Crown Processes Continue To Abuse Māori

Yesterday I was honoured to be a part of a group discussion about the ways in which Treaty settlement processes continue to deny our people the fundamental right to tino rangatiratanga. The group included people who are regarded by their whānau, hapū and iwi as leaders of deep knowledge and integrity. We each spoke of the imposed Crown process as abusive. This is something that has been raised by our people for many years.

Over the past 15 years I have worked alongside a wide range of Māori, Iwi and Community Providers undertaking research related to wellbeing for our people. Some of that work has focused upon Family Violence and Sexual Violence prevention and intervention. This work requires a deep analysis of power relationships and how they play out within relationships in ways where abuse and violence are perpetuated. Oppressive power relationships and acts of abuse are not limited to domestic and family contexts. Abuse is a societal issue. Unequal and oppressive relations are societal issues. Sexism and misogyny enable contexts of abuse. Classism and neoliberal capitalism enable poverty. Racism enables the oppression of Indigenous, Black and People of Colour. Invasion and colonial supremacy systems enables the oppression of Indigenous Peoples. All of these systems of power enable abuse. All of these abuses are reflections of Family and Sexual Violence on a societal, and global scale.  All of these processes of abuse are evident in the way that the Crown imposes it’s processes and policies on Māori.

With this in mind I want to move to a discussion that Moana Jackson shared at the recent ‘Social Movements, Resistance and Social Change III The academic and activist interface’ conference. Moana raised a range of critical issues related to the ways in which the Crown has defined and constructed the processes related to claims taken by our people in relation to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. In problematizing the idea of ‘Treaty Settlements’ Moana stated “Treaties are not meant to be settled. Treaties are meant to be honoured”. This view was reiterated today by Māori academic Veronica Tawhai who stated “The notion of post settlement is inherently connected to our colonisation”. The move in discourse from ‘honouring’ Te Tiriti o Waitangi to ‘settling’ highlights the significant issues in regards to the relationship between the Crown and Māori.

The current ‘Treaty Settlement’ process has its origins in the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ of the mid 1990’s and has framed the ways in which the Crown relates to our people in the current ‘settlement’ process. There is no discussion of ‘honouring’ Te Tiriti. The entire discourse is one of ‘Treaty settlements’ with the central aim of the Crown to move all Iwi into a ‘Post-Settlement’ phase. For the Crown this process has nothing to do with being honourable, which is highlighted by the abusive processes undertaken by the Crown, successive Ministers of Treaty Negotiations and agents within the Office of Treaty Settlements. In 2011 Professor Margaret Mutu highlighted the differing agenda of the Crown to that of Māori in the process.
The chief negotiator for Ngati Kahu, Margaret Mutu, said two quite different agendas were at work. “The Crown and this minister just want to get rid of these troublesome claims. The purpose for settling these claims for Maori is to right wrongs that were done.”( )

What is important about remembering the time of the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ is that our people actively rejected the imposition by the Crown of both the $1billion cap and the processes of negotiation that were proposed. Theoretically the ‘Fiscal Envelope’ policy was rescinded. However, in reality, it defined the fundamental premise from which successive governments have continued to advance Crown intentions in regards to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. For example the Crown has maintained its assertion that it will only work with what they refer to as ‘Large Natural Groupings’ as highlighted by The Office of Treaty Settlements as follows:

Who’s involved in a settlement
The Crown settles with Large Natural Groups (LNGs) — communities with a common ancestry. LNGs are known as claimant groups, and can be made up of:
• a single iwi
• a group of iwi
• a collection of hapū from the same geographical area.
The Crown is the government, and government agencies. The Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) negotiates with representatives of claimant groups on behalf of the Crown. ( )

What we have in this assertion is a continuation of the Crown defining who they will engage with in regards to breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Crown focus has been predominantly that of Iwi, which has led to the inevitable marginalisation of many hapū who assert their own rangatiratanga. It was hapū that are referred to in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, yet many hapū seeking redress are, more often than not, rejected by the Crown. As is the case in an abuse relationship the dominant partner maintains control over how roles are defined and ‘allowed’ within the relationship.

Throughout the ‘Treaty Settlement’ process the Crown maintains oppressive power relationships. This is clearly evident when we hear Iwi representatives express that only around 1% of lands stolen by the Crown have been returned, or as in the case of Te Atiawa in Taranaki that the processes related to the Crown and Council determination that the Iwi must purchase back the leases for Pekapeka block is not justice. Many of our people have shared experiences of a ‘take it or leave it’ position by the Crown, and some Iwi have been faced with accepting settlements offered or being at risk of being ‘put to the end of the queue’.

The Waitangi Tribunal highlighted this behaviour in the Tamaki Makaurau Report ( )
Winners tend to be groups who, relative to other Maori groups, have already had successes. They are led by outstanding people like Sir Hugh Kawharu, they have good infrastructure (communication capability, sound accounting practices and good legal structures), and stable, committed membership. Arguably, though, those most in need of settlements – who may often be the very groups whose Treaty rights were least respected in the process of colonisation – are those who do not fulfil a ‘success’ profile. On the ‘picking winners’ basis, those groups will be last in the settlement queue. When the Crown targets for settlement the most high profile, effective group in a district, and leaves out the other tangata whenua groups, it reinforces the view that they matter less. (p.12)
The current Minister of Treaty Negotiations has consistently shown his paternalistic view of Māori through denying hapū voices, threatening iwi to be left out or to be last on the list. These acts are inherently abusive to Māori. The farcical nature of the current settlement process is highilighted by Ani Mikaere who writes:

