OPINION: The latest edition of the settler-colonial government represents the most wholesale threat to Māori in modern times, writes rangatahi Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes.
A tsunami is a series of overwhelming waves triggered by seismic shifts. Imagine these seismic shifts as changes in government policies and a wave for each seismic change in government policy, culminating in a tsunami that ravages the land and devastates communities. This is not mere speculation; it's a looming reality under the incoming Government's direction.
Across the Government’s policies are some of the most direct and harmful attacks on Te Tiriti and on Māori people in my memory.
These policies seek to erase Te Tiriti o Waitangi, particularly tino rangatiratanga and tikanga Māori from influencing policy at any level while trying to assimilate whānau, hapū and iwi Māori into the majority.
The Government has a smorgasbord of policies that will move our country farther away from one that places Te Tiriti at its heart and closer to one that is anti-Māori and divided.
A tsunami is a series of devastating waves caused by sudden slips along fault lines. These sudden slips are changes in government policies and there is a wave formed for each policy area that will devastate Māori communities on the ground. We then start to conceptualise the many anti-Māori policies as a tsunami of regression.
Pictured: Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes (Photo Credit: Te Rawhitiroa Bosch)
Te Reo Māori
The first devastating wave strikes at te reo Māori which, unlike English, originated in these lands and is the mātāmua of all languages that came after it. As such, under tikanga, it should be elevated to a position of high regard and esteem.
The Government directive to the public service to primarily communicate in English and to primarily use the English names for its agencies can only be seen as degrading te reo Māori and relegating it to an inferior language.
Our people have not spent decades revitalising te reo Māori only for the Government to now tell the world it’s inferior to English.
Indeed, it seems as though we have returned to 1984, to the time where Dame Naida Glavish was almost fired for answering the toll phone with “kia ora”. Will the same thing happen to public servants under this Government?
Te Tiriti o Waitangi
The next wave hits at Te Tiriti. The Act Party’s ‘Treaty Principles Bill’ seeks to replace the text of Te Tiriti and the principles developed by judges and legal experts over the last 40 years with three principles that completely ignore the original text of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
It fails to mention kāwanatanga and tino rangatiratanga, it fails to mention a relationship between hapū and iwi and the Crown, while affirming that the Crown has a supreme and unilateral right to govern over everyone in Aotearoa.
In the words of Aperahama Hurihanganui, 500-plus rangatira did not sign Te Tiriti for a Pākehā-majority government 180 years later to determine and define what it is they signed.
The taiao is the target of the next wave. As Māori, we know that the taiao comes before us, “mātāmua ko te taiao, mātāmuri ko te tangata”
We understand the symbiotic relationship between the people and the environment: the health of the taiao is a reflection of the health of your people. An attack on the taiao is an attack on the very essence of our being.
The Government will repeal the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration which takes us back as a country at least five years.
We were leading the world in this area when we became one of the first countries to ban offshore oil and gas exploration in 2018, this will now be undone.
According to Te Hira Pū-Ao, a kaupapa that advocates for our taiao, this action will send our moana into a state of emergency, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, and marine eco-systems will suffer potentially beyond repair.
The Government’s policies regarding freshwater, which is progressively becoming one of the world’s scarcest resources, will sadly prioritise the demands of people over the environment.
The next wave hits Te Aka Whai Ora - the Māori Health Authority - abolishing it.
Health Coalition Aotearoa, a group representing 45 health-related NGOs and 75 individual public health academics and professionals, says scrapping Te Aka Whai Ora would pose a grave threat to Māori health and wellbeing.
Can a government that openly ignores clear and overwhelming direction from experts truly be said to be “fair”, like they claim?
Our country will regress again with the repeal of the world-first smoking “generation ban”. Experts estimate it could result in 1000 deaths - mostly Māori - over the next decade - all in the name of funding tax cuts.
Ironically, the gap in health outcomes between Māori and non-Maori adults costs the economy about $960 million each year according to research conducted by Professor Pāpārangi Reid.
The next wave hits our mokopuna by repealing the provision that imposes Te Tiriti o Waitangi duties on the Crown in the child protection system.
These obligations include reducing disparities between Māori and non-Māori children in the state care system, forming partnerships with iwi, and prioritising the tikanga of mana tamaiti, whakapapa and whanaungatanga in policy and practice.
An attack on our mokopuna is an attack on the future of Māori.
According to Luke Fitzmaurice-Brown, who’s PHD focused on decolonising the child protection system, this repeal will very likely cause harm to tamariki and whānau Māori. Have we regressed to 1988 when John Rangihau called out the racism of the state systems and their failures for Māōri in the report Pu-Ao-Te-Atatu?
The last wave is the most vicious attack on Māori rights as the Indigenous people of Aotearoa and is a direct hit to the Māori soul, desperate for reprieve.
The Government will stop all work on He Puapua and effectively set aside the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It’s saying point blank to all Māori “you don’t matter, we will assimilate you”.
Despite all the fear mongering, He Puapua simply offered different options to the government on how to realise the UNDRIP obligations it signed up to in 2010.
And it’s not asking much. This declaration sets out the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the Indigenous peoples of the world.
Although some describe this as separatist, Indigenous rights are simply human rights that have been historically denied to Indigenous peoples.
This tsunami of anti-Māori policies will batter us for at least three years. Yet, we must stand resilient, like a toka tū moana, a rock enduring against the tides. Our unity and whanaungatanga will be our greatest strength in these times.
Our tupuna have endured so much for us to be where we are today, now we must refuse to back down. Despite this tsunami, I draw hope from the words of rangatira Matua Mike Smith (who knows a bit about standing strong in the face of power):
“Our tupuna faced incredible adversity and hardship, yet they persevered and preserved our kaupapa, tikanga and mātauranga and we are the inheritors of their strength and wisdom.
“We draw upon that legacy to confront the challenges of today, and we have always believed in the power of whanaungatanga, our sense of connectedness and unity, so in times like these, solidarity becomes our greatest asset.”
Te Matahiapo Safari Hynes is a rangatahi Māori principally from Rangitāne and Ngāti Kahungunu.
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