Reflections on the state of the Pakeha nation

Article – Katherine Peet

This essay remembers the Rev. Joan Cook, an Australian who loved Aotearoa enough to help educate us about the truth of our history, race relations, and the Treaty of Waitangi, for several decades. She died in 2009, shortly after her 80th birthday.


Joan Cook Memorial Waitangi Day Essay 2012

This essay remembers the Rev. Joan Cook, an Australian who loved Aotearoa enough to help educate us about the truth of our history, race relations, and the Treaty of Waitangi, for several decades. She died in 2009, shortly after her 80th birthday.


Reflections on the state of the Pakeha nation

By Katherine Peet
February 2, 2012

During my upbringing I had been made aware of stories of many of my NZ ancestors. They had found the unparalleled prosperity and progress in mid-1800s Britain was not being evenly spread, and took up the option of travelling to the other side of the world to build a better life. It was explained to me that the vision of those early British Settlers was the reason NZers had give-it-a-go and do-it-yourself attitudes and had also been pioneers of social legislation – votes for women, state housing, no-fault accident compensation, etc. A “fair go” for everyone was the touchstone. Addressing social and economic injustices through educational (rather than violent) means was also part of my inheritance. This upbringing meant I had an interest in the state of the nation. But I did not think in terms of the state of the Pakeha nation.

When John and I first went to live in what I called Great Britain / the United Kingdom in the late 1960s I expected to find differences between myself and the British. And it was to do with attitudes to sun and authority as well as to fixing things. What I was not prepared for was the emphasis on accents – accents told you lots. I was teaching at the local county secondary school in Hampshire and my accent was regularly commented on. Many children had the Hampshire accent. A few had Yorkshire, Devonshire etc accents – these children far preferred their county as a description to being described as English or British. Being recognised as Irish, Welsh, and Scots was even more important than counties in those cases.

Perception of class, which was related to accents, was also an eye opener – people felt it was not their place to engage in certain relationships and activities. One example was when our mail was put into the letterbox of our neighbour in the semi-detached house we shared with them on the local Council housing estate. John’s senior position in the refinery was such that having up to that point been on first name terms, we were never so addressed in the future. I found this awful. Snobs and social climbers were alive and well in NZ but this experience was different. Our neighbours were very conscious of what they felt was their “place” in society.

A few years later we went to live in Wales and I was teaching in a coal-mining area. Many of the children’s first language was Welsh yet the language of the classroom was “English”. Welsh people (speaking Welsh) in pubs did not talk to us until someone noticed the NZ sticker on our car and reported that to the assembled company. Then they all turned their chairs round and welcomed us warmly (in English). Having John’s relatives living there helped figure out the meaning of these experiences. I also learned of some stories of the colonisation of Wales – for example, we learned of villages being flooded and rivers being diverted into England. The term “United Kingdom” now seemed false.

All this raised a question for me about what had been the experiences of Maori, particularly relating to effects of colonisation in this country – about which I then knew very little.

So on returning to live here after becoming clearer about the differences between my upbringing and being British, I had big new questions about how Maori saw those of us who were not Maori. I had never thought of myself as Pakeha at this stage, just as a New Zealander.

Now it was the mid-70s. The Waitangi Tribunal had been set up (1975). We learned that Maori were able to present their grievances to the Tribunal as long as the grievances were not retrospective. Ngati Whatua took the government action on Takaparawha (Bastion Point) to the Tribunal and the nation watched on television. We joined several people who were not Maori in trying to address this issue and continued to explore the stories of colonisation of this country and advocating for the Tribunal to be able to hear the full stories of this land.

This involvement led to me describing myself as Pakeha. This was a way of acknowledging both the differences I felt in not being British and also with the new understanding gained about colonisation and the Treaty. So I often explain that the reason I got into Treaty work is really because I married a Welshman!

My experience in Wales had convinced me of the need to complement schooling with opportunities for adults in a world that was changing fast. Due to family commitments I had left school teaching so I did a post-graduate certificate in adult education to assist in my commitment to the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA). The profile of the WEA included promoting adult education that encourages citizens to think, to question, and to make decisions.

Networks of the WEA included a number of committed groups of citizens who were wrestling with big questions. These included peace education, trade union education, women’s studies, education about international aid, and consideration of environmental concerns. None of these groups had been formed by government or commercial interests. We all recognised the need to work in ways that were not limited by government approaches.

Joining the nationwide NGO Project Waitangi gave a further opportunity to organise educational opportunities for people who wanted to more accurately understand the Treaty and cultural injustices due to particular world-views. These extensions of my understanding of injustice were formative in locating allies in a search for education for a better world, including NZ.

The 1976 UNESCO Adult Education conference was influential in advocating more effective participation by adults in the progress of their own societies. The role of NGOs, and Community Development methodology were strengthened by the recommendations from that conference. The Community Workers’ Association of Aotearoa became another important network for consolidating these ways of working.

