He was a founder of sociology, and was strongly influenced by the work of a German socialist, Friedrich Engels whose extensive study, The condition of the working class in England in 1844, described the extent of the inequality and widespread misery.

Like many others, including many Christian thinkers, he lamented the sad misuse of technical advancement. Concentration of economic power had resulted in considerable inequality, wealth for some and poverty for others, during the industrial revolution.

As Marx wrote:
In our days everything seems pregnant with its contrary; machinery gifted with the wonderful power of shortening and fructifying human labour, we behold starving and overworking it. The new-Tangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want.

Marx was a follower of the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who believed that society developed through a series of stages, and Engels convinced Marx that the working class would be the agent and instrument of the final revolution in history (in the words of Francis Fukuyama (1992) ‘the end of history’, but a very different ‘end’).

Marx directed his thought to finding how to overturn the power structure that had resulted in such a waste of human capabilities.

He pointed out one of the basic contradictions of growth capitalism, where growth can result to satisfaction of demands (as allowed by the economic system), to be followed by overproduction, overshoot and collapse (as was to happen in the Great Depression of 1929-1939). Those ideas proved fertile grounds for further analysis, and in 1925 Russian economist Nikolai Dmitriyevich Kondratiev had recognised that such a collapse could be followed by a recovery of capitalism (in a series of ‘Kondratiev cycles’) rather than the inevitable triumph of communism (as Marx had expected, with his Hegelian convictions). That understanding influenced my study of global macroeconomics (Excess capital, 1989).

The key to Marx’s political thought, and his contribution to sociology, is an understanding of social groups and, most importantly, class. Like other socialists of the time, he believed that once the mass of workers became aware of their common situation and their common humanity, they would set aside differences of ethnicity and nationality, and work together to take power.

The slogan Workers of the world, unite!, one of the most famous rallying cries from The Communist Manifesto (1848) by Marx and Engels, encapsulates the core of Marx’s political thinking. The current move in New Zealand towards division of workers (employed and now the ‘underclass’) in any stretch of the imagination be called ‘Marxist’.

Elizabeth Rata, who was, to her surprise, appointed a professor of Critical Studies in Education at the University of Auckland, has written of global capitalism and the revival of ethnic traditionalism in New Zealand. I made reference to her important work in When two cultures meet, the New Zealand experience.

This ‘neotribal capitalism’ asks struggling Maori to protest and to fight for Treaty settlements to a select few rather than the unified action that will improve the conditions of all.

“In the absence of a recognised antagonism between the worker’s interests and the interests of capital accumulation, and its replacement by a false identification of common interests based upon ethnicity, the worker is trapped in a position of powerlessness. … Class consciousness and the resultant class identification are replaced by an ethnic identification with the very group that controls the worker’s conditions of existence.” 2

Maori are required to set aside class differences and support their tribal chiefs, returning to the cultural pattern that was overthrown when the Treaty of Waitangi brought equality. They are separated from their fellow workers.3

Her consideration of class – surely a ‘Marxist’ approach – has been strongly criticised, as for example the all-too-familiar labelling as racism: The recent attack by Elizabeth Rata on Kaupapa Maori developments highlights a disturbing trend of racism being disguised as public debate.

The mid nineteenth century saw the failure of a number of attempted socialist revolutions in Europe (such as the 1871 Paris Commune). Socialists such as Marx recognised the need for better organisation and developed their ideas of communism.

They developed the concept of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ as a state of affairs (replacing dictatorship of the bourgeoisie) in which the proletariat, or the working class, has control of political power. According to this theory, this is an intermediate system between capitalism and communism, when the government is in the process of changing the ownership of the means of production from private to collective ownership. Communists recognised the reality of class struggle, of a power struggle against a powerful, entrenched opponent.

Much has changed since then. I grew up with a belief that modern democracy within a mixed economy, such as existed in New Zealand in the mid twentieth century, could provide conditions for a balanced settlement of inevitable class differences. But now identity politics (with race divisions) provides a smokescreen for the domination of the super-rich.

What masquerades as the ‘left’ now has little in common with the traditional left, and shows no understanding of political thought such as that of Marx. Both National (once the ‘right’) and Labour espouse the new racism, and the Greens are passionate about bringing racial division.

How on earth has this come about? I find that a scan of my life and experiences helps to identify the way in which ignorance and naivety have led well-meaning people to drift into a belief that the history of our country is one of wrongs done by one race against another – that these wrongs continue today and that the solution is in racial separation and special rights to Maori.


I have been active, always as a minor figure, in a number of political actions. I have observed the lack of awareness of political thought in New Zealand, and the way in which ‘Maori’ issues have been ignored by non-Maori, left to the Maori spokesman to define policy that was to be accepted by the party at large. That experience, summarised here, shows how such policy has developed, largely by ‘mucking through’ and reacting to particular current political moves. Evidence of any awareness of political theories, or of basic principles for a modern society, is significantly absent.

When I studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1964-1966, both the universities and the surrounding society were strongly opposed to the racism of the south USA states. One good friend was a South African studying at Harvard, who knew that he could not return and work in that apartheid regime. While we were focussed on our studies, there was great respect for those students who risked (and sometimes lost) their lives by going south to join the struggle for equality. I shared the general hatred of the evils of racism.

In 1967 I was in London and, as I had a car, I drove a group of far-left folk to a meeting in Brussels. There I found that other Europeans were well educated and deeply concerned with a considerable background of political thinking, but not the English. It would seem that general ignorance of so much alternative thinking is a feature of our English world.

Back in New Zealand in 1972 I had joined the Labour Party, in the active Farm Road Branch. We discussed many issues but Maori were active in their own branch, and we never met. I was concerned with that separation as inequality was a concern of us all; as would be the Treaty of Waitangi if it ever came up. I attended the Party Conference that year and spoke briefly in support of homosexual law reform; the remit was passed unanimously. But nothing happened; there were too many Catholics in positions of power. I saw that the opinions of Party members were of no import, and I left a few years later. The party was based only on worthy do-good aims, without a clearly defined political stance. The middle class was starting to take over this previously workers’ party, bringing bourgeois thinking.

This was the government that set up the Waitangi Tribunal, which is reported as founded by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Mat Rata, in 1975. Mat Rata was however dissatisfied with the party’s policy. He resigned in 1979 to form a new party, Mana Motuhake. The name refers to Maori self-rule and self-determination, with the extent of separation by race never clear.

Racism then meant the apartheid of South Africa (where my Harvard colleague could never return) as well as the violence of the southern USA. At the time of the 1981 Springbok tour my personal life was in disarray and I only watched with admiration as many New Zealanders, including some friends, demonstrated against the apparent New Zealand support for that evil regime. There was widespread understanding of the terrible harm done by racism, and opposition to the division of people by race. I hold to those sentiments, those principles, today.

Around 1972 I moved from applied mathematics to futures research, to consider the coming troubling years, out to 2030, 2040 and beyond. The limits to growth were coming, and one key factor was the population explosion; everywhere there were too many people. There was work to be done. By 1983 the United Nations Environment Programme project, the Blue Plan on the Future of the Mediterranean, with office in southern France, had noted the differences, between wealth and poverty, across the Mediterranean. The subsequent flow of refugees into Europe has shown the value of that foresight. But it was ignored. For too long the causes have been ignored while well-meaning, but ignorant people, have called for no limits to immigration. Sadly a major counterargument against control has been the claim of racism. And sadly that argument has been too readily accepted by the ‘left’, with only the far right in Europe proposing action.

I had found some colleagues were frightened with the magnitude of the problems, the challenging global ‘problematique’ where a number of serious problems were all coming at once. They were happy to turn back to their more comfortable familiar disciplines. But it was too important to ignore, and certainly a fascinating, meaningful challenge.

The requirement to keep quiet about overpopulation became evident again in 1985 when I visited a number of Pacific countries as part of a research project for the UNESCO International Fund for the Promotion of Culture. So many researchers and observers, even those with religious affiliations, had seen the pattern whereby small Pacific islands had become overcrowded, with the excess moving away to other nations. The USA was popular, which is why so many Samoans moved to American Samoa and joined the Mormon Church. Many of these islands were dependent on aid and on funds remitted from overseas. They were otherwise simply not viable; but people kept breeding. But this issue was carefully ignored by politicians and forbidden in official discourse. I later found the same situation in New Zealand. Islanders were not to be considered as responsible in any way for their situation. To talk of overpopulation was labelled racist, ‘blaming the victim’.

