Improving The Environment A Community Problem

Many learned views on the important issue of Sustainability of Development and Management of our resources were expressed in the previous Future Times Journal,(v.4) particularly those given on the International Summit conferences during the last decade. Seen by one author as something of a “quagmire and nebulous”, and by another that we should “reconsider the whole way we meet society’s needs and wants”. These views reflect the fair-minded editorial summary of “no shortage of talk but very little action”

Since societies needs and wants are more often than not in direct conflict, it is perhaps not surprising that in 1992 a work group was asked to consider environmental issues that could affect the general development in New Zealand over the next 50 years. It came up with a remarkable “key driver” of ” being dependant on the community values that prevail” followed by a forthright highlighted condition worthy of repeating:

“Community values are the basis for environmental management; unless our community values improve our environment cannot improve.”
Herein lies the explanation of the apparent inaction over the years by international and national organisations and why the editor says “the jury is still out” on world summit conferences. I venture to suggest that if or when the jury should return, there will be no decision reached. Neither will there be any “room for optimism” on subsequent reconvention’s. The reason for this is because a community, whether large or small, is made up of individuals, each holding an opinion that taken collectively is both ‘a quagmire and nebulous’

“Community values” are what each and every one of us have developed during our life-time based on individual kaleidoscopic conditioning and assimilation, as we proceed from nursery to tertiary and on into a wide competitive world. This applies to every person in a community of whatever size, generating opinions of changeable value. Does this mean we have to seek a consensus of opinion? Should that consensus be followed?

These insuperable questions illustrate how difficult it is to rely on any dependable outcome for ‘values improvement’, should there be one ã one persons’ need is not wanted by another! The classic clichÈ “one mans meat….” comes very much to the fore.

From 1991 in New Zealand, we have had controlled “Sustainable Management” by legislation but this control is costly, manipulative and placed in the wrong hands. As a profession, law cannot add culture to a nation. It is quite unsuitable to adjudicate on any contentious values issues.

Take, for example, a recent personal experience where I was rudely aroused out of many years of retirement as a UK trained Architect & Town Planner, in seeing an artist perspective of a proposed small civic development in a town center. By a trick of presentation the site was depicted as being twice as large as reality. This same ploy is used by Real estate agents when they photograph interiors with wide-angle lenses to make interiors appear more commodious than they are. This of course is done to entice one to view the property. But seeing is not deceiving. However, when a picture is presented for public approval months before it is built, any such ploy becomes deceitful, if not fraudulent. I recognized the sketch for what it was and submitted my concerns to the Authority’s Commissioner on the grounds of the design being out of scale with its environment. He totally ignored my reasoned observations, so I appealed the application for Resource Consent to the Court.

The Judge, in his findings reiterated my concerns on the artist’s impression saying: “He may be right, but we find it unlikely that major harm was done by that minor misrepresentation” adding “if, over time, the design is found by the community not to work then presumably the design can be changed again.”

This clearly illustrates my view that matters of design, aesthetics and scale (clearly covered by the Resource Management Act) should not be delegated to those who have not been trained in this discipline. His final comment cuts right across “Sustainable Management”- the key requirement of the Act.

Recognising environmental issues as a present problem to achieve a sustainable future, has been slow in gaining concern both internationally and nationally. Even when the seriousness of the global situation is recognized we seem to get bogged down in this quagmire – the more we struggle for an answer, the lower we sink. The Co-editor acknowledges the world summit conferences have achieved very little, posing the question ” Where to next”. I would suggest the only answer to this dilemma is in self-examination and can only come through education. This has to start at the earliest possible age and by educators trained in these issues to the same extent as they are for the three “R’s”

To achieve an answer to this awareness has been emphasised during most of the last century, never more so than by the late Indian philosopher J Krishnamurti who has publicly lectured and discussed it many times. Here is a relevant excerpt from one of his Question and Answer dialogues dated 1982, that points to the only solution of the problem.

