Casey Costello in Nelson

"He iwi tahi tatou". That was the greeting given to each chief by Governor William Hobson upon signing the treaty on February 6, 1840. It translates to “we are now one people”. At this time in New Zealand I don’t think there is a more powerful statement to be made.

Hobson’s Pledge Trust has been established with total commitment to New Zealand’s history of equality. We are advocating for inclusion and unity.  

Our nation has built its identity on a founding document that afforded all its people equal citizenship.

Our nation was first to give women the vote.

Our nation stood strongly against apartheid in South Africa.

But New Zealand is now the nation that is defining its citizenship not as New Zealanders but as Maori and non-Maori.

Ethnicity is becoming the driving consideration for major decisions that impact all of us.   

A wedge being hammered home by a vocal minority seeking to divide our nation based upon when our ancestors arrived here.

Our focus is now about what divides us not on what unites us.

Whatever your politics, whatever you believe needs to be fixed, put right or improved in this country it will never require division of our citizenship.

There has never been and will never be a situation where special allowance, representation or authority based upon ethnicity can be considered a solution.


Martin Luther King was credited with saying “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”

I am proud to be a spokesperson for Hobson’s Pledge and my credentials are simple, I am a New Zealander.

I am so proud of our nation, our place in the world and our melting pot culture.

I am Ngapuhi and Anglo/Irish.

I descend from proud Ngapuhi leaders who signed the treaty and from brave settlers who came here in the 1860s.

But whatever my history I am firstly a New Zealander.

We all have our journey that brought us to this country and our unifying factor is our New Zealand citizenship.

Regardless of when we or our ancestors came here we have a right to expect that our citizenship assures us equal recognition and representation before the law.

But now as a nation we are being differentiated by the ship that bought us here.

We are somehow being asked to accept that Maori ancestry creates a predisposition for failure due to events that began unfolding over 200 years ago.

This predisposition is, we are expected to believe, justification for a range of raced based policy and processes.

Maori are not predisposed to success or failure based upon ethnicity. We are all capable of success or failure based upon our commitment to education and the support of our family.

Maori are not more or less capable because of ancestry. We are all capable based upon the effort we are willing to make and the personal responsibility we accept.

Maori are not a victim of our history no matter which iwi you identify with. We are all an investment in our future.  

Maori are not being deprived of any opportunity. We all have the same opportunities but rely on our leaders to encourage. It is our responsibility to be an inspiration to our future generations.

Maori are not feared, admired, judged, acknowledged, loved or hated any differently than any other New Zealander because we are a nation where we are assessed upon the content of our character and not the colour of our skin.

Despite what the we are expected to believe.

The social issues and challenges that face our most vulnerable, our most in need will not be addressed by creating separation and suggesting ethnicity dictates response.

Do not make poverty, poor health, lack of education, child mortality, crime, recidivist offending, murder or unemployment alarm us to the point that it is seen as a justification to create different policy and response based upon ethnicity.  

While our government has placated the self-appointed few those truly in need suffer, our young people get more angry, and the sense of entitlement escalates.

We have spent the last 40 years focused on this “putting right”.

We have committed to the undefined “principles” and imaginary “partnership” of the treaty for decades and yet Maori are now more poorly represented in all the worst statistics than ever before.


We should be outraged, how do you create solutions when we focus so strongly on the need to treat Maori differently rather than be honest about the problems.

Where so many people in countries around the world fight to be treated equally New Zealand is being held to ransom by a Maori leadership and a grievance industry that is effectively advocating for apartheid.

We are so frequently told that there is a need to make special allowance and extra compensation to those with Maori ancestry because without this we will not see Maori succeed.

This rationale is flawed and any special allowance that is based upon when your ancestors arrived in New Zealand is, at its core, racist and separatist.

For those who try to tell me that this special allowance is needed for Maori to achieve equality then I stand here today to tell you that:

  • you insult me
  • you patronize my heritage
  • and MOST importantly you deprive the generations ahead of us of an inherent belief that anything is possible.

It is time to inspire, unify and encourage.

Hobson’s Pledge seeks to highlight the actions that are being taken by our government that undermine the foundations our country was built on – equality, democracy, and unity.

I served over 14 years in the New Zealand Police, mostly in South Auckland.

I have seen the very worst of what people are capable of doing to each other.

I have been assaulted, insulted, abused, terrified and overwhelmed and yet I have been acknowledged more for bravery in the last few months as spokesperson for Hobson’s Pledge than I ever was in the Police.

