Should non-Maori get Special Treatment?

Gareth MorganTreaty

The loaded question that TVNZ included in its Vox Pop survey sucks and runs counter to all the treaty awareness work that has occurred since 1975, showing yet again that there is an ignorant Trump-like streak running through those who run sections of corporate New Zealand as well as elements of the current government.

Anybody who is aware of Article 2 of the Treaty simply knows that we have a bicultural society and that there are issues around natural resources and cultural treasures where Maori has specific rights and entitlement. It is what was signed and agreed. So where on earth does a dumb question like “should Maori get special treatment?” actually come from?

It is a question clearly viewed by TVNZ as having relevance – in other words that what’s been agreed under the Treaty is sort of “special” for Maori (as opposed as being “special” for Pakeha), so let’s find out how many people think the treaty’s “special-ness” shouldn’t prevail.

One can only conclude it arises out of ignorance about our nation’s founding document, let alone the treaty principles that have been determined by the courts and Waitangi Tribunal since 1975. It is incongruous that in 2016, some 40 years after that process began, we have such ignorance of the treaty amongst senior corporate and political figures. Just unbelievable.

Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. If we were to ask whether Pakeha should get special treatment – like having their language compulsory in schools, their justice system inherited from England prevailing, their relationship with the environment governed by western concepts of ownership (not collective concepts like guardianship), their concept of family dominating how money gets allocated through social welfare – we’d all say yes, right?

We’d agree that English is the language we should all speak, it wouldn’t even occur to us that such an imposition marginalises tangata whenua, the other treaty signatory. We’d struggle to think that marae justice is any substitute for that in Her Majesty’s prisons. We’d think that private rather than collectively owned property is normal not special, we’d not even begin to know why Maori hapu have so much trouble interfacing with the Victorian family conventions that the Ministry of Social Development enforce, and so on. We would not, in other words, think that there was anything “special” about requiring Maori to fall into line with all of this – it was just the way things should be.

We’d take this attitude even though we accept that we didn’t colonise Maori but rather we reached agreement via a treaty with them, an agreement that quite specifically said Maori’s cultural norms (Article 2 again) would be accepted and respected as taonga for them. Do you smell more than a whiff of hypocrisy?

Yet the Prime Minister and the corporate wallahs at TVNZ are quite happy to regard what Maori is entitled to under Article 2 as “special treatment” and ask the public whether it should be? This, despite agreeing in the same breath that the treaty is our founding document. One has to really go figure where these people have been during the whole of the treaty renaissance period – how on earth can they be agreeing to settlements on treaty breaches when they don’t even know what the treaty says and commits both signatories too?

Maori’s entitlements under Article 2 are not special in any sense of the word, they were the deal. Some of these white wallahs at TVNZ need to educate themselves – and then help the Prime Minister.

If our leaders are so wilfully ignorant, how can the public be expected to embrace the unique cultural nature of New Zealand and see that it provides a hugely valuable point of difference in today’s world.


Gareth Moran & Susan Guthrie wrote the 2015 book, “Are We There Yet: The Future of the Treaty of Waitangi”, and also created the video blog library “Talk Treaty” which is currently touring New Zealand libraries and museums.

Articl by Gareth Morgan and Susan Guthrie

Should non-Maori get Special Treatment? was last modified: March 15th, 2016 by Gareth Morgan
About the Author

Gareth Morgan

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Gareth Morgan is a New Zealand economist and commentator on public policy who in previous lives has been in business as an economic consultant, funds manager, and professional company director. He is also a motorcycle adventurer and philanthropist. Gareth and his wife Joanne have a charitable foundation, the Morgan Foundation, which has three main stands of philanthropic endeavour – public interest research, conservation and social investment.