“If one has read history it is fairly clear that man has struggled against nature, conquered it, destroyed it and polluted it; man has struggled against man; there have always been wars. Man struggles to be free and yet he becomes a slave to institutions and organizations from which in turn he tries to break away, only to form another series of institutions and organizations. There is an everlasting struggle to be free. The history of mankind is the history of tribal wars, feudal and colonial wars, the wars of the kings and nations; and it is all still going on; the tribal mind has become national and sophisticated – but it is still the tribal mind. The history of man includes its culture; it is the story of the human being who has gone through all kinds of suffering, through various diseases; through wars, through religious beliefs and dogmas, persecution, inquisition, torture in the name of a deity, in the name of peace, in the name of ideals.

And how is all this to be taught to the young? If it is the story of mankind, the story of human beings, then both the educators and the young are the human beings; it is their story, not merely the story of kings and wars, it is the story of themselves. How can the educator help the student to understand the story of himself, which is the story of the past, of which he is the result? That is the problem. If you are the educator and I am the young student, how would you help me to understand the whole nature and structure of myself – myself being the whole of humanity, my brain, the result of many million years? It is all in me, the violence, the competition, the aggressiveness, the brutality, the cruelty, the fear, the pleasure and occasional joy and the slight perfume of love. How will you help me to understand all this? It means that the educator must also understand himself and so help me, the student, to understand myself. So it is a communication between the teacher and myself; and in that process of communication he is understanding himself and helping me to understand myself. It is not that the teacher or the educator must first understand himself and then teach – that would take the rest of his life, perhaps – but that in the relationship between the educator and the person to be educated, there is a relationship of mutual investigation. Can this be done with the young child, or with the young student? In what manner would you set about it? That is the question.

How would you as a parent go into this, how would you help your child to understand the whole nature and structure of his mind, of his desires, of his fears – the whole momentum of life? It is a great problem.

Are we prepared, as parents and teachers, to bring about a new generation of people, for that is what is implied – a totally different generation of people with totally different minds and hearts? Are we prepared for that? If you are a parent, would you give up for the sake of your child drink, cigarettes, pot, you know, the whole drug culture and see that both you and the child are good human beings?

The word ‘good’ means well-fitting – psychologically without any friction, like a good door – you understand? like a good motor. Also ‘good means whole, not broken up, not fragmented. So, are we prepared to bring about through education, a good human being, a human being who is not afraid – afraid of his neighbour, afraid of the future, afraid of so many things, disease and poverty? Also, are we prepared to help the child and ourselves to have integrity? The word’ integrity’ also means to be whole and to say what you mean and not to say one thing and do something else. Integrity implies honesty. Can we be honest if we have illusions and romantic and speculative ideals and strong beliefs? We may be honest to a belief but that does not imply integrity. Belief implies accepting as true what we don’t know. As it is, we bring children into the world, spoil them till they are two or three and then prepare them for war. History has not taught human beings; how many mothers must have cried, their sons having being killed in wars, yet we are incapable of stopping this monstrous killing of each other.

If we are to teach the young we must have in ourselves a sense of the demand for the good. Good is not an ideal; it is to be whole, to have integrity, to have no fear, not to be confused; these are not ideals, they are facts. Can we be factual and so bring about a good human being through education? Do we really want a different culture, a different human being, with a mind that is not confused, that has no fear, that has this quality of integrity?”

If we don’t improve our own values and consequently those of our children, then we cannot improve our environment. It’s a simple inescapable fact


Full paper of the Future Times 2003 Vol 1 article:

The Future of Rangatiratanga

by Richard S Hill

Historians are seldom asked to look into the future, and they even more rarely oblige. They are even loath to engage in ‘counterfactual history’ about what might have been in the past if a circumstance or circumstances had been different. Generally, they argue that the present cannot be fully understood without knowledge of the past, and that without full knowledge of the present, the future cannot be properly and rationally planned. Insofar as they look to that future with any specificity, they argue – usually implicitly – that a better future can come about through taking heed of the lessons that can be learnt from the past.

