Monthly Archives: December 2013

Perspectives of time, small prophecy, and Maori policy

Whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever in which there might be a sliver of truth, or might not depending on your time perspective and ideological mindset.

Our time perspective is a learned state of mind. It is one of the most influential and least recognized factors in the psychology and lives of all of us.

“Ka mura, ka muri”

Walking backwards into the future” was a perception of time common in many cultures before the onset of the modern era and with it our raging addiction to discovery, progress, and relentless and rapid change. The ancient Egyptians feared and hated change. It was the great obsession that they held to for three thousand years trying to stop time by avoiding change. Fundamentalist religion is equally devoted to staving off the future. I know Maori, some highly educated, who fiercely try to hold off change and to live in the past, albeit an imagined nostalgic and romantic past.

To resist living in one’s own time, to attempt to live in an imaginary past, is human in the same way that being neurotic is human.” – American scholar Edward Mendelson.

Apprehension about the future is still common in the present era but unlike the Egyptians of old we can no longer hold it at bay. However we still tend to cling to the past, or to a romantic and nostalgic version of it for we are much more kindly disposed to the past than to the future. To many or perhaps most people the past is a safe and comforting retreat from the uncertainty of the future.

But the future, however uncertain or even threatening, is the inexorable and inevitable continuation of the past. See Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki”.

There are those who live entirely in the past and everything in the present is viewed through the lens of the past, whether real, re-imagined or reconstructed, mostly re-imagined and reconstructed, for that is how the human mind remembers the past. The past is invariably re-made to serve the perceived needs of the present. Much Maori policy is built from within this viewpoint. Whether or not the past is viewed from a positive or negative perspective will greatly influence the life being lived. It will also influence Maori policy for there are positives as well as negatives in our post-settlement history and to dwell upon the one at the expense of the other is to cast policy into grievance or victim mode.

Then there are those who live only in the present with little or no perception of the past or regard for the future, or for the consequences of present day choices. Those who are drug or substance addicted, gambling addicted and food addicted, are extreme examples. Hedonists living only for the pleasures of the present are another example, usually in adolescence or early adulthood, but often persisting into maturity. Fatalists are those who believe that their lives are controlled entirely by forces they cannot influence such as religion or other beliefs about predestination. Fatalists can also be those who adopt the mantle of victimhood and believe that there is nothing they can do to raise themselves out of their present state, perhaps even that the whole of society is conspiring against them. They live entirely in the present.

There are degrees of present time focus. It is short term thinking and Maori policy interventions are often the result of this type of thinking.

Socio economic status is closely related to time perspective. Those on the lowest income levels and those with higher school dropout rates are more likely to be present oriented. Their time perspective may be a result of their station in life but their station in life may also be attributable in some degree to time perspective; to their psychology. Those who are able to lift themselves out of the lower socio economic group are invariably future focused.

Research indicates that those who are future oriented adults exhibit some of the following:

  • Live in a temperate zone;
  • Live in a stable family, society and nation;
  • If religious are protestant or Jewish;
  • Are educated;
  • Are young or middle-aged adults;
  • Have a job;
  • Use technology regularly;
  • Are successful;
  • Have future-oriented role models; and
  • Are recovering from childhood illness.

However, most future oriented people also tend to view the future through the lens of either the past or the present, or both. In fact most people tend to live in an immediate past and do not even see the present as it really is. In this rapidly changing modern world most people do not keep up with what is happening around them, or what is happening in the wider world. Important scientific discoveries for instance are unknown to most people for decades even though the knowledge and perspectives gained from those discoveries will change forever our understanding of the world and our own lives. We do not keep up with change and therefore consign ourselves to living life in an immediate past rather than the actual present.

In the main it is not a harmful perspective. Except in the case of the frog in the pot of water being slowly raised to boiling point without taking notice.

Academics and policy researchers are not immune to the frog in the pot phenomenon. Academics tend to construct their lifelong professional perspectives early in their careers through their undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate research, and through their interpretation of that research in theses. If they further their research and studies it is usually built upon the conclusions of their initial research rather than upon new interpretations of old knowledge in the light of new evidence, or new knowledge as a result of new research. Their teaching careers are almost always built upon their early studies and qualification. Academics like most people from all walks of life rarely re-evaluate their beliefs and change their worldviews in the light of new evidence. Few even seek out new evidence that might result in changed beliefs and worldviews.

Thus it is in the academy that old knowledge and old ideas are passed on from old minds to new minds. Some of those students become policy makers. Thus it is that the past is perpetuated.

Outside of academia people rarely discard the core beliefs and worldviews they adopt in childhood and adolescence, whether from their churches, their families or from their peer groups. Outside their own academic disciplines academics also retain the core beliefs and worldviews of their childhood and adolescence. So in that sense most of us are living within a time perspective framed in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, depending on our level of education both formal and informal, and subsequent experience. Even though we may be future oriented that future is seen through the lens of our perception of past or present.

It is said in the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism:

“We see things not as they are but as we are”

The ancients, without the benefit of the modern science of cognitive psychology, understood the human mind and its propensity to see the world as a reflection of itself and to build the narratives it wants to believe. We in the modern world still see the world as we are, not as it is, and there are many factors that influence how we are and how we see things, our time perspective being one of the most influential and least recognised.

What has all that got to do with prophecy?

Prophecy is not necessarily the ability to see into the future. Most often it just involves describing the present that others don’t see or don’t yet see. To them it seems like foretelling of the future. It has to do with perceptions of time. I describe this as small prophecy as opposed to the grand prophecy of soothsayers and matakite, the perception of that which is beyond perception.

Small prophecy is the ability to set aside one’s own time perspective, beliefs and worldviews, to search out and discover what is actually happening in the present, and then to describe it. Small prophecy is seeing the present. Grand prophecy is seeing the future.

The previous essay “The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy” was a small essay into small prophecy, describing the condition and status and worldviews of Maori as they are in the present.

The maker of small prophecy, the seer of the present, must also be prepared to change beliefs, worldviews and perspectives in the light of new evidence. Changing one’s beliefs even in the face of the most compelling evidence is one of the hardest things for a person to do, after public speaking and accepting the inevitability of death. Given that most people are not fully aware of the present, and may not become aware of present reality for years, or decades, if ever, the act of describing the present is an act of prophecy. For most people it is a distant reality in their own knowledge and understanding for even if they hear it or read it they may not actually perceive it until sometime in the future.

For those who lives are framed entirely in the past perspective any telling of the actual present is beyond belief. Politicians and the ideologically fixated as a class seem to be drawn in disproportionate numbers from the inhabitants of an imagined past.

The work of academics and policy makers informs Maori policy. Although future oriented much of it is built upon past perspective or upon a present perspective that is out of synch with present reality.

Layered upon that is the political governance of ministers of the Crown who drive the direction of policy which is invariably ideological and based in the beliefs, worldviews and perspectives of the politician, formed in his or her childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, hopelessly out of synch with present reality and future needs.

To state the obvious, policy is therefore inexact and unlikely to provide direction to meet long term needs, or even short to medium term needs. That applies as much to economic policy, health, welfare, education, foreign affairs, defence and national security policy as it does to Maori policy. As nations we seem to muddle through. Governments change but policy direction does not change dramatically despite the initial flurry of post-election policy activity before policy inertia sets in again. Policy might not achieve much that is useful but it can and does hinder the beneficial evolution of our individual and collective lives and livelihoods.

That can be a somewhat pessimistic outlook on life. The engaged optimist therefore either ignores the reality of policy inexactitude and prejudice and simply believes for believing is much easier and more comforting than thinking; or being an ideological unbeliever seeks solace in a better future by indulging in small prophecy about what really is and what might be, guarding against the innate human tendency to wishful thinking and ever mindful and accepting that no one is listening.

Most people aren’t engaged and simply don’t care. Most people follow the sports news or the celebrity news rather than political news and remain happily ignorant of policy until it affects them personally. It is probably the most sensible if somewhat fatalistic approach.

Every now and then, in the modern timeframe about every thirty to fifty years, there is a policy jolt and we are forced by circumstance to catch up on decades of time denial and policy lethargy. The optimist of small prophecy is partially vindicated as prophecy belatedly becomes reality. There is an “I told you so” moment. But even then policy makers and legislators invariably misread the signs in the goat’s entrails and send us off into yet another policy time warp in which a version of the past is mistaken for the present and the future is divined through a combination of ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking.

One would think that it would be an easy matter for law makers and policy advisors to understand all of this and to sit down and rationally and logically discern the actual present as opposed to an adolescent, idealistic or ideological version of the past substituting as the present. To engage in small prophecy and at least to devise policy for the actual present.

Were that the case in Maori policy we would not:

  • Aim policy at the needs and aspirations of the Maori elites who in reality are not in need of policy assistance;
  • Pursue language and cultural revival as a substitute for overall Maori advancement; and
  • Focus on the development of corporate iwi and on business development as a substitute for overall Maori economic development.

We would:

  • Focus instead on the real needs of most Maori people, especially the poor and struggling;
  • Let the elites look after themselves; and
  • Be specific about the aims of policies of language and cultural revival, and corporate iwi and business development, instead of cloaking them in the mantle of “Maori development”.

It is I know a giant and impossible step from there to devise policy that recognizes the multiple possibilities of an uncertain future flexible enough to adapt as required. Unfortunately ideology is diametrically opposed to recognition of multiple uncertain futures and to flexibility of both mind and policy. But we could just focus on the actual present; on the evidence before our eyes.

However none of that is possible in Maori policy without a re-alignment of macro-economic policy. One of the delusions of legislators, policy makers and policy advisors is that their policy makes a beneficial difference. Most of it doesn’t but macro-economic policy does make a difference, beneficial or otherwise, and it has long term effects.