When did we become a nation that advocating for unity and equality of citizenship required you to be brave.

I have been privileged in my life to be raised at a time where I did not know that Maori ancestry deprived us of an opportunity to succeed, where we were not equal.

When I stood beside my grandfather while he worked his land in Whakapara, no one told me he was poor, that we were disadvantaged.

Despite the fact that, if he was assessed by today’s standards, he would be deemed to be “in need” my grandfather, Honi Pane Tamati Waka Nene Davis, never considered that he was not equal and that he had been prevented from achieving economic prosperity.

What he did know was that he was responsible for his family and he got up every morning and proudly took care of those that depended on him.  

Together with my gracious, proud and loving grandmother all their mokopuna were taught their culture and instilled with pride.

We were taught respect, we knew how to show empathy, and we were never in any doubt about where we came from and how much we had to be grateful for.  

That is what it is to be Maori.

When my mother married my father they left Northland to start their family and all six of us were raised in Auckland.

We remained connected with our Ngapuhi heritage not through any compulsory education, or special funding but because we came from a proud family who truly understood what being Maori meant.

Just like so many New Zealanders we knew where we came from and how lucky we were to live in this beautiful country.

Through my working life I have experienced a full range of industries and responsibilities and at no time have I ever encountered barriers or restrictions either for my race or my gender.

To go even further I have observed that when in a position of being equally qualified to my peers my ethnicity and gender has been an advantage and I defy anyone to dispute that point.

Somewhere along the way Te Tiriti o Waitangi - the Treaty of Waitangi, established to provide equal recognition and opportunity to all New Zealanders, has become the mechanism by which division and erosion of our democracy are the stock in trade.

The nation that laughed when our beloved Billy T James chuckled “where did I get my bag?” ……….. “I pinched it”………………..(the most watched 7 seconds of New Zealand television) is now the nation that cannot laugh at itself.

Everything is racism, casual racism, institutional racism, hate speech.

How did we get so angry, so divided, so prevented from working together that we can’t even have the conversation about what the problems are.

And if we can’t be honest about the problems how will we ever find the answers.  

We are surrounded by inspirational leaders, artists, sportspeople, politicians, authors, entertainers, businessmen and academics of Maori ancestry.

And yet despite this we are expected to believe that there is no opportunity for Maori.

This has to stop.

Stop encouraging bitterness and anger.

Stop telling Maori that we are a victim.

Stop feeding the grievance mindset and encouraging a sense of entitlement.

Stop telling our future generations to sit back and wait, another hand out is on the way.

The Treaty of Waitangi was celebrated for the protection and unity it afforded. It assured equal representation before the law.

If this is not believed then I defer to the very wise words of Sir Apirana Ngata from a speech he delivered in 1940 at the centenary celebrations of the Treaty -  

“…….What remains of the treaty of Waitangi. What is there in the treaty that the Maori can today celebrate whole heartedly with you. Let me say one thing Clause 1 of the Treaty handed over the mana and the sovereignty of New Zealand to Queen Victoria and her descendants forever. That is the outstanding fact today. That but for the shield of the sovereignty handed over to her Majesty and her descendants I doubt whether there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today. “

“Let me acknowledge further that in the whole of the world I doubt whether any native race has been so well treated by a European people as the Maori of New Zealand. ……………………

These words are from a man who is widely acknowledged and respected for his achievements, contribution and inspiration provided for Maori.

Then why should we for one instance entertain anything other than the fact that the treaty created a single citizenship, not a partnership, not complex principles………….a single unified citizenship.

The answers for us as a nation will be found in rewarding achievement not commentating on failure.

More and more benefits and handouts is not aspirational it is demotivating.

The answer is not in blaming history and distorting the past to justify failures of today.

The answer is in making it clear that failures today are due to the choices made.

In the powerful words of another respected and accomplished Maori leader, Sir Peter Buck,  “Beware of separatism. The Maori can do anything the Pakeha can do but in order to achieve this we must all be New Zealanders first. “

But this powerful legacy is ignored by our current leaders who hold to the power and influence they create by keeping Maori separated. Far easier than finding real solutions for those in need.

And where do these grievance industry advocates and Maori leaders stand?

Marama Fox complained about the Kapa Haka festivals level of funding instead of celebrating the events enormous success. She argues semantics over the care placement of Maori children rather than supporting with urgency the critical legislation needed to protect our most vulnerable children.

