Richard Randerson – yes there is a better way

Former Wellington Bishop and social worker Richard Randerson, was given the editorial page in The Listener, to argue that He Puapua would not lead to apartheid, as argued by some conservative people. (Listener February 26-March 4)

He is a good guy, and I agree that apartheid Kiwi style, does not follow from implementing suggestions in the He Puapua report. Apartheid was more than a separate system – it involved oppression by the minority group.

But under some He Puapua suggestions and current Government policies, there would be a massive accretion of power to iwi leaders, who may or may not represent the aspirations of Maori, and also separate Maori electoral powers. That is the key issue, not whether we have Maori schools or health services.

What we are seeing is the conflation of three key issues, and decisions are effectively been made in secret by the Government and iwi/Maori leaders, and slipped out one by one. Anyone who disagrees is called racist, and as a result few enter the debate. But some extreme views do surface in various online media.

Mainstream media has disgracefully failed to unpick the issues in a professional manner, thereby further reducing its credibility in the eyes of far more people than some extremists at Parliament. It is truly astonishing to me.

The three issues being conflated are: The Treaty, the UN declaration on the rights of Indigenous people and social justice and equity. While related they are quite separate and should not be confused.

By way of example nearly everyone knows that on average Maori and Pacific islanders have poorer economic and social statistics than the rest of the population. A bundle of reasons explain the differences with historical Treaty breaches being part of the explanation for Maori. But that does not explain Pacific Island Islanders. Nor does it explain the fact that the large group called Asian, which comprises many ethnicities, does rather well despite many arriving here with little English or any special Government assistance.

We can all agree that poor public policies over 40 years have created an appalling housing affordability situation, which requires strong, intelligent government initiatives. It is ironic that the rapid worsening occurred under this Labour Government, which declared housing a crisis in 2017, and has made several policy changes without success so far. Current Reserve Bank policy changes including increasing interest rates will likely lead to house price reductions but may not improve affordability.

The Covid vaccination rollout, which started well behind the pace and then caught up rapidly, showed the folly of thinking it would work well for all groups. Clearly many, but by no means all Maori and Pacific Islanders, required different approaches, as did some other groups as well. It’s absurd to simply see Maori, Asians, Pacific Islanders and those of European descent, as discrete groups with unique characteristics.

By granting the UN declaration and He Puapua elevated status, I believe Richard Randerson encourages New Zealand to go down a pathway that will create social divisiveness that damages us all.

There is a better way which is to accept we have an incredibly blended population which mostly shares common values. Let’s build on that. As a pro-choice person I am happy with different policies and institutions to provide services including Maori, Pacific Island or Asian schools, or health entities.

But these decisions should be made everyone having an equal say. Richard is wrong to say that under democracy the majority will always let its interests prevail over others. Particularly under MMP, power lies at the margin and Maori MPs happen at present to comprise the Government’s majority, and will always be influential, whether it’s Labour or National. Labour takes some notice of farmers even though typically not many vote for them. Ditto with National Governments and workers.

Don’t abandon democracy by stealth, as we are currently doing. The democratic model, plus a well managed market economy, has proven itself over the last 500 years to out perform all the alternatives, including tribalism, communism, theocracies and monarchies. It can always be improved.

2 thoughts on “Richard Randerson – yes there is a better way

  1. Thanks Barry, your paragraph ‘But under some He Puapua suggestions and current Government policies, there would be a massive accretion of power to iwi leaders, who may or may not represent the aspirations of Maori, and also separate Maori electoral powers. That is the key issue, not whether we have Maori schools or health services.’ To me spells the potentially most dangerous aspect. Societies that are still beset by tribalism fill the bottom statistics on safety, corruption, abuse of rights.

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  2. I agree with you 100% and have been mystified that you are almost alone in addressing this (Elizabeth Rata is another,”Ethno-nationalism or Democratic-Nationalism: Which way ahead for NZ?” June 30 2021, and “The Road to He Puapua” July 5 2021)
    I do not believe the Labour government can use the pandemic for an excuse to avoid robust public debate on this crucial matter – I believe they are afraid of racial polarity – which in a circular argument is precisely why it must be had.
    David Seymour has been brave to address the need to go right back to the 1980s and query the ‘principles of the Treaty’ – as all political parties since that time have been remiss (and self-interested?) in doing.
    Please go on.

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