When futures research collapsed I found work gathering and analysing Maori social data for New Zealand, looking at long term trends, considering the past and what can be expected. I was working, for the most part, with and for Maori. My own ethnicity had no importance, we were concerned for people and gathering knowledge to guide improved policies. For many years, the Treaty of Waitangi never entered into that work. I came to recognise through these studies that the differences were the consequence of class and not of racial policies. From the first I kept an eye out for any evidence of institutional racism; I never found any, but rather noted the many programmes giving special help to Maori. On the other hand, I observed that a number of evident solutions had been thought of, applied, and succeeded, but were all too dependent on the enthusiasm of one person and eventually died away.

One feature of official and published research stood out, in both futures research and in the analysis of facts here in New Zealand. Each report followed some ‘conventional wisdom’ (a ‘world view’ in scenario analysis), and each reported conclusions that were pleasing to the employer. One ridiculous example was the report on family group conferences, where a family group was gathered to help a young offender. The initiative was failing – the rates of repeat offending were considerable (70-80%). But this was a pet idea and the conclusion was reached that the effort should continue. One reason for that support is that such conferences fitted within a ‘whanau’ view of preferred organisation.

The seizure of the Labour Party by imported right-wing ideology (driven by Mount Pelerin think tanks) by Roger Douglas and his supporters (with David Lange and Geoffrey Palmer concurring) when they won the 1984 election has always puzzled me. Most the party folded; the party lacked a solid core of wise kaumatua, lacked a respect for (or any knowledge of) their own traditions and the value of what had been achieved, which was so readily thrown away.

Again and again the key to New Zealand life has been a horror of confrontation, which leaves the way clear for bullies to push in and take over. As with Rogernomics, so too with the Treaty industry. The majority follow the leader, as sheep.

This was a time when the class war was won by the wealthy. It was the time of Thatcher and Regan, and, here, Douglas. Societies turned away from collective concerns to a focus on selfish individual demands, from concern with a human predicament that was too challenging and demanded action, from nationalism and internationalism to individualism and tribalism. That was a counterrevolution against global awareness, a revolution of politics, economics and philosophy.

Thus futures research, the consideration of global and long-term trends, was too great a challenge to the status quo, and particularly the new blind idea of the atomised individual, and fell out of favour. My work disappeared.

Some think that Treaty involving tribal groups is collective and thus akin to socialism and Marxism, somehow left-wing. But that could not be further from the truth. The gathering of power and moneys by a tribal elite (calling for rangatiratanga) is rather an expression of right-wing selfish philosophy. A true left wing would take care of the suffering, whereas the opposite has happened, with a focus on goods to tribal elites and not on the well-being of the new underclass.

I was active for some years in the Greens, a movement focus on global ecology and social equality. A number of us in the Wairarapa met and discussed alternative, sustainable economic organisation. Those ideas met with the disfavour of Jeanette Fitzsimmons who steadily gained control. A proposal for an improved policy structure was passed at a conference but never acted upon. This was a power struggle, with no interest or discussions of political thought, and soon became a platform for personal advancement and ambition (as is common in such movements). Those of us with a main interest in policy recognised that we were wasting our time and quit. The movement became a political party in 1990 and moved into the crowded center, to fight elections, to gain seats rather than to concern with a serious global challenge.

The revolution of the far right continued through the late 1980s and into the 1990s, with a seamless change of Government, handed over from Mount Perlerin member (Roger Douglas) to Mount Perlerin member (Ruth Richardson), with the support of powerful Business Roundtable members of Mount Pelerin (Ron Trotter, Roger Kerr).

I was active in a group of progressive left-wingers in the Wairarapa, kept very busy fighting immediate challenges, such the closing local hospitals, contracting out (privatising) Council services, amalgamating Councils (and taking away the provision for a ratepayers’ poll) and charging a toll on the only road across the Rimutakas to Wellington. There was no time for attention to the Waitangi Tribunal and no contact with any Maori group that might be evolving other ideas.

It seemed that the NewLabour Party, formed in 1989 by Jim Anderton, would provide a place for left thought and policy, in opposition to the shift to the right. But it became evident on the very first day of the founding conference that there would be firm central control of policy. An economics paper that had been presented as an aid to debate met with considerable critical comment, and I was considerably cheered up by the breadth of thinking amongst those coming to join this new party. That displeased Anderton and his cronies and after I raised my concerns the meeting went into closed session during the evening. I lost and that paper was voted as the first of party policy. Critical thinking was out.

At the end of 1991 another ‘left-wing’ political party, the Alliance, was formed by the linking of four smaller parties – NewLabour, Democratic Party (formerly Social Credit), Mana Motuhake and the Greens. While the radical ideas of Mana Motuhake were not discussed, they were very much in charge of coalition Maori policy.

I (some fools never learn) rejoined the Green Party so that the Wairarapa group could have members in all the parties (although I do not recall anyone from Mana Motuhake, we were not discussing Treaty issues and our attention was fully taken up elsewhere). I was for a short while the Green representative on an economics group, which, as I experienced, did nothing. Democracy was signally absent as policy was determined by central intrigue. Many Greens were shocked by the psychological tricks, and naïve Green Party representatives were readily manipulated by Anderton and Matt McCarten.

In 2002 Anderton announced that he was stepping down as Alliance leader and anointed Laila Hare as his successor, bypassing the deputy leader, Green Jeanette Fitzsimmons. The Green party rolled over and the ‘election’ of Hare was a sham. I have been out of politics since.

In the 1990s my young son, who had been adopted from Thailand, suffered cruel bullying, mostly from openly racist Maori boys (as well a few red-neck farmer’s sons). Racism was endemic in Martinborough and the school took no action. So in 1997 we shifted to Island Bay, where he no longer stood out and was free from that racism.

My work on social statistics for a number of Maori organisations continued. My attitude and that of those I worked with reflected a genuine concern for those needing help, and a desire to reduce inequality. This was no racially divided effort, and the Treaty of Waitangi played no part. I supported fair settlements and in 1994 I wrote in one report: There is no need to call upon the Treaty of Waitangi for justification of any such action, it is that due to any citizen.

In 2000, I ran into trouble with the Crown Forest Rental Trust over a demographic study of northern South Island Maori for the Victoria University Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit. By the end of the 19th century much of their land had been sold, and at the same time their population had recovered from the disastrous collapse following the inter-tribal wars of 1800-1840. This was the wrong message for them, suggesting that colonisation had done much good, rather than pointing to some harm linked to sale of land. They insisted that I doctor the report to suggest a disastrous impact of colonisation (whereas the data showed the very opposite), and Richard Hill at the Research Unit made it clear that he would give me no support, as his aim was to suck up to the source of funds – he has since become a professor and member of the Waitangi Tribunal.

There was a considerable change about then. The call of ‘by Maori for Maori’ became widespread. I needed work and got a few more jobs but it was drying up. When my name was put forward for another task requiring basic mathematics, it was given to a Maori who had no clue how to carry out a simple analysis. I was not a Maori; nor was I one of the growing breed of supporters for racial separation, coupled with growing evangelical calls for a re-interpreted Treaty of Waitangi.

I experienced racism in my efforts to find work, as Maori decision-makers operated under their own tikanga, with loyalty towards the whanau – the extended family and other Maori. I taught sociology for one year at the Wairarapa Community Polytechnic, under the supervision of Massy University. But that was not renewed; it was given to a Maori friend of the employment group. Massey took a look at their choice and turned it down – the choice had not been made on qualifications. Then a clearly superior candidate applied and got the job.

Then I worked with a Maori woman to apply for funding for a project on inner city Wellington needs. When we were successful she broke our understanding and gave the work to one of her whanau (she was clear on her guiding principles). I took the issue to the Small Claims Tribunal and won. She did not attend the hearing and the adjudicator warned me to not be too hopeful, as decision against Maori are almost always overturned. She hid and did not pay, then put in an appeal, where the initial decision was overturned. It was all too much hassle, with a foregone conclusion and I did not fight with any conviction; I preferred to walk away.

