sign up log in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Economist Brian Easton says former Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson is having a significant impact on Maori development

Economist Brian Easton says former Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson is having a significant impact on Maori development

This is a re-post of an article originally published on pundit.co.nz. It is here with permission.


Michael Cullen set out his political philosophy in his autobiography. So has Chris Finlayson. His is having significant impact on Māori development.

Chris Finlayson (pictured above) was Minister for Treaty Negotiations (and Attorney General) between 2008 and 2017. (Alas, he was Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage for only six of those years.)

His record is reported in in He Kupu Taurangi: Treaty Settlements and the Future of Aotearoa New Zealand. It will be an invaluable reference book for those working in the area. But also in the course of the book he also indicates something of his political philosophy (later he cites Edmund Burke favourably):

The National Party is traditionally a liberal-conservative party in that it combines two great political traditions in one party. Both the liberal and conservative traditions value equality of opportunity, respect for the law and property rights, but the party’s liberals have generally been more open-minded to social reforms. ... [m]y approach to settlements was always, consciously or not, centred on the two core National Party principles of respect for the rule of law and the sanctity of property rights. ... A 1993 judgement from the High Court put it well ‘... property rights are very strong rights. They rank, in the hierarchy of law, just below absolute constitutional rights. In more colloquial terms, on a scale of one to ten, constitutional rights are a ten, property rights are a nine.’

I am not sure that a social democrat would rank property rights as highly. Here is a fundamental difference between the Labour and National parties.

Finlayson says that he ranked property rights so highly enough that when he saw them seriously breached by the 2004 Foreshore and Sea Bed Act, it ‘tipped my decision in standing for Parliament in 2005.’ Previously, ‘[i]f I had any aspiration it was to be a judge.’ He was critical of National’s position at the time: a ‘confused and frankly hopeless approach’.

When the book was written, the writers did not have Michael Cullen’s autobiography which tells how, because it was a minority government, Labour’s response to the Court of Appeal decision was blocked by a lack of parliamentary support. They had to depend on New Zealand First, whose support came at a ‘heavy price’ including the loss of ‘a lot of high moral ground’. Ironically the two NZF negotiators, Dail Jones and Winston Peters, both lawyers, had been National MPs. The irony is compounded because Cullen thought that National’s replacement 2011 Takutai Moana Act (supervised by Finlayson) was closer to what Labour wanted in 2004 than what they could negotiate with New Zealand First. (A further irony is Finlayson conferred with Roger Kerr when fashioning National’s policy. We lack Cullen’s, not doubt witty, response to him being in the same room as Kerr.)

Finlayson admires Cullen’s thirteen month stint as the Treaty Negotiations Minister which settled the massive Treelords deal involving the Central North Island Forests. He is more critical of Cullen’s Labour predecessors, especially Margaret Wilson who, he thinks, was tardy and who completed fewer settlements than he did.

Wilson tells a different story in her recently published autobiography, Activism, Feminism, Politics and Parliament. She suggests that the Bolger Government put a lot of effort into the huge Sealords, Tainui and Kai Tahu deals but that it had not really moved on to the next stage of numerous, and often contentious, smaller deals.

Speculating – Finlayson does not appear to have consulted Wilson – he suggests that Labour was more concerned with related but different issues.

The Labour Party is a social democratic party. When Labour Party ministers refer to settlements, they often do so in the context of social justice, a concept common in the Roman Catholic Church, which has become a feature of centre-left politics over the last fifty years. Margaret Wilson said that settlement must be understood within the context of wider government policies such as the Labour-led government’s ‘closing the gaps’ policy. In my view, looking at the settlements as another ‘tool’ in the economic and development ‘toolbox’ does not reflect either the historical reasons for the settlements or the aspiration of most iwi who settle claims.

The two strategies were raised in the 1980s by Eddie Durie, then chair of the Waitangi Tribunal. The Waiheke Tribunal Report asked ‘what can be done now and in the future to rebuild the tribes?’, interpreting Te Tiriti as between the Crown and the iwi-tribes, with rangatira signing on their behalf. But also under him, the Tribunal explored eliminating the socioeconomic inequality which Māori suffered, which interprets Te Tiriti as between the Crown and the iwi-people.

