WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Book review: Pakeha and the treaty

Cecily McNeill

Patrick Snedden brings huge experience of working with Māori and from his Pakeha past to this succinct volume – a must-read for all Pakeha who care about the future of our nation.

In an easy style, Pat ranges from the seaside family holidays of his childhood where he cemented his love of the beach, to his first insights into the fact that Māori were regarded as different. He brings in the struggles over the Springbok tour supporting black South Africans, though not Māori, and the land rights battle over Bastion Point three years earlier.

His directorships particularly of the Orakei Trust Board and his involvement in not-for-profit organisations, especially in the health sector, give him insight into the different ways Māori and Pakeha work. He is well qualified to explain the subtitle: why it’s our treaty too.

He describes with great and humour the political tussle over Bastion Point which culminated in a 506-day occupation of the land.

Most usefully he outlines examples of the insidious practice of institutional racism that he came across in the health sector.

‘It is not the bold gestures of outright prejudice that are so difficult to deal with … But the official who files the application away, to be quietly forgotten; the committee that decides the idea simply doesn’t fit the priority list; … It [institutional racism] is the silent killer of trust and optimism, and it corrodes the possibility for a different kind of cultural interaction which is expansive, collaborative and respectful of the other.’ [53-54]

Pat Snedden’s knowledge and understanding of the health sector shows in his descriptions of the Ngati Porou Hauora and how it won the right to deliver health care to east coast Māori.

He describes the ‘continuous consultation’ of the HCA with members.

‘Like any skill, cross-cultural advocacy requires knowledge, and training is often necessary. But this is the case for most things of value in life’ [131].

A chapter on the controversial foreshore and seabed legislation of 2005 opens with a description of the hot water beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. For a couple of hours either side of high tide, this usually deserted beach becomes a venue for ‘people from all over the world … to create for a brief period, an instant community of accidental intimacy’ [134].

This provides a backdrop for the confusion that many Pakeha felt when confronted with the assertion that they may be denied access to their traditional Christmas seaside retreats.

Pat Snedden canvasses all sides of the issue with a helpful dollop of Treaty history and an explanation of Pakeha ambivalence over article two of the Treaty which guarantees rangitiratanga to Māori over the land.

The last 15 years of the millennium were significant for Māori. The Waitangi Tribunal’s settlement of Tainui and Ngai Tahu claims became a benchmark for all others. Despite Pakeha opinion that the settlements exceeding $170 million each were indications of treaty largesse, Pat Snedden points out that Māori regarded this as ‘a minuscule response to the scale of the destitution and destruction to their tribal endowment since 1840’ [148].

In 1987 te reo Māori became recognised as an official language of the country and in 1992 another major advance for Māori occurred in the Sealord deal and fisheries settlement.

This Māori renaissance was thwarted by the new foreshore and seabed law. In clear terms Pat Snedden explains the significance of customary rights and their extinguishment by this new law. The distinction between compensation and redress is also explained.

The 2004 hikoi bringing some 25,000 protesters against the proposed law to Parliament is graphically portrayed as showing how the country continues to be shaped by interraction between Māori and non-Māori.

With great hope, Pat Snedden counts the decision to create the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975, and to extend its brief 10 years later, as a milestone in our history comparable to the Treaty signing itself, the right of women to vote and the creation of the welfare state.

Patrick Snedden: Pakeha and the Treaty: why it’s our treaty too

Glenfield: Random House, 2005 $27.95