I had already become familiar with the dishonesty in the Public Service. Double-dipping was common and ignored. Some prominent Maori are corrupt simply because those whose job it is to oversee spending turn a blind eye.

There was increasing talk of the Treaty of Waitangi, which had never been of importance to my own work. One seminar at Victoria University led by a travelling roadshow was akin to a revivalist meeting; we were all called to honour this document.

It was only then that I read the Treaty carefully, and noticed immediately that the ‘English Treaty’ (mentioned below) was inconsistent. Eventually I came to understand how this had come about, and I realised that I had been caught up in a change from honest research to a biased search for grievance based on assumed terrible wrongs of colonisation and our common British past.

For a time the Helen Clark Labour Government (2002-2008), supported by the Alliance and New Zealand First, set up programmes to reduce inequality with the poorly-thought-through Gaps Programme. The Waitangi Tribunal and the Treaty industry continued to flourish.

Those actions did not satisfy the demands of the increasingly radical Maori, who claimed that Maori have a claim to ownership of part or all of New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed. In 2004 Tariana Turia, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, resigned and founded the Maori Party.

Maori seats had usually been held by Labour. All were captured by New Zealand First in 1996, and all returned to Labour in 1999. The Maori Party won four of the seven in 2005 and five in 2008. This gave them an important place in New Zealand politics.

(Labour recaptured six of the Maori seats in 2014, and all seven in 2017.)

Labour resolved the legal dispute by vesting foreshore and seabed title in the Crown. Maori could, however, apply for “guardianship” of certain areas. While this was an honest attempt to find a middle way through the controversy, it left both sides of the debate unsatisfied, with the practical meaning of this “guardianship” unclear, possibly allowing the handover of rights to tribal authorities.

This displeased some Maori who formed the Maori Party. It also displeased many in the National Party who disagreed with any special rights or race-based separation in law. This was made clear in leader Don Brash’s 2004 Orewa speech, which was a statement of National Party policy. That speech was criticised in the media but popular with voters. Polls showed that the National Party, which had been languishing from an overwhelming defeat at the 2002 election, jumping from 28% in the polls a month before the speech, to 45% two weeks after it: ten points ahead of Labour.

Events have shown that New Zealand political parties are driven by expediency and a desire to rule. The National Party showed this clearly when it formed a minority government in 2008 with the support of the Maori Party. National dumped the policy that helped its recovery; its position of the foreshore and seabed became the exact opposite of that a few years before.

The difference between Brash and many in his party, which made Brash a failed politician in the New Zealand scene, is that he believed in his policy. Others who follow the pragmatic rule that policy should be chosen for short-term political advantage better represent the vacuum at the core of New Zealand, which had previously been seen when MPs remained loyal when Douglas took Labour away from its roots to the far right. Ignorance and personal gain define the nation, and certainly have dominated in both major political parties. My negative observations on left parties apply just the same to the right. In practice, all lack any clear core of philosophy and ideology.

In this case the political advantage was short lived (although six years is a nice time to be in government). In 2017 all Maori seats went to Labour, while the Maori Party disappeared from Parliament. The racially divisive approach provided no long-term political gain to either National or the Maori Party.

Christopher Finlayson, a lawyer who had acted for Maori in Treaty negotiations, and was committed to the cause, became Minister for Treaty Settlements in 2008. One such, with Ngati Toa, involved much of Wellington, including Island Bay where I lived. After I had been warned of features of the proposed settlement by Hugh Barr, I became involved (always on the side-lines and ignored, we non-Maori are of no interest to the decision-makers).

I did try. An article of mine, Chance to create and island of peace, was published in the Dominion Post (November 11, 2009). I have described how Ngati Toa established a presence at Taputeranga and the Wellington south coast in a further article (Dominion Post December 17, 2010), Spoils of war behind Ngati Toa settlement for Wellington coast.

Correspondence with Finlayson was fruitless. My focus was on the facts, but, amazingly, a historical account (on which the claim was supposedly based) did not exist. In 2009 Finlayson replied to my query that it was still to be agreed between the Crown and Ngati Toa as part of their Treaty settlement negotiations.

That one man, Finlayson, was ‘the Crown’, and negotiations continued behind closed doors. I could speak in the formal process only in July 2013, with a Submission on the Te Tau Ihu Claims Settlement Bill. I put a lot of work into that. The only question I was asked was Is your name really Robinson? Its bizarre, but true. Treaty settlements are, by the current tradition, never investigated or questioned, just rubber-stamped by a subservient Parliament. Here again is that failure basic to New Zealand democracy, the lack of backbone. No-one has any balls.

It shocks me to say this. I am not a strong person, I know my failings well. Yet time and again I find I am the only one to question and speak out. Those who decide the direction of the country are the wishy-washy majority who focus on their own concerns and leave the country to others, so the bully-boys (of course, many girls) have a field day.

As I wrote of my concerns and explored historical accounts, I became a part of an informal group who wanted to get to the facts and tell the story. That has been fascinating; the truth is more complex than the modern spin, the old Maori were real people with many various characters that have been blurred by racial stereotyping. The result was a series of books, published by John McLean at Tross Publishing: The corruption of New Zealand democracy, a Treaty industry overview (2011), When two cultures meet, the New Zealand experience (2012), Twisting the Treaty, a racial grab for wealth and power (2013, co-author), One Treaty, One Nation (2015, co-author), Two great New Zealanders, Tamati Waka Nene and Apirana Ngata (2015), The kingite rebellion (2016), Gate pa and Te Ranga (2018, with John McLean), One law or two monarchs (2018, with Roger Childs).

By 2013 Geoffrey Palmer (Labour Deputy Leader and the Leader under the Roger Douglas regime) was campaigning for a separatist constitution. That campaign received institutional support, including a series of talks at Te Papa, broadcast on Radio NZ. At one I said, from the floor, that any constitution must surely be based on the universally acknowledged principle of equality – and Palmer bluntly disagreed. I joined others in arguing for balance in the debate, which featured radical Maori ideas. After a couple of meetings with Claudia Orange, a further meeting was scheduled where I could speak. It was still an unbalanced presentation, and I was the lone voice for equality – and, as it turned out, the only one who had some knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi. Young people were primed in the rewritten story of our country and trotted out as experts. This debate is Constitutional review in focus 25 August 2013, available on line at https://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=2566320.

That was a lone success; the media are controlled and subservient, will not consider any challenge to a dominate narrative.

Demands for conformity were increasingly widespread. In science the Royal Society of New Zealand (RSNZ) developed a Code of Ethics (2014) requiring that caution be taken to stay within disciplinary boundaries (thus outlawing my interdisciplinary futures research), and that the application of knowledge conforms to standards acceptable to the wider community. This has developed further (2016) so that two Wellington discussions on the Conservation and Environment Science Roadmap were separated by race, with a Hui for Iwi representatives and Maori stakeholders, and a Meeting for general stakeholders. In 2018 scientists were asked to act in accordance with the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi and endeavour to ensure that all research is conducted in accordance with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. Tikanga was moving into ‘science’. Many scientists have complained as science has been broken apart and turned into a commercial enterprise. Again and again the decision-makers have obeyed instructions until they too are believers in the separatist ideology.

A new theme has been that social differences are the consequence of colonialism and that racism is rife today. Much ‘research’ focussed on finding evidence of racism is all too readily accepted. In 2014 I attended a presentation at the Wellington campus of the University of Otago making the claim of racism among health professionals, with serious consequences: that the way people’s ethnicities are viewed by others appears to have tangible health risk or advantage. The audience was mostly supportive Maori and I felt hostility when I asked a question.

Ethnicity is here self-identified and the various measures report the different perceptions of those who most strongly state a Maori identity. There was no consideration that such perceptions may be socially engendered. Since Maori were being encouraged to feel that they were the victims of racism, it is no surprise that there were more Maori ticking the box. Even so only a small minority reported perceptions of racism. The researchers then misapplied a complex mathematical process (as is common in the social sciences), which meant that the analysis had little credibility. I tried to open up a debate with them, and met with the Vice-Chancellor, but got nowhere. I finally published my comments as, which is available on line, Claimed racial discrimination in the New Zealand health system; a rebuttal, at https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-844/comments.

Certainly such research is nonsense, but it has an effect and contributes to a considerable belief in unequal treatment (while the facts point to the very opposite, with a number of special efforts aimed at Maori), and contributes to unfounded attacks on the medical profession.

