He iwi tahi tatou

Casey-Costello-1_1467766472_480X532_c_c_0_0.jpgSince Hobson’s Pledge was launched in September last year I have spoken in various forums. In every instance I have referred to the greeting by Governor Hobson to each chief upon signing the Treaty of Waitangi… “He iwi tahi tatou”.

This is a powerful recognition and endorsement of the unity on which New Zealand would be founded. Sir Apirana Ngata further endorsed this foundation of unity 100 years later at the centenary celebrations of the Treaty:

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 sovereignty handed over to her Majesty and her descendants I doubt whether there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today.”

He also added “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.”

The treaty established the foundation for equal citizenship, one people with equal recognition in the law.

Unfortunately, in the past 30 years New Zealand has been driven down a path of separatism through a combination of a grievance industry and an appeaser mentality.

Hobson’s Pledge was formed in response to this growing division, recognising the dangers that lie ahead for New Zealand,.  

Our focus has been for equality. Our objective is to build awareness and make it okay to have the conversation about what is happening in New Zealand.

We want to protect our democracy and remove any differentiation in law based upon when you or your ancestors arrived in New Zealand.

Many academics will debate the intricacies of our history, looking back to find evidence to justify current decisions.

In looking back, we have lost sight of what is good for New Zealand, what is best for our future and what is best for Maori.

A small self-serving minority of Maori elite has gained increasing power and wealth by seeking redress for historical events that are so frequently based upon distorted truths.

Little or no benefit has reached where it is needed.

These frequently self-appointed leaders are the loud voices of grievances that we are told we must sympathise with.

These loud voices drown out those who have succeeded, who are succeeding and could serve as inspiration. 

The loudest voices lead New Zealanders to believe that Maori cannot succeed without segregation, separation, and special representation.

This drives a wedge between New Zealand citizens.

This segregation allows the self-appointed leaders to capture power and wealth without supporting and empowering those they represent.

The treaty industry is big business and yet public records confirm the percentage given back is minimal and should be considered offensive to all Maori who are struggling.

Former ACT leader Rodney Hyde recently observed that “Tribalism is the worst form of economic organization. It’s collectivist, it lacks incentive to perform, the principals can’t readily sack their agents and there’s invariably a complete lack of transparency and hence accountability.”

And yet our government has continued to promote tribalism by offering monetary settlements and creating co-governance arrangements that further divides our country.

Their justification is that we are honouring a treaty partnership, a partnership that until 30 years ago no one had even heard of. A partnership that, to this day, does not exist, has never existed.

We are one people, one citizenship, one democracy.

In representing Hobson’s Pledge the most surprising response I have received is recognition for being brave.

I served 14 years in the Police mostly in South Auckland and I have been acknowledged more for being brave in the last month than I did in my entire Police career.

It seems that in order to stand up for equality in New Zealand you have to be brave.

When did we become that country? When did we become a nation that when any individual stands up and says “We are now one people”, says that “we are not divided down lines of Maori and non-Maori” - you have to be brave.

I am saddened by the number of people who offer encouragement and share stories of how they are struggling to recognize New Zealand now.

The nation where we grew up as one people has become the nation that after 30 years of the treaty settlements more divided with more anger than ever before.

Hobson’s Pledge is not ignorant of social challenges and of those that are in need or vulnerable. But you cannot fix previous wrongs through this appease at all costs mind set.

This is the country with a proud democracy established with the treaty and added to when we were the first to give women the vote.

And yet we are trading off our democracy in back room deals.

Our Maori leaders who have gained so much personal wealth and power in the last 30 years effectively tell our young people that they are justified in being angry because they have been deprived.

Maori are being repeatedly told that we are disadvantaged by events that began unfolding nearly 200 years ago.

We are allowing our young people to be angry, even violent, because they are told they have a right to be aggrieved due to this false interpretation of distant history.

We are making excuses for their criminal offending, blaming the police for racial bias, blaming the justice system.

These young people are not told of the opportunities and support and even wealth that exists.

