Sir Robert Jones is contributing opinion-pieces to the NZ Herald on a Tuesday. And today's column is bound to stimulate debate. He opines:
History is littered with treaties and laws which time has made redundant, without having been formally annulled. Two such are the Treaties of Utrecht and Waitangi.The 1704 Treaty of Utrecht ceded Gibraltar to England. The Spaniards had driven the Moors off the Rock 42 years earlier, after 700 years of occupation. In the 1980s, Spain made overtures to Britain to recover Gibraltar. Once rejected the matter was dropped, but Spain was not so idiotic to raise a literal breach of the original treaty, being an undertaking by the English that no Moor or Jew would ever reside on the Rock. Yet when Spain made this recovery approach, the governor was a Jewish Moroccan. Time had made the original anti-Moor and anti-Jewish sentiment redundant and to have raised this breach would have been farcical.So, too, with the Treaty of Waitangi. In 1840, Maoridom comprised stone age warring tribes living simple existences. There was a strong sentiment in Victorian England, led by the churches and some parliamentarians, to protect the burgeoning empire's native peoples, thus article two of the Treaty guaranteeing Maoridom their then economic base.But as with the anti-Moor and anti-Jewish provision in the Treaty of Utrecht, time has made this clause redundant, with Maoridom now living a 100 per cent European-style existence, thus the constant literal exploitation of an expressed good intention 172 years ago by charlatan lawyers is an affront to common sense and honesty.
Sir Bob Jones can never be accused of hiding his light or his opinions under a bushel; he calls things as he sees them, without fear or favour. And he makes a strong argument with regard to the claim of the Maori Council to the Waitangi Tribunal; read on:
For example, the Mighty River Power company's principal assets are eight hydro electric generators on the Waikato River. In 1840, the river provided eels and transport for Maori villagers in the vicinity. But today, like everyone else, Maori buy their food from supermarkets and have substituted cars for canoes. To argue that the river was vested to them in 1840 and claim water usage money is simply opportunistic twisting of the original objective. If that proposition had validity, why is it only now being raised? Why have they not claimed against the power company hitherto?The answer is blackmail, specifically that via the threat of delay through litigation of the Government's sale plans, this action could secure taxpayer millions in yet another bogus settlement.Tariana Turia is a nice lady but she sometimes pushes it. On this issue she says Maoridom trace their roots to rivers and talk to them. I've spent three months annually for half a century fishing our rivers, mostly with a Maori mate, and he only ever talked to the river to curse it when he slipped and fell. I asked my Maori tennis opponent and my part-Maori two eldest daughters if they had such urges and received scornful looks. However, Tariana is free to chat away to the river and the power plants won't interfere.There's a procedure adopted by courts to deal with unclear contract disputes. That is to ask what the intentions of the parties were when the contract was made. With the Treaty and the Waikato River that's easy, namely eel provision and transport. Nothing else. Clause two of the Treaty certainly didn't intend to cover radio waves and all the other opportunistic, parasitic nonsense we are constantly insulted with.The Waitangi Treaty is redundant. It need not be formally annulled but like many other outdated laws, be simply ignored as a historic relic. Claims such as illicit land seizures can be dealt with by the courts.
Is Sir Robert Jones right? Has the Treaty of Waitangi effectively become redundant, or is it still the appropriate means to settle disputes between the Crown and Maori, even if the issues involved, such as the use of technology could never have been even imagined 172 years ago?