As an example, at the Waitangi Tribunal Wai 2687 inquiry (Turangawaewae Marae, October 2018), John Tamihere has been reported as saying that says Maori are being discriminated against by Primary healthcare professionals and not being cared for as they should. There’s a nice term that the Women’s Movement uses it’s called unconscious bias. It’s just a nice way of saying they’re racist mongrels. On the basis of my research I can say that Tamihere is a liar and a racist.

And he is not alone in making this case to the Waitangi Tribunal.

The perilous state of Maori health has been described as a humanitarian crisis. It's now under investigation by the Waitangi Tribunal, with more than 200 claimants accusing the Crown of operating a sick, racist system that fails Maori.4

This may be extravagant and absurd, but forms part of the world view that has become current among Maori.



Since I have a background in interdisciplinary work together with a scientist’s desire to seek the truth – which is backed by experience – and since I have worked on both social measures and historical accounts, I find myself reasonably placed to scan the developments that have resulted in today’s calls for separation by race.


I was one of the pioneers of futures research in New Zealand, and have worked for the DSIR, the Commission for the Future, and a number of United Nations organisations over a couple of decades.

Here was the need to master the fundamentals of many disciplines, and often to question the recognised ‘experts’ within conventional wisdom. At times, and particularly in global, long-term economics, guidance was simply wrong and I carried out research projects to gain an understanding of the reality.

I understood that capitalism is inherently unstable and periodically liable to collapse, with some depressions more serious than others (such as those of 1987 and 2004 that followed my appreciation of this behaviour).

I was thoroughly aware that long-term developments determined social conditions and actions. I understood the global and national trends that have impacted on Maori.


Understanding does not come from a snapshot view of differences at one time, but requires an understanding of the overall trend. For example, is some negative social statistic the consequence of recent action, or has it existed for a long time? Is the trend positive, indicating concern and existing action, or is it getting worse – and why? Statistics, the measures of the reality, give much of the answer, when considered thoroughly.

I had been gathering, and reporting on, Maori social statistics for fifteen years when I provided the following Executive Summary in a 1999 report to the CEO of Te Puni Kokiri, Ngatata Love.

What is the present position of the Maori people, what are the expectations for the future, and what are the particular needs of Maori?

A look at the past will help us to answer these and similar questions. A review across many sectors displays the extent ethnic differences, and points to the magnitude of action required to reduce inequality.

This document reviews some social indicators and suggests probable forecasts of the Maori future. The message is disturbing.

The move to cities of 1930 to 1975 brought mixed results. While there were improvements in health and education, Maori left their own homes for rented housing. The considerable social disruption was reflected in the increasing numbers of Maori in the courts and prisons.

During the 1980s, many commentators noticed the existence of a “rule of three” in many social statistics, Maori were disadvantaged around three times as frequently as non-Maori. Considerable ethnic inequalities were evident.

There has been little change since. Maori unemployment remained at around three times that of non-Maori, reaching 28% in 1992. “It is disturbing to find that despite improvements in some areas, gaps have either remained the same or widened.” (Love in Ministry for Maori Development 1998)

Figures here show continuing high birth rates among young Maori women, increasing numbers of sole parents, continuing high unemployment, considerable income differences, widening gaps in death rates and life expectancy, continuing high morbidity, low home ownership, ongoing poor school performances, increasing numbers of school suspensions, and continuing high levels of convictions and imprisonment.

Many detailed studies have shown correlations among these measures. Each negative experience has an impact on other social actions. There is here a pattern of repeating Maori inequality.

The overall picture is one of stagnation. The more conservative previous forecasts have proven the most robust, and this guides the future expectations presented here.

The differences are sizeable and they persist. This ongoing inheritance from the past to the future will take a huge and determined effort to break. If there is to be an end to historic Maori inequality within the next several decades, a substantial, consistent and determined effort is required. Otherwise these forecasts will prove all too accurate.

I was employed for the most part by Maori, people who identified as Maori with strong tribal links. Their concern was for all people, and principally for the struggling Maori who dominated too many negative social statistics. There was no consideration of the Treaty of Waitangi, no claims of wrongs, no claims for recompense to individual tribes (iwi). The aim was to identify the magnitude of a problem (the ‘Gaps’) and to push for positive action.

This part of my own experience then has shown that Maori have not been a unified group, but – as with every other group of people – were, and are, of various opinions (people cannot be simplistically classified by ‘race’). These were not a tribal elite demanding more funds for their own group, but concerned people whose desire was to bring a better world for all. Like Marx, they based that concern on knowledge of the social reality – and my task was to gather facts to describe that situation, as accurately as possible.

Graphs of a number of social measures show both successes and a number of reasons for continuing concern. They also point to why some improvements have ceased, why some measures have worsened.

While in many places, Maori soon mixed with other New Zealanders, in some areas they held aloof or continued living within old tribal boundaries. This changed after the Second World War when industrialization (under the protection of trade barriers) brought economic expansion and jobs. Maori were assisted to move into the cities, where they became a part of the working class.

One consequence was to move from houses that they owned to rental properties.

Figure 1. Proportion of Maori and Non-Maori populations living in urban areas

Source - New Zealand Census

There had been a considerable improvement in Maori life expectancy throughout the nineteenth century, during the period of colonization, when a rapidly decreasing population had stabilized and began its increase. Life expectancy had increased from around 25 years in 1840 to 45 years 1926, still much below the non-Maori 60 years. The move to the cities after the Second World War brought increasing integration, and the gap steadily reduced, as shown in figure 2.

Figure 2. Life expectancy at birth, Maori and non-Maori

Deaths among children show graphically the positive results from the considerable efforts of the medical profession, and show clearly that the claims of racial discrimination in the New Zealand health system (noted above) are nonsense.

Mortality rates for children were almost identical for Maori and non-Maori in 2006, but in the late 19th century they were starkly different. In 1886, while 14% of non-Maori children died before their 15th birthday, 51% of Maori children were likely to die between birth and 15 years.

While the mortality rate dropped for both Maori and non-Maori children as a result of immunisation against infectious diseases, and improvements in sanitation, housing, diet and general health care, the rate for Maori was over 30% until the 1930s. Maori children's mortality fell significantly after improved access to the family benefit, increasing urbanisation and greater involvement by Maori adults in paid work after the Second World War.

Figure 3. Percentage of deaths for children 0-14 years, Maori and non-Maori

The population recovery became a population explosion. It takes around 2.1 births per woman to replace a modern population, given the high level of medical care and sanitation. The Maori rate went to six births per woman before declining. That decline was rapid through the 1970s, to near replacement, where it is today.

Figure 4. Total fertility rates (births per woman), Maori and non-Maori

That baby boom led inevitably to a bulge in the teenage and then early working age population, just in the years of booming unemployment brought by the restructuring, privatisation and reductions in trade barriers by the 1984 and following governments. As is so normal here in New Zealand, policy was ignorant of social trends, timed carelessly to bring the most damage. The high unemployment of the late 1980s and the 1990s impacted most heavily on Maori – and youth unemployment rates were much higher than the average, reaching 50% for young Maori men.

Figure 5. Unemployment Rates by ethnicity, 1986-1996
Source - Household Labour Force Survey

For a long time, Maori education was focussed on providing for immediate needs, on the farm and in the house. That policy was largely driven by Maori leaders, as was the refusal to allow Maori speech in schools until the 1930s. The considerable achievement of Te Aute in producing prominent Maori scholars around 1900 had been turned back and Te Aute became an agricultural college.

There was some improvement from 1978 to 1984, when changes to the education system by Minister of Education, Russell Marshall, provided the encouragement of improved achievement. Change was slow but steady – perhaps the ethnic gap might close by around 2030. Then came Tomorrow’s Schools, the brainchild of Prime Minister David Lange. The graph here shows how the improvement stopped, levelled off and began a decline. Yet that policy was popular, sacrosanct, even though research showed the suffering of teachers and principals who were loaded with considerably increased responsibilities. It was clear to me that the collection of real-life data and the understanding of scholarly analysis was, as always, a far second to political expediency. To raise a critical voice is to risk the end of a career.