While many New Zealand historians would not regard me as a ‘conventional’ historian, 1 on the question of reluctance to predict the future I am indeed ‘conventional’. What seems to me the best contribution an historian can make to ‘futures studies’ in New Zealand is that of detecting and explaining past features that have a bearing on the project of creating a better future. On the question of ‘race relations’, a salient lesson emerges from modern scholarship on the Maori relationship with Crown/pakeha from 1840 until recent times: that the tangata whenua of New Zealand have always resisted the Crown agenda of full assimilation and undertaken a long and continuous search for ways of enhancing their own culture and of organising their lives according to their own priorities..2

Maori have, then, engaged selectively with pakeha culture, politics, knowhow, techniques, technology etc. Even in the most difficult days for the preservation of Maori culture, when both coercive and hegemonic pressure upon Maoridom was enormous, iwi, hapu, whanau and other collective organisations assiduously retained the key elements of their culture and organisational methods. This capacity to adapt to changing circumstances, while retaining the essence of the organisational and cultural forms which effectively constitute ‘Maoridom’, was not always apparent to pakeha. In the enormous Maori migration to the towns and cities in the decades after the Second World War, for example, new collective institutions were established in the urban areas which complemented marae-based continuity of lifestyle in the tribal areas; but bureaucrats, politicians and scholars alike often failed to notice this, or at least to take full cognisance of it if they did.

The ongoing Maori quest for running their own lives, albeit within a generally ‘western’ politico-cultural paradigm, is of no surprise to historians of imperialism and post-colonialism: all indigenous peoples in all colonies and in former settler colonies have sought (and seek) autonomy or self-determination. In New Zealand this quest has gained cogent political force from taking a particular form deriving from promises by the Crown to Maori in the nation’s founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi.3

The evidence is now clear that Maori have always interpreted the promise of rangatiratanga in the Treaty’s Second Article as that of autonomously running their own affairs through their own methods. Their whole history of political and cultural interaction with the state since 1840 can be viewed as attempting to deflect the Crown from its imperative of full assimilation, and to effect indigenous aspirations for autonomy by adapting collective-based modes of organisation to ways that meet the realities of colonialism and post-colonialism. In turn, one of the Crown’s key methods of subjugation was to appropriate aspects of Maori politico-cultural life and incorporate them into the machinery of state or the dominant culture. When Maori thought they had achieved a small measure of autonomy – with Maori Councils in 1900, say, or with legislation of 1945 or 1962 – they discovered that this was an intendedly temporary pause en route for the desired state goal of full assimilation.

But they never gave up, and their counter-organisation included taking the struggle into such appropriative organisations. From the 1970s, in a changing ideological climate, the Crown gradually began to respond to a massive ‘Maori renaissance’. It made various concessions to the Maori quest for rangatiratanga which seemed to hold out promise of reconciliation between cultures. These included official adoption of the concept of a ‘bicultural society’, and in organisational terms peaked with the 1990 Runanga Iwi Act’s devolution of certain state powers to iwi authorities. This was the year when the sesquicentenary of the nation was commemorated under the official slogan ‘Two Peoples, One Nation’. Such rubric constituted a huge departure from the state’s assimilationist perspective throughout most of the post-1840 history of New Zealand, when the dominant catchcry echoed Lieutenant-Governor Hobson on the signing of the Treaty: ‘We are all one people now’.

