The Re-colonization of New Zealand
It’s a curious fact of naval history that Captain William Bligh (of the Bounty) is the only officer of the British Navy to have had a mutiny conducted against him on both land and sea.
On 28 April 1789, not too far from the island of Tahiti, a group of disaffected crewmen led by Fletcher Christian seized control of the Bounty and set Captain Bligh and 18 loyalists adrift in an open top boat. Bligh survived by successfully navigated the overloaded boat over 6,500 km to the Dutch colony of Timor. Fifteen years later as Governor of the penal colony of NSW, he suffered another mutiny known as the Rum Rebellion when soldiers who were profiting from the manufacture and sale of rum to the settler community deposed him and installed a rebel government.
I bring this up because I believe we’re about to witness another coincidence of history when, sometime today, New Zealanders become the first people in the history of British colonialism be dispossess of their country twice.
British Colonialism and NZ
Cook’s voyage to NZ in 1769 was a voyage of colonial expansion. His mission was to find and claim territory for the British Empire which he did admirably. The British Colonial Office dispatched William Hobson in 1840 to claim British sovereignty over NZ and negotiate a treaty with the local inhabitants.
The treaty that Hobson negotiated was controversial from its very inception. There was controversy amongst the Iwi that originally signed it and there’s just as much controversy today about the volume and extravagance of restitution claims being made, and about the amount of compensation achieved – depending upon your perspective. But none of this controversy mattered then, or now. The point is that the treaty achieved its objective which was to secure possession of New Zealand for British crown .
It’s important to keep in mind that the Treaty of Waitangi was always an instrument of colonial exploitation. Its purpose was only ever to secure exclusive, enduring ownership of New Zealand for the British Crown – no matter what was written in the document. In this respect, nothing about the treaty of Waitangi has changed. It still serves as an instrument of colonial exploitation today, only under a different guise, but more about that later.
The Treaty with NZ’s indigenous population was part of a consistent pattern of colonial behaviour. Where it suited them, the British made treaties with indigenous peoples. Elsewhere they made war. Often they did both but the objective was always the same: the arrogation of territory, wealth and power to an elite few in England. In the same year that Hobson claimed Sovereignty over NZ, the British Navy annexed Hong Kong from China. Also that same year back in England, the leaders of a peaceful group of protestors known as Chartists, who were demanding nothing more than universal suffrage for all men, were found guilty of high treason and sentenced to death by hanging, drawing and quartering – the last sentence of its kind to be passed in the U.K. (although it was eventually commuted to transportation to Australia).
My point in mentioning all this is to make clear that colonialism was always the enterprise of an elite group of narcissists in one society perpetrated against anyone and everyone who was not part of their “inner circle” regardless of their race, colour, creed or religion. These days the ‘first peoples’ of many countries are inclined to frame European colonialism as a purely racist enterprise. European colonists were certainly racist but the whole enterprise was more complex than that. Colonialism consumed people at home and abroad and arrogated the wealth of the world into the hands of a very small “elite”.
The Grand Game
As a descendant of the colonizing tribe in NZ I’m not defensive about what occurred here or anywhere else. It was a rotten business on every level but what happened to people in the New World was no different to what was happening to ordinary folks back in Europe. The practice of land enclosure during the British Agricultural revolution dispossessed millions of feudal peasants and tenant farmers of their ancestral lands. These people had legitimate title to land under the feudal system of land ownership but the advent of mechanical farming equipment rendered them surplus to requirements (at least from their landlord’s perspective), so their claims to land title were abrogated by parliaments composed exclusively of land owners and they were evicted. Feudal obligations which had lasted for millennia were unceremoniously discarded. Whole families were thrown out of their homes and herded into city slums where they became fodder for the factories of a burgeoning industrial economy. All of them suffered terribly and many died prematurely. None of their descendants ever received compensation for the injustices done. Ironically, many of these people ended up being the first colonizers of new territories in far-off places like NZ.
The Trans Pacific Partnership
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the modern face of colonialism. It’s a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries that sets down terms for the trade of nearly 40 percent of global output. But this is more than just a trade agreement, it’s the most brazen corporate power grab in history. It ranks with the greatest colonial land grabs anywhere. The agreement allows corporations to bypass the three branches of government in each signatory nation and provides private corporations with the right to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare NZ labour, consumer and environmental protections to be unlawful and can subject any non-tariff barriers to fines for noncompliance with TPP terms. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in contravention of our domestic laws. The agreement, filled with convoluted technical jargon, legalese and fine print can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.
The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). This latter agreement (which is still under negotiation) calls for the privatization of all public services in signatory counties. Together these agreements comprise a creeping corporate coup d’état under which our money masters plan to eviscerate all forms of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to surrender any concept of national identity and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators. Local determinations by democratic institutions will all be subjugated to trans-national corporate tribunals which remove legislative authority from governments on a wide range of issues. Under the TPP judicial power in a wide range of areas is surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue.
The jurisdiction of the TPP will doubtless extend into areas that Maori claim are covered under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi. Under its terms, labour unions, environmental groups and indigenous peoples will all be blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations will become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens will evaporate. Thanks in large part to the excellent work of Jane Kelsey the Maori Party have finally cottoned-on to what this agreement will mean to them. Apparently they plan to protest the agreement at this year’s Waitangi celebrations. The trouble is that they’re a bit late. The deal is done and come this evening it will be signed: no turning back.
