He iwi tahi tatou . . . . . we are now one people.
In the early 1980s the talented William James Te Wehi TAITOKO captured the hearts and smiles of New Zealanders.
Billy T James made us laugh, at ourselves, at him, at our differences and our similarities.
He delivered the most repeated seven seconds of television in New Zealand history when he joked:
“Where did I get my bag? I pinched it!”
And we laughed.
This wasn’t considered racism, casual racism, institutional racism, hate speech - it was just funny.
So, what has happened to the New Zealand of the 1980s -- when Billy T did comedy and we were allowed to laugh?
Since then we have had treaty settlements, separate Maori broadcasting, separate Maori pre-schools and schools, and a separate Maori Party.
In 1990, the first treaty settlement was made.
- A total of $2.47-billion in financial redress had been paid in 61 treaty settlements, as at March, 31, 2016.
- The Maori Broadcast Funding Agency, Te Mangai Paho, was established in 1989 to fund Maori language programming.
- By 1993, a total of 819 Kohanga Reo had been set up for pre-school children to protect the Maori language and culture.
- By 1999, Kura Kaupapa Maori delivering total emersion education were designated as State schools.
- In 2004, Maori TV was founded through Maori Broadcast Funding and a national network of 21 iwi run radio stations were also funded.
We got separate funding, separate broadcasting, separate pre-schools, separate primary and secondary schools. We soon got a separate political party.
- The Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2004 sparked the formation of the Maori Party winning four seats in Parliament in the 2005 election, going on to five seats in 2008.
This huge investment in things Maori has coincided with the growth of tribal businesses and the emergence of a Maori middle class.
There are currently 25 Maori MPs in Parliament representing just over 20% of the total number of seats.
Standing on the outside it would seem the consideration and recognition of Maori issues ensured every opportunity for Maori to succeed.
However, we are told that Maori are suffering from “post-colonial traumatic stress disorder”.
Tariana Turia, who became co-leader of the Maori Party, used these words to liken the impact of British settlement to the experience of Jewish survivors of the holocaust.
What message does this send?
It appears that the message is that Maori are crippled by events that began to unfold 177 years ago.
Treaty settlements, separate Maori broadcasting, separate Maori have been the official response to “the Maori problem”.
Anyone critical of this official response is immediately branded a racist.
This name calling has the effect of shutting down debate because no one likes to be called a racist.
Our Race Relations Commissioner last year created an entire, government funded website, to post our “experiences of racism”.
Last month she advocated for the Police to gather data on hate crimes.
The nation that laughed with Billy T James in the 1980s is now too scared to have a casual conversation without being called a racist.
You are not exempt if you have Maori ancestry.
Two weeks ago, another New Zealander who the media promotes and who shall remain nameless, claims that Winston Peters is being racist against his own race.
Accusations of casual racism, institutional racism, or hate speech, make us scared to speak freely and runs the risk that we can never laugh at ourselves again.
I am a New Zealander, a Ngapuhi decendent, and a descendant of Anglo/Irish settlers who came here in the 1860s.
But firstly, I am 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 always known that our citizenship assures us equal recognition and representation before the law.
But this is changing, and we need to stop being complacent about the change.
This issue has never been more real and more critical to New Zealand than right now.
I served as Police officer for 14 years, mostly in South Auckland, and I can see the change taking place.
I am speaking here with Don Brash representing Hobson’s Pledge.
Hobson’s Pledge seeks to make it okay to speak out and tell our government to roll back some foolish policies* before foolishly creating an apartheid state.
As a New Zealander I am represent our melting pot culture.
I take pride in my Ngapuhi ancestry and in the ancestry of the brave settlers who came here in the 1860s to create a new life.
I am partly Maori yet other partly Maori people say I have no authority to speak on issues that affect Maori people.
To be clear I do not speak for Maori, I speak for all New Zealanders.
I speak for New Zealanders in the hope that those who feel the frustration and disappointment with the direction of our current Government’s policies will know it is okay to speak out.
My efforts to defend our citizenship, the citizenship of all of us, are not being racist.
We are all citizens of the same country and that country is New Zealand.