But the hopes of many, both pakeha and Maori, for the devolution embedded in the 1990 Act were quickly dashed. This was the result of two opposing reasons which indicate the difficulties inherent in finding a solution to the problems of ‘practical biculturalism’. First, the legislation was quickly repealed by an incoming government as it was deemed to be too radical for the pakeha constituency. Second, the very concept of ‘devolution’ raised serious questions at the time among Maori, particularly among those acquainted with a 150-year history of the Crown attempting to contain Maori demands and aspirations by appropriating institutions to which power would be ‘devolved’. Such past state ‘concessions’ had not only led to very little in practical terms, but also did not meet Maori understandings that the events of 1840 constituted a form of ‘partnership’ with the Crown (a concept which the judiciary eventually, if cautiously and erratically, endorsed). Since 1990 Maori have increasingly demanded that the lessons of the past be learnt: that their longstanding demands cannot be met by tokenistic devolutions, or even that their aspirations preclude the notion of devolution altogether. Instead, they want the New Zealand constitution altered (or some equivalent action) to reflect the partnership to which Maori signed in the Maori language version of the Treaty. This is the prerequisite, it is argued, for a truly bicultural society to emerge and/or for Maori to regain autonomy.

This is not the forum for exploring the many difficulties over how a bicultural or ‘two peoples’ society might manifest itself – for example, the place within it of ‘recent migrants’ (or, how to fit multiculturalism into an officially bicultural society), or the interface between traditional tribal organisations and new (especially urban) indigenous institutions. The fundamental point is that, if Maori aspirations are to be met, more is required than ‘closing socio-economic gaps’ between Maori and non-Maori. What is needed is more conceptually challenging than this: development of a form of politico-cultural arrangements for the tangata whenua that embody or equate to constitutional status.

Many pakeha laugh such a perspective off as the impractical dream of a handful of Maori radicals and their ‘politically correct’ pakeha sympathisers. To do so is to ignore the lessons of the past: to repeat, Maori aspirations for rangatiratanga have been and are endemic in Maoridom, just as they are for indigenous peoples everywhere who remain subordinated in some way or other to imposed politico-cultural regimes. Even a Maori leader as ‘conservative’ as Sir Graham Latimer, with his decades-long National Party membership, can say quite clearly that the process of embedding the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution is ‘unstoppable’. It is something, moreover, which the New Zealand Maori Council, the official body representing Maoridom, has fought for.4 Even the most ‘advanced’ thinking among politicians and bureaucrats was based until recently on the notion that for Maori to transfer from ‘grievance mode to development mode’, it was essentially the resolution of historical Treaty-based grievances that was needed.5 But while that is necessary, it is not sufficient. Even setting aside matters of social justice, meeting promises, political rights and the like, unless the practicalities of rangatiratanga are debated and addressed, those who identify as Maori will remain to some degree in ‘grievance mode’ and the country as a whole will accordingly suffer.

Yet this is a subject that provokes kneejerk reactions among pakeha. When some speakers at a conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies in 2000 argued that rangatiratanga should be met in some way in the New Zealand constitution, there were howls of media-led outrage, with particular emphasis on a lone academic’s outlining of the possibility of a separate Maori state.6 This was typical of the low level of public debate over such crucial matters, with most commentators completely unable to envisage alternatives to the current constitutional arrangements – except for a physically separate Maori state, which scarcely anyone in the country has been mooting anyway. Media-led commentary is often openly scaremongering: early 1990s maps purporting to show that Ngai Tahu wanted most of the South Island back, which they did not, or recent ‘predictions’ in a television programme about the year 2050 of Maori-run enclaves in which pakeha would have to pay for access to fishing and other ‘privileges’ which they currently regard as their ‘rights’.7 Yet ever since the time of the founding of the colony of New Zealand, Maori have been searching for and presenting ideas on ways of reconciling Article I of the Treaty, with its guarantee of the Crown’s right to govern (kawanatanga) in the interests of all, and Article II’s guarantee of protection of rangatiratanga (or, in the original English version of the Treaty, ‘chieftainship’); and these have not included taking ‘rights’ off pakeha.

