Iwi Consultation: Necessary or Nonsense?

The Treaty has no place in scientific endeavour. To make it the centrepiece of the Royal Society beggars belief. Scientist, journalist and cartoonist,  Bob Brockie

… consideration of the Treaty of Waitangi has added depth and breadth to  our scientific endeavours. Dr Margreet Vissers, Associate Dean Research, Otago University

Sciencific journalist in hot water

By Roger Childs

(Credit Bob Brockie)

Bob Brockie recently got into trouble with the PC brigade for basically suggesting that the Treaty of Waitangi has nothing to do with science.

He was critical of the New Zealand Royal Society for saying the Treaty should be central to all their work, and of Otago University for requiring all research to be approved by Ngai Tahu. He wondered why the part-Maori descendants of the iwi should have a role.

Academic and historian, Dr Anne Salmond, was horrified and Otago University Research Dean Dr Margreet Vissers gave an Oh Dear! reaction.

Why should iwi be consulted on everything?

Moa were wiped out by the excessive hunting of early Polynesians

All Maori today have both Polynesian and non-Polynesian forebears. In the ecological and medical branches of science, the early Maori do not have a great record.

  • Vast areas of forest were burnt down.
  • Moa and a number of other birds were hunted to extinction.
  • The traditional priests and healers known as tohunga were suppressed in 1907 as a result of the initiatives of Maori politicians because of the harm they were doing.

What possible advice can the descendants of these early immigrants provide for present day scientific research? Is their knowledge and wisdom greater than that of people of Irish, English, Indian, Chinese, Tongan or Samoan descent?

It should be straight forward to honour a great man.

Here in Kapiti, many people would like to honour the memory of activist John Murray, and again iwi were insistent on being consulted.

If time in the region has anything to do with it, the case is not strong.

Ngati Toa and Te Atiawa only moved into the Kapiti area, from the Kawhia district and Taranaki respectively, only 20 years or so before European settlers started arriving.

Apparently it’s all to do with the Treaty of Waitangi which was signed 178 years ago.

Have the protagonists for the “consult the iwi process” actually read the Treaty?

What the 1840 Treaty said

The only treaty that is important is the one signed in 1840.

  • The Maori chiefs ceded sovereignty of New Zealand to Queen Victoria and her successors.
  • Maori and settlers were guaranteed possession of their land, property and dwellings, but could sell to the Crown.
  • All New Zealanders would have the rights and privileges of British subjects.

There was nothing stated about partnerships, principles or future consultation.

The universal world of science

Today the scientific world is a complex and incredibly diverse amalgam of accumulated wisdom and endeavour.

Over the centuries research, accidents and discoveries from Asia, Europe, the Arab world, Africa, the Americas and the Pacific have led to the accumulation of the knowledge and understanding we have of the world around us.

Otago University’s research is none of Ngai Tahu’s business.

There is no question that for scientific research that may relate to early immigration to New Zealand from the Pacific; the impact of that early settlement, and aspects of Maori culture in more recent times, consultation with the part Maori descendants could be appropriate.

But for Otago University to insist that Ngai Tahu must be consulted in “all areas of research” before scholars undertake their work (Bob Bockie), is patently ridiculous.

Investigating fish stocks in Fouveaux Strait, stone fruit diseases in Central Otago and movements along the Alpine Fault should be able to go ahead without deferring to ridiculous cultural protocols.










I worked in the NZ education system for 24-years and whilst my fellow tutors were academically extremely well qualifies, and excellent tutors in their field of expertise, all had tunnel vision (or didn’t care) when it came to the real problems NZ was facing and few had any interests outside their job.
And on many occasions I thought to myself that they would be ideal Members of the NZ Parliament!
Neil Hayes QSM

Thank goodness Timaru historian and recorder of Ngai Tahu’s oral histories and whakapapa, Herries Beattie, was alive and doing his precious work in the 1930’s along with the likes of Horowhenuas’ own Les Adkin, these were the purest of New Zealand’s amateur and professional scientists, able to come to their conclusions as a result of research not ethno-political interference.

Without the valuable and rare records of their work, much of New Zealand’s cultural and natural history would be lost forever. Fortunately some of their papers have survived the book burnings of the 1970’s and 1980’s and are still in the National Library.

You wont find them in our public libraries anymore, they are gone, stolen, burnt and destroyed.

Footnote – thanks Herries for recording the 29 DIFFERENT ‘Kupes’ who Ngai Tahu elders told you landed the first canoes on the shores of Te Wai Poumanu. Little facts like that just make our history all the more unique and there are plenty more facts right here. Try sanitizing that Ngai Tahu.

The linking of science with superstition is of course absurd.

Sadly that, with Bedford’s foolish comments, shows that the folks who get into the Royal Society have no – none, zero – understanding of the basis of science.

But we should focus on our backyard here, where the Scientific Reserve at the mouth of the Waikanae River is trashed by vehicles driving across it. I have taken concerns to DoC, to the council and to the iwi committee. It is difficult to get information, to find out why.

The best judgement I can reach is that iwi folk claim special rights and have threatened and bullied Doc and council workers who tried to police the law back in 2014.

Can someone either correct me or give further information – and please tell my what to do next!


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