After World War II Keynesian economic policies and trade union advocacy helped lift thousands out of poverty and into the middle class but eventually Robert Muldoon took it too far and created a command economy akin to the communist/socialist economies he detested. Whereas Muldoon had tried to hold back the tide Roger Douglas corrected the excesses of Muldoon and brought the New Zealand economy into the real world. But Douglas and after him Ruth Richardson took it too far and brought in harsh neo-liberal ideologically driven policies that over the next thirty years entrenched inequality and poverty into the political economy.

” … almost all the increase in our economic inequality stems from the reductions in the effectiveness of the redistribution system as a result of the lower taxes on the rich introduced by Rogernomics and of the benefit cuts under Ruthanasia”.

– Brian Easton, Book Review of “Inequality: A NZ Crisis”, Listener, 10 Oct 2013.

Ironically Maori policy over that same period has ostensibly been aimed at improving the lot of most Maori yet macro-economic policy has worked powerfully in exactly the opposite direction. Policy aimed at overall Maori development and Maori advancement makes very little if any difference to the lives of most Maori unless macro-economic policy is aligned. It is not aligned, not in the least. Maori policy over the last thirty years has however succeeded in aligning the mindset of a minority of Maori, the elites, with the neo-liberal agendas that drive it.

Unfortunately for Maori and for Aotearoa New Zealand the political and economic elites still have their noses buried in the imagined past and their eyes fixed on a delusional future divined in ideological day dreaming and wishful thinking. Neo-liberal macro-economic policy sometimes described as zombie economics reigns still despite the evidence of the collapse of financial markets in the Global Financial Crisis due to naked greed and a lack of political will and regulation to curb the greed. Neo-liberal policy reigns still despite the evidence of growing and increasingly entrenched inequality and poverty.

Which is what defines most Maori despite thirty years of Maori policy; inequality and poverty. The evidence is there in the present for all to see yet few seem aware of the reality of the present. It is the hugely influential psychological phenomenon of time perspective at work.

The Maori elites themselves, influencing and making Maori policy, seem seduced by their own achievement and somehow convinced that more of the same policy and the benefits they have accrued from it will somehow trickle down and raise the standard of living for the rest of Maori. They too are living in a re-imagined and reconstructed past, an imagined present and focused on a delusional future.

So much for the whimsical ruminations and ramblings of an unbeliever, yet ever an optimist. A long-term inter-generational perspective is required of an optimist. Things do gradually get better over time despite unhelpful time perspectives, ideological backwaters, side channels and dams, and despite politicians and policy makers and their stop-go, around-and-around-and-around-and-around policies.

For poor and struggling Maori Christmases come and go with monotonous regularity marking neither change nor advancement in their lives but just the passing of another 365 days of struggle and the prospect of another 365 days exactly the same. For most of them the past is the present and the present is the future.

They are the ones described in “Duino Elegies” by the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke as the “disinherited ones to whom neither the past nor the future belongs”.

Boxing Day, 2013.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits?

The Maori Worldview & Maori Policy

“Given a choice between their worldview and the facts, it’s always interesting how many people toss the facts”.

– Rebecca Solnit

What is the Maori worldview? Does my worldview represent the Maori worldview? Does yours? In a previous essay, “The Evolution of Pakeha Culture”, I wrote about how the Maori worldview had been transformed and shaped by contact, adoption and adaptation of European culture. In this essay I will look at some of the facts to discover just what the Maori worldview might be in the 21st Century. It might be a difficult task.

The Maori elites in academia, education, politics, public service, and in the burgeoning Maori business and services sector (including neo-tribal corporate iwi) promote their worldview as the Maori worldview. It is broadly based on cleaving to “traditional” tikanga values, incorporating them into their various fields of endeavour, and on speaking Te Reo Maori. For instance the Kaupapa Maori model of research developed by Professors Graham and Linda Smith is now the standard research model in the universities and elsewhere. Matauranga Maori is the new academic epistemological niche in which many Maori academics now ply their trade. Many of the elites in the Maori business sector (grandiosely named the Maori economy) proclaim a Maori model of business and business management based on tikanga. In education many assume that Maori medium education is the model that represents the Maori worldview.

These elites however comprise just a fraction of the Maori population. The assumption that the rest of the Maori population follow their lead and accept their version of a Maori worldview needs to be tested for it is of vital importance in the making of Maori policy for all Maori. We need to look at all Maori rather than at the dominant Maori elites and their proclaimed worldview.

The data

A good place to start on this journey of discovery is with some census and population statistics that can tell us a lot about who and where we are. Being ethnically Maori and identifying as Maori would be the foundation of a Maori worldview, if there is one:

  • As at 2013 there are 668,724 people of Maori descent in Aotearoa New Zealand; and
  • 598,605 (89.5%) of those identify as Maori.

Of those who identify as Maori:

  • 273,192 (45.6%) identified Māori and one other ethnicity;
  • 38,079 (6.4%) identified Māori and two other ethnicities;
  • 9,138 (1.5%) identified Māori and three or more other ethnicities;
  • 278.196 (46.5%) identified only as Maori (although that does not mean that all or most of them do not have other ethnic heritage); and therefore
  • We are of at least one other heritage as well as Maori.

Language and religion are two of the cornerstones of worldviews and cultures. That the fusion of Maori and European cultures is a dominant feature is shown in these statistics:

  • 100% of Maori speak the English language; and
  • In 2006 98% of Maori declared that they were Christian indicating that one of the foundations of the modern Maori worldview if it exists is a transplanted European religion which has its roots in a Middle Eastern tribal mythology.

With regard to traditional identity through whakapapa (but not necessarily modern allegiance) we find that:

  • 18.5% don’t know which “iwi” they belong to; and therefore that
  • 81.5% do know which “iwi” they belong to, indicating that whakapapa might still be a strong influence in the worldviews of most Maori; however
  • To find out what percentage of Maori really know their whakapapa we would need to know what percentage of Maori know which hapu they belong to, and it will certainly be a lot less than 81.5%. Official statistics focus on “iwi” affiliation which is a modern inaccurate measure of whakapapa affiliation (see The Mythology of the Whanau Hapu Iwi Construct).

From there the cohesion starts to splinter. About traditional values and practices we find that;

  • 21.3% of Maori speak Te Reo Maori at a conversational level;
  • 79.7% don’t speak Te Reo Maori; and
  • Only 2.3% of eligible Maori students are enrolled in Maori medium education, meaning that 97.7% are enrolled in mainstream education.

The electoral rolls and polls tell a different but similar story about affiliation and identity in matters political:

  • As at 24 July 2013 there were 256,212 people (55.7%) enrolled on the Maori electoral rolls and 203,640 people of Maori descent (44.3%) on the General roll, a total of 459,852 registered electors.
  • As at December 2013 the Maori Party is polling at 1.3% and the Mana Party at 0.9%.

We are mostly city dwellers indicating that most of us live removed from our traditional hapu and marae, and also removed from the neo-tribal corporate iwi that are now dominant in Maori policy formation and delivery:

  • In New Zealand about 87% live in the North Island;
  • 84.4% live in urban areas;
  • 23.8% live in the Auckland region;
  • 14% in the Waikato region;
  • 11.5% in the Bay of Plenty region; and
  • 9.7% in the Wellington region.

Many Maori are Australian Maori;

  • There are about 128,500 Maori (or about 17.6% of all Australasian Maori) living in Australia, many in regular physical and digital contact between the two countries; and
  • To many Maori whanau Australia and New Zealand are now virtually the same country.

A snapshot of the socio economic landscape

Socio economic statistics provide an indication of the lives of Maori. Income is a primary indicator of socio economic status. There are two measures of an adequate income, the “living wage” and the “minimum wage”:

  • The “living wage” is $57,432 per annum per household (of 1.5 adult earners), or $18.41 per hour per adult wage earner. That equates to $38,288 per annum for a single adult;
  • The “minimum wage” for a single adult is $28,600 per annum, or $13.75 per hour;
  • The median income for Maori is $22,500 per annum, meaning that 50% of Maori over 15 earn $22,500 or less; and therefore
  • Most adult Maori are earning less than the minimum wage and considerably less than a living wage.

In my whanau and hapu we have some who have made it into the middle class, some who live in poverty and many in the middle who struggle to make ends meet. I imagine that we are representative of Maori society as a whole. There are also many single mothers, a status that almost always consigns them and their children to the ranks of the poor or struggling.

The Poor

  • In the thirty years since the mid-1980s New Zealand has fallen in the OECD rankings of income inequality across 34 developed countries from one of the more equal near the top of the rankings to below 20 in the rankings; and
  • that growth in inequality has fallen disproportionately upon Maori.

New Zealand, for obvious political reasons, does not have an official “poverty line” but a generally accepted measure of poverty is a household income equating to just 60% of the national median income after housing costs are deducted:

  • The national median income is $28,500, being $36,000 for males and $23,100 for females (50% earn less than the median income and 50% earn more);
  • The poverty line for a family of 2 adults and 2 children would be about $24,000 per annum; and
  • For a family of 1 adult and 1 child it would be about $16,000 per annum.

Data concerning Maori poverty includes the following;

  • 15.6% of employment aged Maori in New Zealand were unemployed in 2013, up from 11% in 2006;
  • 50% of all Maori aged 15 and over earn less than $22,500 per annum. At least 50% of Maori are poor or struggling or both;
  • 1 in 3 Maori children are living in poverty;
  • The percentage of Maori living in poverty has almost doubled over the last 30 years. Those were the years of the Maori renaissance, Maori programme delivery, Maori medium education, language revival initiatives, treaty settlements, corporate iwi, and the promotion of the fanciful “Maori economy”; and the years of the neo-liberal political economy; and
  • Maori make up about 33% of all working age welfare beneficiaries.

