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Speech: Peters - Waitangi as it was and should be

Speech by Northland MP and New Zealand First Leader Rt Hon Winston Peters

Paihia Mission Village fundraiser guest lecture,
Stone Church, Paihia,
6pm, Friday, February 3, 2017

The Treaty of Waitangi as it was and should be

Thank you for the invitation to speak at this magnificent venue.

St Paul's Paihia is known throughout New Zealand as being one of the country’s most notable churches.

The subject of this lecture - pre-treaty Maori/pakeha relations - covers one of the most interesting and turbulent periods in New Zealand’s history.

That said, “Pakeha” is one word where the meaning quickly changes depending on how it is used. It is not an expression to be commended.

Early contact

In the time after Captain Cook’s arrival Maori soon realised it would profit them to encourage the White Man.

It gave them the opportunity to exchange potatoes, pigs and kumara for axes, blankets or other goods – later rum and tobacco, and the deadly musket.

To gain these trade goods Maori worked hard to extend their garden plots; they cleared and cultivated more land. While misunderstandings and bloodshed occurred a relationship of co-existence developed – the European relying on Maori for provisions and access to resources.


Among the first Europeans with whom Maori came into contact were ocean whalers from as far away as Boston in the United States.

Maori joined the crews of some of these ships. Queequeg, in Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick¸ is believed to have been based on a Māori crew member of Melville’s whaling ship the Mary Ann.

As the trade expanded more whaling ships came from Australia, the well-known convict colony.

With these ships convicts and people of less than scrupulous character made their way to New Zealand and there was inter-racial violence with the Burning of the Boyd in 1809.

In his book Where The White Man Treads, William Baucke wrote:

“Just imagine this flotsam of sheol let loose among a primitive race on the borderland of better days; a sharp people ever watching the incoming white man with the legends of Kuki in their memory, who knew not of the newcomer’s past, to whom pakeha was desirable and welcome as such, and no prophet need arise to predict the result.”

Things deteriorated significantly once a shift was made from ocean whaling to shore whaling with prostitution, alcohol, muskets and disease.

Some Māori were badly treated and the government of New South Wales passed laws to protect them.

One 1813 proclamation ordered the masters of vessels leaving Sydney to ‘be of their good behaviour towards the Natives of New Zealand,’ and not to kidnap them or cheat them of their wages.

But Baucke wrote:

“It was the bay whaler’s reprobate life which first disturbed the faith of the Maori in the immaculacy of the White man.
“It was his fishing harbour and dry curling ground which the pakeha had defiled with their whale offal and the cry spread around the land; ‘Beware of the white man’s bay whaler, he is a sot, a thief and a liar!”


Missionaries followed the whalers.

Baucke quoted one Maori response:

“In the beginning when the apostles of the new theology told us ‘we bring you tidings of great joy,’ we expected great things, greater than any we knew of.
“But to those who tasketh the happiness which cometh of rum and guns, the recent innovations were detestable because they interfered with their pleasure.”

For Maori, the missionaries were a source for trading and knowledge about farming techniques.

For the first 15 years the missionaries made very few converts but these were years when the inter-tribal Musket Wars were at their peak.

Musket Wars

In 1821, Hongi Hika travelled to England with missionary Thomas Kendall and in Sydney on his return voyage traded the gifts he had obtained in England for between 300 and 500 muskets.

This tipped the balance of inter-tribal power.

The musket brought Maori devastation of an unprecedented scale.

Many tribes were destroyed and with land being conquered and abandoned, tribal boundaries were completely redrawn.

However, virtually no European died in these inter Maori conflicts.

From 1823, here in Paihia the work of Marianne Williams with her husband Henry of the Church Missionary Society was noteworthy in building a relationship between Maori and European.

The Church Missionary Society was under the protection of the Ngai Tahu chief Hongi Hika while the Paihia mission was protected by Chief Te Koki and his wife Hamu.

Although there were misunderstandings and arguments between the two, the Church Missionary Society and Paihia missions were never threatened.

Marianne Williams with the help of her sister established a Maori school for girls and a network of other schools were established under her control.

Lawlessness of new arrivals

From 1830, Māori increasingly turned to Christianity, ironically at the same time the White Man’s lawlessness grew.
The traditional roles of Maori women, slaves and chiefs greatly changed under missionary influence, and the missionaries gained new prestige as doctors and teachers.

Encouraged by missionary William Yate, 13 Ngapuhi leaders urged greater British control.

There was also confusion and conflicting messages.