Let us return now to the relationship between Pākehā and Māori today. It is generally assumed that the Treaty settlement process that has been in progress over the past twenty years represents an attempt to resolve the injustices of the past, and that steps such as the incorporation of Māori terms into legislation (for example, the Resource Management Act or Te Ture Whenua Māori) represent a genuine effort on the Crown’s part to bridge the divide between Māori and Pākehā. But how do these developments measure up against the tikanga Māori principles governing the relationship between tangata whenua and manuhiri, or between the wrong-doer and the wronged party?
Put simply, they don’t. The Waitangi Tribunal, for instance, while having achieved a great deal through its meticulous report writing and its ability to operate on the proverbial smell of an oily rag, is a creature of statute, its powers subject to legislative interference – as happened, for instance, following the Te Roroa report. Appointments to the Tribunal are made upon the recommendation of Ministers of the Crown, it is ritually starved of resources, and its recommendations routinely ignored by the Crown. When negotiating settlements with the Crown, claimants are typically presented with a “take-it-or-leave-it” bottom line, with the Crown prepared to negotiate on minor matters only. Any legislative provisions that have unforeseen consequences (unforeseen to the Crown, that is) are either amended to ensure that the impact of Māori concepts on the operation of Pākehā law remains minimal, or they are interpreted restrictively by the courts, or both. The problem with this approach, in terms of a tikanga Māori analysis, is that it is the manuhiri who are dictating the way that things should be done in the tangata whenua’s domain. It is the wronged party who is being expected to submit to terms imposed by the wrong-doer. Such a method of dealing with the injustices of the past cannot possibly hope to achieve resolution. (

What this tells us is that the current process is founded within a construct of the coloniser continuing to determine and control how they will deal with the colonised. In Ani’s terms it is the manuhiri determining the tikanga and kawa for tangata whenua. Paolo Freire would refer to this as the oppressor maintaining their power dominance over the oppressed through a process of false generosity – that being a generosity that is not generous – and which maintains the unequal power and control over our people.

In returning to the discussion of abuse, of Family Violence and of Sexual Violence as forms of abuse, it is easy to see how the Crown throughout the ‘Settlement’ process takes the position of the dominant controlling and violent abuser. This was also highlighted recently in regards to the New Plymouth City Council and the issue of the Pekapeka Block, in this situation the council acts in collusion with the Crown. At a meeting with Council members one Māori woman summed it up as follows:
When I sat down to write my kōrero today, I was struck by the glaringly obvious parallels between what I do, and what is currently going-on on a community and collective level between hapū, iwi and the various governing bodies of this land. Every day we at are engaged in the therapeutic process of addressing abuse, neglect, dysfunction, chaos and crisis that stems from violence and the intentional harm of others. As an organisation we are absolutely resolute in our stance that family violence is not OK, that violence in any form is not OK. We are founded and named after the principles established at Parihaka by Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi and their instructions to the women of Taranaki to maintain the tikanga, care and wellbeing of Taranaki whānau.
Violence is not OK, the further marginalisation of victims is not OK, interpersonal intentional harm is not OK, be it on a physical, psychological, emotional, financial or spiritual level, it is not OK. The dehumanising of the victim, the minimising of the harm, the rationalising of the violence is not OK. Nor is it OK for someone to use for their benefit the rewards of the harm of other, intentionally benefiting from that trauma, because this further victimises the victim and reinforces the perpetrators actions.
I think there is a national recognition of these fundamental moralities and a growing intolerance to those that do not subscribe to these basic principles. We certainly have a clearly defined justice system and restorative process which is set-up with these principles in mind.
What I would say to you all here today, is that what is true on an individual level should also be true on a group and collective level. I would like to explore how our approach to intentional group collective harm has up to this day, minimised, dehumanised, marginalised and in no way resembles a meaningful restorative or healing approach to harm and the impacts and effects of that harm.

The comparison between Crown actions in relation to Māori and Family Violence is not new. The Māori Taskforce on Whānau Violence (2004) stated:
The legacy of colonisation and contemporary institutional racism – in themselves forms of violence and disempowerment has contributed to whānau violence.” ( Kruger 2004, p.4)

It can be said that in relation to Māori, the greatest single perpetrator of Family Violence is the Crown.  The Crown has failed to ensure that negotiations related to Te Tiriti o Waitangi are truly honourable and just. Successive governments have maintained their position of dominance and consistently applied ‘power over’ approaches to negotiating redress for breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This does not constitute a meaningful partnership, nor is it a healthy relationship. The relationship is one of unequal and oppressive power that reflects the colonial ideologies that have pervaded since the invasion of this country.

Where some iwi have ‘settled’ and have managed to develop some economic gains that does not take away from the fact that the overall constitutional arrangements in this country remain premised upon colonial structures and white privilege. Systemic racism is embedded in Crown agencies that perpetuate unequal power in their daily dealings with Māori whānau and communities. There are many examples that highlight that the Crown in its dealings with Māori continue to act as the dominating bullying partner and as such reproduce trauma upon our communities in the same way that their colonial predecessor did upon our tupuna. For healing to happen within such a context there must be a resolution process that brings the Crown into a place of true, meaningful, enduring and healthy partnership with our people. Until that occurs the treaty settlement process will remain both fraught and traumatizing for many of our communities.

Author: Te Wharepora Hou

Te Wharepora Hou is a collective of wāhine who are mainly Tāmaki Makaurau based, but we have strong participation from wāhine based elsewhere in Aotearoa and the world. We have come together to ensure a stronger voice for wāhine and are concerned primarily with the wellbeing of whānau, hapū, iwi and all that pertains to Papatūānuku and the sustenance of our people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: