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
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?
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?
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.
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.