New Treaty book blames Maori, Pakeha and Storytellers


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The Great Divide: The Story of New Zealand & Its Treaty, $36.99, by Ian Wishart, Howling At The Moon Publishing, Auckland

A provocative new book about the Treaty of Waitangi and New Zealand history argues Maori and Pakeha New Zealanders are being conned about the Treaty and our past by groups with a vested interest.

The Great Divide, by journalist Ian Wishart, explores New Zealand history from the first human settlement through to three decades after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, quoting extensively from documents written at the time to try and get a real perspective on what Maori and Pakeha were thinking.

In what is likely to be seen as a controversial literary stand-off, The Great Divide challenges many of the conclusions reached about early New Zealand history and colonial settlement in the book The Penguin History of New Zealand, by the late historian and journalist Michael King.


The Great Divide finds Pakeha and Maori should share blame for the breakdown in race relations, but says the split is being exploited by groups effectively trying to rewrite New Zealand’s history for their own financial gain. “It appears we are being cheated out of our past, and the mythmaking is rapidly fuelling grievances on both sides,” says Wishart.

“We hear so much today about what the Treaty really meant, and what Maori really believed they were signing, but when I checked what has become the accepted modern view of the Treaty against what Maori at the time actually said, a huge credibility gap opens up,” says Wishart.

“Modern experts tell us Maori never intended to surrender their sovereignty to the Crown. They tell us that the Treaty created a ‘partnership of two sovereigns’ – Maori and the Crown.

“The only problem with these claims,” says Wishart, “is that they are hard to explain in the light of statements from ancient Maori leaders like this: ‘Let there be one Queen for us. Make known to us all the laws, that we may all dwell under one law’… ‘If any of the tribes should set up a Maori King, then let them be separated from the Queen’s mana’… ‘So the Queen says, that she will be chief for all men. Therefore, I say, let her be’… ‘I belong to the mana of the Queen, to the mana of the Governor. As to the setting up of a King – not that. Do not split up, and form a party for the Queen, and another for the Maori King: that would be wrong’.”

“It’s a little bit like the Emperor has no clothes. There’s an entire industry surrounding the Treaty of Waitangi today making a lot of people within it rich and powerful, and it has no basis in historical fact in many cases,” says Wishart, who adds the Tribunal does not operate under the usual rules of balance applying to courts, making its decisions below-standard in some cases.

While the book concludes that many Waitangi compensation payments are justified, and points out that the total settlements for all Maori under the Treaty will be worth less than the taxpayer bailout of just one finance company, Wishart says the real issue is not the financial compensation but the power structure surrounding the Treaty industry that could become entrenched as part of the new constitutional review.

“I don’t have a problem with compensation, and I don’t think many other New Zealanders do either, but this book shows the Waitangi Tribunal is effectively making up history as they go, in order to justify a bigger agenda.”

As well as shedding significant new light on how Maori felt about the treaty and why they signed it, the book also documents evidence that Maori may have been in New Zealand much earlier than 1280 AD.

“There is strong evidence that New Zealand has been settled by humans for at least two thousand years, and possibly much longer,” Wishart says. “The reason archaeologists may not have found earlier settlements is because New Zealand’s coastline was hit by two – and possibly more – major tsunami, one of them categorised as a 220 metre high ‘mega-tsunami’, around 20 times the size of the wave that destroyed Japan’s east coast last year.

“We’ve seen what small tsunami can do to bricks and mortar. Imagine the impact of one twenty times larger on small seaside villages made of sticks and flax, and then you’ll find the reason that archaeologists can’t find any trace of them.”

THE GREAT DIVIDE, onsale this weekend at PaperPlus, Take Note, Relay, Dymocks, Mighty Ape, and most independent bookstores, and from Monday at Whitcoulls and the Warehouse, or direct from the publisher