Our Maori leaders and self-appointed elite are not focusing on opportunity, celebrating success. This should be what is shouted from the roof tops by our leaders.

We will not bridge the gap for Maori by feeding more to the top that is not shared to those who are struggling at the bottom.

It is self-interest that grows the divide in our citizenship.

It is self-interest that stops the positive messages and enhances the negative.

It is self-interest that is preventing opportunity from being realized.

You can be much more powerful if those around you stay down, don’t share the wealth, don’t encourage success.

As an example I listened to a prominent Maori woman broadcaster contribute to this divide in recounting her experience with racism after expressing her sympathy and support for the former mayor Andrew Judd.

She looked into the camera sadly reflecting on the time she claims to have lost a job as a young Maori woman for correcting her employer on how to pronounce her name.

She led her audience to sympathise with her hardship and struggle.

What she failed to mention or highlight was that her employment is to a large extent funded by Maori Broadcasting.

She also failed to mention the $1.5-million her partner’s treaty consultancy business, in which she was a partner, earned in consultant fees.

She has gained prominence, wealth and success with considerable contribution from the opportunities afforded to her as a Maori.

But this is not the message she gave to our young people.

She did not chose to encourage or inspire.

She chose to compound the belief that New Zealand is racist and Maori are disadvantaged.

I am so tired of being told by well-meaning New Zealanders and self-serving Maori elite about how hard it is, how disadvantaged we are.

I am angered by the patronizing and demotivating actions by Maori that tell Maori that we cannot be recognized unless we have separate representation, unless we are kept separate.

The people who claim to represent Maori are failing us and failing New Zealand.

WE ARE ONE PEOPLE – New Zealanders.

I was recently invited as a panel member on a Maori broadcasting funded television show.

I sat next to Metiria Turei and she referred to Hobson’s Pledge as “racist drivel”.

I challenged her position on the need for separate Maori wards.

I asked her why she was not advocating the promotion of Maori to elected positions on their own merit.

I questioned why they are not striving to encourage Maori to become the mayor, to become the Prime Minister.

Why were they not using every forum to inform and support individuals to stand for election? I questioned the need for separatism for Maori instead of empowering Maori.

But according to Ms Turei I represent racist drivel.

At no point have I presumed to represent Maori despite my ancestry, heritage and upbringing affording me every right to do so.

I, like every Maori in New Zealand, am a product of our melting pot culture. And, like every Maori in New Zealand, should not be distanced from my citizenship because of my ethnicity.

We are New Zealanders and our success as a nation relies on our ability to work collaboratively and ensure equal opportunity for all.

Equal opportunity is being confused with equal outcome.

Our government is responsible for ensuring that there is equal opportunity regardless of race, gender or religion.

It cannot guarantee equal outcome as this relates to effort, commitment, and personal responsibility.

It seems that we are being asked to accept that a lack of equality in outcome is justification to provide greater opportunity for one ethnicity over another.

At present our government is desperately trying to evade the scrutiny of their current decisions for fear that their voters will connect the individual decisions that have been made and realise the damage that has been done to our democracy and our economy.

And once you have made the connection and linked the dots the picture will be clear on how far their separatist agenda has taken us.

Individual agreements and arrangements brokered with self-appointed Maori-elite without any accountability to their people or to New Zealanders.

Lots of fancy words and politically correct speak, smoke and mirrors so that no one will realise until it is too late that the emperor has no clothes. It seems our last emperor escaped before he was exposed.

To make it more difficult for New Zealanders to get a clear picture every effort is being made to ensure we continue to have sympathy for the grievance agenda.

Just look at recent events where we are only being told part of a story to generate sympathy and grow momentum for the grievance mentality.

Earlier this year the hugely successful national Te Matatini kapa haka festival was held in Hawke’s Bay.

By all accounts a wonderful event that provided a fantastic forum to celebrate Maori culture.

In response to this event several media articles appeared criticizing the government funding for the event.