Figure 6. Academic Achievers: proportion of school leavers with Higher School Certificate or better, 1978-1995

There were many social stresses among Maori in the early, nineteenth century, cultural revolution, and again in the move from their familiar localities to cities – another lifestyle change. Many social interactions became individual rather than group, to the nuclear family rather than community child care.

Then came the loss of jobs in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Too many Maori men, so often having minimal education (see above), were no longer useful partners, unable to provide for their families. The Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB), that had been introduced in 1975, gave an alternative to young mothers, who could get by without a (often struggling) partner. I heard of this directly when I was teaching a sociology course at the Wairarapa Community Polytechnic in 1995. The DPB gave greater support than the unemployment benefit and further education was subsidised. As a result, that course was attended by young women on the DPB. When chatting over coffee they made it clear that menfolk were not viewed as life partners or husbands. They were better off raising their kids by themselves, with just the occasional liaison. That was a socially constructed behaviour.

As unemployment soared, the proportion of Maori children living in a sole parent family increased considerably from 18% in 1981 to 42% in 1991 – a very high proportion. The change to 1996 was slight, with 42% of dependent Maori children still living in a sole parent family.

Figure 7. Proportion of infants in sole parent families

This unintended consequence of aid to sole parents had become a serious social problem. But it was denied, anyone (myself for example) who raised the question was labelled sexist, and racist. Indeed, several social scientists did recognise the issue but told me that their careers would be at an end if they took a close look at what was happening. The politically correct move was to look the other way.

Young people have been growing up in a damaged society, all too often struggling at school and facing an uncertain future. Many behaved badly and came into contact with the law. Maori boys were about 20% that age group but made up 40-45% of those apprehended by the police (figure 8 shows numbers, not proportions).

Figure 8. Number of boys aged 14-16 apprehended by police

The ethnic difference continues across all measures of police actions and court appearances and imprisonment (young Maori adults are about one-fifth of the population, but receive half of custodial sentences).

Figure 9. Cases receiving custodial sentences, proportions by ethnicity and gender, 1994
Source - Ministry of Justice

All that has had an effect on mental health. Suicide rates for Maori males were previously around half those for non-Maori males, but increased steadily so that by 1991 the Maori male age-standardised suicide rate for men was very close to the non-Maori rate.

Since then there has been growing concern with suicides among young Maori. It must be emphasised here that this is a recent development. Yet the finger is pointed at the wrongs of colonisation – which is more than a century in the past. Such nonsense prevents a clearheaded recognition of what is happening, why, and how best to take remedial action.

The focus has been on separate rights, divided by race. Meanwhile what of the youth growing up in this divided society? The grievance industry and racial divide does nothing for Maori youth, as attention is on division and not on united action to overcome the social gaps.

One basic human need is to belong, to be recognised as having value, and a place in society. Otherwise there is anomie, a feeling of loss and isolation – all too often resulting in suicide.

Today many Maori are refusing our common humanity, setting themselves apart to treat non-Maori as ‘the other’.

I have experienced this; when I become involved, I am treated and made to feel like an outsider, as if this is not my place. I have felt that deeply: at the Waitangi Tribunal, at the Race Relations Office, at a talk by Otago University researchers, most recently when I appeared in the public participation of a Kapiti Iwi group meeting.

My work for Massey University and Te Puni Kokiri had previously been unfettered; I was required to gather facts and not to preach dogma. This changed when I did some work in 2000 for the Crown Forestry Rental Trust (noted previously), a demographic study of northern South Island Maori. The facts were that by the end of the 19 century much of their land had been sold, while at the same time their population had recovered from the disastrous collapse following the inter-tribal wars of 1800-1840. But before being paid I was directed to alter the report to imply a disastrous impact of colonisation.

The mantra of by Maori for Maori was gaining steam and I was soon out of work – and free. I continued the demographic study but was unable to publish. The New Zealand Population Review turned down my paper because, they said, it was essentially promoting a particular political viewpoint i.e. that European colonisation was beneficial for Maori.

I was banging my head against the brick wall of political correctness. Here is a summary of the points I was making.

The Maori population declined between 1840 and 1900. This decline could have been a change from a healthy population, with the onset of decline due to some new cause, resulting in the greatest rate of reduction at the end of the century. Or it could have been the opposite, a disastrous decline existing in 1840 followed by steady recovery. The curve of population against time might have bent upwards or downwards between the two end points. The measured data provides the answer, a clear picture, of early decline and eventual recovery – so colonisation was not the cause. The decline was present before 1840.

Another simple look at the data identified the cause. A population is renewed by births. If there are not enough women, having enough children, the population will decline. If there are not enough girls, the women of the future will be lacking.

In a primitive culture, such as nineteenth century Maori, around 40% of young are required if the population is to continue. Measures reported around 25% of young around 1840 and in the first census of 1857. It is simple arithmetic; there were way too few children, the population must have been declining by 1840, and it would take around fifty years (as it did) to recover from that demographic deficit.

Additional to the shortage of young, was the shortage of females. In 1857, there were 26% fewer mature women (the stock of breeding mothers) than men and 19% fewer girls (the mothers of the future) than boys. Since a natural balance would be around 5% more boys at birth, there was a shortfall of 14% girls. The reason is evident; female infanticide had been common (and well documented) and one in seven female children had been killed at birth (probably even more before 1840, noting that this census was 17 years later and all young girls had been born after 1840).

All I did was to consider the facts and listen to what they were telling me; there was my guide. Those in authority insisted that I start with their pre-defined conclusion and doctor my conclusion to suit their requirements. That is not science, not what I was brought up to do.

Much other evidence is denied. A struggling underclass had been formed, yet there was no mention of class (just that lone voice of Elizabeth Rata, under savage attack), or criticism of the political policy that created a blowout in inequality. Indeed, the silly talk of Marxism that stimulated me to write this piece is just another ignorant case of the current habit of making up stories instead of getting familiar with the facts.

Once we were prepared to look clearly and refuse to be frightened by what came into view. But the voice of dissent has been silenced. I have seen the unwisdom of questioning Tomorrow’s Schools, Family Group Conferences, the Domestic Purposes Benefit. This national silence had set in previously with the wind-up of my previous career subject, futures research, which described the population explosion that was, and is, causing the destruction of environment and other species, and resulting in the collapse of civilisation. Difficult questions are ignored.

This is the world we live in. Science is dead, subservient to dogma where identity politics rules.

This breakup of society has greater significance for young Maori. The push to separateness tells them that they are not part of the surrounding society. I believe this is a major reason why the push to Maori identity fails, with increasing youth suicides as too many struggle, with persistent high unemployment, particularly among young Maori men. They live within the communities I have experienced, being offensively rude to ‘pakeha’ and seeing racism everywhere – and being rewarded to find such racism – while being deeply racist themselves. Not belonging.

We need to understand history and to understand the present difficulty and the damage done to relations among us all, and in particular the experiences of the young. Too many grow up struggling, and told that the fault is with colonisation, to be overcome by taking on a separate identity, in a tribe apart. They then do not belong to a united New Zealand society. The call for “Maoritanga’ has been for disconnection from the general society.


The final feature of my life that influenced my thinking came when I was no longer able to find employment. There was thereafter no pressure to conform, to gain the acceptance and approval of my peers, or to please an employer. I was free to think for myself, to examine the facts and to reach my own conclusions, even when they strayed far outside the accepted conventional wisdom.

Once institutions, such as the DSIR for scientists, and a university under the control of the Professorial Board, provided professional and academic support for challenging thinking. Much progress has been made by the unreasonable man, standing against what passes for reasonable belief. Those days are gone, and must be recovered by rebuilding institutions free of market pressures and direct political control – which cannot be expected for a long time yet. More than ever, employment and career success demand conformity.

Those of us who are free, mostly retired, should be valued, as kaumatua with the wisdom (or, at least, experience) of age. But today youth is celebrated, supposedly as bringing new ideas to do away with past error, but most often bringing ignorance and conformity, ready acceptance of what they have been told. Questioning is repudiated, and the value of old age is denied.


I consider here two major features of the New Zealand social structure.

1. This is a place where two very different cultures met and came together in one nation. After 178 years of cohabitation there remain significant differences (‘gaps’) in social experiences. Many measures show the considerable improvements, which continued throughout the twentieth century and continue today. Others show negative experiences, which demand our attention – and do get considerable attention in professional services, such as health, education, justice.

