Divided we fall by Trevor Plumbly
He ain’t heavy
Outside of terrorism, race is about the scariest topic down here. Everybody, it seems, has an axe to grind from the disgruntled to the fearful; few of whom add much to national unity.
Colonialism has got a lot to answer for: South Africa, Canada, Australia and New Zealand carry a huge burden of guilt when it comes to native rights, as they should, but surely today’s children are entitled to question why they should be saddled with paying the cost of ancient wrongdoing? Here in New Zealand, it’s a problem that simply won’t go away. We regard Maori culture as an essential component of our national identity, yet commercialise selective parts of it by gradual enforcement, which in itself could lead to separatism and create a bigger problem than exists at present.
Justice and legality
It’s fair to say that initially, at least, Maori were more fairly treated than their overseas counterparts because the Treaty of Waitangi guaranteed their rights under British Sovereignty. While the spirit of the document was largely accepted, the British all but ignored its intentions and its definition has been a source of protracted litigation and social unrest for over 150 years. Had the government opted for natural justice rather than Westminster inspired legalities, the problem would have been solved years ago. However, the confusion continues with tribal leaders seemingly unable to agree on a united front. Add to that those that have non Maori partners, live overseas or just don’t give a toss and it’s small wonder bureaucrats, lawyers and those that feel dispossessed are still at loggerheads.
Dollars and sense
Over the years, billions have been spent in legal costs, compensation and funding a staggering number of educational trusts and organisations. It’s sad really; all that effort for what seems so little return: Maori unemployment, especially in the far north is a huge problem, drug abuse and the crime figures are an indictment in themselves. Solutions and theories abound, of course; some dreamlike, some quite loopy; among them are those calling for a separate justice and penal system for Maori, and that simply won’t work. NZ is a multi-cultural country and, regardless of race, colour or social standing, the judicial and penal process must be applied equally for it to function. We need to focus on providing education, jobs and housing for those that need them, rather than on 19th Century injustice and at the same time we should start to consider the Treaty of Waitangi as a flawed document rather than a constant invitation to divisive debate.