Beyond Treatyism

Insolent Prick has a thought provoking post on Waitangi issues. He makes some excellent arguments and while I might quibble with a minor point or two I strongly urge people to read his post which is <a href=”http://insolentprick.blogspot.com/2005/09/why-treaty-should-be-buried.html
” target=”_blank”>Here.

His comments dovetail with some thoughts I had this morning after attending a Business Roundtable forum on Maori and business.

There were pollies from most of the parties in parliament there, and what was interesting was how much the debate has shifted in less than two years.

I think the country is moving into what I’d call a “post-Treatyism” era. By “Treatyism” I mean the assumption,, amounting to religious fervour in some quarters, that the Treaty is (a) founding document; (b) an all important public policy tool; (c) a constitution or part thereof; (d) a kind of quasi-religious touchstone.

All of that puts a pretty heavy burden on a document cobbled together fairly quickly as a bit of a makeshift agreement. I’m not arguing the Treaty isn’t significant, but I’d suggest it fits only (a) above.

The Greens and the Maori Party are probably the most fervent Treatyists. In some ways the Greens are more so Tariana Turia’s group.

One comment today – from the Maori Party rep – was that you can’t just see race relations in New Zealand through the Treaty. I just about fell off my chair when he said that.

On this issue, as on so many others, Labour is trying to have it both ways, being fervently Treatyist at times and on others like a kind of watered down version of Brash.

The ground is shifting on this one. It started to shift when Don Brash did his first Orewa speech.

Whether or not Brash makes it on September 17, there’s no doubt in my mind that no Opposition leader has ever, in our history, shifted the public debate so effectively.

The best example of that is the time limit on Treaty claims. Eighteen months ago that was racist , according to Labour – now its policy for almost all the parties.

I’m not putting the shift down to Brash alone – at least one other leader has made a big contribution, for all his flaws John Tamihere’s message that the grievance mentality was getting Maori precisely nowhere, has been heard by many.

In any case, the contribution of political leaders to all this is impossible to measure but easy to overstate. The focus of today’s conference was Maori and business, and this is the key to moving on: the development of a strong entrepreneurial Maori middle class.

It is happening – yes, partLy as a result of the Treaty process we have been through but are moving beyond now. (The last three words of that sentence are the crucial bit).

The pollies talk as though they are doing this or facilitating this but, look, its happening regardless of what the pollies from any party do.
And that gives me huge hope for New Zealand’s future.

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