Marama Fox, the co-leader of the Maori Party, led the charge when she expressed her disappointment that only $1.9-million was given in funding  comparing this to the contribution by government to the NZ Ballet and NZ Symphony Orchestra.

She failed to acknowledge the additional $160,000 provided by Hawke’s Bay councils for the national competition.

The media and the Maori Party made sure we were sympathetic for the lack of support agreeing it was disproportionate to other cultural activity.

But they only disclosed part of the story.

Why weren’t they singing from the roof tops how fantastic this event was without putting a dark cloud of resentment over it.

Why couldn’t this be about success instead of about disadvantage.

Perhaps when it comes to Maori our leaders hold to the moto accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive.  

Along the same lines instead of highlighting the success of kaupapa Maori and Kohanga Reo our Maori MPs are promoting compulsory Maori language in schools.

At a time where education budgets are strained we are asked to commit to this programme in addition to the already significant commitment to educating all children on Maori culture and language that is part of everyday activity.

This is a cost we cannot afford as a nation and yet regardless of all the terrible issues facing Maori youth our leaders are promoting compulsory language as a solution.

Metiria Turei even went on to tell me personally that this initiative could be introduced without any additional cost to education.

I am not sure which education system she is talking about but the one my children have been educated in couldn’t add anything extra to the curriculum without sacrificing something or additional funding.

So, New Zealanders are yet again led to believe that we should be sympathetic to the plight of Maori who are not having their language sufficiently recognized.

And if you argue against compulsory Maori language, well you must be racist. 

As another positive we recently recognized the efforts of a struggling family to save the money to quality for assistance into their first home.

In six months $13,000 was saved and a family was able to buy their own home.

It was such an amazing effort and even Maori writer Alan Duff rightly recognized this in his column, suggesting this young mother should be used to provide education and held up as an inspiration to others.

In the same news week, we are told of the government funded Maori housing scheme had paid its first grant.

This $450,000 grant was paid to a family in Ngaruawahia to assist them getting into their family home.

The funding was a top up to the $720,000 mortgage funding they were able to raise for themselves.

This housing scheme was established to improve the statistics of Maori owning their own home.

There was no detail provided on how this one family was selected or the qualifying criteria for the $450,000.

But in a housing crisis and being reminded daily of the desperate situation for homeless Maori it seems imbalanced.

One family diligently saves and works to get the required deposit for a special scheme and another is given $450,000.

We have no issue with assisting and supporting those in need but this type of funding should be available to all those in need, based upon that need not on ethnicity.

The Maori Housing Networks funding is, from the 2016 budget, $17.6-million per annum. A fund exclusively for Maori.

But even with this we hear little of the celebration that this opportunity affords Maori only the criticism of government for Maori homelessness. 

Hobson’s Pledge advocate for the removal of the Maori electorates. A single citizenship, effective political representation.

This was the recommendation of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Electoral System with the introduction of MMP.

Great things have been achieved for Maori and there are now 25 members of parliament with Maori ancestry. Clearly Maori can succeed and be elected on merit so why are we holding so fast to this separatism?

The disestablishment of these electorates is not racism, this is equality of opportunity. I would argue a much better opportunity for Maori.

This would create unity and prevents Maori from having to choose ethnicity over citizenship.

The most recent criticism of Hobson’s Pledge came about because we publicly stated that any investigation into the abuse on children while in care should be for all children who were harmed and that merely investigating based upon ethnicity was wrong.

And yet our position was considered racist.

How are we supposed to protect our vulnerable when we are required to prioritise based upon ethnicity?

How do you tell a victim harmed in this type of abuse that their issue will be investigated later, we are just focusing on Maori now.

Regardless of percentages, who was the most harmed, these investigations provide the opportunity for victims to be heard, all victims!

The opportunity for those responsible to be held accountable.

The opportunity to ensure we learn and do not let the same mistakes occur again.

To suggest that this should be approached based upon ethnicity is reprehensible.

And further to the issue of vulnerable children we, as a nation, have been appalled by the horrific abuse that has occurred.

