Please read this amazing speech by Casey Costello of Hobson’s Pledge.
BEWARE OF SEPARATISM – WE ARE NEW ZEALANDERS FIRST
by Casey Costello
“He iwi tahi tatou… At this time in New Zealand I don’t think there is a more powerful statement to be made.
Hobson’s Pledge has been established with total commitment to New Zealand’s history of equality – setting precedent for inclusion and unity.
Standing next to Don Brash does of course raise the question as to who I am, on what authority can I speak on such an important issue, and to be honest it is a question I ask myself.
Don Brash is a person who, on top of his personal and professional achivements, has continued to have the conviction, fortitude and integrity to never walk away from any opportunity to support and encourage our nation’s leaders and decision makers.
On top of this he has been consistent and steadfast in his position regarding equality before the law, the founding principle of Hobson’s Pledge Trust.
This consistency in his position has somehow been used as a reason to minimize and negate our message.
Astounding that someone with such a political background has remained steadfast on any issue let alone an issue as important as this.
For my part I am proud to be a spokesperson and my credentials are simple.
I am a New Zealander.
I am so proud of our nation, our place in the world and our melting pot culture.
We are not without our history both good and bad but it is time to focus on our future, on the path that New Zealand is taking in the years ahead.
There are many challenges that face us in terms of housing, protecting our environment, managing our nation’s resources and supporting those in need.
These are issues that impact all New Zealanders and are not peculiar to any ethnicity.
Hobson’s Pledge seeks to highlight the actions that are being taken by our government that undermine the foundations our country was built on – equality, democracy, and unity.
We have reached a point where we are being asked to identify by ethnicity and not citizenship.
I am a New Zealander, a Maori and a descendant of Anglo/Irish settlers who came here in the 1860s but firstly a New Zealander.
We all have our journey that brought us to this country and our unifying factor is our New Zealander citizenship.
Regardless of when we or our ancestors came here we have always known that our citizenship assures us equal recognition and representation before the law.
When I became involved with Hobson’s Pledge I was aware of an increasing level of concern and frustration that exists broadly among New Zealanders in regard to separatist policies that were creating racial division.
Unfortunately this was a subject difficult to discuss for fear of being labelled racist and anti-Maori.
Even when I speak out on this divisive and separatist platform that our government has created it has been suggested that I am a “token”.
I have had my ancestry and credentials as a Maori challenged.
It has even become an issue as to how much Maori I am, apparently percentages count.
To be clear I am here to speak for Hobson’s Pledge as a New Zealander with respect for the Treaty of Waitangi, for all the people that are part of our nation and to protect our legacy of forward thinking inclusive legislation as first demonstrated in the treaty…
He iwi tahi tatou – we are now one people.
But our Government, our nation’s leaders are NOT allowing us to be one people.
We are being delivered separatism and an erosion of our democracy on the basis that this will redress historical issues and achieve an equality that we are expected to accept has not previously been available to Maori.
This is not true.
I have been privileged in my life to be raised at a time where I did not know that Maori ancestry deprived us of an opportunity to succeed, where we were not equal.
When I stood beside my grandfather while he worked his land in Whakapara, no one told me he was poor, that we were disadvantaged.
Despite the fact that, if he was assessed by today’s standards, he would be deemed to be “in need” my grandfather, Honi Pani Tamati Waka Nene Davis, never considered that he was not equal and that he had been prevented from achieving economic prosperity.
What he did know was that he was responsible for his family and he got up every morning and proudly took care of those that depended on him.
Together with my gracious, proud and loving grandmother all their mokopuna were taught their culture and instilled with pride.
We were taught respect, we knew how to show empathy, and we were never in any doubt about how much we had to be grateful for.
When my mother married my father they left Northland to start their family and all six of us were raised in Auckland.
We remained connected with our heritage both Ngapuhi and Anglo/Irish.
Just like so many New Zealanders we knew where we had come from and that there was no limit on what we could become.
And there were no limits… but I suppose the difference was that there was definitely no handouts.
I vividly recall my brother full of teenage arrogance deciding that he would leave school and claim an unemployment benefit.
On finding this out my mother made him pay the money back – no child of hers was going to live on handouts when we were capable of working and succeeding.
I came from a proud heritage and was lucky enough to live in a country where I would not be judged on anything other than my ability and my work ethic.
From leaving school to work in an icecream parlour, through a range of industries, to the Police (leaving as a detective sergeant), vice president of the New Zealand Police Association, to my current position as general manager of a building services company, I have been exposed to a full range of industries and responsibilities and at no time have I ever encountered barriers or restrictions either for my race or my gender.
To go even further I have observed that when in a position of being equally qualified to my peers my ethnicity and gender has been an advantage and I defy anyone to dispute that point.
Never in my lifetime have I seen an instance where being a Maori has been a disadvantage. It has also never been an excuse for lack of achievement.
We are so frequently told that there is a need to make special allowance and extra compensation to those with Maori ancestry because without this we will not see Maori succeed.
This rationale is flawed and any special allowance that is based upon when your ancestors arrived in New Zealand is, at its core, racist and separatist.
For those who try to tell me that this special allowance is needed for Maori to achieve equality then I stand here today to tell you that you insult me, you patronize my heritage and MOST importantly you deprive the generations ahead of us of an inherent belief that anything is possible.
So what has changed from the New Zealand I was raised in to now?