Structural Analysis workshops run by Phillippe Fanchette were also very helpful in building networks. We became aware that while we can’t predict the future, we can invent it – and if we don’t, the dominant political-economic structures in our society will start inventing us. Martin Luther King Jr’s comment “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter” symbolises that which led to renewed energy for coalition building and an understanding of the power of the status quo. Programmes such as Building Our Own Future (BOOF) and the associated bulletin Common Ground enabled paralysis from analysis to be avoided and hopes for the future to be shared and developed cooperatively.

Synthesis from analysis was enlivened for me by a 1981 survey of adult learning needs in the south-east of Christchurch for which I was responsible. The South-East Branch of the Canterbury WEA was able to employ four full-time workers on the Voluntary Organisation Training Scheme. These four did an in-depth survey of 742 people across the area. Of these only 22 said they were participating in intellectual pursuits – but 362 said that was something they wanted to do. This gap between people’s hopes and aspirations, and their ability to further them, indicated the need to provide learning opportunities to help adults define their own goals and start addressing them. This was when we developed our Treaty workshop resource, still in use today, where participants share what things really matter to them and what they want to make sure the next generation will learn about.

It became increasingly clear to me that to build a just future in this country, the Treaty was a necessary framework for everyone, especially those not of Maori descent. Increasing understanding of the Treaty became my priority. The state of the nation would be healthier if such understanding was achieved.

Project Waitangi (PW) nationwide had set up in 1984 as a project leading up to the 1990 commemorations of 150 years since the signing of the Treaty. It was heartening that in 1985 the government had made the period for grievances to be taken to the Waitangi Tribunal retrospective to the time of the signing of the Treaty in 1840. But the continuing power of government to limit the period of history to be considered by the Tribunal remained (and still remains) a deep concern. There was still much to be done to expose the effects of colonisation and the future possibilities of a Treaty-based future. So when national PW ceased, our group Project Waitangi Otautahi continued networking and re-formed as Network Waitangi Otautahi.

Our role in NWO is to help deepen understanding of the Treaty. Provided that it is honoured we see the Treaty as the foundation upon which those of us who are not of Maori descent can justly have a place in this country. Judge Edward Durie has referred to such people as tangata Tiriti – people of the Treaty – who have been invited to share this country with tangata whenua. Pakeha, together with others who are not of Maori descent, work alongside tangata whenua within the framework of the Treaty.

At the moment the Treaty is still understood by most people as being about Maori alone. In our experience, new migrants (especially those who have themselves experienced colonisation) find it straightforward to take a multicultural, Treaty-based approach, as do those who call themselves Pakeha. But is not yet familiar to many others. The Treaty is both an invitation to share this land and the basis of our nationhood.

Recently in NWO we developed a checklist of what Treaty-based development is not the same as, for our workshops. All of them are important and need to be understood for Treaty-based development, but they are not substitutes for the Treaty itself – the Treaty is the Treaty.

• Equal/equitable development
• Culture, cultural differences, cultural safety and intercultural development
• Biculturalism
• Understanding history and colonization
• Treaty settlements
• Principles of the Treaty e.g. Partnership, Protection and Participation
• The English Version of The Treaty which was not present on 6 February 1840.

These points are reviewed at the end of our workshops and shorter sessions. They encapsulate current key challenges.

Critical to our work is the understanding of history prior to 1840, both in this country and in relation to colonisation around the world. We take the view that the 1835 Declaration of Independence of this country, which was recognised by Britain at the time, is pivotal to understanding the Treaty.

We have also recently developed a framework for implementing the Treaty in our lives and organisations:

• Preamble: Upholding peace with justice for all peoples
• Article 1: Practising KAWANATANGA for all peoples
• Article 2: Promoting TINO RANGATIRATANGA for tangata whenua
• Article 3: Expecting Maori participation in ways determined by Maori in relation to Tikanga
• Article 4: Upholding everybody’s belief systems

These 5 aspects need to be taken together, both as a whole and also as a follow-on to the 1835 Declaration of Independence. Each of them provides a basis for thinking through implementation plans for Treaty-based action. All 5 aspects have action opportunities.

Understanding the Treaty poses a particularly critical challenge to the state of the Pakeha nation in 2012. This is because Treaty relationships with tangata whenua are rooted in the recognition of mana whenua where the local context becomes critical for developing ways forward.

The Local Government Act 2002 (LGA 2002) is of great importance in facing this challenge. It’s purpose sets out a legal imperative to uphold the four well-beings (social, economic, environmental and cultural), taking a sustainable development approach, in relationship to Maori. There is, however, no overriding parallel legal imperative in the purpose of central government’s approach. This lack need to be urgently addressed.

There may be an opportunity to face this challenge in Canterbury. In the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu (TRONT) is recognised alongside the territorial local authorities (TLAs) and the Regional Council. We are currently awaiting the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s (CERA) final strategy. We expect the Strategy to indicate how the territorial local authorites and our regional council Environment Canterbury (ECAN) will relate to each other and to CERA with respect to decision-making for the next period of recovery. How the Strategy includes collaboration with TRONT will be interesting. The challenge will then be to see how citizens of Canterbury, including all Maori, will be included. Will the Treaty be named as a framework for the future?