2. New Zealand is split by a racial divide that has expanded markedly in the past fifty years, even more in the recent twenty years. Many Maori see themselves as a downtrodden people, and considerable support (the ‘grievance industry’) is given to the expansion of complaints. In fact considerable effort has gone into expanding complaint. We are divided by race (the definition of Maori is explicit, a person of the Maori race) in law. Those who call for the fundamental principle of equality (the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights first principle is: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights) are now labelled racist when they dare to argue against special race-based position.

The focus on Maori grievance (the second feature) takes attention away from the social issues (the first feature) that need collective action (by a united people) – which must be based on a clear understanding of the real causes.

If we are get to grips with why this has come about, we must first get rid of foolish red herrings, which take our attention away from the real problems. This document started with my reaction against claims that the grievance industry and racism are driven by, and based on, Marxism. That idea has been refuted above.

Certainly there has been, and is, no political ideology driving the change – other than that of ancient tribalism. The Labour Party set up the Waitangi Tribunal but refused to follow Mat Rata’s call for Maori self-rule and self-determination; their later foreshore and seabed legislation was balanced (although allowing some customary rights), refusing to satisfy the demands of Tariana Turia who left to form the Maori Party. The National Party simply reversed its policy for political advantage. They had been highly critical of Labour’s foreshore and seabed legislation, and leader Don Brash called for equality free of racial discrimination. That policy was completely reversed when they made a government compact with the Maori Party (which had left Labour when they would not satisfy their extreme demands), passed the required radical foreshore and seabed legislation, and appointed and supported Cristopher Finlayson to make ridiculous Treaty settlements. In 2018 neither party would agree with the New Zealand First call for a referendum on Maori seats. The path to racial separation (followed by all parties other than New Zealand First) represents neither left-wing nor right-wing ideals.

Nor were today’s negative statistics a consequence of supposed wrongs of colonisation – which, we must never forget, brought an end to savage inter-tribal war, cannibalism and slavery. Other recent claims, such as racism among health workers, have no foundation.

A number of us have put effort into overturning modern myths, to correct today’s revisionist history and recover the truth, and to try to see clearly just where we are as a society. In doing so, we learn to respect past efforts and forgive mistakes, including rebellion. We look at cultures with clear eyes, seeing the reality, what needs change and what must be protected and held on to, what challenges face us now, and how to advance. There is no room for a ‘blame game’.

Here are my thoughts on how New Zealand has drifted into its current divided state.

Social groups have lives of centuries, with change coming across many lifetimes. Differences in ideas, aims, expectations, education and wealth are passed on from generation to generation. This is so with social class everywhere, and with different cultural backgrounds. The time scale is centuries.

The peoples who met here in New Zealand in the late eighteenth century certainly lived within very different cultures. One, the British, were part of the great mass of humanity that had developed civilisations, laws, capabilities and technologies, including most significantly the ideal of equality of all peoples that had come in the recent Age of Enlightenment and Reason (an ideal shared by many political movements, both left and right). The other, the then resident Polynesians (the Maori) had been out of contact with those millennia of evolution and retained the tribal ways of long ago.

The British brought a national unity and the rule of law (as asked for by many Maori around 1840). This was an immense cultural change for Maori, a veritable cultural revolution. That transformation was always going to be a difficult process, and to span some decades, a century or more.

The inevitable difficulties resulted in much compromise, decisions made to suit particular circumstances and particular challenges. One consequence was an absence of clarity. Some of that ambiguity remains.

This was to be a new, humanitarian, colonisation – not repeating the errors of colonisation in previous centuries. There was no fixed template, as the pattern evolved, with decisions made to adapt to changing circumstances.

One example is the Maori Members of Parliament, introduced for five years as a temporary measure in 1867 but, driven by political expediency despite the recommendation of the 1986 Royal Commission to end separate representation, remain today.

A New Zealand parliament soon evolved. The balance of power was provided by the Governor General who was advised from 1841 by the Legislative Council – himself, the Colonial Secretary and the Colonial Treasurer. In 1853 and 1950 this became a second chamber of New Zealand Government, the Legislative Council (the Upper House), with members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Government of the day – and thus far from politically independent.

When this proved troublesome, the government of the day could simply appoint new members who supported its policies. Then in 1950 Prime Minister Syd Holland appointed 29 new members, restoring it to its full strength of 53, who had all promised to support the Legislative Council Abolition Bill. The Council sat for the last time on 1 December 1950 to vote itself out of existence and New Zealand has a unicameral parliament, with no check on its power. The Supreme Court, similarly, is appointed on the advice of the Government of the day; there is no effective separation of legal and legislative arms of government. Disregard for the basic principles of government has long been a feature of New Zealand, continuing up to the present.

The drift of pragmatism, careless or with short-term pragmatism to handle a tricky situation, rather than a firm basis for national (and legal) formation, set in early. When Hobson’s secretary, James Freeman, sent his own version of a draft of the Treaty of Waitangi (with, for example, mention of fisheries as a Maori property rather than, as in British law, part of the Commons, belonging to all) to London in 1841, it was filed away, became known as the English Treaty. The final draft in English (from which the true Maori Treaty was translated) was mislaid and although has since been found (Littlewood), is not officially recognised. That draft, and the many translations from the Maori Treaty, is clear and unambiguous, but Freeman set in train an acceptance of alternatives, including a revision of the meaning of words and then a refusal to pay due regard to the text (see Appendix 1). The careless treatment of this Treaty, often proclaimed the founding document of the nation, is one demonstration of the lack of respect for national constitutional norms.

Governor Fitzroy further damaged any effort at clarity in law. In 1843 he failed to assert a clear application of law when he did not charge Te Rauparaha and Te Rangihaeata for the murder of hostages captured in a fight at Wairau.

Then, in 1844, Fitzroy gave in to threats from newly returned slaves and absentee Te Atiawa, and refused to accept the ruling of Commissioner Spain that an area around New Plymouth, including Waitara, had been properly sold to the New Zealand Company in 1839. Spain had defined a clear criterion for ownership, that land belonged to those then in possession, which had been accepted by Maori, including Te Atiawa, to that time. In that action Fitzroy destroyed Spain’s initiative and thus allowed all the many grounds for ownership in the Maori culture (previously settled by force, now by uncertain law) to be argued over, creating the mess that Spain had wanted to avoid.

Imprecision, lack of clarity and carelessness with basic norms, were early features of New Zealand law – and that tradition continues today.

Many chiefs had asked for colonisation, which brought many benefits to Maori. But some were not happy with the changing culture, particularly as chiefs lost power. There were also the inevitable problems, including economic downturns. The resultant unease led some Maori to want to go back, to tribal control (with chiefly rule, rangatiratanga) and to separation into two people.

While such ideas never met with universal acclaim, they have been put forward on a number of occasions. These include the kingitanga movement from 1857 on, the desire for kotahitanga of Northern Maori MP Hone Heke Ngapua in 1893, the call for mana motuhake by Northern Maori MP Mat Rata in 1975 and the formation of the Maori Party by Labour Party list MP Tariana Turia in 2004 (calling for Maori ownership of foreshore and seabed).

Note that Labour did resist extreme demands. The problem there, which I experienced when I was Chair of the Farm Road Branch in Wellington, was the lack of debate across the party as Maori issues were left for the Maori MPs and caucus – not discussed elsewhere. That approach was even worse in the Alliance where Treaty policy was left to a Maori party in the coalition, Mana Motuhaka. There was no opportunity for a meeting of minds as debate was syphoned off away from non-Maori party activists.

While Labour, under the leadership of Helen Clark, had sought some compromise with its foreshore and seabed law, there was no such hesitation in the National leadership when it reached an agreement with the Maori Party (where were party members then?). The old policy was quickly dumped, to be replaced by the very opposite. The grievance industry, which had been expanding along with the burgeoning Waitangi Tribunal, received a great boost.

There was great treachery by Labour in 1984 and National in 2008, each moving to the reverse of previous, traditional policy. Decisions were made by a few in the Cabinet while the party machine kept MPs in line. There were no checks or balances on unbridled power, no upper house to call such reversals of policy into question, no depth.

