Mount Albert, trees, co-governance, and decolonisation

The stand-off over planned felling of 345 exotic trees on Mount Albert, Auckland, perhaps lifts a veil from an absurd yet extensive decolonisation process that we are ALL paying for.

Decolonisation, which was initially about freeing a country from being dependent on another, has moved on to mean indigenous people reconnecting with their identity and having greater control

This is probably the reason why the six Tamaki Collective representatives on the “co-governance” Tupuna Maunga Authority may feel driven to dominate the six representatives from the Auckland Council to rid Auckland’s 14 volcanic cones of trees planted by colonisers.

It’s absurd. After all, the volcanic cones have existed for millions of years, were occupied by Maori for a few hundred years, and were sold to white settlers in the 19th century before being donated to or bought by various councils, which, in turn, turned them into reserves.

That was until 2014, when the Tupuna Maunga Authority was set up to “co-govern” Auckland’s 14 volcanic cones after the Nga Mana Whenua o Tamaki Makaurau Collective Redress Deed passed into law.

That “co-government” has turned into a Maori sovereignty show and what the citizens of Mount Albert are battling are the perverse unforeseen consequences of a Treaty settlement done by the former National-Maori Party Government under the care of a somewhat naive Minister named Christopher Finlayson.

Bear in mind that “co-governance” involves trying to combine the diametrically opposed processes of accountable elected-representative democracy with unaccountable tribal-appointee authoritarian rule.

The sketch above shows Mount Albert as it looked in 1843. The area is devoid of noticeable civilisation. At that time, the first post-Treaty land sales in the Auckland area had been made – 3500 acres of central Auckland were bought in September 1840 and a total of 227,000 acres had been bought by the end of 1842.

Theoretically, if the Tupuna Maunga Authority wants to return Mount Albert to how it looked before colonisation, the image above looks like a clear-felled Mount Albert that residents are resisting.

Last week we mentioned the decolonisation efforts of the Authority. That includes steel barriers to keep cars out, no more livestock to keep grass down, no more water troughs, painted-over memorial plaques on seating, and no cross/star on Mount Roskill.

Add to that the Mangere Mountain restoration project that began in March. The Authority culled 150 exotic trees to be replaced with 13,000 native trees, despite protest and despite the fact that the mountain remained in Crown ownership and did not belong to the Authority.

Aside from the absurdity of Auckland’s mountain culture war, this sorry saga shows how a naïve effort at “co-governance” has added racial conflict to what should be a pretty straight-forward matter of managing parks and reserves.

And since “tupuna” means “ancestor” and “maunga” means “mountain”, this group of zealots should be ridiculed as the “Ancestor Mountain Authority”. Note how the silent six councillors who are supposed to represent all of us are apparently missing in inaction.

A sketch of how Mount Albert looked in 1843 reminds us of what a clear-felled volcanic cone looks like.  Artist B. Connell. National Library E-943-q-010

Two more councils, more voting tribal members

Two more councils, Palmerston North City and Waikato District, have used appointment as the backdoor way to get voting tribal members onto councils. This follows at least six high-profile rejections by voters of Maori wards.

Palmerston North's newly elected city council will ask the local tribe, Rangitane, to nominate a representative with full voting rights to the new Environmental Sustainability Committee, the Community Development, and the Economic Development committees. See

Note, the tribe will nominate the representatives, and not the council.

Meanwhile, the Waikato District Council has voted to appoint Maori representatives to its three principal committees: Strategy and Finance, Infrastructure and Policy, and Regulatory. See

Votes on Maori wards in both districts were overwhelmingly rejected with 69 percent opposed in Palmerston North last year and 79 percent opposed at the Waikato District Council in 2012.

The Waikato Regional Council added two Maori constituencies (which are Maori wards for regional councils) to six general wards in 2012.

Racially-selected voting appointees on councils conflicts with our democratic tradition in which political rights should be based on citizenship, not ethnicity.

Tribal appointees are paid by the council and not by the tribal group that appointed them. Appointees lack the accountability, control, and commitment to a code of conduct that is required of elected representatives.

Petitions update

Our petition which asks Parliament to amend the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011 to restore public ownership of the coastal area, put all claims through the High Court, and repeal customary marine title, while affirming customary rights has picked up 6599 signatures. We need your support. The petition may be signed at

Thank you to the 5908 people who have so far signed our petition to welcome the visit of the flotilla that includes the replica of the Endeavour that carried Captain James Cook here 250 years ago. The visit continues until December 6. We set up the petition to counter another petition to stop the visit, claiming it was racist. Our petition may be signed at

Work on housing at Ihumatao in Auckland remains at a standstill. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern botched an intervention in a Maori land occupation and now everything is in limbo. Our petition to evict protesters at Ihumatao, and for the Government to allow both Te Kawerau a Maki and Fletchers to proceed with their lawful business, has collected 2680 signatures. Please sign at

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