The past few days has been one of those occasions when Hawke’s Bay had almost too much on offer — a major conference on the relationship between Maori and local government, the Te Mata Peak clean-up, the 10th anniversary of the Hastings Farmers Market, the Hospice Holly Trail, Kai in the Bay: the Maori & Wild Food Festival, Central Hawke’s Bay’s A&P Show, and The Wildflower Sculpture Exhibition. And I’m sure I’ll be offending someone by not mentioning more events that didn’t cross my radar.

For my part, with nineteen others I spent two days in an intensive Treaty of Waitangi Workshop, conducted by Robert Consedine under the auspices of the Napier Pilot City Trust. Robert (with his daughter Joanna) is author of the acclaimed book,  Healing Our History.

His knowledge of New Zealand history in general; the events, decisions, agendas and differing cultural perspectives that have shaped Pakeha/Maori relationships; and the external dynamics of colonization that provided the context for all that transpired, is truly remarkable. As was his ability, from years of conducting such workshops throughout New Zealand, to lead a very diverse group of twenty individuals through an interactive process that proved immensely revealing and valuable to each one of us.

With only six years under my belt of observing Maori and Pakeha relations — at interpersonal, local government and societal levels — I confess that I went to this workshop with two main, and overly simple, perceptions shaping my thinking.

First, a sense that an almost “academic” preoccupation with the distant past distracts vitally needed attention and energies from dealing with immediate and real problems of the present and future — especially indisputable economic, social, and health inequities.

Second, a sense that the “ceremonial” nods toward Maori language and culture in many public settings — a Maori prayer or haka before an event, singing the national anthem in two languages, a welcoming powhiri — disguise a more fundamental resistance to embracing aspects of Maori culture (and aspirations) that might represent more of a challenge to the “dominant” Pakeha culture (“dominant” only in political and economic terms, and population numbers, not in any intrinsic sense).

Both of my perceptions were affected by the workshop.

Having now swum in the swirling waters of “Kawanatanga” versus “Rangitiratanga”, I am still resistant to the notion that arguments over who understood (and agreed to) what should drive New Zealand’s march into the 21st century.

However, I — and I would confidently say every other participant — was stunned by the tangible, undeniable record of what actually happened in terms of official government action after the Treaty was signed and the surge of colonial immigration into New Zealand began. Literally hundreds of laws were adopted — 560 between 1865 and 1909, and more than 100 thereafter — that were indisputably designed to methodically confiscate Maori land, get it into Pakeha hands, and eradicate Maori culture.There’s nothing academic at all about the gross injustices that were committed.

Were any of these laws to be proposed today, and applied equally, most New Zealanders would (one would hope) rise in revolt!

So I come away from the workshop far more supportive of treaty settlements and the process underway to resolve them. And pleased to see it progressed by a Brash-less National Government.

As for the degree of respectful co-existence between Maori and Pakeha cultures, now and going forward, it remains the reality that the “normal” or “mainstream” or “dominant” culture is the one with more power to choose — through myriad personal and official decisions — which aspects of any “minority’s” culture it will embrace … and how quickly and deeply.

Not surprisingly, it would appear that the dominant culture accepts, on its own terms, the fewest, most innocuous and least threatening changes proffered by its minorities. On the other hand, the minority is expected to meekly accept the imposition of the most, the most disruptive, and the most important changes. “Get with the program” … in other words … “become like us.”

In this regard, the value of the workshop is that it brings to the surface more clearly “who is sacrificing what” in the present interplay between Maori and Pakeha culture, and it makes more transparent the ways in which the dominant culture shapes most policies and practices to reflect its predispositions and to sustain its own benefits.

Through workshops like this, as Pakeha become more aware of their advantages, more individuals might better understand the harm their cultural intolerance can do, and more willing to adapt themselves.

Unfortunately, only about 350 people in Hawke’s Bay have participated in one of Robert Consedine’s workshops. Very few elected officials, business leaders or media practitioners have. Certainly there are other “Maori education” programs … and in some cases attendance is mandatory. However, numerous people in this weekend’s workshop commented that they have snoozed through uninspiring “sensitivity courses” in the past … but that this one was something special … a real awakening. That’s them talking, not me.

As for my own assessment, I’d say that Robert Consedine’s workshop should be “must attend” for anyone in a position of authority. In fact, participation would be immensely beneficial for anyone who wants to appreciate what the full potential of a truly integrated New Zealand might be.

Tom Belford

P.S. Robert’s workshops in this area are organized by Kerry Kitione, reached at kkitione@xtra.co.nz. Or you can email Robert Consedine at robert@waitangi.co.nz. His website is www.waitangi.co.nz

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13 Comments

  1. Hi Tom

    I'd be genuinely interested in comment from you , being American , as to how you see the "colonisation " process over your indigeneous native American Indians in comparison to our New Zealand experience.

    I would say our country has one of the most enviable ( although not perfect) race relations in the world which is even affirmed by most mainstream Maori commentators.

    I wonder…can the same be said for the American Indian experience from the 1700's to now ?

  2. No dispute from me.

    White Americans virtually exterminated Native Americans in roughly the same 19th century period as NZ was being colonized. With no remorse and almost no looking back ever since. If you were to raise the subject with most Americans, the response would be … why are we even talking about this?!

    In that regard, the NZ experience stands head and shoulders above the American.

  3. What absolute Shite!

    That Rob Pharazyn purports to speak for most Maori.

    This is a deeply racist country and you have your head so far up your own orifice you cannot see it

    Have you forgotten Paul Henry, the KKK in the South Island, John Key grinning like an idiot when Henry insulted Indians.