This, it must be emphasised, is the major fault of New Zealand life, a lack of direction, and of gumption, and a willingness to follow directions. So many have sat by without raising their voices while the country has drifted further into racism. This is a gutless and foolish nation.

The lack of intellectual depth is worse now than ever. Universities are corralled into the private enterprise system, and run as businesses. Students aim at work-related skills and not comprehensive general knowledge – to obey and please the boss, and not to question what is going on. In science the freedom to question is gone, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research destroyed, the Royal Society of New Zealand captured and empty at its core. Advancement depends on commitment to current political correctness.

Throughout these decades the Waitangi Tribunal flourished and expanded its activities, as a key part of the expanding grievance industry, where lawyers, researchers and complaining iwi profited – provided they followed the required script.

History has been rewritten (by revisionist historians) and the Treaty of Waitangi has become a political football. The support for special powers, separate institutions and self-determination contradicts the Treaty of Waitangi, which stated equality and unity. That document is misused by biased court and biased Ministers. This unprincipled process is built on a lack of core principles including ignorance of the need to disallow any conflict of interests in government, with both a Minister of Treaty Settlements (Finlayson) and members of the courts committed to the separatist cause.

I came across the amazing situation here in Kapiti when I read through the Ngatiawa/Te Ati Awa Research Needs Scoping Report 2016(5). Here were over 12 pages of bullet points making suggestions for complaints and ground for settlements, in case the local iwi had not thought of them. How about “What was the impact of environmental transformation and management practices on karanga, birthing and weaving practices of wahine Maori?”

This 189-page document proposes considerable further research: a 52-week oral and traditional history project (1 historian, 1 researcher), a 52-week 19th century land issues and Crown relationship report (1 historian, 1 researcher) and a 26-week 20th century overview and gap-filling report (1 co-ordinator). Plus much more, to be paid for the Crown Forestry Trust, and all to build a case for money and privilege from the people of New Zealand (referred to as ‘the Crown’).

Maori have been offered so much. Across the country iwi have built organisations to chase the rewards, becoming ever more convinced of their right to do so. Many now believe they are a race apart. The growth of that grievance industry has been supported by gains to other players, with career opportunities dependent on belief in the process. Historians have been overturning previous accounts and building a new version of history, spreading the idea that colonisation brought many wrongs and decline to Maori. This has led to the spread of a guilt complex, and a desire to right wrongs. The fault of many belonging to ‘the left’ has been a thoughtless intention to right all wrongs, without knowing what they are talking about. This is foolish and big-hearted liberal generosity, not any ideology, taking on such a semi-religious creed that any contrary opinion is met only with anger.

A counter narrative is refused. Anyone wishing to take an active part in the much-needed debate faces refusal from media. The recent experiences of Don Brash and Bruce Moon are similar to my own.

This is a story of drift, of a people lacking any core, lacking basic principles to guide social life. In the debate, and in the political process, the majority have bowed down to the current narrative (wrongs of colonisation, racism in health profession, separate rights in local areas). Here in Kapiti, I have been told by the current and a former mayor that they must treat iwi with kid gloves and quietly accept their demands. That is why vehicles drive across the Waikanae River estuary sandspit despite a ban by the Department of Conservation, which has control of that scientific reserve. This separation is everywhere.

Here is a repeat, simple run-through how it came about.

Some Maori wanted an undefined self rule, got something (Waitangi Tribunal) from Labour who had all Maori seats, but they wanted more and left to set up another party.

At first, the Tribunal could only hear claims about current government actions. In 1985, Parliament allowed the Tribunal to investigate events dating back to 1840.

The Tribunal gave them more, and they wanted still more; demands and complaints grew and were rewarded. No wonder they went on – complain and blackmail and you get what you want. The Tribunal became permanent, a fruitful career path for judges, lawyers, litigants, researchers (private and university). Note that this process continued during the 1990-1999 National Government.

Meanwhile everyone else minded their own business and took little interest. The idea that colonisation did great wrong, that must be paid for, spread as history was rewritten. Talk of wrongs of colonisation became widespread, building a guilt complex among concerned young.

So it went until Maori wanted control of the foreshore and seabed, which was turned down by Labour. Being disgruntled, Maori left and set up another political party.

National did not like the compromise that Labour worked out, but then reversed their position completely to make an accord with the dissatisfied Maori, a cynical political move.

Again the scope of complaints expanded, and again that was rewarded by generous settlements.

By then there was clearly a double standard of citizenship. Many people voted against special rights on local bodies, but did little else, as dissent was largely silenced and called racist.

It all grew like Topsy – not planned, although hoped for by a Maori elite who gained ever more profit.

This was realpolitik, not ideology (apart from the short-lived National Party opposition voiced by Don Brash at Orewa).


The process is well advanced; yesterday’s forecast is today’s reality. Many Maori have a great sense of entitlement; are arrogant, a people apart. They have special rights, a special place in government and decision-making, national and local – and demand much more.

The country is divided into two people, explicitly by race. This is state racism, and behind that shield those who stand for equality are labelled as racist. The times are out of joint, and our society is unhinged, mad.

For years there have been divided, divisive, meetings across the country, hui to gather and build grievance – for example, to construct a further divided constitution and government based on a fictitious Treaty of Waitangi. That formerly clear statement of equality of citizenship has morphed into a confused wish list for a tribal elite.

This will get worse.

Demands and expectations have grown over the decades; the process will continue until they are intolerable. Then will come reaction, as the majority turn against such racist separation and special powers, in a move to equality.

Maori leaders will be incensed, will resist. The mood has been to return to many aspects of the old culture, with the threatening haka to the forefront. This ‘Maoritanga’ increases the disconnection. Violence will be threatened, and will probably come, with large flag-waving marches and then conflict. Imagine a group of angry young men, influenced to think of themselves as warriors for the tribe, with loyalty only to the tribe. New Zealand society will be split, there will be civil disobedience and, possibly, separate homelands and civil war.

Non-Maori will be split, with many continuing the belief that imagined past wrongs justify recompense, including a permanent special place for all having some degree of Maori inheritance.

We cannot turn the clock back. It would have been so much better to talk to one another, to debate and share, but meetings have become even more apart. Society should have allowed critics of the Treaty industry to be heard; but (as just one example) I have been shut down many times in many places just as many others. No such change is on the horizon.

New Zealand needs a peacekeeping and conflict resolution movement, an organisation with the expertise to negotiate a way through the coming disagreement. This is nowhere thought of today.

I expect much conflict in the future.


This document began with my frustration and annoyance with ignorant claims that current New Zealand racism is based on Marxism. Such political labelling is both incorrect and divisive, and must be set aside. We must meet on a politically neutral ground. Then once this key issue of separation by race is settled (which will not be for some time), we can divide to argue, criticise, disagree over other policies.

There is general agreement on many of the steps to be taken, such as the following list.

* Close the Waitangi Tribunal.

* Wind up Treaty settlements, with public hearings and vigorous promotion of public interests, for true hearings rather than a one-sided sham.

* Repeal all race-based legislation.

* In particular, repeal the Marine and Coastal Area Act 2011, and reinstate Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004, or something better.

* Abolish separate Maori seats, supporting the New Zealand First suggestion of a nationwide poll.

* Clarify and explain the need for separation of the judicial and legislative branches of government. Rewrite law to provide clear guidance to judges, who no longer will have the power to interpret vague prescriptions and thus to effectively determine the law (see Appendix 2).

* Insist that any demand for the acknowledgement of tikanga or other Maori cultural norms should be clear, so we all understand what is suggested. Refuse acceptance of tikanga in law and regulations (as with other belief systems such as Christianity).

* New Zealand lacks any appreciation of constitutional understanding. Make every effort to expand the political and educational knowledge of philosophy and principles basic to good government.

New Zealand’s unicameral parliament is rare among developed nations – even individual states in federal systems most often have two houses, providing a check on the otherwise unbridled power, which here is largely in the hands of a few who dominate the Cabinet. The drift to racism might have been checked by action in an independent upper house (see Appendix 2).

However, it is suggested that we leave aside the idea of an upper house for now, as there is a great danger from the idea of a racially divided House. Current ideas include a racial division of an upper house into two race-based parts, each with decisive power, making racism a core feature of the nation. The danger is too great, and we must put the idea aside for now.