Maori have always been over-represented in the underprivileged, unemployed and unqualified class of citizenry for reasons not entirely, or not even, of their own making. Since the neo-liberal economic revolution of the 1980s and 1990s inequality of income and wealth has dramatically increased and Maori are overwhelmingly over-represented in the ranks of the poor.

The Struggling

  • 33% of Maori have no formal qualifications.
  • Of those in employment about 19.4% are labourers.

Then there are the many who may not be in poverty, and may even be employed part-time or full-time but on low wages, and who live above the poverty line but who nevertheless struggle to make ends meet. They tend to be invisible to policy makers but they are probably the majority of Maori.

Middle Class

  • 36,000+ Maori have at least one university degree;
  • About 17.5% of adult Maori earn over $50,000; and
  • 16.4% of Maori in employment are professionals, and 11.6% managers.

This is where the elites reside although not all middle class Maori participate in the activities of the elites. There has been a steady increase in the numbers of Maori joining the socio economic middle class. They include the university educated and those with trade or other qualifications. Qualification seems to be the gateway to the middle class. The middle class is still a minority.

High Earners

  • About 7.5% of adult Maori earn over $70,000; and
  • About 2.5% earn over $100,000.

As in general society the growing inequality of incomes and wealth is reflected in Maori society with just a few individuals and whanau benefitting from neo-liberal political and economic policies.

The Maori Employment Sector

In “The Origins of Corporate Iwi” I noted that there is “a fast growing Maori employment and career sector that did not exist 25 years ago”. It comprises corporate iwi, non-tribal providers, Maori broadcasters, Maori land incorporations, Maori medium education and statutory Maori bodies such as Te Puni Kokiri, the Maori Trustee, Te Taurawhiri i Te Reo Maori and others. It is difficult to determine just how many Maori are employed in this sector but with just 17.5% of adult Maori earning over $50,000 it must be a small minority. That belies the belief held by many that it is a statistically significant sector and that the re-invention of the “iwi” holds the key to the advancement of Maori in general. Most Maori remain in the Poor and Struggling categories.

Welfare Beneficiaries

  • Maori make up 33% of all working age welfare beneficiaries.

Whilst the much proclaimed pepeha says, “Ko te kai a te rangatira he korero”, I maintain, “Ko te mahi a te rangatira he kai”. The real rangatira is the one who feeds the people.

Work & Income New Zealand (WINZ) is by far the biggest provider for the Maori people. As providers the kaikorero in corporate iwi come a distant last.

Alcohol and other Substances

Alcohol is still a major social problem as it has been since colonisation but we now have other drugs as well. There are many Maori whanau with a member or members whose lives have been blighted by drugs, some to the point where they are seriously mentally ill and institutionalised. In Auckland the gangs are handing out free “P” to 10 year olds, getting them addicted and turning them into customers by the time they are 12. The gangs hang about outside the schools to prey on the young. It’s good business.

Alcohol and drug addiction is not solely confined to the poor but poverty is a major factor in substance abuse. And Maori comprise a disproportionate number of the poor.


The rate of criminal offending is linked directly to poverty and to the proportion of young males in a community. Maori are again over-represented in both. 80% of criminal offending is committed while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Theft is also prevalent among drug users, committed to pay for the addiction.

“Maori are being imprisoned at a rate six times that of non-Maori. For Maori males born in 1975, it is estimated that 22 per cent had a Corrections managed sentence before their twentieth birthday, and 44 percent had a Corrections managed sentence by the age of thirty-five”.

– Kim Workman and Tracy McIntosh, 2013, “Crime, Imprisonment and Poverty”, in “Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis”, ed Max Rashbrooke, Bridget Williams Books.

It is well known that Maori comprise about 50% of all prisoners. Prison is just part of the reality of a great many Maori and their whanau.

Maori age statistics

Most Maori are young Maori:

  • The median age of Maori is 23.9 years meaning that half of all Maori are aged under 24; and
  • 33.8% of Maori are aged 15 years or less.

What do the statistics tell us?

That information doesn’t tell us what our Maori worldview is, that is what we believe and what we think. However it does give us an indication of the wide diversity of Maori in the 21st Century, 173 years on from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi when we were much less diverse and probably did share a common worldview. It does tell us as a basis for examining what we do have in common that:

  • 100% of Maori speak English;
  • 99.1% identify as Maori;
  • About 98% are Christian;
  • 50% earn less than $22,500 per annum (and 50% earn more than $22,500);
  • We are urban dwellers; and
  • Most Maori are young Maori.

Whatever our worldview or worldviews they include a deep infusion of the English language and thought as well as the Christian religion, and are heavily influenced by global culture.

This should come as no surprise as it was foreshadowed over 60 years ago by Sir Apirana Ngata in his now famous words written in the autograph book of Mrs Rangi Barcham (née Bennett), daughter of the late Sir John Mokonuiarangi Bennett.

“E tipu e rea, mo nga ra o tou ao,
ko to ringa ki nga rakau a te Pakeha hei ora mo te tinana,
ko to ngakau ki nga taonga a o tipuna Maori hei tikitiki mo to mahuna,
a ko to wairua ki to Atua, nana nei nga mea katoa”.

“Thrive in the days destined for you,
Your hand to the tools of the Pakeha, sustenance for the body,
Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors, to adorn your head,
Your soul to God to whom all things belong”.

Regardless of the degree of adoption of European and global cultural mores ethnic identity as Maori is a given, but it should not be mistaken for cultural identity. The data tells us that economic survival could well be of far greater daily concern to most Maori than cultural identity, cultural retention and revival, and cultural values, although the two are not mutually exclusive.

The worldview or worldviews of the youthful majority are those that should be more relevant to the future of Maori rather than the worldviews of Maori leaders, policy makers and elites who are the minority, invariably over 30 and mostly over 40.

Living Maori culture – some observations

  • 21.3% speak Te Reo Maori.
  • 79.7% don’t speak Te Reo Maori

It is difficult to quantify the numbers of those still living the Maori culture or the modern and evolved version of it. There are some who are steeped in the culture and live it continuously, there are some who live it regularly but not continuously, some who live it occasionally or irregularly, and many not at all. All self-identify as Maori.

Nga Ahi Kaa are the keepers of the culture, preserving and practising the tikanga and kawa at the Pa and on the marae, some more enthusiastically than others. Not all of them are speakers of Te Reo although the movement to revive Te Reo through kohanga reo, kura kaupapa and broadcasting has increased its use in areas where it had declined.

The Maori boarding schools were for generations keepers of the culture and the language. More recently Maori medium schooling has had the effect of reviving cultural practice at school at least. Some of those students also live the culture at home but some, perhaps many, live it at school but not at home. Almost all of those students also live the mainstream culture. Some culture and language is taught and practised in some mainstream schools.

The Kohanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Maori generation has had a marked effect on Maori society with many of that generation now filling governance, management and other leadership roles in the growing Maori specific employment sector (public service, Maori business, service provision, broadcasting, school teaching and university lecturing).  Many of them are also engaged primarily in mainstream society. Maori studies courses at the universities also contribute their graduates to those who live Maori culture to some degree.

The Matatini kapahaka competition is the central (but not the only) activity that keeps the modern versions of Maori cultural performance alive and thriving. Maori artists including carvers, weavers, painters, sculptors, dancers, actors and writers are also keepers of the culture and at the same time are actively engaged in the constant evolution of their art forms. Mau rakau is thriving.

Those are some of the many ways modern Maori are engaged in aspects of Maori culture.

Nga Ahi Kaa

Most of my whanau and hapu no longer live at home. Some began moving to the cities after the Second World War looking for employment and opportunity. We started moving out in numbers in the 1960s during the economic boom when the whanau could afford to buy houses. We could not build at home because of restrictive local body by-laws. By the time we overturned those restrictions in the 1990s most people had left home anyway. We now live in the cities, in Australia, and elsewhere. The paepae on most marae at home have thinned out but the home people keep them warm. Like almost all hapu in Aotearoa we live elsewhere and travel home. But most never make it, except perhaps for tangihanga.

The Hip Hop Generation

I spent eight years 2001-2009 working in the Auckland region where most Maori live. We were working on a Maori development project. We were into Matauranga Maori, Te Reo Maori, Tikanga Maori and all that as the foundation of Maori education. But slowly it dawned on me in Auckland that the dominant culture amongst Polynesian/Maori youth was Hip Hop. That generation born and raised in that 1984-2005 period in Auckland and elsewhere was the Hip Hop generation.

Hip Hop is everything – dance, music, art and street talk. It retains the former reggae and roots base, adds in rap and break, crump, gangsta and all that. There is an underlying Polynesian expression in it but its essence is American. My father’s generation loved the songs of Paul Robeson, my generation was into rhythm and blues and rock and roll. This generation is hip hop, all of us down through the generations influenced by the music of Afrika via slavery and Amerika. The difference is that Hip Hop has become a complete sub-culture whereas we were just into the music.

It dawned on me that my generation and the next were designing policy and practice based on all the things that my generation had fought for in the 1960s to the 1980s. But it was policy designed for the next generations who had gone somewhere else. The relatively small number who had gone through kohanga and kura were relatively “pure”, culturally speaking, but the rest were somewhere else. This all happened while we had our eyes on the past. Then it dawned on me that that’s what always happens. The next generation always goes somewhere else while the previous generation slips slowly into the past.

Now my grandchildren and great-grandchildren speak three languages – English mostly because that’s how you buy your Nikes and order your McDonalds and KFCs and get on in life, Te Reo Kohanga for those who went to kohanga (most of them) but mostly when their mother or grandmother is listening, and street talk the rest of the time, based I think in Te Reo Hip Hop which is a version of English, sort of. When they message me on Facebook I understand them perfectly because they use English English or Te Reo Kohanga. When they message each other and their multitude of friends I’m lost because it’s a mixture of Street Talk and Txt Talk. As ever they’re all undeniably Maori but not the same sort of Maori as any of the Maori of my generation.