We have taken to the streets demanding immediate action and nothing was seen to be a greater priority.

Considerable work has been done to change the approach to care for vulnerable children with legislation changes and a significant government agency restructure.

But yet again, instead of working collaboratively and in unity Maori leaders have stood back to highlight negatives, to play power games by refusing to support changes.

They have distracted and delayed important, critical work while they argue semantics about the wording that talks about “wherever practicable” children will be placed within their iwi.

Marama Fox, as representative of the Maori Party, has stated their position is that Maori children should always be placed with their Iwi.

She was reported as saying that law change wording of “wherever practicable” means “if they can be bothered”. How insulting to those who are working every day to protect our at-risk children to suggest that they would fail to do anything because they could not be bothered.

I am yet to hear our Maori leaders make any statements about personal accountability or responsibility. I have not seen equal coverage from our media that challenges Maori on what they are proposing as a solution only what they criticize about what is being done by others.

I do not know what sort of Maori they have been raised to be but I know that my mother would not need a government agency to intervene if she even suspected one of her mokopuna was at risk of harm, even if she suspected they might be a bit hungry.

She would make her mokopuna safe just as her mother would have before her and her mother before that. Personal accountability and responsibility.

By the time these children have reached the stage of needing intervention from a government agency their iwi have already failed them.

Why are these leaders who claim to represent Maori so determined to commentate on problems instead of facilitate solutions, promote blame instead of accountability.

And our National led government continues to allow this separatist divide to widen. They continue to appease a vocal minority and misinform their voting public.

The government that committed $27-million to a referendum about our flag has held 44 closed door meetings with Iwi leaders since they came into power in 2008.

We went through a time when we could not open a paper or turn on television or radio without being flooded with hype about flag images.

But when it comes to the management of our resources, the devolving of our democracy they have been virtually silent.

New Zealand has been misinformed and misrepresented.

I became involved with Hobson’s Pledge through my genuine belief that New Zealand is better than the decisions that are being made.

That we need better from our leaders than to continue along the current path of separatism.

I became involved because I wanted it to be okay to speak up and challenge the issues that we are facing without the accusations of racism.

I became involved because I was proud to stand with Don Brash who as one of our nation’s leaders committed himself consistently and bravely to wanting equality.

Every effort has been made to undermine his comments and attack the validity of his statements under cries of racism and yet I have never worked with anyone who operates with his level of respectfulness and integrity.

He stands here with no agenda other than to do what we at Hobson’s Pledge believe is vital for New Zealand.

He is sincerely a person who it is a privilege to know and for him to be attacked as being racist is despicable.

What is happening in New Zealand right now, is wrong – patronizing to Maori, destructive to our democracy and divisive to our national identity.

There is so much to say, so much to inform you about.

But if you take nothing else away from this speech please know that it is not racist to demand equal recognition before the law for all ethnicity in New Zealand.

Having sympathy for those who are in need and vulnerable and wanting to ensure there is sufficient support does not require differential treatment to an ethnicity.

Seeking to appease those who complain the loudest or demand the most does not ensure those in need get what is needed, and those that are vulnerable are made safe.

Despite all that is being done under the guise of “equality” for Maori we continue to slide backwards.

Just a few days ago we were told that the number of Maori in prison is the highest it has ever been since records started.

At what point do we say what we are doing isn’t working.

The answer does not lie in separatism, it does not lie in providing more and more to the self-appointed Maori elite who have a strangle hold on the power and wealth preventing fair distribution to all.

I have frequently ended my presentations with quotes from inspiring New Zealanders such as Sir Aparana Ngata and Sir Peter Buck. Words that they spoke nearly 100 years ago.

Words that could not be more relevant than if they were standing here today.

But today 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.”

We at Hobson’s Pledge are demanding equality of citizenship before the law because as Mr King observed “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Let us be judged by our character and not by our ancestry. Stop debating our history and focus on our future as one people, one nation.

Casey Costello

Waikanae Community Centre, April 3, 2017.