By Jonathon Stirling
The Treaty of Waitangi (Fisheries Claims) Settlement Act 1992, pushed through parliament by that paragon of truth and honesty, Douglas Graham, introduced racism into the fishing industry where it does not and should not belong.
Pre 1840 Maoris were not deep sea fishermen. Unlike the inhabitants of some of the small but heavily populated islands of Polynesia, the Maoris never needed to go out beyond the local bay to catch fish since New Zealand has a long coast and the Maori population was small relative to the large land mass of our two main islands.
Nevertheless, under the 1992 Act the then National government gave 50% of Sealord, New Zealand’s largest fishing company, as well as 20% of all new species brought under the quota system in the future. Plus $18 million in cash. Total gift from the taxpayer: $170 million.
The Government claimed that this transfer of assets from the public to the tribal elite was for “a breach of the Treaty”. This was a lie since the real Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti – the one signed by the chiefs – makes no mention of fisheries.
Another lie that National spun to the public was that this race-based gift of commercial fishing assets would “get young Maoris off the dole and into the fishing industry”. This was a deliberately mischievous statement to obscure the racism, naked opportunism and political weakness surrounding the deal. And have young Maoris gone into the fishing industry to take advantage of this undeserved gift from the taxpayer? Hardly.
As soon as the tribal leaders scored their El Dorado of fishing quota they found it more profitable to sub-lease their quotas to Asian crews on overcrowded vessels which are not much more than floating sweatshops. In the words of former Napier City Councillor, John Harrison, “Two hundred years ago Maori enslaved other Maori….Now they’re actively partaking in modern day slavery of Indonesians and others while their jobless numbers climb still higher….Maori should man the boats themselves to tackle their self-imposed position at the top of our unemployment statistics”. (Dominion, 25 February, 2012) But this is not about Maori helping their fellow Maori but about the tribal elite getting more money by employing the semi-slave labour of foreign vessels.
In 2012 there were 27 foreign charter vessels which were catching about $650 million of fish a year, the majority of it for iwi quota, in an export industry valued at an annual $1.5 billion.
One of the strongest supporters of this modern day slavery racket is the Maori Party whose overwhelming concern is the enrichment of corporate iwi and they don’t care how many people are exploited or impoverished in the process. Whenever the government makes moves to end this national embarrassment of Maori chartered “slave vessels”, the Maori party screams “Hands off our little racket”.
Tariana Turia had “huge concerns that unwarranted government interference in arrangements with foreign chartered vessels will render many iwi businesses marginal or uneconomic….The significant increase of up to $2 extra an hour over and above the minimum wage [payable to the Asian fishermen] will hurt Maori.” (National Business review, 20 December, 2012) Her support of these appalling conditions is a throwback to the Maori slave owning days before the Treaty released all the slaves.
Her Maori Party co-leader, Peter Sharples, spoke in April, 2011, of this tribal exploitation of others, declaring that it “would not be appropriate for the government to interfere in their decision making”. (Ibid)
After being shamed into requiring these foreign chartered vessels to bring themselves under the New Zealand flag (and better conditions) by 2016, the government is now faced with a demand by the Maori Party that those vessels chartered by iwi have a further four years to comply (till 2020), thereby continuing their disgraceful exploitation of these underpaid Asian crewmen. And – surprise, surprise – the Key government has caved in to this demand by including in the Bill an exemption for iwi quota holders until 2020. The whole purpose of the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 2013 was to end the scandal of the slave like conditions on these vessels, which are largely fishing for iwi quota.
Yet, after pressure from the Maori Party, Key agreed to this exemption so as to continue for another four years this repulsive trade which brings much shame to our country, thus defeating the whole purpose of the Bill. Whenever the Maori Party says “Jump”, Key and Finlayson will always jump. And they don’t care who they shaft in the process – be it New Zealand’s commercial fishermen or even the beach loving public, from whom they stole the beaches by their thieving and racist Marine and Coastal Area Act, which seems to have been designed for no other purpose than to enrich Mr. Finlayson’s ex-clients and other favoured tribes.
But it gets worse. When faced with the prospect of the ending of their little “slave racket”, the corporate iwi that controls the quota system started putting their hand out yet again – this time for “compensation” for ending the exploitation of these foreign crews – something that they should never have embarked on in the first place.
The government has asked Treasury to “cost” this compensation and the amount is around $300 million of taxpayer dollars. The Finlayson-Key government is now poised to reward the tribal elite for their disgraceful behaviour in misusing the quota that was given to them. And why not? After all, this same government has used taxpayers’ money to “compensate” Te Kooti’s tribe for the loss of his “good name” after he massacred seventy peaceful civilians (both Europeans and Maoris) in a single night at Matawhero, Gisborne, in 1868, and is currently in the process of handing the Ngati Toa tribe an unnecessary $10 million as a reward for Te Rauparaha’s cannibalism and genocide of South Island Maoris. For Key and Finlayson ethics simply do not exist when the Maori Party makes a demand.
In the words of columnist, Michael Coote, writing in the National Business Review, “New Zealand has descended into the hell of becoming a Treaty of Waitangi-driven madhouse of incontinent cargo cult compensation….Until the reflagging is done New Zealanders should take care to boycott any seafood products, related businesses, and Maori tribes associated with fishing slavery….Maori tribalists should not be paid one cent in compensation for abolition of the fishing slavery they profited from”. (20 December, 2012)
There are only negatives in this race racket in the fishing industry:
1. So much of the quota is given out racially instead of commercially. To get any part of a quota non-Maori commercial fishermen must have a catch history, boats, etc. but Maoris get their quota – as they get so many other things – free. Paid for by the long suffering taxpayer. They don’t need boats and other expenses to achieve it; they simply lease out their quota for a big profit. Unlike commercial quota holders, they don’t need to do any work to develop it.
2. The race quota system has provided hardly any jobs for young Maoris. How could it when they lease out their quota to foreigners?
3. The government gets no tax from these iwi controlled foreign chartered vessels. So we don’t have tax paying New Zealand crews for a large part of our national fishing quota and nor do we have an onshore work force to process the catch since foreign crews on foreign vessels take it back to their own countries to process.
4. Worse still, with this transfer of so much fish, jobs and boats to cheap labour Asian countries has been the collapse of several small time fishing operations owned by European New Zealanders.
So, the actions of the tribal elite in grabbing an undeserved quota in the first place and then hiving the work offshore while pocketing the profits themselves is not only greedy and racist but also unpatriotic, leading to the loss of jobs and tax revenue for New Zealand.
In the words of Mr,. Peter Talley, who has had a lifelong career in the fishing industry, “It is a national scandal that Maori, given settlement quota for the purpose of bringing young Maoris into the business of fishing, are now given a preferential right to use Third World foreign labour to harvest those very resources.”
Since the tribal elite have not performed their part of the deal by providing jobs for Maoris, the quota should be taken back from them and be made available to all commercial fishermen on an equal and non-racist basis. On grounds of both principle and patriotism it is time to end racism in the fishing industry.