Letters – Issue 32

Not Wellington-based

“All three of the Institute of Policy Studies books are by Wellington-based authors. Some sound scholarship and knowledge can be found in New Zealand universities other than Victoria.” The second of these assertions by Ramesh Thakur in his review of four books on Asia (December issue) is probably correct, and certainly I would not argue that Victoria is different from the other New Zealand universities.

The first assertion is wrong on any normal use of language. Both Rolf Cremer and Bala Ramasamy are at Massey University and were and are based in Palmerston North.

While I personally welcome transparency even in Massey’s entry into the Wellington educational market, I do not think that makes all of Massey’s staff “Wellington-based”.

Gary Hawke
Director, Institute of Policy Studies


Time and the Treaty

Some years ago I was asked by the prominent firm of Wellington lawyers, Chapman Tripp Sheffield Young, to write a paper on the difficulty of interpreting and understanding historical documents. They were engaged in arguing a case under the Treaty of Waitangi and wanted to present my professional opinion as a historian in order to tell the court how tricky it is to base a claim on a document that was written more than 150 years ago.

I chose the Magna Carta as an example and showed in detail that after a lapse of time, old documents become very dubious guidelines. By the time the conditions the documents are referring to have disappeared, it becomes impossible to tell what was in the minds of the signatories and what, by signing, they had promised and had been committing themselves to. Whenever those parties, at a later stage, are taken to have committed themselves to conditions which have arisen more recently, there is endless opportunity for mischievous and arbitrary interpretations of the original promises.

Unfortunately, the claim for which I had written the paper was settled out of court so that there was never an opportunity to air the matter in public. I was therefore enormously impressed by Wendy Pond’s review of Alan Ward’s National Overview. Waitangi Tribunal Rangahaua Whanui Series (December issue), in which she demonstrated very cogently that my doubts about any reliance on ancient documents are justified, especially when it comes to the Treaty of Waitangi.

She claims – and I have no reason to doubt her claim – that the Treaty not only promised Maori the possession of so many hectares of land, but, more importantly, the integrity of the social and ecological structures and lifestyles which that land had been supporting. Indeed, if I understand her correctly, she is saying that the value of the land lies precisely not in any price it might fetch on the market, .but in those social and ecological structures and lifestyles it had supported at the time the Treaty was signed. Hence she argues convincingly that by the Treaty Maori are not just entitled to so many hectares of land but also to the full preservation and protection of the social and ecological conditions and lifestyles that the land used to support.

My only quarrel with Wendy Pond is that she fails to spell out the obvious conclusion to her argument: since, owing to the intelligent alacrity with which Maori have availed themselves of the opportunities and temptations offered by Pakeha contacts to change their lifestyles, the lifestyles intended by the Treaty have vanished and therefore the Treaty ceases to be relevant – except perhaps in the very mundane sense that lands illegally or unjustly expropriated will have to be returned so that they can be dealt with as capital. Which I take to be precisely the point she criticises Alan Ward for making.

Peter Munz
Professor Emeritus of History
Victoria University of Wellington


Getting the terms right

In his discussion of the volume edited by Raymond Miller, New Zealand Politics in Transition (December issue), Colin James failed to distinguish between theories of the state, such as marxism and pluralism, and ideologies, such as socialism, social democracy and conservatism.

The former are nominally objective exercises in explaining the behaviour of the state. The latter purport to explain, but unlike theories of the state as correctly defined, do so for the purposes of promoting courses of action, or remedies. It can and does happen that theories of the state are harnessed for ideological ends. Socialism, an ideology, draws sustenance from marxism, a theory of the state, as neo-liberalism draws sustenance from public choice theory. Populism – more of a phenomenon than either an ideology or a theory of the state – could be argued to draw sustenance from elitist theories of the state. When this happens, theories of the state assume a diagnostic quality. But the distinction between ideologies and theories of the state stands: James would look hard for expressly conservative, socialist, social democratic or populist theories of the state.

Pluralism is a theory of the state with no necessary ideological bedfellow, and is summarised by James by way of reference to Moloney. Pluralists do, however, regard groups as a primary unit of their analysis. This tends to see them develop an attachment to politics – the deliberative process by which the interests of groups spontaneously formed by individuals are reconciled – as opposed to economics – the process by which the interests of individuals are often reconciled. The process that is politics can be seen as valuable in itself. Pluralists of no particular ideological stripe will often, as Richard Mulgan does, bemoan developments since the 1980s revolution which have, among other things, seen to the relative demise of politics as the means by which we make decisions. As a result, it can be easy to forget that pluralism is a theory of the state, not a democratic ideal or inherently of, say, a social-democratic bent.

Vigilance is needed in this area. Please – I’m one of those tutors from whom Colin James says students will need guidance!

Patrick Hine


New Zealand in 1940

Shelagh Duckham Cox’s review of The Certainty of Doubt. Tributes to Peter Munz in your August 1996 issue has only recently come to my notice. Her comments on aspects of European migration to New Zealand brought to mind something which has been worrying me considerably ever since I read the book.

I should therefore like to take this opportunity to inform those of your readers who read The Certainty of Doubt that the statement on p22 that New Zealand of 1940 was “crude and uncivilised” was wrongly attributed to me. I was 14 years old when my mother, my brother and I arrived in New Zealand from war-torn Europe, and I neither thought, nor said anything of the sort. I felt nothing but gratitude to be given the chance of a new life in New Zealand.

The non-availability of food in Wellington after 5.30 pm, which I recounted as an amusing memory of our first day in New Zealand, does not, to my mind, denote crudeness or lack of civilisation.

Eve Naylor (née Munz)

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