Sport and culture

Sport as we know it today plays a major role in modern Maori culture, across the socio-economic spectrum. We all grew up playing sport, and at our Pa in the days when there were still enough of us living there, we had our own very successful rugby and hockey teams and our own rugby and hockey fields. Rugby Union, Rugby League, Netball, Hockey, Softball, Tennis and Golf are all popular and have been so for generations.

It is a mostly collective competitive activity that resembles the inter-tribal rivalry of old, in both Pakeha and Maori cultures. For many Maori, like many Pakeha, sport is the central activity in their lives, whether as participants or supporters. Sport might even challenge religion as the underpinning of the worldviews of many Maori.

The interesting thing about “sport” as an important post-colonial cultural pursuit is that it was an invention of the elite British schools. “Games” have been part of most cultures for millennia but the concept of “sport” as an inter-tribal contest, often based in forms of warfare, was invented in schools such as Eton and Rugby.

Work and play and raising the kids in the suburbs

When it comes down to it most Maori, like most New Zealanders, are living in the suburbs and trying to make a decent living for themselves and their whanau, and that consumes their lives. When it comes down to it that is the age old preoccupation of all people; food, clothing and housing and hopefully some leisure time and a bit of spare money to be able to enjoy it.

Many Maori in modern New Zealand are not making it.

In the digital age it is easy to imagine that the Maori world revolves around the everyday lives, interests and concerns of our Maori whanau, friends and acquaintances on Facebook until you realise that less than 25% of us subscribe to Facebook. We are not yet defined by our online presence as much as by our everyday lives in the suburbs, most often in the poorer suburbs.

And so to culture and worldview

worldview is the fundamental belief of a person or whole society encompassing all of the individual or society’s knowledge and point-of-view. Additionally, it refers to the framework of ideas and beliefs forming a global description through which an individual, group or culture watches and interprets the world and interacts with it. It comprises:

  • An explanation of the world.
  • A vision of the future answering the question “Where are we heading?”
  • Values, and answers to ethical questions: “What should we do?”
  • A theory and practice about “How should we do it?”
  • A theory of knowledge: “What is true and false?”
  • An account of its own “building blocks,” its origins and construction.

In pre-European times there might have been near universal agreement about those six areas of belief and therefore a common worldview across Te Ao Maori, with some regional and tribal variation. That is absolutely no longer the case. Maori are now living culturally complex and diverse lives in a totally different socio economic landscape and their worldviews are evolving dynamically in Europeanized and globalized contexts.

There is no longer a distinctive and shared Maori worldview. We have moved on.

Culture is a modern concept based on a term first used by the Roman orator Cicero: “cultura animi” (cultivation of the soul). This use of “culture” re-appeared in modern Europe in the 17th century referring to the betterment or refinement of individuals, especially through education. During the 18th and 19th century it came to refer more frequently to the common beliefs and practices of whole peoples. In the 20th century, “culture” emerged as a central concept in anthropology, encompassing the range of human phenomena that cannot be attributed to genetic inheritance. It has been described as an integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not a result of biological inheritance.

Distinctions are currently made between the physical artifacts created by a society, its so-called material culture, and everything else, the intangibles such as language, tikanga, etc. that are the main components of “culture”.

Maori culture today can be defined by having at its core Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori. The language itself is evolving as nearly all speakers are second language learners with English as their first language. It is adopting thought patterns, syntax and words from the English language, evolving as all languages do when in close contact with other linguistic traditions. 23.3% of Maori speak the language. 76.7% do not.

Probably the most authoritative and complete description of Tikanga Maori is in Hirini Moko Mead’s “Tikanga Maori, Living by Maori Values” (2003, Huia Publishers, Wellington). The companion text which contains teachings of the ancestors in the form of proverbs or sayings is “Nga Pepeha a nga Tipuna” (2001, Mead & Neil Grove, Victoria University Press, Wellington).

Tikanga Maori” describes “practices and values that many Maori, a growing number, see as necessary for good relations with people and with the land on which they live. These practices and values make up tikanga Maori, or that which exemplifies proper or meritorious conduct according to ancestral law”, according to Hon Justice Sir Edward Taihakurei Durie in his foreword to the book.

What percentage of Maori in 2013 “live by Maori values” or observe some Maori values in their daily lives is not known. It might be close to the nearly 25% who speak Te Reo Maori. Depending on how you define “living by Maori values” it might be a lot more. But the key point is that it is nowhere near universal. Based on Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori being the two cornerstones of Maori culture in the modern age it can therefore be said that Maori culture in the traditional sense and even in its modern incarnation is not universally lived and practiced by Maori people.

Prior to colonisation the cultural beliefs and practices of the many hapu would have comprised a large part of the worldview prevailing across the whole of Aotearoa, rooted deep in the evolution of the Polynesian peoples and their ancestors across thousands of years of journeying out of Africa and finally into and across the Pacific. Depending on your definitions the two, worldview and culture, would have been practically synonymous.

However the individual and collective worldviews of Maori in the 21st Century have been hugely influenced and expanded by contact with the European worldview and culture, and indeed by contact with many other immigrant cultures. Since the contact or colonisation period all New Zealanders, Maori and Pakeha, have had their worldview(s) greatly expanded by the discovery of new knowledge, by the relentless march of progress in almost every sphere of life, by travel, contact and interaction with cultures across the globe, and recently by the steady globalisation of commerce and culture. It can no longer be said that Maori culture, whether traditional or modern, represents the totality or near-totality of a Maori worldview. It can no longer be said that there is a Maori worldview.

Most Maori do not live the practices and values of tikanga Maori. Most Maori live somewhere else in the mental and cultural landscape, largely determined by their place in the socio-economic landscape, and by the degree and form of their engagement with the dominant and increasingly global culture.

Putting it bluntly, on the one hand there is a general worldview, fostered by the elites who presumably benefit in some way, in which Maori are a romantic re-tribalised society organised within the mythical whanau/hapu/iwi post-colonial construct, living the idealised concepts and values of tikanga Maori, and speaking Te Reo Maori. On the other hand there is the real world of modern Maori – mostly urban, disproportionately represented in the lower socio-economic class and in the prison population, living in poverty or near poverty in poor quality housing, suffering poor health, under-achieving educationally, beset by racism in their dealings with society and its institutions, and at the bottom of society according to most measures.

The reality of the Maori condition arises out of a culture of struggle and resistance. It is a struggle against insurmountable odds to make any headway into the mainstream of a New Zealand society of affluence and consumerism, and resistance against the seemingly oppressive forces of the state and its political economy that conspire to maintain that status quo. Over the last two or three generations some Maori have made it into an educated middle class but the Maori middle class is still a minority and it and its idealised worldview is not representative of Maori in general.

Maori don’t live in that idealised mindspace created in the academy, in the bureaucracy and in corporate iwi. Maori live in the mindspace created by mainstream society and its worldview; its religion, laws, regulations, political and economic system, schools, hospitals, workplaces, shopping malls, courts, prisons, cheap rental housing and welfare system. That’s where Maori live. Maori live within the mainstream Western worldview and it doesn’t serve them at all well. The idealised Maori worldview of the educated Maori elites doesn’t serve them at all, and never will.

The implications for Maori policy

This has deep implications for Maori policy. Or it ought to.

For the last thirty or forty years policy has been driven by the Maori elites, driven down the Maori development or Maori advancement track of language and cultural revival (including Maori medium education and Maori broadcasting), neo-tribal invention and identity, treaty settlements, business development, and primary healthcare engagement. But that is not where most Maori are. That is where the elites are. If Maori policy were to address the needs and aspirations of most Maori where they are it would tackle first and foremost the hard issues of poverty and unemployment.

My intention here is not to denigrate the beliefs and endeavours of the elites or to declare them invalid, for they are perfectly valid in their own context. But it is their context, not that of most Maori.

If Maori policy were to address the needs and aspirations of most Maori where they are it would not pander to the needs and expectations of the elites.

The elites can and do look after themselves. And they have consumed the lion’s share of Maori policy budgets for the past thirty years, not to mention the dividends from treaty settlements. The burgeoning Maori employment and career sector where they are concentrated has been built upon the capture of resources by the elites.

Meanwhile most Maori are under 25 and most Maori of all ages still live on Struggle Street.

My readers should understand that I am not saying that language and cultural retention or revival are unimportant. What I am saying is that policy aimed at language and culture should not be confused with policy aimed at overall Maori development and Maori advancement. I am also saying that policy aimed at the development of neo-tribal corporate iwi and at Maori business development should not be confused with policy aimed at overall Maori economic development.

I am saying that is not where most Maori are. That’s where the elites are.

Related Essays

Mai i Hawaiki ki Hawaiki: The Evolution of Maori Culture
The Evolution of Pakeha Culture
The Maori Worldview and Maori Policy
The Mythology of the Whanau-Hapu-Iwi Construct
The Origins of Corporate Iwi
The Maori Economy – A Fanciful Notion
The Myth of the Maori Entrepreneur
The Treaty of Waitangi Revisited
Te Ture Whenua Maori Review – Who Benefits? 
Perspectives of Time, Small Prophecy & Maori Policy
Draining the Swamp – Some Fundamentals for Maori Policy Makers
Maori Policy: Challenging the Status Quo – A Call to Reengage in the Struggle
He Tangata – Maori Policy, Economics and Moral Philosophy

Operation 8: Human Rights Commission Report

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

The Human Rights Commission has finally released its report into Operation 8 and the human rights violations associated with the armed paramilitary operation at Ruatoki and elsewhere on 15th October 2007. It should be read in conjunction with the Independent Police Conduct Authority report published in May 2013. Both reports can be downloaded at the following links.

