Waitangi Day 2022 – a stocktake of where we are

Treaty settlements:

The most important understanding Aotearoa New Zealand should take from our current reality is that the big majority of Māori whanau are worse off today than they were before the fourth Labour government gave the power to the Waitangi Tribunal to begin investigating historic breaches of the Treaty in the 1980s. The reason Māori are worse off now is because the working class is worse off, and Māori are disproportionately in the working class.

The working class are always the shock absorbers in the economy and Māori are therefore always disproportionately impacted.

In the same breath as agreeing to compensate for historic breaches of the Treaty the David Lange/Roger Douglas government unleashed a raft of economic changes which stripped away protections for families and communities and gutted the welfare state. In alliance with the rich they, and the National government which followed them, smashed the unions and drove hundreds of thousands of working New Zealanders into poverty. It was classic class warfare and the rich won and are still winning all the way to a country whose defining identity is poverty and inequality.

 

Treaty payouts:

The total paid out in treaty settlements since the process started in the 1980s is now just over $2 billion. It represents less than three percent of the value of land and assets stolen from Māori. (The last of the big settlements, the largest in fact, will be with Ngapuhi which is yet to start negotiations)

And for useful comparison, never forget that John Key’s National cabinet, after a 10-minute discussion around the cabinet table, agreed to pay up to $1.7 billion to the wealthy investors in the collapsed South Canterbury Finance.

 

Iwi leaders and capitalism:

Not a single dollar of Treaty settlement money was passed over to Māori from the government without iwi being required to set up capitalist structures to receive and administer it as part of our capitalist economy. This was a vital pre-condition. The resulting tensions within iwi are palpable and the ironies abound. Most Māori would never dream of sending their elders into a rest home but Ngai Tahu has done very well from its holdings in Ryman Healthcare which farms the elderly for their life savings and government subsidies. Iwi leaders are no different from traditional capitalists in this regard. What trickles down to Māori whanau is not much and neither should it be expected to be much. Most iwi are able to distribute some education scholarships and offer a small range of payouts and benefits but these will never be able to make a significant difference in the daily lives of most Māori. And Māori who are not connected with their iwi are out in the cold altogether.

Iwi leaders – the heads of these capitalist enterprises – have become the group governments like to consult with. John Key was notorious for ignoring everyone else and Labour is not much different.

 

Partnership and co-governance:

Aotearoa New Zealand is feeling its way forward in developing a more respectful and honourable relationship between Pākehā and Māori with the Treaty as the stake in the ground – a critical reference point. There are some positive examples emerging, not just through guaranteed Māori representation in local government, but in areas such as management of Te Urewera and innovative models such as that proposed to deal with water after capitalist exploitation of fresh water has brought us to crisis point.

None of these innovations is an attack on democracy despite huge amounts of scaremongering by some farmers and the predictable ACT/Brash brigade. Handled well and led well the public will see these are enhancements of democracy – bring the 15% Māori populations into the democratic tent.

Unfortunately, no-one in the current government, aside from Nanaia Mahuta and David Parker to some extent, are prepared to front foot and drive meaningful change. The most likely result on water will be that significant water reforms are abandoned in much the same way Ardern threw in the towel without a fight on a capital gains tax.

 

The most critical issues facing Māori and the working class in 2022 are housing and taxation:

 

Housing:

The latest figures to September 2021 give the state house waiting list as 24,546 with half of that number being Māori whanau. This Labour government has been building state houses at less than twice the rate the state house waiting list has been increasing. This is great for middle-class landlords who can continue to charge impossible rents, knowing the government will continue paying them an extra $2 billion each year in accommodation supplements because rents are unaffordable.

A housing campaign this year will be built around the central demand the government build state houses for desperate families – disproportionately Māori. If you haven’t signed this petition to help get the ball rolling then don’t pretend you care about housing.

 

Taxation:

Māori pay higher tax rates than Pākehā. This is because the working class pay the highest tax rates and again because Māori are disproportionately in the working class they, on average, pay higher rates of tax when GST and income tax are considered together.

GST which is a tax on the poor. Workers are hammered because they have to spend all their income while the middle class and the rich can save some and therefore lose less in GST. (The lowest income 10% pay 14% of their income in GST while the top 10% pay less than 5% of their income in GST)

Unlike the middle class and the wealthy, workers pay tax on every dollar they earn and every dollar they spend. There will be significant campaigning around tax this year and every reader of the Daily Blog should be prepared to pitch in and help.

 

What will make a difference for Māori and the working class in 2022:

If campaigns on housing and tax can get off the ground and gain momentum they will force Labour to act and implement radical change.

It won’t be easy. Labour are wedded to what their middle class focus groups are saying – in fact they are joined at the hip to the corporate and the comfortable. It is only radical action which will force their hand for the better. Be prepared to do your bit in these campaigns in 2022. We have to be serious – this is a crisis for Māori and workers – only radical solutions driven by active campaigning will make any difference.

See you on the streets in 2022.

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