As a former lawyer for Ngai Tahu, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson is obviously able to play both sides of the fence when it comes to both pulling down and distributing taxpayer dollars by the million.
Hailed as “momentous” by a Prime Minister more reliant than ever on the votes delivered by the Maori Party, the multi-million dollar Deed of Settlement to be signed today—the Tuhoe deal—will cost today’s taxpayers $170 million and a National Park for things they never did. Finlayson says “If you have any questions about Tuhoe, go and read your history.” On which we agree.
Part Two of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report into the history of government actions against Tuhoe described
sweeping confiscations, … and how … land was removed by fraudulent methods. And it describes unjust war too, highlighting a series of engagements from the end of 1865 to May 1866.
So much so apparently unjust.
But as one prominent commentator pointed out at the time, what the Waitangi Tribunal’s
sanitisers historians “neglect to do is set those dreadful deeds in the context of the equally dreadful deeds that preceded them.” That commentator is Chris Trotter.
Those reading the full context of Tuhoe’s history, and New Zealand’s, will realise that in the mid-1860s the country was poised delicately between two possible futures—one offering civilisation, and the other a return to the tribal savagery the Treaty had promised to end. As Trotter says, “Tuhoe picked the wrong side in the war to decide what sort of country New Zealand would become.”
To tell that history, let’s start with a story.
Imagine, if you will, that a savage murderer has been moving up the country, and he's heading your way. He seeks refuge in your large, rambling property (which you share with extended family). Instead of either handing him over or doing him in (in both of which you would be justified), you and your whanau choose instead to join him in his savagery and plunder, heading out on expeditions of rapine and looting before coming home to hunker down in the least accessible parts of your refuge to fend off John Law, who naturally wants to put a stop to your lawlessness and brutality.
The law decides the safest way to stop you and your partner in crime is to starve you out, a strategy that meets with success—but whose perfectly justifiable results a century-and-a-half later are used to justify further pillage, this time of taxpayers apparently ignorant of the reasons for the original dispossession.
This is the short history of what happened when Tuhoe gave refuge to stone killer Te Kooti before joining in enthusiastically in his genocidal killing sprees—for which you and I are being punished now for the punishment that was meted out to the killers then.
It is akin to you and I having our pockets picked to pay compensation to the grandchildren of Ted Bundy or Fred West for police having damaging the Bundy/West properties while removing all the bodies stored under the floor.
Quite apart from the issue of the national parks, does this seem in any way either fair or justified?
Did Tuhoe’s behaviour not constitute some sort of reason for punishment?
While you consider those questions, just read in some more detail about what actually happened.
The year was 1869, and the Kooti One had gone on the run after murdering around sixty people (both Maori and non-Maori) in Poverty Bay, eventually finding support for his campaign of continuing murder under the shelter of a supportive Tuhoe. For three years from their base in the Ureweras, with the full support, backing and connivance of Tuhoe leaders, he and his Tuhoe allies distributed rapine, murder and pillage to all around them—regularly crossing the Kaingaroa plains, the Ureweras and surrounding districts to pillage, burn and kill. Just one example of his blood lust was the slaughter of 64 defenceless women and children in the Ngati Kahungunu pa at Mohaka, murdered in cold blood as a “lesson” to their fathers and husbands.
Any decent government is going to put a stop to this, which is precisely what the colonial government did.
To drive him out of his lair, says the Oxford History of New Zealand, "Government forces applied a scorched earth policy so that the Tuhoe tribe could not shelter Te Kooti and the dwindling remnants of his band," following which he was driven out and 448,000 acres of Tuhoe land was confiscated as punishment, 230,600 acres of which was later returned. (Ironically, as reward for his murders, Te Kooti himself was eventually given several acres of land in Ohiwa, BoP, in 1891! So much for justice.)
So the supposed historic 'injustice' for which today’s settlement is being signed, the confiscations of Tuhoe’s land for their decision to plump for savagery over civilisation, was the product of a tribe unwilling to live under the rule of law who knowingly harboured a mass-murderer, and who then joined him on a campaign of murder.
“Violent dispossession”? It looks to me like the initiation of violence went largely one way.
In some circles, mere partial confiscation would be seen as being let off easily.
If violent dispossession is to be despised, and it is, then surely the violent dispossession of people’s lives by Tuhoe and Te Kooti must be worth at least addressing, no?
Because to talk about Tuhoe’s dispossession without any reference at all to the reasons for that dispossession is just inexcusable, particularly when such context-dropping is used to justify scores of millions of taxpayers dollars heading towards the wallets of the descendants of those who helped harbour the thug Te Kooti all those years ago.
In today’s age of hand-wringing and revisionist history however, nothing (least of all the facts of history) is a barrier to today's tribal 'leaders' receiving large amounts of taxpayer largesse as a reward for living in the past -- a past which is largely a fiction of their own making.
So (to come back to where we first started), it seems the history the Minister wishes us to read is not the history he thinks it is. Or at least not all the history. But then, lawyers-for-pay don’t really do history so much as they do special pleading-- but then, when it comes to “doing history,” neither do the more mainstream media, the Government, or the Waitangi Tribunal.
Not to mention here the farce of signing a Waitangi settlement with a tribe who never signed the Waitangi Yreaty, for an injustice that was anything but.
The only injustice perpetrated here is that being dealt to the taxpayers of New Zealand -- who once again will be forced to pay large amounts of money to tribalists for things we didn't do -- and to the tamariki of Tuhoe, who are being taught once again that tribalism and a focus on the imaginary grievances of the past will have a bigger payoff for them today than will addressing and meeting the real challenges of the future, and taking up the genuine opportunities of the present.
Which would really be a start.
* Figures and quotes are taken from the Oxford History of New Zealand, (pgs. 186, 187); Penguin History of New Zealand, (pg. 219); 'Te Kooti,' NZ.History.Net; 'Te Kooti,' An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966.