The $900 million allocation in the Budget for part-Maori has aroused the ire of Honour Hobson’s Pledge. The group’s spokesman Don Brash calls it “an absurdity that few dare to question”. (See the press release on Friday 15 May)
The false claim of being one people
By John Robinson
We have all faced the Covid-19 virus pandemic together, living in lockdown, taking care of ourselves and others. The Government has emphasised that we are one people – just as it did after the Christchurch mosque attacks of March 2019. That was false; a lie, as New Zealand law provides a considerable range of special rights and benefits to a few of us, defined as “members of the Maori race”.
Now the recovery package has a huge sum earmarked specifically on the basis of race. The government will spend $900 million in Budget 2020 “to support whanau, hapu and iwi to deal with the fall-out of Covid-19”.
Allocate the money where it needed
Many New Zealanders are struggling. We hear constantly of serious levels of child poverty and of poor neighbourhoods in need. That is where the money is needed.
Funds should be distributed to those in need and not by identity of some far-off past ancestor. This sadly shows that the call for unity, that we are one people facing the challenge of the pandemic together, is a sham, just empty words signifying nothing.
Maori suffered in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918
One claim put forward to justify this racial policy is that Maori suffered more than others in the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. This is true, and we should understand why.
Many Maori then lived in their village communities, largely following traditional habits. When young, prominent Maori leader, MP and Government Minister Sir Apirana Ngata had toured the villages as Secretary of the activist Te Aute College Students Association (TACSA, sometimes referred to as the Young Maori Party).
He saw the threat to their health of the frequent mass gatherings such as marriage feasts, burial feasts and dedication feasts, and from 1895 on he called strongly for change. Large groups had been living close together in dirty, ill-kept, ill-ventilated houses for a month, a perfect setting for the spread of disease.
Bringing Waikato tribes into the mainstream
Even later, in the 1920s, the defeated rebels of the King movement lived in a Waikato society that had remained aloof from the rest of New Zealand, separated by many barriers. Waikato had stood aside in World War I and continued to refuse national sanitation and medical care. The good work of Ngata, together with Te Puea, brought improvements and Waikato too became a real part of New Zealand.
All that is a century and more ago. We should return to the 1840 promise of Captain Hobson — “He iwi tahi tatou–We are now one people” and turn away from racism and separatism.