HRC Report
IPCA Report

Both reports focus on the actions of the armed paramilitary police on the day of their operation on 15th October 2007. The IPCA report addresses unlawful behaviour by the police and the HRC report addresses human rights violations. Neither looks any deeper at the justification for Operation 8. That will only be achieved through a full and independent inquiry into the conduct of Operation 8 from beginning to end. The activities on 15th October 2007 were just the visible tip of the iceberg.

Now I don’t know myself but The Kumara Vine reports that the first draft of the HRC report was so weak they were told to rewrite it.

Media Release

Commission releases Operation Eight human rights analysis

Today the Human Rights Commission released a report on Police actions during Operation Eight concluding that innocent people were exposed to unnecessary trauma and had their human rights negatively impacted.

The Commission received 31 complaints about Police actions covering a range of concerns including being stopped at the roadblock at Ruatoki and photographed without consent, the negative implications of using the Terrorism Suppression Act, and the impact on children confined for several hours, some without food.

“Our report focuses on the innocent people affected by the operation. These people had done nothing wrong and did not break any laws but had their basic rights trampled. The report does not deal with those people arrested or charged,”  says Chief Commissioner David Rutherford.

“The report also concludes that no comprehensive assessment of the impact on innocent people was carried out; and insufficient support was provided to innocent people.

“It’s very clear more should have been done in the immediate aftermath to support innocent people. We make five recommendations to help ensure negative impacts are minimised in the future.

“On the positive side, much progress has been made since 2007. We’re pleased to see Police have made changes to their processes and policies to ensure this doesn’t happen again. For example, we welcome the completion of a review of Police policy for dealing with children and vulnerable people when executing search warrants.

“It is also worth noting that new search and surveillance legislation has been introduced since Operation Eight that addresses much of the behaviour complained about.

“The Commission’s report follows the conclusion of related court cases and the release of the IPCA report earlier this year. We considered it inappropriate to release our analysis before the completion of these two matters.

“Over recent months the Commission has been consulting with both Police and Tūhoe leadership and we understand that substantial progress has been made in repairing the relationship. My hope is that this report will help further that endeavour,” says Mr Rutherford.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

A Longhouse in Borneo

Hunting, gathering and living with the Dayak.

In the time before the Pakeha, in the time before colonisation, before settlement, do we really know how we were. In the time before Abel Tasman sailed into Mohua (Golden Bay) in December 1642.

What do we really know about how it was over 300 years ago. Our only term of reference is the here and now, and our own imaginations about how it might have been, based perhaps on a few stories and maybe on some old books, drawings, paintings or even on early photographs. But we don’t know do we. Sir Peter Buck and other anthropologists have documented the material culture of those times and Elsdon Best has descibed the old religion and a great deal more. F.E. Maning and others wrote about the experiences of “Pakeha Maori”. But mostly I think we just imagine what it might have been like.

My term of reference is a longhouse in the jungle in Borneo, the home of a group of indigenous hunter gatherers who were still living a mostly traditional lifestyle. I lived with them for a while in 1966. The Dayak are part of the Austronesian people, a broad ancestral grouping  that includes the Malayo Polynesians.

Although the Dayak people are distantly related to Maori their life and lifestyle were not the same as those of our ancestors. To start with they live in a tropical jungle whereas here in Aotearoa we have the seasons to contend with including the sometimes harsh winters and the winter shortage of food. So food resources are different and food is central to the life of the hunter gatherer. Although similar in origin their religious and cultural practices have evolved on a separate path for a few thousand years. Despite that however there are many similarities in the lives and lifestyles of hunter gatherers everywhere.

I was in the state of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo with the 1st Battalion Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment on active duty during Indonesia’s “Konfrontasi” war against Malaysia. Our job was to protect part of the border between the two countries to prevent any incursions across the border by regular Indonesian troops or by irregular insurgents. Three of our rifle companies were in defended positions near the border and patrolled along the border. Our company was in reserve with battalion headquarters. We were used on various tasks throughout the whole battalion area of operations. As a rifle platoon commander one of the tasks I was given by the battalion commander was to live with the local indigenous Dayak people on a “hearts and minds” mission to gain their confidence as well as to act as a guard platoon across the area I was allocated. The area was thought by Intelligence to sit across an incursion route used by irregular insurgents.

There were four longhouses or Dayak villages in that area and I split my platoon into four patrols each one based in one of the longhouses. A longhouse is just that. It is a long narrow house on raised hardwood stilts about six to eight feet high off the ground. It is usually about 100 metres long but there are some that are much longer; up to 500 metres. The longhouse I stayed in was built on a slightly elevated terrace above a small river and about 50 metres from it. A longhouse consists of a row of individual family rooms. There were about 15 families and 15 rooms in our longhouse. Running the complete length of the longhouse in front of the family rooms was a verandah about six feet wide. Each family room had a door onto the verandah. At one end of the longhouse the verandah widened out onto a community deck in place of a family room where various gatherings were held. At the other end and removed from the main longhouse was a balai or round house on stilts. It was the trophy house and single men’s quarters.

I sent my other three patrols off to their allotted longhouses and with my six man patrol walked into the jungle to our longhouse. When we arrived later in the day we were greeted as is usual in Borneo by a small ceremony that involved drinking tuak or rice wine. Too much of that stuff can give you a powerful hangover.

After the formalities and introductions we were made welcome and shown to our sleeping quarters in the balai. I mentioned that the balai was a trophy house. The trophies were human heads. The Dayak of Borneo had for generations been head hunters and had only in recent decades, we hoped, given up the practice. But they still kept their trophies. During World War II the Japanese treated the indigenous people in Borneo very badly and many of them fought on the side of the allies. We thought that a few of the heads looked Japanese.

They would remove the skull then smoke the head until it was preserved and shrunk to about the size of a softball. Then the teeth were sewn back in. The heads hung by their hair all over the rafters, hundreds of eyeless heads looking down upon us. There were too many to hang on the rafters so the rest were in big cane baskets hanging high on the walls. The walls were made of atap or palm leaves and in the evening the breeze would blow through and cool the balai. And set thousands of teeth chattering.

We were four Maori and two Pakeha. When we saw where we would be living the Pakeha weren’t the only ones who were white. My guys refused to stay in there. They decided to stay out in the jungle where we usually lived when we were on patrol. I wasn’t very happy about it either but we were there to live with the Dayak according to their tikanga so we had no choice. I was not a popular officer until we got used to it but we slept in there the whole time we lived in the longhouse. No-one got much sleep for the first few nights.

The people of the longhouse

Once we were settled in we joined in the routine of the longhouse and became part of the clan. The tuai rumah (rangatira) and his manang (tohunga) took us under their wing and helped us to settle in and get to know the people.

In our battalion area there were a lot of Christian longhouses of various types. None of the four longhouses in my platoon area had converted and they were all described as animist or pagan. Their religion was the old indigenous religion. One of the clear differences we noticed between the two was that when we arrived at a Christian longhouse the patrol leader would usually be offered the hospitality of one of the tuai rumah’s daughters. They never seemed offended when I declined their kind offers. That offer was never made in a “pagan” longhouse. Which I thought was an enlightening difference between Christians and “Pagans” in Borneo.

Apart from the trophies in the balai there were a few other things that took a bit of getting used to. They kept pigs, dogs and chickens as they traditionally did all over South East Asia, Melanesia and Polynesia. The chickens were eaten but the pigs and dogs weren’t. The dogs were actually sacred animals and were never laughed at or mistreated in any way. It took us a while to work out the role of the pigs but we cottoned on. There were no toilets at all. When you wanted a tutae you went out behind the longhouse and after you’d finished the pigs and dogs would have a kai and clean up after you. Very practical and hygienic.

The day would start with a small meal and then everyone would go about their daily duties. Some of the women would sweep and clean the rooms and the verandah, and clean up around the outside of the longhouse, and some would go out gathering food. The men would also gather food and might go hunting once or twice a week. That only took up a few hours each day for the jungle is rich in foodstuffs. The rest of the day might be spent in conviviality or maintaining the longhouse by repairing walls and thatched roofs. Late afternoon we would all head down to the river and bathe before dinner. In the evenings we would all gather on the verandah to eat followed by talking, singing, story-telling and dancing.

We were there as a guard platoon so we would also go out on patrol most days for an hour or two. After we got to know and trust our hosts some of them would come with us as our eyes and ears. It was their territory and they knew it intimately. After a while we realised that we didn’t need to patrol because they knew when anything moved in their territory and they would let us know if strangers were coming.

Gathering food was the main activity during the day. The two staples in their diet were the tapioca root and sago starch from the sago palm. They were not processed into the small balls like frogs eggs that we buy in the supermarket. Tapioca is also known as cassava, yuca and manioc. It was the only crop that they grew. The root had a purple skin and when they boiled the root for a meal it ended up like a purple slimy jelly that was difficult to eat with your fingers. It was nutritious and a source of energy. For a few days while we were there we helped them clear a patch of jungle and prepare the ground for planting tapioca. It was probably the hardest work we did while we were there but it wasn’t too hard.

The sago palm grows wild and about once a week the men would go into the jungle, cut one down and bring it back to the longhouse. The trunk was then split and we scraped out the white pith. It was generally used as a type of flour. Apart from the two staples we ate just about anything that moved including monkeys, snakes, bats and fish. Red ants were a delicacy. We would hold a flaming torch under the ants nest in a tree and catch them in a big banana leaf as they fell out. They would be fried as a crunchy treat for the children and for curious soldiers. But the real delicacy was the juvenile larva that looked like small white huhu. They would be picked off the leaf and eaten straight away.

