PO Box 2 Blackball

Paul Maunder's blog




What a complexity is Ihumātao, a site of early Maori settlement, confiscated as part of the 1860’s land grab of the Waikato and Taranaki, abused over the years, finally made a reserve, but with an adjoining farm remaining in private ownership dating back to confiscation. Because it was in private ownership it could not be part of the Mana Whenua’s Treaty Settlement. The Auckland housing crisis brings into being the concept of Special Housing Areas where subdivision can be fast tracked and the Council and previous government targeted the farm, which was subsequently bought by Fletchers, keen to get into housing after losing money on commercial developments. There was consultation with Mana Whenua who gave it the go ahead after a sweetener of 8 of the 32 hectares going into iwi ownership and 40 of the 480 houses being reserved as affordable homes for iwi members.

But younger members of the iwi protested at the idea of a suburb being built next to the sacred site – and where does a sacred site begin and end? A 480 house suburb with its infrastructure, mortgages, insurances etc is an intensive development and this will be another car reliant suburb. There is resonance with the original confiscation, but this is where it gets tricky. Treaty settlements always bypass privately owned land, otherwise the Waikato and Taranaki would be up for return, quite justifiably of course, but politically untenable. And the kaumatua agreed. This is where it gets trickier. Traditional leaders willing to collaborate with the coloniser have often been available. Feudal/tribal power structures are not always virtuous or inclusive; yet the treaty was a deal between these power structures and the British government and the honouring of the treaty has to honour these structures and it’s not for Pakeha to question unless some blatant corruption is apparent. And Mana Whenua believe the deal is a good one – they get a parcel of the land in their name (for the first time since confiscation) and some iwi members living there.

Leftish and environmentalist Pakeha are drawn to the side of the young tribal protestors, with the sacred-site, anti-corporate vibes resonating and a line of cops is always a challenge, conjuring up past struggles. The kaumatua don’t seem willing to budge and there is criticism of the protestors trampling on the mana of the elders, but the numbers grow, we haven’t had a stoush for a while and it is becoming an event with a growing celebrity list. Direct action does cut through complexity and confusion. Representatives of the Hawaiian anti telescope movement arrive and it begins to focus on development versus the spiritual desire to leave some places alone. It could be useful to peer into outer space and a Hawaiian mountain top is the perfect spot but it is our sacred maunga. We know there’s a housing crisis but this is a sacred site. Leave it alone. On the Coast there is a similar rebellion by communities over an incinerator proposal. These incinerators seem relatively benign environmentally, better than landfill and the Coast needs economic development, but no one can quite accept the idea of an endless stream of rubbish being burnt in their backyard.

Somewhere, in our heads, is the felt impulse of the need to stop. Just stop for a while. We’ve proved we’re a clever species but right now the clever thing is to stop. There is no technological fix for the problems we’re faced with. We need to listen to the earth, heal and nurture what we’ve got, sing to the gods and have a long look at one another. And out of that might come some different methods of housing ourselves, of feeding ourselves, of constructing society.

How about a papakainga on the land, housing 40 iwi families in a co-operative manner, with some equity in the houses for individual families, but the land owned by the iwi. Add some food growing and out of this might come a model of a different world, paying homage to the past and the future – as the planes fly overhead..

Poison and Purity

With its call to ban 1080, the SPCA have literally put the cat amongst the pigeons. Their  kaupapa is to prevent cruelty to animals by human beings. 1080 is a poison which takes roughly 12 hours to kill by denying oxygen to organs. Vomiting, fits and internal bleeding occur, so it is, one imagines, an unpleasant death. Cruelty is ‘being indifferent to or delighting in another’s pain’ (OED). The SPCA argues therefore that DOC and OSPRI (formally TB FREE NZ) are being cruel when they administer 1080.

Historically, the SPCA, established here in 1882, has been an effective lobby group: cattle are no longer badly treated, horses are no longer flogged, dogs beaten, kittens drowned and so on. The state imposes fines, even imprisonment, for those found guilty of cruelty. It has become generally agreed that we should look after our fellow creatures humanely and if we do have to kill them we should do it with the minimum of suffering. The society has also drawn the link between child abuse and animal abuse, both being caused by a lack of empathy. In a 2007 survey, the SPCA was the second most trusted charity in NZ, so it has some mana.