    You people are deluded

  4. Thanks for that, Tom.

    I think most New Zealanders right across the spectrum accept that Maori were "conned" in our early days and successive Govt's in the 1900's took an arrogant and unfair stance and ripped them off.. but constant relitigation of these well-documented grievances achieves zilch and has now approached it's use-by-date.( sorry, Hone)

    Again most modern, progressive and academic Maori ( other than vested interested academics like Margaret Mutu et al) have realised that the time has now arrived to move on from repetitive "victimhood" or grievance thinking. The future has arrived and there's a more productive horizon quantum for Maori in moving on into a brave, new world so to speak and they know this !

    Of course as always,t here are still plenty of Maori legal and corporate interests and hand-wringing and bone-wearing Pakehas running on their own psychological or financial agendas, who wish to freeze frame the past inequities and issues ad infinitum…but i think you'll find if you talk to the top table at Nga Tahu , Tainui and a lot of the Wanangas that they are more interested in getting on with life and actually have a certain disdain for Pakeha who surf on the back of Maori causes.

    We have a lot to be proud of as a bi-cultural nation compared to the rest of the world.

    And just in case, Tom , you think I'm just some biased "white boy" with an attitude ( which i may be?) i should point out that my last serious relationship was with a fine Ngati Porou woman who taught me a bit about a different paradigm.

    next please!

  5. Constant relitigation…… achieves zilch – why bother with the foreshore fudge?

    No doubt you will supply your survey of most modern, progressive and academic Maori.

    "…productive horizon quantum…" – what rubbish!

    Again please quote directly, fully and identify these "…top table…" people.

    You are not a bicultural nation and your present elected government (and their supporters) pay lipservice whilst ignoring the issues that haunt most Maori.

    Such as poorer health statistics across the board. An average Maori wage which is approximately 50% lower then the average Pakeha wage.

    Truly being bicultural as opposed to just stating it, is obviously something that escapes you

    Your last point is perhaps your saddest.How often do we hear bigots state, "…I'm not racist my last girlfriend was…".

    Please do not encourage this man anymore.

  6. I've been aware and fully supportive of Robert Consedine's workshops for several years now – thanks to the dedication of Pat Magill and the Napier Pilot City Trust. I have undertaken 3 Treaty workshops since the mid-1990s, all facilitated by different people & within different settings.

    The first one was at EIT as a component of my studies at the time; the 2nd was via distance learning as a component of my University studies; the 3rd was part of my member development & training when I served as a Member of the Lottery Welfare distribution committee, making grants to community organisations. That workshop was organised by the Dept of Internal Affairs staff on behalf of Lotteries Welfare National Committee and like Robert Consedine workshops, it was insightful (info from more than one perspective), inspiring (to do better/walk the talk) and most importantly, it had an enduring and sustainable impact on how I undertook my work in and for the community ever since. How it related to our mahi as a distribution committee was clarified by the participants themselves – not through a set of narrowly-defined prescriptions.

    My 1st experience was just plain awful and completely divided the participants along the racial line; the 2nd was an academic exercise rather than an interactive discussion – it was also deliberately set from women's/wahine experiences within the context of the Treaty.

    I'd recommend Robert Consedine's Treaty of Waitangi workshops to anyone – all that's needed is an open mind and the ability to listen…

  7. Anna Banugo could if she wanted, read the book by Robert Consedine "Healing our History through The Treaty Of Waitangi"( in most libraries)

    Consedine was in prison as a resut of his protest over the Springbox Tour.

    The fact that most of his cell mates were Maori pomted his book.(anything wrong with that)?

    Anna are you inferring Tom Belford was sucked in by a bullshit artist, as Robert Consedine.?

    When is your course of enlightement, and how much for cash.? I would be a starter.

  8. I thought it was fairly obvious to all concerned that I was responding to Pharazyn. I never mentioned a "…bullshit artist…". However as somebody who inaccurately quotes others, that description seems apt when addressing you.

    My problem is with whitemen telling everyone else how enlightened they are. It just seems a tad desperate.

  9. well, i think Tom's points got re-made rather well by that debate, eh?

    on the subject, i recommend Claudia Orange's seminal work on te Tiriti as the best way to approach this whole issue – because (Rob please NB) you can't dismiss a "greivance industry" (i hate that phrase) until you understand how it started.

  10. I am not Maori or a bone wearing Pakeha. Nor do I have financial or psychological interests in this matter.

    Again whitemen telling each other how great and enlightened they are, frankly is tragic.

    Tom's hope that most Pakeha would rise in revolt if similar laws were passed today is delusionary. This is a deeply conservative country which has lurched to the right in the last two years.

  11. I enjoyed that… a good rave and salient points made.

    Just because i have an opinion, doesn't mean it's right but just because it conflicts with people like Banugo , doesn't mean it's wrong.

  12. Tena koe e Tom
    I enjoyed your whakaaro(thoughts) on the workshop. As a Treaty worker of some years I must say that I support Robert and the Consedine Whaanau for the energy and effort they have put into teaching mostly their own peoples. It is a very difficult job, their is resistance at all levels,
    It is especially difficult for Pakeha who stand up and do work like this, they are often marginalised by their own, I take my hat off to Robert and his Whaanau, they have put their hand up and taken the leap of faith that is required to do this work, and yet time and time again he returns to do it.
    Our nation is better off for the conscientising that Robert and his Whaanau do, and if we could just move the awareness to action it would be great.na Mereana Pitman
    PS I dont think it is helpful to get into comparisions areound who was the more benevolent coloniser whether it be the United States or Aotearoa, all colonisation had the same effect and the desire to colonise arose from the same desire.Ma te atua e manaaki e tiaki i nga waa katoa

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