We can debate long about the merits of the respective interpretations but the historical fact is that the framework for redress was set by the Bolger’s National Government and focused on rebuilding the iwi-tribes and on property rights.

The outcome is that there are now a number of wealthy independent iwi filling part of the hollow society (discussed in my Not in Narrow Seas). But they are not rich enough to be able to provide a lot of economic support to their members. I illustrated this in Heke Tangata with the example of Tainui. Much of the profits of the iwi-tribes are capital gains from the value of land and unless they are willing to realise them by land sales – unsurprisingly given Māori history, generally iwi are not – the cash available for distribution is small. The first call is for the iwi-tribe itself and all its marae. Some will be used for educational purposes. What is left for the iwi equivalent of social purposes (or a ‘dividend’ for those with a more capitalist mind) is negligible. The iwi-tribe have been rebuilt but the iwi-people have not.

Moreover, about a quarter of those of Māori descent do not identify with any iwi, while some who do have little attachment. (A practical reason is they may live far from the iwi rohe.) Strong iwi-tribes are not sufficient to ‘close the gaps’.

Most iwi-tribes work with the state to deliver social services and support. But some Māori organisations who do this are outside the iwi structures, notably Māori Urban Authorities which, as their name suggests, arise because iwi-based organisations often have poor reach into urban areas. Deliverers of social services, such as MUAs and iwi providers, have no significant independent funding; they depend upon the state.

As successful as the treaty settlement process has been – and one wishes the current minister well – there remains a central role for the state to address the iwi-people socioeconomic inequality. Private initiatives will not be enough. That is true whether the liberal-conservatives or the social democrats are running the country.

He Kupu Taurangi: Treaty Settlements and the Future of Aotearoa New Zealand by Christopher Finlayson and James Christmas. (The Māori title means ‘A Promise’.)


Brian Easton, an independent scholar, is an economist, social statistician, public policy analyst and historian. He was the Listener economic columnist from 1978 to 2014. This is a re-post of an article originally published on pundit.co.nz. It is here with permission.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

15 Comments

Thank you for the article. My observation as a trustee with some committee experience at the hapu level, is that much tribal power is concentrated at the top. What passes for consultation can be quite rudimentary at times. This line:

"A further irony is Finlayson conferred with Roger Kerr when fashioning National’s policy"... explains why.

Like the economy generally we are reliant on the good graces of individuals who hold the reins as to whether the wealth 'trickles down'. The imposition of a neoliberal economic model on the tribal structure is a lottery. At best, like Ngai Tahu, the benefits are shared. In other cases the worst aspects of tribal culture, are reinforced,  driven by fragile egos and self-interest. My experience is definitely the latter. 

Up
7

"My observation as a trustee with some committee experience at the hapu level, is that much tribal power is concentrated at the top."

 

That's why other societies over thousands of years, moved away from tribalism and governance based on seniority, blood and kinship ties. It's a recipe for injustice and corruption. 

Up
6

Yep, we have moved to the rule by the 1%.

Up
2

Great comment Joolz, points to Maori politicians being no different to politicians of any other ilk.

But in being concerned with building Iwi , I fear that successive Governments are building an elitist group among Maori of whom they will talk to as "representing" Maori. But in this there is a failure. I believe that the real solution is for any Government to aggressively encourage and build industry, especially in the regions, that provides employment and development opportunities for individuals. They should be driving decent wage levels (not pushing up benefit rates), which could be achieved through tax policies. these policies do not need to be race based as they would address everyone living in the regions, predominantly Maori. As individual wealth grows so would Iwi, not to mention the opportunities for investment. Governments represent people not elites, so they need to deliver to the people not pamper the elites. I also agree that property rights must be respected, but am concerned that this will focus on collectives such as Iwi rather than individuals.