NZ for Sale
NZ’s Prime Minister, John Key is set to sign this agreement today and I’m certain he will. Like his counterpart in America, he is keen to fast track the agreement before too many people wake up to what’s in it. But why would he do this? Well, like all political leaders these days, John Key was put in his role to push through reforms just like this one, amongst other things. Yes I know we have free & fair elections but recent academic studies of western democracies are finding unequivocal evidence of disproportionate corporate control over this process. For my part I believe John Key was identified long ago and “paid forward” by the bankers and financiers who own and control the world’s private monetary system so as to make sure he’d be a reliable servant when in office. And he is.
John Key claims that the inclusion of an ‘exception clause’ in the TPP will provide sufficient scope for the government to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi but this is simply false. The Waitangi Tribunal is very partial in the way it operates. Several of its members come from activist backgrounds and have close links to tribes whose claims are heard by the tribunal. The normal rules of impartiality, verifiable evidence and conflicts of interest are frequently absent from its hearings and determinations; yet the government usually accepts its recommendations without contest – awarding significant compensation to successful claimants. This generosity is unlikely to exist in a non-public, internationally hosted “Investor State Dispute Settlement” court so the gig could well be up for activist Maori claimants.
One More Time
The old saying: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” expresses an important truth. Any smart person can get fooled once by dishonest interlocutors but to be fooled twice by the same people implies culpability. It’s in this context that the Treaty of Waitangi reasserts itself as an instrument of colonial expropriation. Several of the old chiefs were very wary of the document Hobson put in front of them. They worried that the words read well but that the ‘spirit and intention’ of the document ran counter to its text. They were right. Their progeny would be wise to remain equally suspicious of the revised Treaty. The findings and determinations of the Waitangi Tribunal appear to be very beneficial to a limited group of Iwi and Hapu at the moment but it’s possible that in a completely unexpected manner, the activities of the Tribunal may prove detrimental to Maori people.
Late in the 19th Century several groups of Maori travelled to England to petition the Crown for restitution of confiscated land under the Treaty. They were rebuffed and referred back to the government of NZ who refused to hear their case. This sort of jurisdictional evasion was typical of colonial governments throughout the 19th Century, an effective tactic for nullifying claims. The signing of the TPP will place Maori people back into exactly this situation only this time the non-Maori population will be joining them. Instead of us arguing over weather its Pakeha or Maori who own the sea bed or river course, we may well find that neither of us do. And there is the rub: if TPP abrogates the rights of Maori people then surely it abrogates the right of every all New Zealander? Corporate claims to the ownership of the genetic code of all life forms on the planet is something of universal concern – not just Maori concern. By making it a partisan issue and separating us over it, the framers of this agreement hope to ‘divide and rule’.
The Waitangi Tribunal has done an excellent job of keeping the attention of Maori people firmly fixed on the past – to such an extent that they’ve lost sight of their shared future with every other New Zealander. Its procedures and determinations have also created deep divisions. The bifurcation of our society over Treaty disputes has weakened all of us. Not so long ago, NZ was proudly anti-nuclear. This stance had enormous electoral support. We stood up to the biggest power on earth and respectfully said NO! But even this issue no longer unites us. Once upon a time we could have stood together as a united nation to protect our shared biological diversity and intellectual property, but no longer. Like most western nations, New Zealanders are now a divided and weakened people, all grasping after our own interests. It didn’t used to be this way and it didn’t happen by accident. There’s been 30 yrs of political manipulation to get us to where we are. And now the coup de grace is being delivered by none other than financier John Key.
The Future Under TPP
If you want a vision of what New Zealand will be like under the TPP watch this video by the esteemed biologist David Suzuki. It tells the story of genetically modified pine trees (which have already been planted in NZ) that emit bio-toxins and are sterile. A forest of these trees would be silent. No birds would live there because no insects can live there. Even large pests like possums and stoats wouldn’t be present since they would have no food source either. Such trees could soon become the staple of NZ’s forestry industry. Already the world’s giant agribusinesses have established legal precedents in many counties which hold that if as little as 1.0% of their patented genome cross pollinates with a ‘natural’ (heirloom or heritage) plant or animal that you own, then they effectively own your plant or animal. Courts in many jurisdictions have established that any cross pollination or interbreeding (however small) constitutes a breach of copyright and they are applying onerous measures of redress. Under such conditions the natural lifecycle of crop farming and animal husbandry is disrupted. Is this a world you want to live in? Do you think you can prosper in such an environment? Suzuki starts talking about 1m.45sec.
What’s the Solution?
By the time you read this the TPP will have already been signed by the NZ Government. There will be no undoing this agreement now apart perhaps the American Congress waking up to the finer details and the impact on US employment and not ratifying TPP themselves, an unlikely scenario but possible. A genuinely effective response to the TPP is very difficult. Not because of the legal obstacles but because of the emotional ones. An effective response would involve all ethnic groupings in NZ recognizing each other’s shared interests, letting go of the respective identities we’ve assumed as Maori and non-Maori reappraising our relationship to each other, to land ownership and resource exploitation, and actively creating alternative (local) economic models. There’s a wealth of information and excellent case studies on how this can be done but it’s a big ask of everybody.
Are you up for the challenge?