Somewhere along the way Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi, established to provide equal recognition and opportunity to all New Zealanders – has become the mechanism by which division and disempowerment are the stock in trade.
A runaway train that is gathering momentum channeling increasing amounts of money to frequently self-appointed representatives with virtually no benefit being distributed to those with genuine need.
I defer to the very wise words of Sir Apirana Ngata from a speech he delivered in 1940 –
‘What remains of the treaty of Waitangi? What is there in the treaty that the Maori can today celebrate whole heartedly with you?
‘Let me say one thing. Clause 1 of the Treaty handed over the mana and the sovereignty of New Zealand to Queen Victoria and her descendants forever.
‘That is the outstanding fact today.
‘That but for the shield of the sovereignty handed over to her Majesty and her descendants I doubt whether there would be a free Maori race in New Zealand today.
‘Let me acknowledge further that in the whole of the world I doubt whether any native race has been so well treated by a European people as the Maori of New Zealand.’
I wonder how Sir Apirana would reflect on the situation now.
New Zealand is being divided, the country that was founded on unity and inclusion, the country that was the first to give women the vote, is being divided by a vocal minority that has made it impossible to even have the conversation about the issues of equality and unity without being labelled racist.
Through legislation, policy and process New Zealand is being separated.
I have been told so many times that the reason for the challenges that seem to be confronting Maori is due to grievances that occurred over the last 175 years.
We are asked to believe that Maori are so poorly represented in the all the worst statistics due to racial disadvantage and prejudice.
It is never about poor personal choices and lack of responsibility or accountability.
The strongest message we are bombarded with is that there needs to be a putting “right”, to make amends but this isn’t being done through creating opportunity but through separatist legislation, erosion of our democracy and lastly handing over money without any condition or control on how it should be used.
We fully acknowledge that where it can be established land has been confiscated then compensation should be paid by way of a full and final settlement.
And where are these settlement funds going? Is it being used to support the most vulnerable and in need, has it enhanced prospects for Maori.
Since 1990 over $2 billion has been allocated for settlement and yet this does not seem to be achieving any tangible benefit for Maori.
In fact it seems to be the opposite impact we are being asked to believe things are worse, worse than it was for my grandparents and worse than it was for me.
So for the sake of this elusive equality for those with Maori ancestry we are now eroding our democracy… it seems the more that is given the less is achieved.
It makes me glad that my grandparents are not around to hear Maori leaders promote that it is okay to expect less of Maori; that it is okay to offer no accountability, no responsibility; that it is okay to excuse failure and lack of pride and motivation because of a history that has long since been put right.
The strongest message from so many is that Maori have been failed, deprived, held back. This is not true.
All that is being created by a vocal minority is a demotivating sense of entitlement and mounting resentment.
I am not alone on this, there are many respected and accomplished leaders with a proud Maori ancestry that support this position.
No matter who you are, what your ancestry is, or what country you call home if your Government, if your legislation, if your society continues to send a clear message that you cannot achieve because of some vague, undefined, and frequently imaginary barriers, then you will never achieve. Why would you even try?
I do not stand here claiming there isn’t need, there isn’t poverty, there isn’t social issues but this is not exclusive to any ethnicity.
More and more is being done to ensure that there is not even a suggestion of bias or inequality but we still see Maori being more poorly represented in the worst statistics now than they were 30 years ago.
And yet we still cannot stop and discuss the situation without cries of racism.
I am fully aware of the challenges and often horrific conditions that exist for those in New Zealand who are vulnerable and in need.
I have 14 years of Police service, mostly in South Auckland that gives me the knowledge and first-hand experience to be able to comment on the challenges that face our most vulnerable.
Hobson’s Pledge fully acknowledge that need exists and I believe every society must be judged on how they treat their most vulnerable and most in need.
But need is based upon need, not on ethnicity.
Equal distribution of support is essential and cannot be prioritized based upon race or upon when you or your ancestors arrived in New Zealand.
Maori have succeeded and continue to succeed in academia, arts, business, media, politics.
To continue to claim special representation is needed is patronizing, divisive and counterproductive.
Hiding behind their claims of addressing equality our Government is protecting their alliances and balance of power by making concessions that undermine our democracy and create inequality before the law.
Management of our resources, control of fresh water, Hauraki Gulf, Waikato River, even down to consulting on the use of geographically significant place names… the concessions continue
And yet New Zealanders are still reluctant to speak out for fear of being seen as ignorant and racist… best not to mention that despite all the fancy words, the Emperor is actually naked!
Our Prime Minister has the arrogance and demonstrated contempt for those people who have supported his party to suggest that “New Zealand has moved passed this” – deriding Hobson’s Pledge for its position.
How offensive that he can scoff at a stand for equality and unity while actively endorsing legislation that is dividing New Zealand based on race.
Our strength as a nation will continue to grow through recognizing our diversity, individual accountability, personal responsibility and our foundation of unity: he iwi tahi tatou
We cannot allow the voice of a few to force us into separatism.
I ask you for your support. I ask you to help us send a very clear message that New Zealanders are smarter and more informed than our Government gives us credit for.
Register your support. Give us the numbers to verify the importance of this issue. It is through your support, your donations and your involvement that we can create the Political appetite for change.
In the powerful words of another respected and accomplished Maori leader, Sir Peter Buck:
‘Beware of separatism. The Maori can do anything the Pakeha can do, but in order to achieve this we must all be New Zealanders first.'”
Casey delivered this landmark speech in Tauranga on the 22nd of November, 2016.