Baucke wrote:
“Every incoming trader, every new sect, spoke at first softly, then louder and louder until the air trembled with strident and bitter revilings – one creed shouting this, another besmirching and bellowing…they all spoke of truths, yet condemned the truths of the others. And the end was we sat on our heels and doubted the preaching of either.”

In 1832, the British government sent an official British resident to New Zealand, James Busby, who arrived in May 1833 and built on land he acquired at Waitangi.

Need for order

Busby proved ineffective dealing with the complicated relations between Maori and European. However, with the French showing interest in New Zealand, he drew up a Declaration of Independence signed by 34 Northern chiefs who called themselves the Confederated Chiefs of the United Tribes of New Zealand.

In 1837 the British government decided to intervene formally in New Zealand while the Society for the Protection of Aborigines in Britain fought for fair treatment of Maori.

The next year Edward Gibbon Wakefield and his New Zealand Company bought millions of acres to sell to settlers.

The situation was getting out of hand.
Realising the growing problem, the British government appointed Captain William Hobson to control the rampant sales and a draft of the Treaty of Waitangi was prepared.

The Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand says the ideal of equality between Māori and European was a foundation of the new colony and underpinned the treaty.

That hope for equality was soon under attack.

Baucke quoted one Maori:

“Later on a rumour gained credence that while we knelt before the altar to pray the preacher cried ‘Look not upon the things of this earth but upward’ – and we looked upward. This was done with the intent that we should not see how, behind our backs, our lands were being appropriated by the ravenous incoming white trader…thence came the password:

“Kia mohio – be wise and cautious.”

Yet on the eve of the formal signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 it is clear – both European and Maori knew they had to work together.

Hone Heke, for example, believed there was no going back.

The “White Tide” could not be stopped.

Maori had to adapt

The Treaty of Waitangi was a noble historical document aimed at forging a relationship between two diverse peoples.

Both sides wanted it; both sides realised they needed it.

William Baucke believed also there was no going back.

Maori had to adapt – as European had.

“As the conditions which the white man has introduced have changed, you have to change also.
“You have to follow in his footsteps but sacredly eschew his vices.
“Build proper homes and live in them, eat proper foods, live cleanly in person and surroundings.
“The root of the difficulty lies in the fact that the Maori is at the place where the road parts.
“He cannot conceive why customs and practices – which were effectual in the past – should now be inoperable and concludes that their mana has in some mysterious manner departed.
“Our ancestors introduced them to meet specific contingencies. They become difficult to set aside.”

Modern divisiveness

Those who prepared, drafted and signed the treaty would struggle to understand why more than 150 years later, anundefined and divisive term “the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi” came to be inserted in our legislation.

That happened as a result of a judicial comment and finding in 1986 when a leading jurist termed the Treaty of Waitangi, “a partnership”. What was never answered or explained, either then or now, is the following: If no-one in the British Empire was in partnership with Queen Victoria on the 5th February 1840 how come the New Zealand Maori was one day later?

The expression partnership is either creative and legally and constitutionally wrong or had to include every New Zealander regardless of ethnic background being in partnership with the Crown.
It doesn’t, and that’s why the convenient use of the phrase is behind so many unworthy claims.

That unfortunate term has created legal chaos with activist judges, bureaucratic meddlers, treaty lawyers and a “Treaty Industry” taking advantage of the void it opened.

It has created an insidious culture of division and parallel systems which we grapple with today.

Meanwhile, the employment, education, housing and health needs of Maori have been sidelined while a self-appointed elite propagate their own narrow cause using Maori numbers to justify their manufactured claims and demands.

This is not a subject we can develop further this evening, suffice to say that it has aspects of grave uncertainty and purposelessness which concerned so many Maori, up here in particular, on the eve of the Treaty of Waitangi being signed.


This revisionist thinking has now seen all manner of opportunists demanding “constitutional reforms” to establish all manner of separatist policy.

The fundamental purpose of politics is to expand people’s happiness and that aspiration should be colour blind and based on need.

Some claim to want to restore sovereignty for Maori taking it from Parliament when that very objective is the antithesis of the Treaty of Waitangi itself.

That is the view of the greatest Maori legal mind and political performer, Sir Apirana Ngata.

These revisionists want to plunge us back into the turmoil of pre-treaty New Zealand.

The way forward for Māori, just as it is for non-Māori, and indeed people all over the world, is the best of First World education standards, First World health, First World housing, and First World employment and incomes.

If we strive to deliver those objectives we will deliver something real and enduring for the whole Maori population and not just the few and very few.

These objectives cannot be found in fabled principles or absurd calls for dual governance.


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