There is in fact a myriad of possible ways of effecting rangatiratanga in the modern world without establishing separate territorial mini-states, or even (in many cases) land-based organisational modes. The search, in short, is for how Article Two’s promise of collective socio-organisational forms can be met. While few pakeha (nor indeed, Maori) would go as far as accepting Moana Jackson’s (in)famous call for a separate Maori justice system, its very existence as part of the discourse on such matters since the late 1980s should give food for thought. I am not, however, going to give my own forecast of New Zealand in 50 years’ time. This is partly because one wants to be positive about social prediction, and currently it is sometimes difficult to be optimistic about the degree of progress on the project of accommodating rangatiratanga/biculturalism into politics and society: the whole history of Crown/Maori relations suggests that ‘lessons of the past’ are not easy to learn. But more significantly, if such initiatives are to be successful, they need to come from within Maoridom, and it is too early yet to predict which of the very many ideas debated in both past and present will lead to something that both Crown/pakeha and Maori can see as effecting a viable ‘living relationship’.8

One proposal with a long track record is some form of Maori political unity, kotahitanga, something often discussed at hui and in other forums.9 Certainly, Maori MPs have historically formed a caucus whose operations transcended party boundaries (the Liberal Apirana Ngata, for example, became chair of the Native Affairs Committee during a Reform government). There are many calls, in the context of a proportional representation parliament, to take this further and form an overarching ‘Maori Party’ that will gain sufficient balance-of-power strength to make significant gains for rangatiratanga. When Mana Motuhake split from the Alliance in October 2002, for example, it announced its intention of attempting to form a ‘broad-based Maori party’ by, among other means, combining forces with other Maori parties.10 More fundamental proposals include a reconstitution of the parliamentary system itself, usually to add an upper chamber that will scrutinise all legislation from a Treaty of Waitangi perspective and/or to have a separate Maori legislative house.

As New Zealand moves, seemingly inexorably (albeit slowly), towards becoming a republic, the accompanying debate should be an excellent opportunity for Maori to air the many schemes for effecting rangatiratanga, and perhaps to zero in on one or several of them; and for pakeha to learn about and consider such proposals. The present time might, then, finally be the historic moment where the essence of Maori aspirations over 162 years can be seriously addressed. In turn, such a development may well have a healthy impact on the negative social indicators that dominate Maori demographics. In other words, the current ‘Maori policy’ priorities, whereby the state focusses on ‘reducing inequalities’ and downplays rangatiratanga, might need to be reversed.

There are signs that, despite New Zealand First’s populist position on migration having encouraged greater and cruder anti-immigrant discourse among Maori as well as pakeha, the ethnicity debate is becoming more sophisticated. Maori scholar Paul Meredith, for example, suggests that ‘biculturalism’ should be replaced by an ‘interculturalism’ that accommodates ‘the plurality of differences and visions’ in New Zealand, including of all ethnicities. Such a ‘relational approach will demand negotiation, collaboration, compromise and much sacrifice’.11 Irihapeti Ramsden, founder of ‘cultural safety’ in nursing, has recently ‘clarified’ the original intention as being to inculcate respect for all cultures among professionals dealing with people.12

On the other hand, the fact remains that Maori as tangata whenua have claims, under the Treaty of Waitangi, that other ethnic groups do not, and this cuts across the belief structures of liberal/capitalist democratic societies. What is certain, then, is that the challenge of moving away from the ‘dominant narrative’ of the New Zealand identity13 will not be at all easy. It is clear that parts of New Zealand society are totally opposed to any kind of incorporation of rangatiratanga or Treaty rights into the constitution, as is the government itself and all of the opposition parties in parliament (with the possible potential exception of the Green Party, which remains in the process of policy formation on this issue). Recently Leader of the Opposition Bill English argued that Treaty discourse is taking us down the wrong track – towards, in fact, some of the scare scenarios proffered by the television programme about the year 2050. He in effect called for an overturning of the official 1990 position of ‘two peoples in one nation’, and a return to the dominant views of the past: New Zealanders are becoming ‘one people’, and there is no room for differing rights and ways of doing things. Instead, there should be ‘a single standard of citizenship for all’.14