We should similarly resist any calls for a written constitution, for two reasons. Firstly, that, with the current climate it would likely be racially divisive. Secondly, that it will, like the constitution of the USA, be open to various interpretations (just as the Treaty of Waitangi has been, a political football), thus handing political power to the Supreme Court (itself appointed by government).

Now to a pragmatic thought. The National Party lacks any ideology, being intent for the most part on gaining power. That was shown when a move towards equality was reversed to accept Maori Party policy.

Can it go the other way? Can the old-style Nats gain dominance? The National Party is not in particularly good shape, so is it open for capture? Once Don Brash spoke of a clear policy, and the party recovered in the polls. Can that happen again?

I know nothing of the inner workings of the National power. For example, how powerful is Christopher Finlayson? But this overview brought this thought, which, if it were at all possible, offers a way out of a dangerous situation.


The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between representatives of the British Government and many Maori chiefs, was a pivotal stage in the evolution of New Zealand. As a foundation document it was taken as a guideline and acted upon, while not written into law. It is now a part of formal New Zealand law, often with reference to ‘principles’ rather than to the document itself. The Treaty is also proposed as a basis of a future constitution.

The law should be set down by lawmakers in Parliament who are elected and given that power (the Legislative Branch). It should provide clear instructions to the public service (the Executive Branch) in its applications, and to the courts (the Judicial Branch) in making decisions on disputes brought before them.

Now (this is written in 2018) we are faced with the very opposite, a situation of deliberate confusion. Four versions of the Treaty of Waitangi can be identified (and very many divergent lists of the ‘principles’), with the choice currently made to support the fourth – a rather curious and muddled concept. This provides a cover for rewards to complainants in return for political support. The four versions are:

1. The initial Treaty, in Maori, as translated into English at the time and subsequently (as in 1922 by Sir Apirana Ngata). The many translations are in accord with one another, and agree with the probable final draft in English (known as the ‘Littlewood Treaty’).

2. A draft prepared by Hobson’s secretary, James Freeman, and set aside by Hobson when preparing the final draft. This was sent by Freeman to the British Government in 1841, to be held in the official archives in London, and became known as the ‘English version’. The major difference with the true, signed Treaty was a reference to ‘fisheries’ (this was discussed by Apirana Ngata in 1922).

3. In the last quarter of the twentieth century the meanings of key words were changed, and a quite different version of the Treaty was developed. Here, for example, taonga, which had been “property won at the point of the spear” (Hongi Hika, 1820) became “treasures” (former Tribunal member, Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu, 19896).

4. More recently the Waitangi Tribunal and the courts have ruled that the essence of the Treaty transcends the sum total of its written words and puts narrow or literal interpretation out of place.7 Understanding of the words has been replaced by a vague prescription that destroys the very essence of good law.

The focus is now on the vague and undefined ‘principles of the Treaty’.

It is the principles of the Treaty that are to be applied, not the literal words.

… the principles that underlie the Treaty have become much more important than its precise term

In the view of the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, Treaty principles are not set in stone. They are constantly evolving as the Treaty is applied to particular issues and new situations. Neither the Courts nor the Waitangi Tribunal has produced a definitive list of Treaty principles.

The situation could not be stated more clearly. Treaty and Treaty principles are written into law. The courts must decide what that means. They state that the text is set aside, and they will judge on ‘principles’, a vague concept, and they refuse to tell us what they mean. Clearly the courts can decide whatever they want.

It is this law, combining the idea of quality set down by the pigs in Animal Farm with the Humpty Dumpty definition of the meaning of words, that is New Zealand law. The Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, with their absurd sense of logic, have asserted the right to define and decide law – with the agreement of Parliament.

This is not only contrary to the ideas of Marx, it has no place in any political ideology that I am aware of.

This is a country that has separation by race in law with a definition explicitly of a separate ‘Maori race’, together with a Treaty that has any meaning the courts wish to choose. The definition is actually logically null (defining a Maori as a Maori). Conventional wisdom is now to define anyone opposed to this nonsense, anyone who wants no distinction by race, as themselves racist.


There is a campaign to introduce a written constitution for New Zealand, led by former Rogernomics Labour Deputy leader, Geoffrey Palmer. Unfortunately Palmer shows no comprehension of the basics of good government.

A first principle should be equality of all citizens. In answer to a question I put to him, Palmer has made it clear that he does not hold to that idea; he supports a separate and special position for Maori.

Another basic requirement, which was high on the list of the founders of the United States of America, is checks and balances on unfettered power. This is achieved by separation of the three major arms of government (legislative, executive and judiciary), and by setting up two ruling independent democratic institutions so that legislation is open to scrutiny; in the USA, Congress and the Senate. Both features, key guiding principles for a well-organised democracy, are lacking in New Zealand.

Here in New Zealand law is (badly) written asking the courts to decide what they mean. Deliberately, the job of the elected legislators is handed over to appointed judges, as with reference to the Treaty of Waitangi (which Treaty?) and Treaty principles (undefined). The courts effectively write legislation. This is all the more serious given the considerable power of the Waitangi Tribunal to set the parameters for debate and suggest increasingly radical actions.

New Zealand once had an upper house, the Legislative Chamber, with members appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Government of the day – and thus far from politically independent. It was easily loaded and required to vote itself out of existence in 1950, at the demand of the ruling party who found it inconvenient (noted previously).

All too often public calls are made for reductions in representation, with fewer Members of Parliament. The problem is the very opposite; it important to recognise that democracy and representation need effort, adequate expertise and expenditure, to work well.

An upper house must be directly elected. Each representative must have a term longer than that of MPs; the need is for independent wisdom rather than political groups. This can be satisfied by electing one-third at the time of each national education, each with a term of nine years.

This has not been suggested; Palmer believes in unfettered power (having been happy to foist Rogernomics on the country by the unchallenged power of a radical Cabinet, supported by a subservient party in Parliament).

The very idea of a constitution is dangerous. Not only because some suggestions are to enshrine racial separation and omit the need for two houses of parliament.

When an editorial in the Dominion Evening Post suggested that, in marked difference from the USA Supreme Court, our judiciary is shielded from any party political influence, I wrote to point out that in fact there are considerable similarities.

Justices in the USA Supreme Court are nominated by the President. Given the disagreements over how to interpret that centuries-old document, these are political appointments. In New Zealand, Judicial appointments are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Attorney-General. The decision is made by a politician, a member of the ruling party.

The reason why a constitutional convention, that the Attorney-General appears to act independently of party-political considerations, works is that most parties agree on the political bias of the court.

Politicians have written the Treaty of Waitangi into law and allow the court to decide what that means. This procedure, which breaks the convention of separating the legislature from the judiciary, has resulted in the current situation where the Treaty has come to mean whatever the Court decides – just like Humpty Dumpty. The Waitangi Tribunal and the courts have ruled that “the essence of the Treaty transcends the sum total of its written words and puts narrow or literal interpretation out of place”. Understanding of the words has been replaced by a vague prescription that destroys the very essence of good law.

We are different from the USA mainly because we are allowing racial difference to be set into law. So long as the ruling parties are happy with this nonsense, there will be no political debate over the opinions of judges when they are appointed. But once some political party, with some clout, raises questions, there will be a fight over future nominations.

John Robinson, Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Dr John Robinson
Waikanae 5036

1 The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as expressed by the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, at https://www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/WT-Principles-of-the-Treaty-of-Waitangi-as-expressed-by-the-Courts-and-the-Waitangi-Tribunal.pdf

2 Rata A 2000. A political economy of neotribal capitalism. Pages 226 and 227

3 Robinson J L 2012. When two cultures meet, the New Zealand experience. Page 243

4 https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/107679218/waitangi-tribunal-investigates-sick-racist-health-system-that-fails-mori?rm=m

5 WAI 2200 #A186), available online at http://teatiawakikapiti.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Ng%C4%81tiawa-Te-%C4%80ti-Awa-Research-needs-Scoping-Report-as-at-18-January-2016.pdf.

6 Waitangi Revisited: Perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi, edited by Michael Belgrave, Merata Kawharu and David Williams (Oxford University Press, 1989).

7 The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi as expressed by the Courts and the Waitangi Tribunal, at https://www.waitangitribunal.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Publications/WT-Principles-of-the-Treaty-of-Waitangi-as-expressed-by-the-Courts-and-the-Waitangi-Tribunal.pdf