We ate the bananas of course. The women would gather a variety of fruits and berries from the jungle. Our favourite vegetable was kangkong which is a cross between a spinach and water cress that grows near swamps and creeks. When we were on patrol in Borneo we carried our food with us in 24 hour ration packs. It got boring and there was no fresh food so we would always stop to pick kangkong when we came across it.

One time we were talked into going on a big hunt. The Dayak men were armed with blowpipes and old shotguns and they wanted us to take our military rifles and the Bren light machine gun, especially the machine gun. Mostly they wanted to see our weapons in action but they thought we might be able to shoot more game than they could with their shotguns. We all headed for the top of a valley and all the young people from the longhouse started down in the valley and drove the game up to us. We shot a few monkeys and when a bear appeared they insisted that we shoot it with the machine gun, so we did. That was the highlight of their hunt. The next night they boiled up that bear and the whole longhouse had a feast. It was really tough but they seemed to enjoy it.

One of my guys had done a cooking course. He had brought a supply of flour and a steel ammunition box with him. He made an oven out of the box. His first loaf of bread was greeted with amazement. Not just by the Dayaks.

The evenings were enjoyable. The Dayak had two main dances. One was performed by the adult men and it was a fighting dance with their parangs. The parang is a long steel jungle knife very useful for chopping in the jungle and also a lethal weapon. The dance was elaborate and choreographed a fight with the parang. As a dance it was ceremonial but was also used to instruct in the techniques of parang fighting. We learnt how to do it but nowhere near as proficient as the Dayak. The women’s dance was the bilangi and it was a bird dance modelled on some long extinct big eagle. It involved quite an intricate dance step and the women were amazed that I could do it straight away. It was the same as one of the steps we used to do at the local rock and roll dances when I was a teenager!

The music was provided by a set of brass gongs hung from a long branch. They ranged from the big one almost as tall as a man down to the small one about 12 inches across. In full performance they could be heard in neighbouring longhouses. The gongs were part of all ceremony, ritual and celebration. The drinking of copious quantities of tuak was also part of ceremony, ritual and celebration.

The first ceremony we participated in was the one in which I was granted the status of tuai rumah to sit alongside their tuai rumah. They were probably just flattering me but the ceremony was real. My group sat on one side of the verandah facing the adult males on the other side. The gongs were gonging and the Dayak people were chanting. A live chicken was brought onto the verandah and waved over my head then it was killed and prepared straight away to be cooked. All the while we were served tuak. The drinking went on while the chicken was cooked and while we ate it. During the ceremony they decked me out in a headdress with feathers and with a few other items including a sash I had seen the tuai rumah wearing.

A few years later I read an account of a ceremony in Vietnam, 1000 kilometres away, that was exactly the same ceremony. An Australian Army officer was raising and training an army of Montagnard hill tribesmen to fight against the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. He was working with the Rhade people who lived in longhouses and his induction ceremony was exactly the same as mine. The two groups of indigenous people were separated by 1000 km and a perhaps a thousand years of separate evolution but had retained exactly the same ceremonies.

The next ceremony of note was a marriage ceremony. Ours. I mentioned that the so called “Pagan” Dayaks did not offer their daughters as hospitality. But they did have their eyes on us.

This evening we were lined up sitting on one side of the verandah, the six of us, and the tuai rumah sat the seven young marriageable women in the longhouse on the other side of the verandah facing us. The ceremony proceeded with the gongs gonging and the young women serving us our food and tuak. Then the tuai rumah sprung his surprise. We were being married and we had to choose a wife each! Quick thinking Ross. So I said there were six of us and seven of them and one would be left out and we couldn’t offend her so thank you very much but no thank you. The old guy just laughed and said you’re now a tuai rumah, you choose two for yourself.

A couple of my guys seemed quite willing to comply but I managed to get us out of that predicament without offending the young women or the rest of the longhouse.

This whole ceremony was not really about us. In stationary or nomadic hunter gatherer groups there is always a need to refresh the gene pool to prevent inbreeding. To do that the young women would be exchanged with women from other groups in arranged pairings. We presented an opportunity for our young women to be partnered without leaving their longhouse. I don’t think any of my guys later took advantage of the offer but you never can tell. I can guarantee that I didn’t. True e hoa ma, true.

The author right rear with two patrol members, Norm Smith and Bruce Purdom, and our volunteer interpreter, Tuai Rumah front right, Manang front left, and six of the seven young ladies

While patrolling in Borneo we always carried our medical kit and at the longhouses we visited our platoon medic would treat any minor ailments and wounds. It was a popular service. Any serious cases we came across would get sent out by helicopter, or vehicle if there was a road nearby. We provided the same service at our longhouse.

One night a midwife sent for me. I woke up and went to one of the rooms where there was a woman in labour. She was in difficulty and the midwives couldn’t help. So I sent for my medic in the balai and for my radio set. We radioed back to battalion headquarters and had the doctor woken and brought to the radio. The medic described what was happening and the doctor proceeded to diagnose what it was over the radio and to explain the history and frequency of the condition. The woman was in severe muscular spasm around the birth canal and the baby was prevented from birthing. Basically the medic had to massage in exactly the right places until the spasms stopped, and the midwives had to help by encouraging the mother to relax and reassuring her that all would be well. We had the doctor on the radio for about two hours and in the end it was a successful birth. The midwives were amazed. Such is the life of a soldier.

We lived in the longhouse for a few weeks and when the time came to leave it was quite sad. We had grown to like each other. I asked the battalion commander to send in a 44-gallon drum of kerosene and a hand pump to fuel their lamps and stoves for a few months. It was winched in by helicopter and was much appreciated.

We left a short while later after a ceremony of farewell. As we were leaving the tuai rumah approached me with an offer. He wanted to buy one of my soldiers. He was a tall, young, blonde and handsome Ngai Tahu and the longhouse wanted to keep him to breed from. Tuai rumah offered me 100 ringgit or Malaysian dollars. I accepted and sold him. I don’t know why but Mac would have none of it and insisted that I give back the money. He came out with us. To this day I still give him heaps about reneging on my deal.

Some of the longhouse people came with us for a few hours until we reached the road head where we were picked up by truck. The seven young women were among them. Our packs and weapons were carried all the way for us and the parting was genuinely sad. We went back to our regular operations and got on with our patrolling duties and never went back to our longhouse.

Just over six months later we were in another war in another country; Vietnam.

Borneo and our stay in the longhouse was the highlight of my 20 year military career. I was just 22 years old at the time. Many years later as I hear Maori pontificating wisely on traditional life before settlement and colonisation I smile and remember my real experience living the hunter gatherer life as it really was.

The Urewera 17: Weekend Warriors or Tearaway Terrorists?

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

By Waitai Rakete – guest contributor

“I wrote an analysis of the raids as part of an MSS in 2010. After meeting and discussing the events with Warren Tucker I sent him a copy of my essay, titled “The Urewera 17: Weekend Warriors or Tearaway Terrorists?”. I didn’t get any feedback from Warren, but after reading this, suspect I may have had one or maybe two points correctly identified”. – Waitai.


“Armed anarchists about to launch an IRA-like war to press for an independent Tuhoe nation in the central North Island? Military-style weapons training camps? Arms dealers offering to obtain grenade-launchers for terrorists? IRA training manuals, napalm explosions, automatic weapons and threats against the prime minister and police?”

Such were the sensational news snippets on October 18, 2007 in what the police hinted was the first terrorist conspiracy in New Zealand. The newspapers implied that police had either foiled a “plot shocking in its implications”, or they were “guilty of a massive over-reaction that threatens to undermine whatever credibility they have”.

Police seemed to be suggesting they had averted an imminent, coordinated armed uprising by a range of New Zealand agitators, but there had been elements of farce. In Christchurch, they were turned away from the homes of Save Happy Valley campaigners because they had not bothered to obtain search warrants. In central Wellington, they raided a local community house which doubled as a bicycle repair shop (1).  Also of interest under the Suppression of Terrorism Act was a “yeast-free bread baking demonstration” run as part of a sustainable living expo in Taupo, and the ransacking of a pensioners house in Tauranga (2).

The aim of this study of the “anti-terrorism” raids is two-fold. Firstly, to use open-source material to gain some understanding of the issues brought to our attention by these events, and to gain insight to New Zealand’s Intelligence Agencies. Secondly, to study the Intelligence process as it may have occurred in this case, and determine if there was some intelligence “failure” and what the possible factors contributing to it were.

In terms of the analysis made, the limitations of the public domain open-source documents largely obtained from news reports that this study is based on should be acknowledged, some being material fed from police sources to media, and others containing media induced bias. And so there are certainly reservations to what may be concluded.

Timeline of Events

December, 2005:

It was uncovered that an investigation began after two hunters in the remote Urewera Mountains stumbled across a camp where armed men, some clad in balaclavas, were training. They reported what they saw to the police, and then camps were put under surveillance (3).

In the following months, the police recorded arrivals and departures (logging 74 people passing through, although people may have been counted more than once), bugged conversations, intercepted telephone calls and text messages, secretly videoed suspects, and monitored a number of computer accounts.

Police say they moved when the threat posed by the group grew beyond acceptable levels. “We had watched a level of activity grow that had been characterized by an unlawful nature,” said John West, acting deputy commissioner of the New Zealand police. “We moved to mitigate a serious risk.” (4)

Monday, October 15 2007:

At dawn about 20 heavily armed police officers surrounded the house of Maria Steens and marched Steens and her 17-year-old daughter, Amie Rangihika, out of the house. They arrested leading Tuhoe Maori activist Tame Iti, Steens partner, and scoured the apartment for what the search warrant described as “evidence as to the commission of an offense of Participating in a Terrorist Group.” (5)

More than 300 police were involved in what have become known as the “anti-terrorism” raids in Auckland, the Bay of Plenty region, Wellington, Palmerston North and Christchurch, during which 17 people were arrested and a number of weapons seized. The raids were aimed at campaigners for Maori sovereignty, environmentalists and peace activists rather than foreign groups, but marked the first time authorities had acted under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

It is alleged military-style guerrilla training was being conducted in the camps, which according to the head of police Howard Broad, those arrested had taken part in. Though the warrants were issued through the Terrorism Suppression Act, Police had yet to decide whether to lay charges under the Act. Broad said he ordered the raids because of a threat to public safety after surveillance of the camps and those involved.