Many NZers are aware that the TLAs are the only remaining representative democracy in Canterbury – ECAN has central government appointed commissioners and CERA is an appointed central government authority responsible to Cabinet through the Minister, Gerry Brownlee.

Christchurch citizens have spoken. During the recent Christchurch City Council submission process on the rebuilding of the central city – the “Share an Idea” process – there was clear endorsement of the LGA2002 purposes. They were usefully summarised as being to achieve a high quality of life for all people while sustaining natural resources and useful infrastructure. Put simply, this means holding on to valued things for the long term. The Mayor spoke of building a city “for us and our children after us”.

NGOs have submitted similarly, giving details summarised in the term Strong Sustainability. Community gardens, sustainable business using The Natural Step, Time Banks, active transport and warm homes projects were some of the examples given in local submissions. The Ngai Tahu 2025 report sets out their imperative Tino Rangatiratanga – Mo tatou,a, mo ka uri a nuri ake nei, which is interpreted in that report as Tino Rangatiratanga – for us and our children after us.

Understanding the links between these two imperatives Tino Rangatiratanga and Strong Sustainability – both with the focus “for us and our children after us” – would therefore do a lot to achieve social cohesion in the city. The Treaty, if put into central government formulated legislation that paralleled the purposes in the LGA 2002, could also do much to achieve social cohesion around the country. The hard lessons being learned in Canterbury after the earthquakes could then positively affect the state of the nation. Network Waitangi Otautahi is committed to enabling understanding that the Treaty of Waitangi provides the framework for making these links.

One other useful suggestion that has emerged from our work locally, particularly in responding to issues of water allocation, is that a new legal instrument needs to be developed to take account of the things we hold in common. This matter was also raised at the time of the Marine and Coastal Area / Foreshore and Seabed legislation. At the moment our Westminster system reduces ownership to legal individual entities.

In my view then, the state of the Pakeha nation in 2012 is dependent on how we face the need to take account of the local context in future development. Pakeha have a particular Treaty responsibility to build Kawanatanga in the framework of Treaty relationships. The Christchurch City Plan has potential to meet the imperatives of the LGA2002, but unless there is commitment from central government to agree to the purposes set out in the LGA2002 nationwide, we will be reduced to continuing with business as usual. Being confined to development based on individual property rights gives the market an undue and inappropriate role in dominating social planning. That approach will not address the issues raised here.

To move forward in a cohesive way has some prerequisites. A broad appreciation of the status of all other citizens being recognised alongside the indigenous status of Maori is needed. Then the Treaty must be deeply understood for the reconciliation process to proceed. The Treaty framework can be used to encourage collaborative approaches between tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti.

The complex issues we face now and in the future can be addressed if local contexts are taken seriously. Subsidiarity is a useful touchstone for appropriate policy development. This is a wide field of study but most importantly it is about requiring that decisions are made as close as possible to the people who are affected by those decisions. Central or regional government for example, takes action only if and insofar as the purpose of what is proposed cannot be achieved by the more local grouping. Usually this is by reason of scale or effects that could be better achieved by the national dimension.

Fundamentally what is needed is a shared approach, where tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti work alongside and with each other. This would develop into a new “relational politics”, with the Treaty providing the framework.

The recent agreement from government for work to be done on this country’s constitution needs, therefore, to be much more than a review of existing institutions. Tangata whenua are organising their approach to this review. Tangata Tiriti need to also organise and be ready for the conversation – for the sake of our children and our children’s children. For Papatuanuku to be the basis of how we “constitute” our way of life we must not separate the environment for particular attention but embrace nature, justice, equality and fairness. The LGA2002 similarly refers to upholding the four (social, economic, environment and cultural) well-beings, together. The key word there is “and”. (In Britain the reference is to “or”.) From Papatuanuku comes the centrality of relationships in the framework of the Treaty and our particular responsibility for Kawanatanga as Pakeha.

NWO works with people, groups and government, commercial or non-government organisations on the basis of their available time and expertise and the outcomes they wish to achieve. Past requests have included those of general interest, professional advice, detailed information about our resources, one-off educational activities, etc.

In this way we will continue to work towards a truly sustainable, cohesive, multicultural, Treaty-based future. This would be my ideal of the state of the Pakeha nation.

Nothing new would ever have come to exist in history if had not first existed in mans’ imagination and haunted her daydreams.

[Bloch]

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Katherine Peet taught maths and sciences and has worked in the Third Sector, locally, nationally and internationally. Currently with Network Waitangi Otautahi, which promotes Strong Sustainability, she has been president of Canterbury WEA and of the national Federation of WEAs, Trustee of Kotare Education Centre, on Adult Education government reviews and has chaired both the Christchurch and NZ Council of Social Services. Marriage to John for 48 years has involved 26 years of caring for aged parents, bringing up three children and now enjoying three grandchildren.

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