Up
1

No matter which side of the political fence has worked on settling historical claims - settlements have no real relation to the real costs of confiscation and subsequently social/cultural harm;

The entire value of Treaty settlements over the past quarter of a century would cover super payments for two months.

For me, the key to solving the inequity for future generations I believe lies in a true partnership in governance.  If Finlayson or any of the past Ministers of Treaty Negotiations and Settlements were being truly objective and sincere in their memoirs they would emphasize the fact that the Crown has always offered tokenistic redress. I'm really proud that as a nation we have the Tribunal process which so thoroughly researches and documents the history of breaches, but we should never lose sight of the fact that our forefathers attempted to settle NZ generously and peacefully, and subsequent actions over many generations treated the Treaty as an empty ritual.

I don't see redress as a property rights issue, or a socioeconomic/development issue - I see it as an honorable attempt to heal the wounds of a broken promise, and hence a divided society.  I believe that intent to heal is moving beyond redress and into a true integration of both knowledge and power between two cultures.  

Up
1

The last line of Jooltz comment above is telling though isn’t it. And it doesn’t apply uniquely to just  the subject situation in our nation nor any other country as well. Regardless of how well and effectively direction, purpose and function is framed it cannot avoid the inevitable corruption of human intervention or more crudely those that perceive opportunity for self interest. For example the school lunch scheme in the UK degenerated into a food supply that was neither appetising nor nutritious as those involved clipped the ticket. Same applies in the USA for the subsidised food banks etc. Same applies to the mafia getting control of the clothes for poor for Africa. Hate to sound so negative but sound, justified and good intentions have been being  hijacked by such nature since before recorded time

Up
5

Exactly but those that want to be ‘virtuous’ choose to ignore the annoying facts of history

Up
0

A different angle on Te Tiriti by Anne Salmond published this morning: https://www.newsroom.co.nz/pro/anne-salmond-te-tiriti-and-democracy

Up
1

Dame Anne is just brilliant in her ability to communicate important knowledge to inform moral decision-making in her writing.  Excellent link, thanks.

The corporatisation requirement of the Crown in the hearing and settling of Treaty claims with kinship groups always seemed to me so at opposites with tikanga. I'm not saying it was the wrong way to go, but I'm guessing other arrangements were not explored given the need for expediency. 

But, it was the pegging of one worldview into another, quite uncomfortably.  Very often, the corporate arm of an iwi/kinship group operates quite separately from the rūnanga (tribal) arm - and in particular, I have observed that the two entities often take/voice very different approaches on te taiao/environmental matters.. Which is a bit disappointing - kind of a cake and eat it too approach.

 

 

 

Up
0

Another worldview for your consideration: Partnerships | NZCPR Site

"In short he (Cooke) was making up the law for which there was no legal precedent and trespassing on the role of Parliament the only institution in our democracy which could legislate for such a fundamental social upheaval."

Up
0

Further: Sir Apirana Ngata (in 1922) Treaty (nzcpr.com) 

"...if I had just stated, the Treaty of Waitangi created Parliament to make laws. The Treaty has given us the Maori Land Court with all of its activities. The Treaty confirmed Government purchases of lands which is still being done and it also confirmed past confiscations. The Treaty sanctioned the levying of rates and taxes on Maori lands, it made the one law for the Maori and the Pakeha. If you think these things are wrong and bad then blame our ancestors who gave away their rights in the days when they were powerful."

Up
4

You could not be further from the truth about The Treaty, its been a disaster for the team of 5 million. We have the most racist divisive society in the history of New Zealand.

Up
5

Can't agree more Dave Rennie! Current bunch of muppets forcing separatist policy on all New Zealanders as fast as they can.Scrap Treaty immediately and replace with a constitution that treats every New Zealander equally, no matter what colour their skin or their ethnicity!

Note, last National government have a lot to answer for in this area!

Up
4

100% agree.  The treaty IS the reason why Maori are doing so badly.  The sooner we get rid of it, the sooner we have a more inclusive and equitable society here in NZ.

Up
1

The gravy train…will it ever stop.

just like a too cozy welfare state, it’s hard not to take the easy road

Up
0