Analysis: Co-governance, He Puapua, Three Waters and the likes of the Māori Health Authority have all been controversial issues for the current Government.

They’ve regularly been at the centre of claims of separatism that have gone as far as allegations that somehow Māori Cabinet Ministers had some sort of nefarious control of the Prime Minister and the rest of their cabinet colleagues. That Māori were the tail wagging the dog.

Commentators, bloggers, opposition MPs and more recently political wannabes, as well as just out-and-out trolls have opined with all sorts of Henny Penny alarm that the sky was falling, and New Zealand was on the verge of collapse.

More often, than not. It seemed like the actual policy matters were lost in the hyperbole and doomsday wailing. Although, to be fair, on some matters that is understandable.

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For example. Three Waters felt complicated from the get-go. Complicated is hard to explain and easy to make mischief with. I have sparred with a prominent blogger/tweeter over a mechanism in the new Water Services Entities Amendment Bill; over what are called Te Mana o te Wai statements. These are statements which iwi submit on management water in their area.

This chap, a lawyer, insists (and has for some time) that in the legislation; the new water entities must give effect to Te Mana o te Wai statements. This means the water entity is legally bound to implement what is in the statement that iwi can submit.

The law says no such thing. I’m yet to work out whether that was wilful blindness to maintain a narrative or just plain ignorance on this commentator’s part. Either way, it’s led people to believe the new law does something it does not.

He Puapua grew out of the then National-led Government being among the last handful of countries to sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It was radical. There’s no denying that. But its plan for constitutional change and promotion of Māori authority was always going to run up against the tyranny of the majority. Despite what anyone might say it’s been dead in the water for months. 

Baseless fear and loathing regarding Māori political issues is nothing new. The foreshore and seabed issue still looms large over our political landscape. It could be argued that Helen Clark handled the foreshore and seabed issue decisively and firmly to plug a legislative anomaly, and to deal with the looming threat of Don Brash after his infamous Orewa speech of early 2004.

For many Māori it was the ultimate expression of the tyranny of the majority; a kneejerk reaction to settle a baying, but unknowing crowd. The crux of the issue remains that a group of New Zealanders were denied their day in court.

The question of whether or not Māori still had a claim to ownership of the foreshore and seabed because customary title was never extinguished was never able to be tested by the courts. The right to a day in court to test this was legislated way before a hearing could be had.

It felt to many a most un-Kiwi thing to do. That should have been rung alarm bells with Kiwis; it did not. That actual crux of the issue was lost in the sand kicked up off the beaches.

National again tried to play the same fear card the following year with the empty vessel that was the Kiwi v Iwi billboards National used in its election campaign in 2005. The dog whistle slogans bore no resemblance to the actual issues.

Democracy remains firmly intact

Two of my favourite chunks of falling sky in the last couple of years are the lazy and distasteful claims we are now an apartheid state, and that democracy has been cancelled or is under threat.

Regarding the first, I keep asking people: What of your freedoms has been curtailed or denied? Who are you prevented from associating with or being in a relationship with? What places are you denied from entering under the threat of arrest and imprisonment solely due to your race, religion, or creed? Surprise. I’ve never had an answer.

As to the supposed threat to democracy. I’ve always understood that the ultimate expression of a democratic society is full and free elections. Our election was never cancelled, or even under threat, and in a little over a fortnight ‘the people’ will decide what and who they like or don’t like. Democracy, despite the Henny Pennies, remains firmly intact.

But will it be a play by two of the smaller parties to that majority which knows little of Māori issues and has been made fearful of them that will ultimately decides the next coalition.

On Monday, Act Party leader David Seymour remained adamant that a referendum on co-governance and legislation to define the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi were coalition negotiation bottom lines. By, last night he was saying Act was open to a longer discussion and guidance on these matters. Classic political-speak to say I’m softening or walking back my previous stance, without saying I’m softening or walking back my previous stance.

Silver Foxy Loxy times his run

The political war horse of the north, Winston Peters, has also been railing against co-governance, wokeism and ‘disingenuous Māori elites.’ He is reaching deep in to his kete of soundbites.

But it may be his speech in Nelson earlier in the month where he said Māori aren’t indigenous that may have given him the most political impetus.

Social media – brown, white, and grey – was ablaze in minutes of that being reported, arguing the pros and cons of his statement. Yesterday, during a speech in Gisborne, a Māori woman accused him of ‘bad mouthing’ Maori and accused his supporters of being racist. All good political publicity for New Zealand First.

Fun fact. Britain’s highly regarded big book of words, the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, the USA’s oldest dictionary, disagree with Winston on the question of indigeneity.

But the Silver Foxy Loxy (does that make Shane Jones Hene Pene?) appears to be timing his run to the election day line with perfection, as only he could. Will it be the sky-is-falling scaremongering on Māori issues that ends up deciding the election?

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