The extremist political beliefs of the most vocal protagonists of a ‘One New Zealand’15 indicate that such a stance can attract company that ‘ordinary people’ would not normally keep, quite apart from revealing a lack of appreciation of the durable Maori quest for rangatiratanga. But English’s is a sophisticated paper, genuinely attempting to grapple with the type of arguments emerging from, among others, Maori scholars such as Meredith. This fact, alongside other (including non-political) signs of general engagement in significant and sensitive discourse on Treaty and ethnicity matters, is an encouraging development: where there is dialogue there is hope of resolution and reconciliation. Hamish Keith, for example, has noted that while what is called ‘biculturalism’ in the arts is often two separate strands, a true biculturalism implies connection and engagement, and that is now beginning to happen.16

An historian long engaged in Treaty of Waitangi settlements, David Armstrong, commented with reference to Waitangi Day in 2002 that the overturning of the ‘partnership’ promised in 1840 was essentially ‘the central aspect of most claims before the Waitangi Tribunal’, and the ‘vast majority of claimants seek no more than the re-establishment of this partnership…. No one should be threatened by that.’17 Indeed they should not, despite much Maori discussion of ‘indigenous sovereignty’ (typical of the slogans on that day, resonant of those stretching back many years, was ‘Put Iwi Sovereignty on the Agenda’). Most Maori leaders have looked to and are looking to an accommodation of their rangatiratanga aspirations within the general paradigm of parliamentary democracy; they want this adjusted, not overturned. Even many of the most radical of Maori activists use imageries of reconciliation and healing (recently borrowed by the authors of a book influential among liberal pakeha18) and not those of ‘race-war’. Just as Maori have adjusted to the dominant politico-cultural norms of New Zealand in the past, there is no reason why they should not do so again. Such a process will include working through a political and cultural relationship with the increasing numbers of ‘new ethnicities’ in New Zealand, and will no doubt involve emerging strata and evolving forms of leadership.

The ‘principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ have proved very elusive, as opposition politicians have found when trying to get the government to elucidate them – as elusive as when those same politicians were in office and used the same, principles-based terminology. The very flexibility of the principles, however, gives cause for hope that within the foreseeable future the New Zealand state, on behalf of all citizens, will have renegotiated a method or methods that enable Maori to organise their own lives in ways that both reflect their status as Treaty partners and engage with the plurality and diversity that makes modern New Zealand so much more interesting than during the many decades of hegemonic monoculturalism.

In those days one of the iconic New Zealand myths was that the country had perfect race relations. After the eruption of new and challenging intellectual and cultural ideas from the 1960s-70s onwards, including those of the Maori renaissance, thinking people could not cling to such a claim. But that being said, in global terms, especially in the context of imperialism and post-colonialism, New Zealand emerges favourably from many (but not all) international comparative measurings of, say, the amount of ‘blood shed’ in the past, and current socio-economic standards. And one might argue that pakeha can accept that the Treaty is a mechanism providing Maori with a collective, contractual claim akin to the ‘social contract’ between the state and individual citizens (although a more firm contract insofar it was a written compact between the Crown and representatives of a recognised political entity).19

There are, then, positive lessons to be learnt from the past, as well as negative ones. But the fact remains that the endemic Crown refusal to recognise any meaningful role for rangatiratanga in the body politic is a keynote lesson that has not yet been learnt; and that when addressing of rangatiratanga does occur, it needs to engage with initiatives from within Maoridom rather than attempt an appropriation of them or an imposition of pakeha-generated definitions and ‘solutions’.20 If the rangatiratanga question is not resolved, quite apart from matters of rights and justice, a very significant proportion of the population will remain in ‘grievance mode’, and that cannot be healthy for any society.