New Zealand has more ethnicities than the world has countries.
A total of 189 languages are spoken here.
We do have a problem.
A treaty elite has promoted the ideology of biculturalism, of treaty partnership, of Maori and non-Maori, and that biculturalism legitimizes the treaty elite.
These people get rich from treaty settlements, through political appointments, consultancy services.
They are demanding more and more.
At the same time, those most at need at the bottom of the heap remain vulnerable and receive virtually none of the benefit of these settlements.
Hobson’s Pledge is totally committed to equality for all – for inclusion and unity for all New Zealanders.
I chose to speak out for Hobson’s Pledge in the hope that it will become okay to have the conversation about:
what is really holding Maori back,
what really needs to done to make sure those in need get what is needed and to stop giving in to “want”.
I am immensely proud to stand with Don Brash for Hobson’s Pledge.
Don Brash has never stopped promoting equality for all of us, the founding principle of the Hobson’s Pledge Trust.
I, along with many New Zealanders of Maori ancestry, have become fed up with the excuses for Maori are represented so badly in all the wrong statistics.
These issues exist not because of something that has been done “to” Maori but because of what is not being done “BY” Maori.
The challenges that face those in need are not going to be addressed by more settlements, more pay outs, separate sovereignty.
They will only be overcome when there is personal accountability and responsibility for the here and now.
The solutions for those in need are based upon their need and do not depend on when their ancestors arrived in New Zealand.
When you tell anyone that their economic prosperity will be handed to them through a settlement what better way is there to demotivate any individual from standing up and being accountable for themselves, their family and their community.
Some Maori leaders blame current problems on events that happened over 150 years ago.
But if you say Maori people are crippled by events that happened long ago how will you ever inspire the next generation to move forward with a belief in our own ability.
At some point the word “Maori” became an excuse for failing instead of a reason to succeed.
And for those of Maori ancestry who do succeed, who dare to speak out and point out that what is happening is wrong………. well we told are told that we are just racist against our own people.
If we continue to throw a protective blanket of “don’t be racist” over all issues that need to be scrutinized, the problems will never be understood and we will, before long, become an apartheid nation, split along a Maori-non-Maori line.
Now is the time to focus on our future, on the path that New Zealand is taking in the years ahead.
There are many challenges that face us in terms of housing, protecting our environment, managing our nation’s resources and supporting those in need.
These are issues for all New Zealanders and are not peculiar to any ethnicity.
And yet we are constantly being asked to identify by ethnicity and not citizenship.
I was raised at a time when I did not know that my Maori ancestry deprived me of an opportunity to succeed.
When I stood beside my grandfather while he worked his land in Whakapara, no one told me he was poor, that we were disadvantaged.
My grandfather, Honi Pani 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 who depended on him.
That is what I know to be Maori, that is what it IS to be Maori. No excuses, no handouts, no asking for more and more. Pride, dignity and family.
Excuses are much easier than looking within to find the strength to be better, to work harder, to look forward, and focus on solutions that create opportunity.
There is nothing in New Zealand that prevents any one of us from stepping forward and making a great life.
We see migrants arriving here every day with nothing and yet still able to build a good life.
It is okay to speak up and point out that what is happening is wrong and speaking out doesn’t make any one of us racist.
Maori are not being held back, we are being told to sit back and wait, because another hand out is on the way.
Some Maori achievers, in academia, performing arts, or business, are told that they aren’t a real Maori.
I’m told that I’m not a real Maori.
Celebrate success, invest in unity, acknowledge diversity, protect individual culture and those aspects that make New Zealand special but first and foremost STOP our slide into separatism.
A respected and accomplished Maori leader, Sir Peter Buck, said “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.“
Please speak up, contact your MPs, challenge those seeking to be elected, and make sure that they know we are not the silent majority.
Join Hobson’s Pledge and let us send a clear message that we demand more from our Government.
As Governor Hobson said to each chief upon signing the treaty:
He iwi tahi tatou . . . . . we are now one people.
An address to the Orewa Rotary Club by Casey Costello, co-spokeperson for the Hobson’s Pledge Trust, February 14, 2017