Forest and Bird have reacted with some vehemence. Usually the anti 1080 lobby can be portrayed as being made up of obsessive ferals, but the SPCA does not fit this mould and the complexity and the problematic of the environmentalist’s kaupapa in regard to 1080 is revealed. Generally they prefer to turn a blind eye, but if pointed out, they argue that the cruelty attached to 1080 use is a necessary evil in order to preserve our indigenous flora and fauna. For OSPRI the dairy industry, one of our main earners, is under threat. We have to be cruel in order to be kind and the end justifies the means. War imagery is used, e.g. Battle for the Birds and collateral damage is acceptable.

There are of course worrying connotations to this reasoning if we transfer it to human society, because similar arguments are used to justify ethnic cleansing: foreigners have crept into the midst of a ‘pure people’ who lived happily in a past golden age. The foreigner must be demonised: stoats, rats etc aren’t just living their instinctual life, they are ‘cruel murderers’ according to Forest and Bird. DOC websites will always picture snarling possums. For OSPRI possums are economic saboteurs. Suddenly these predators have been given consciousness and ethical judgement, which is stretching logic. The same state that will fine someone for drowning a kitten is itself, through one of its departments, poisoning thousands of animals who by living their natural lives threaten native species who evolved in a land cut off from the rest of the world. The native species natural habitat (wilderness) becomes carefully constructed and policed areas where the indigenous are encouraged to breed and the foreigners fecundity is an absolute threat, with an Armageddon of species loss just around the corner. The whole paradigm becomes infected with nationalism, the indigenous becoming central to national character and pride. At the same time the Anthropocene is upon us, that affecting of the planet by human beings at a geological level, with another great extinction on the cards.

These are perplexing and difficult issues and for this reason will not go away, no matter how often the anti 1080 brigade are portrayed as ‘nutcases’, who now include the SPCA. Do we try to return to a mammal-free Aotearoa? But what about humans, cows, horses, sheep, goats, deer, pigs, Tahr… When we move past the mammals to possums eating out our native forest, it is somehow ethically simpler. But then there is lupin, gorse, wilding pine plus the over populated dairy industry (perhaps as villainous as possums when we add polluted waterways and disappearing wetlands). None of it’s easy to resolve and purity can become absurd: DOC have been known to suggest that pohutakawa trees be removed from South Island national parks because they are not native. Certain weka have somehow become genetically impure. And therefore when someone like the SPCA steps in with their simple ethical argument: Don’t be cruel to our fellow creatures (a little like an organisation in Hitler’s Germany suggesting we should be kind to one another no matter what our ethnicity, politics, sexuality or religion), environmentalists become very grumpy indeed. At the same time, these environmentalists will generally be believers in diversity amongst human beings and pro refugee.

I don’t have the solution. When we did a play on the subject a decade ago we could see every side, and the only sensible suggestion we could make was for every community to be given the research, and after rigorous debate, to decide for itself.

And we are left it seems with some research questions: while 1080 has been proven to break down quickly in water, there seems to be little research as to the extent of the suffering involved in a 1080 death; there do seem to be issues with regard to how long it lasts in the food chain and there do seem to be issues relating to mutation caused by sub lethal doses. But yes, it is relatively cheap and effective and the introduction of predatory mammals was a disaster, caused once again by the worst predator of all, the human species.

An incident


I was walking with granddaughter, Lily along the creek bed when she found this rusting piece of technology in the water. We fished it out and placed it on a boulder.


I felt utter astonishment that this insubstantial piece of technology, the internals of a smart phone we decided, should be running the world, should be weaving the web of information, tweets, emails, music, visuals, bombing people, operating aeroplanes, delivering our petrol…the list is endless. And yet the boulder on which we placed it is, in comparison, so substantial, registering the slow processes of the planet: erosion, inundation, pressure, heating, a new ice age and the waters receding – sun, wind, rain, ice – to end up here, on the creek bank, tossed by floods. Millions of years have been involved in this narrative. Yet this piece of crap with made in China printed in one corner has ended up in the same spot in a much smaller period of time and is seemingly more potent.

Lily watched me take a photo and then walked across the rocks to the other side while the dog worried a piece of wood. What should I do with this thing now, make a coffin, bury it? But it’s not compostable, can’t burn it – the whole disposing issue is tiresome. I will leave it here, sitting on the boulder. It could become the subject of a cargo cult – Chomski has written recently that society has now become fundamentally disorganised.

Lily returned, her gumboots full of water. She sloshed along for a while, enjoying the heavy footed sensation before emptying them, and then insisted we practice our superhero dance routine in the paddock, where, inevitably the dog will spring a hare and equally inevitably, the hare will be the faster.

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