The Treaty in practice

Page 4 – Shared issues and approaches

Māori were increasingly aware of the grievances they shared. By the early 20th century, many were also in dire circumstances. There was high infant mortality, low life expectancy and a lack of good land. Prospects looked bleak, but new leaders with new ideas were emerging.

Growing unity

After the wars of the 1860s many Māori realised the extent of shared grievances against the Crown. Honouring the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi was seen as a means of redress. The Repudiation Movement, based in Hawke's Bay, organised a series of widely attended meetings throughout the 1870s. In 1879 the Ngati Whatua leader Paora Tuhaere staged a parliament at Orakei where these matters were fully debated.

Government actions sometimes united Māori. In November 1881 government forces invaded the southern Taranaki settlement of Parihaka and detained, without trial, its pacifist leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. Māori the length of the country were concerned.

From 1882 the first of several Māori representatives travelled to England to present petitions before their Treaty of Waitangi partner. All were referred back to the New Zealand government, which rejected their pleas. After one such deputation, King Tawhiao wrote to the governor in exasperation: 'no matter how you may be addressed you will not regard nor reciprocate'. Many chiefs shared the sentiment.

Tawhiao set up the Kauhanganui, or King's Council, with its own constitution and governance structures. Tribes outside the Kingitanga developed similar initiatives. One was the Kotahitanga (Unity) movement. In 1892 its first Māori parliament was held – Te Kotahitanga o Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This met annually for a decade, unrecognised by New Zealand's Parliament.

A new leadership

By the end of the 19th century, Māori social and economic prospects looked poor. The Māori population had fallen to a low of about 42,000 in 1891. Māori councils, set up in 1900 to address self-governance and improve Māori health and sanitation, had few resources and limited authority. Politicians worried that Māori would become a burden on the state.

A new generation of Māori leaders emerged in the early 20th century. These men aimed to ensure the survival of Māori culture through modernisation. Their approach was based firmly within the mainstream, rather than following the separatist strategies that had seemingly failed in the 1890s.

The new leaders came to be known as the Young Maori Party, although they were not a formal political party. They had attended some of the Native or Maori schools, set up after 1867 (and abolished in 1969). Many Māori communities were keen to grasp the educational opportunities these schools offered. Importantly, these men had been educated at the elite Te Aute College in Hawke's Bay, which supplied leaders in many areas of Māori society. They comprised a group of politician knights: Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir Peter Buck (Te Rangi Hiroa) and Sir Maui Pomare. These men, bilingual and scholarly, emphasised hygiene, sanitation and temperance, and believed in the value of a European-based education system while retaining te reo (the Māori language) in the home.

James Carroll of Ngati Kahungunu paved the way for these men. He was the first Māori to be elected to a general or European seat in Parliament (1893) and the first Māori Minister of Native Affairs (1899). In 1909 and 1911 he was Acting Prime Minister – the first Māori to hold such a position. Carroll's bicultural heritage was reflected in his philosophy. He was convinced that Māori could succeed within European society provided they received a fair go. His own successful political career seemed proof.

Maui Pomare and Peter Buck played pivotal roles in improving Māori health and housing. Apirana Ngata, the first Māori to graduate from a New Zealand university, was MP for Eastern Maori (1905–43) and helped set up schemes to develop Māori lands into workable farming units. When he became Minister of Native Affairs, Ngata presided over large-scale Māori land development schemes. There was some government funding to assist Māori development and the settlement of ownership claims over Lake Taupo and the Rotorua lakes.