Miriama Kamo with so much opportunity to inspire young people complained of the difficulties she had as a young Maori woman who lost her job decades ago. She does not mention the enormous income earned through her treaty consulting business or the success afforded to her through Maori Broadcasting funding.

Meteria Turei complains about the need for separate Maori wards in Council rather than encouraging others to become the mayor or as she did a leader of a political party. Claiming the only way Maori can be represented is through separation. The woman that attacks what I represent as “racist drivel” and yet recently promoted the Green Party as the party that truly understands Maori. Strangely she advocates for the protection of separate representation while her own party has one third Maori MPs. Could it be that Maori are actually capable of achieving on merit despite what she wants us to believe.

Willie Jackson frequently commentates on inability of Maori to become elected rather than proudly acknowledging 25 MPs in parliament that claim Maori ancestry. This represents a higher percentage of Maori in parliament than in New Zealand citizenship.

And many of these same leaders rather than recognizing the poor outcomes in education for Maori have decided that a priority is to commit critical funding to compulsory Maori language in schools. They don’t however mention the enormous funding and commitment that already exists to protecting language and culture every year………

Inspirational leadership? Or desperate grasping at retaining power and influence.

What better way to stay at the top of the heap than by telling everyone else that they are stuck at the bottom.

Through legislation, policy and process New Zealand is being separated.

We need better leadership.  

Leaders that are brave enough to recognize there is a need for a solution and no more need for excuses.

Leaders that are rational enough to not be fooled by the rhetoric of racial disadvantage.

Leaders that are informed enough to be willing to understand our real history while being smart to not let that history prevent us from creating a better future by compensating for the past instead of investing in the future.

Leaders that challenge those who are self-appointed representatives on their authority to speak when they have not been elected to that position.

Leaders that provide what is needed and do not cave in to every want.

Hobson’s Pledge fully acknowledge that where it can be established land has been confiscated then compensation should be paid by way of a full and final settlement.

But the treaty “industry” is damaging us as a nation.

Settlements should not include co-governance and further undemocratic influence to the management of our nation’s resources.

This is about the future we leave to our children.

No matter who you are, what your ancestry is or what country you call home if your Government, if your legislation, if your society continues to send a clear message that you cannot achieve because of some vague, undefined, and frequently imaginary barriers then you will never succeerd, why would you even try?

Maori are being told by those who claim to represent us to sit back and wait, don’t try, don’t aspire………...

And while those self-serving, misguided and often self-appointed  representatives gain more power, wealth and influence those in need are kept isolated and separated and fed a steady diet of grievance justification.

The same faces, the same voices, the same rhetoric over and over.

These leaders have the luxury of all the position, wealth and influence but never have to share any accountability for what is wrong.

They never have to answer for failing to deliver and bring about improvements for the people that they claim to represent.

Everything that is wrong is the responsibility of the Crown.

Hobson’s Pledge fully acknowledge that need exists and to address this need our nation needs to ensure the best representation for all New Zealanders.

One democracy, one citizenship, one law.

Every society must be judged on how they treat their most vulnerable and most in need. But need is based upon need, not on ethnicity.

Our Government is protecting their alliances and balance of power by making concessions that undermine our democracy and create inequality before the law.

National has turned its back on their own core values:

“Loyalty to our country, its democratic principles and our sovereign as Head of State.”

“Individual freedom and choice.”

“Equal citizenship and equal opportunity.”

“Personal responsibility.”

Secret meetings with Iwi leadership, undemocratic appointments to local government……… and trade offs

They defend themselves claiming that they are seeking to improve the position of Maori and yet every statistic proves that they have failed.

And yet New Zealanders are still reluctant to speak out for fear of being seen as ignorant and racist…………best not to mention that despite all the fancy words the Emperor is actually naked!

Our strength as a nation will continue to grow through recognizing our diversity, individual accountability and personal responsibility but this has to be built on a foundation that recognizes what unifies us.

We all want the same thing regardless of ethnicity. Housing, education, healthcare, protection for our most vulnerable, protection of our natural resources…..

He iwi tahi tatou  ………..we cannot allow the voice of a few to force us into separatism.

I ask you for your support, I ask you to help us send a very clear message that New Zealanders are smarter and more informed than our Government gives us credit for.

Through misinformation, distorted teachings of history and appeaser intentions, we are being misled.

There is one citizenship in New Zealand.

Do not be fooled into believing the justification for current policy and legislation is right.

I will leave you with words from Martin Luther King who truly knew the struggle of a divided nation.

“Nothing in this world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

Casey Costello, May 2, 2017