Iti’s lawyer says police should have established that they had enough evidence before invoking the anti-terrorism act. “What is concerning is the speculation that seems to occur, that you can detain people on charges that may or may not be brought under a piece of legislation that may or may not be invoked, and that you should be held in custody while the police do their homework,” Annette Sykes said, and expressed a lack of confidence in the protection of human rights. Tame Iti was arrested on eight firearm charges. (6)

Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell accused the police of placing small Maori villages in Urewera Valley “under siege”, with school buses stopped and searched by heavily armed police and people being arrested in front of frightened children. “… and so we’re concerned about the impact it’s had on the community,” he said. (7)

Tuesday, October 16 2007:

Revelations surfaced in police documents that Iti planned an IRA-style war on New Zealand to create an independent Tuhoe nation. Unemployed South Auckland man Jamie Lockett was refused bail by the High Court. Police say that included in the evidence that has emerged are intercepted text messages from Lockett saying he was intending to launch a war on New Zealand. Lockett, 46, allegedly sent messages saying “I’m training to be a vicious, dangerous commando” and “White men are going to die in this country.” Lockett, who is white, said he was anti-guns, and while a friend of Iti, was not involved in any illegal activity. (8)

Wednesday, October 17 2007:

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples says race relations in New Zealand have been set back 100 years by the police raids. Iti is denied bail in the Rotorua District Court as three more firearms charges are laid against him. Police actions are criticised by activists and questioned by academics as the first occurrence of “military-style political policing” in the country. (9)

Thursday, October 18 2007:

The Government calls for cool heads over mounting criticism of the raids, saying people should not rush to make judgment. (10)

Although the raids and surveillance were carried out under the controversial Suppression of Terrorism Act, the charges that had been laid to date were mostly related to firearms offences. The Act has been criticised by civil rights groups and some opposition politicians as marking a significant legislative erosion of human rights and the due process of law. (11)

Friday, October 19 2007:

A 1000-strong protest march is held in Whakatane objecting to the police raids, with many upset over allegations that children travelling to a kohanga reo had their van stopped by armed police. (12)

The Security Intelligence Service (SIS) issued a rare public statement to dispel speculation it was involved in the week’s police operation. Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is the minister responsible for the service, refused to comment on National Party claims that the SIS briefed leader John Key ahead of the anti- terror raids. However, SIS head Warren Tucker said he regularly briefed the leader of the Opposition on matters of security, which is required by law, and the subject of those briefings was meant to be confidential. “The SIS has no powers to enforce security, such as arrest or detention, and the … operations earlier this week are a police matter,” he said.

Tucker did not address the issue of whether the SIS may have been involved in the year–long surveillance operation that led to the raids. (13)

Saturday, October 27 2007:

The Maori Party wrap up its conference that weekend with a strongly worded statement condemning the Government over the raids and labelling them discriminatory. (14)

Monday, October 29 2007:

The Maori Party comes under fire for supporting suspects arrested in the police anti-terror raids, with NZ First leader Winston Peters labelling them “militant racists” and the Government accusing the party of whipping up fear. (15)

Thursday, November 1 2007:

Charges to be laid under New Zealand’s Terrorism Suppression Act are still pending a decision by Solicitor General Dr David Collins. Iti was remanded to reappear in a Rotorua court, where he can appeal against an earlier decision to refuse him bail. Several others were granted bail today. (16)

Monday, November 5 2007:

A Runanganui, or two-yearly parliament of Maori Anglicans which met in Christchurch over the weekend, passed a resolution saying it was shocked by the October 15 raids in the Bay of Plenty. It expressed concern at the “trauma, fear, terror and humiliation experienced by the Tuhoe people”.

Another resolution urged Parliament to reconsider the anti- terrorism and foreshore and seabed legislation with a view to repealing or amending them “to remove their discriminatory features”.

In a church statement, the Reverend Awanui Timutimu, an Anglican clergyman who lives at Ruatoki, one of the towns caught up in the raids, said activists like Iti should be dealt with locally. He said there were established procedures involving community elders, a Maori police advisory group, and iwi liaison officers. (17)

Tuesday March 4, 2008:

The past year has been mainly positive for racial harmony, says Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres in his annual review of race relations which was released that month. However, the police anti-terrorism raids and their aftermath could have had a damaging effect, he says. (18)

Monday September 1, 2008:

A month-long depositions hearing for the 18 people charged with firearms offences starts in the Auckland District court. After the year-long investigation, police had come to believe the Ruatoki Valley was the centre of quasi-military style training camps. However, Solicitor-General David Collins, QC, said the terrorism legislation was “incoherent” and those arrested could not be charged under it. (19)

Tuesday September 2, 2008:

Lawyers for the defence claimed that nearly one year after the arrests they still did not have up-to-date information on the charges their clients faced. The charges ranged from possession of molotov cocktails, AK-47s, sawn-off shotguns, Lee-Enfield rifles and semi- automatics.

Iti was allowed to have his charges translated into Maori after Judge Mark Perkins accepted an application by his lawyer, Annette Sykes, that Maori was her client’s first language and the one he was most fluent in. (20)

Friday October 17, 2008:

Seventeen people were committed to stand trial for firearms offences after last year’s “anti-terror” raids. The solicitor general had said there was insufficient evidence for terrorism charges. (21)

Friday October 31, 2008:

A new charge of participating in a criminal gang is to be laid against five of the 18 people arrested during the anti-terrorism raids. (22)

New Zealand Security and Intelligence Agencies

One question these events prompt is: Were New Zealand’s Security and Intelligence Agencies involved in the intelligence process? Though there is expected to be an element of secrecy in the operations of these organisations, by definition we can surmise the SIS (Security Intelligence Service) may have been involved. From the DESS (Domestic and External Security Secretariat) booklet ‘Securing our Nations Safety: How New Zealand manages its security and intelligence agencies’ (23) we learn “three of the four operational agencies – GCSB (Government Communications Security Bureau), EAB (External Assessments Bureau) and DDIS (Directorate of Defence Intelligence and Security) – are concerned only with foreign intelligence.” (p. 34). So let us examine the SIS role as may be relevant in this case.

The DESS booklet describes that the SIS provides the government “with intelligence and advice on security issues, including espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism…It gathers its information from a wide range of human and technical sources.” (p. 21). The head of the SIS is appointed by the Governor-General and is responsible to the PM (Prime Minister). The SIS is a civilian organisation, and hence its officers have no police powers such as arrest (p. 22). It has approximately 200 staff (24) and a budget of 36 million dollars (25).

Some of the functions of the SIS are: to obtain, correlate and evaluate intelligence relating to security; communicate such intelligence to those deemed appropriate; advise the current government about relevant matters; and cooperate with other organisations. However there are some things they cannot do for example: investigate people on the basis of taking part in legal protest activities; disagree with the government; operate outside the functions in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Act; and enforce measures for security. The SIS must be politically neutral, and the Director of Security is required to consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition (p. 24).

Also from the DESS booklet we learn that in order to gather secret intelligence – that content which the holders of the information would like to keep lawful authorities unaware of – there are methods to intercept private communications that are intrusive and infringe upon the right of citizens to privacy. To use such methods, the Director of Security must obtain an interception warrant by demonstrating to the PM that the information: is necessary to detect activities prejudicial to security; is of sufficient value to justify the interception or seizure; is unlikely to be gained by any other means; and is not legally privileged in court proceedings (p. 24).

The PM and the Commissioner of Security Warrants (statutorily required to be a retired High Court Judge) jointly issue the warrant after the Commissioner has undertaken a rigorous examination of the application, attending the offices of the SIS to examine files and consult with the Director and SIS officers as required (p. 25).

As well, acting in oversight capacities of the SIS are the Intelligence and Security Committee (p. 19), and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (p. 21).

An Intelligence process

There are various methodologies or variations of the intelligence process or the Intelligence Cycle (Lowenthal, 200026; Bruce & George, 200827; Johnson, 200328). Essentially they refer to the various steps in creating “intelligence” from the identification of a need for, to the delivery of some form of intelligence “product”. For this study the process is described as being the following five steps:

Task initiation:

A new request for intelligence has arisen and the purpose is defined, and it is prioritised among existing requirements. The types of data to be collected and the methods to be used should be decided. A case is made for the acquisition of human and other resources needed to carry out the task. Warrants are obtained for interception purposes where required or legal requirements are reviewed.

Data collection:

One or more mediums of various surveillance or interception tools and techniques including visual, phone bugging, recordings, text messages, photo, video and infra-red equipment are employed to collect raw data. Other data may come from third-parties or open-sources.


Raw data is transformed into a useable form such as transcripts made of conversations or text messages, photos processed or video downloaded. In some instances communications need language translation, or personal details might be gathered.

Analysis and production:

The processed information is examined or interpreted for meaning by specialists, and ideas are formulated and combined, so as to produce knowledge or intelligence useful for decision making. This may result in “all-source” intelligence, a blend of information from different types of collection medium.


The intelligence product or “deliverable” is distributed to and among the consumers in agreed formats. Part of this step in the process is to make it digestible to the audience. This involves ensuring intelligence continues to be timely, relevant, accurate and complete.

These steps are not clearly delineated in the various methodologies, deciding methods of data collection for instance may be part of the data collection phase. As well the steps may not be carried out distinctly, for instance data might be collected and processed daily. Some high-level processing or manipulation may occur during analysis. The intelligence process is also described as being cyclical or repeating, and intelligence that is produced and delivered may result in changes to the collection or reformatting the deliverables for subsequent iterations.

It is possible to envisage the intelligence process as potentially having occurred this way and perhaps the collection continued until funds became low or political pressure was felt, rather than sufficient intelligence was gathered for prosecution under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The Terrorist training camps

The police have suggested that those attending the camps were terrorists, meeting in the mountains to plan attacks on New Zealand soil. Critics say the meetings were social gatherings, at which the activists passed on traditional Maori bushcraft and perhaps swapped protest tactics. (29)

John Minto, founder of Global Peace and Justice, who knows Iti well, ridicules the idea that he could be a terrorist and says anyone committed to violent covert action would be unlikely to invite a ragtag bunch of peace activists and environmentalists into the conspiracy. “Tame is … a wonderful man, with a very important political message,” he said.

Minto says he has participated in camps in the Urewera forest where protesters rehearsed tactics. He says that no real guns were used when he attended but that fake weapons were carried in role- playing games. (30)

Iti’s partner, Steens, works with Iti for Tuhoe Hauora, a government-funded community group that works with troubled young Tuhoe. Steens says Tuhoe spend a lot of time in the forest where the camps were found, whether for hunting or to teach and reaffirm Tuhoe identity.

“There are camps throughout the Urewera, our people go backwards and forwards all the time,” she said. Weaponry, she said, has always been part of the Tuhoe tradition, so it would not have been surprising if guns were on display. (31)

Human rights issues

Some of the concerns were addressed in Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres 2007 annual review of race relations. Largely, unanswered questions about the raids had provoked unease, Mr de Bres said. This had skewed the number of complaints to the commission alleging someone had incited racial disharmony.
“The issues are first and foremost human rights issues rather than simply race relations,” Mr de Bres told the Herald. “At the moment all we can really say is what I’ve said there: it caused distress, it caused disquiet, and there are unanswered questions.”

Mr de Bres said questions about the long-term impact of the arrests on race relations could not be answered until court proceedings were over and bodies such as the Independent Police Conduct Authority had reported the findings of their investigations into the raids. “There are plenty of allegations that need to be examined still in relation to whether the police conduct was discriminatory. It clearly had a resonance in terms of earlier historical acts, but I think everybody is keen to see this not damage race relations and is keen for any human rights issues to be addressed through the proper processes.”

The Human Rights Commission is planning a report on the human rights implications of the raids. (32)

Some of the anger is directed at the methods the police used. In the Maori village of Ruatoki, locals say several dozen heavily armed police set up roadblocks, stormed homes and forced drivers to get out of their cars and pose for mugshots. Only one man was arrested. Ruatoki is the birthplace of Iti.

West said the warrants “were executed in as low-key a way as possible, consistent with the fact that we were looking to arrest people with firearms and ammunition.” He denied that the focus had been on any racial group.

Te Ururoa Flavell, the lawmaker who represents Ruatoki in Parliament, said the village “will always be known as the first community to be raided under the Terrorist Suppression Act.” He called the police’s actions heavy-handed and said their credibility was on the line, even among lawmakers.

“The reaction is that they have to come up with something good or there is going to be egg all over their faces,” Flavell said. (33)

Maori activism

Some Maori see the raids as an attempt to smear them as terrorists for political gain. “This action has violated the trust that has been developing between Maori and pakeha and sets our race relations back 100 years,” said Pita Sharples, leader of the Maori Party.

Julian Wilcox, a Maori commentator and broadcaster, sees some political hyperbole in Sharples’ remarks but agrees that the raids have done lasting damage. “The police have done a lot of work with the Maori, and the effect of this is to undo a lot of that,” he said. “That kind of hurt takes a long time to heal.”

Iti, with his full facial tattoo, or moko, is one of New Zealand’s best known and most controversial Maori campaigners. In January 2005, he shot a New Zealand flag with a shotgun to show how he felt about the East Cape War of the 1860s in which his Tuhoe tribe lost much of its land.

Iti’s activism fits in with a long tradition of Tuhoe resistance. They were one of the last tribes to come into contact with white colonists and have a long history of disdain for the demands of the pakeha bureaucracy, including gun licensing laws. (34)

Hidden agenda or motives?

The government is trying to pass amendments to the Act – broadening the definition of a terrorist act, adding to the list of proscribed organizations and reducing judicial oversight – and a number of critics argue that this is not a coincidence.

John Minto, founder of Global Peace and Justice and perhaps the most high-profile rights campaigner in New Zealand, said, “It seems to us that this is some kind of scare to get the anti- terror legislation passed”. (35)

In regard to the most recent charges Moana Jackson from the defendant’s legal team said he believed an abuse of process was occurring. “It would be a sad day if a protest group for example is suddenly labelled as a gang.” Jackson told Radio New Zealand. He said he thought authorities, who spent millions of dollars investigating the group and conducting the raids, were trying to save face. “I think there is a certain amount of cynicism about the reasons why these further charges have been laid” he said. “I think it is significant and in many ways a dangerous step … because it does tar these defendants with all the negativity associated with gangs as normally understood in society, and clearly there are no parallels,” Jackson said.

And Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the law relating to associating with criminal gangs did not encompass legitimate protesters. “The reality is that the charge requires those people to have got together for the purpose of doing serious violent offences punishable by 10 or more years’ prison,” Burns said. He said while the new charges would be laid against five of the 18 originally arrested, it had not yet been decided which court would hear the matter. “I have applied to the High Court from the District Court, because there are issues relating to the admissibility of evidence which can only be dealt with in the High Court,” he said. (36)

Implications for intelligence

The raids were said to be the culmination of more than a year of surveillance and that various government intelligence agencies had been monitoring those involved in the training camps. (37) As can be found in the DESS booklet, the only government intelligence agency that should have been involved is the SIS. This study suggests as highly likely the police possessed the surveillance equipment and expertise needed, but did the police possess the intelligence production capabilities to use the evidence collected? The SIS would certainly have assisted if requested. But the then Head of the SIS, Warren Tucker, had seemed genuinely dismayed at the implications of complicity hinted at by reports in the media of his routine meeting with the Leader of the Oposition. However the Head of the SIS is not permitted to confirm or deny involvement in what are within the bounds allowable for SIS involvement. Though at the very least it would be expected his advice to have been sought and given, the feeling remains the advice offered may not have been followed.

Much of the police evidence is apparently based on text messages between those who have attended the camps. (38) What seems disturbing is that the messages appeared to be taken out of context. And then used at face value rather than filtering for suitability. That the process of disseminating intelligence was one that stepped through the transcripts mechanically and flagged the slightest indication as relevant through the presence of certain keywords. There was also surveillance, bugged conversations, intercepted telephone calls, video footage, and possibly computer records from seized hard drives. There almost seems to have been a frenzy in collecting sources of material with perhaps little likely relevance. And an over-zealousness in the desire to use it as evidence. Collecting these seems to have been an on-going process, meaning it didn’t end with the culmination of the raids. This would also match with the gradual down-grade of the charges laid, as the required evidence proved not to exist.

Moana Jackson from the defendant’s legal team suggested on Radio New Zealand that the authorities had spent millions of dollars investigating the group and conducting the raids. It could be worth considering that the SIS budget at 36 million might have difficulty absorbing such a cost, and that the police may be more likely to have the funding resources in such a contingency.

It has been attempted here to match the requirements for an Intelligence process with activities as they seem to have occurred. It might be considered that the events may be more in line with an ongoing police investigation than an Intelligence agency operation.

If the police controlled the aspects of the investigation, it means that the system of checks and balances that the SIS is monitored by and ultimately answerable to were not invoked. And an overwhelming Police culture would pervade, a desire to prove the value of the specialised units involved, and a persistence in attempting to achieve a return on the sizeable investment made in the investigation.


It begs the question why the police didn’t from the start – as noted by the Reverend Awanui Timutimu from Ruatoki – use established procedures to involve community elders, the Maori police advisory group, and iwi liaison officers, to enter the camps in a secure but non-provocative manner, and enquire what was going on. What seems ironic is “hunters” that by definition could also be running around with guns, informed the police of “other” parties running around with guns. So instead there are concerns raised in this study such as discrimination, or hidden agendas, that distract from the main issue. The defendents and their activities were presented in such a manner by misinformation fed by the police to the media, that encouraged an “us and them” mentality between mainstream New Zealanders and Māori. From anecdotal knowledge, the typical Kiwi was shocked to learn there were armed groups running round in the bush practicing terror tactics. This was intended to justify the way the raids were carried out, and the dismaying and lamentable breaches of human rights especially upon women and children that were instigated. But the true failure is that the police were unable to obtain prosecutions under the Suppression of Terrorism Act when that Act had been invoked. As an intelligence failure, it may not be labelled in a classic sense as might be discussed in the literature of Lowenthal, Bruce & George, or Johnson, other than to say uncertainty may not have been communicated well, if at all. Instead the suggestion is the intelligence failure may have come from a lack of understanding of the Terrorism Suppression Act, and a desire to prove that the Police special units involved are effective, their existence is needed, and the hope to eventually justify the cost and effort expended.

The next step would be to analyse the Act to determine if it is fundamentally flawed, or if it is even needed. But perhaps the best course of action, at least until Police develop more suitable Intelligence capabilities, is to leave the intelligence process under the direction of the relevant Intelligence Agencies.


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(33) Tim Johnston. (2007, October 23). Anti-terror raids reopen New Zealand wounds Indigenous Maori see rights abuses :[4 Edition]. International Herald Tribune, p. 7. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1370340171).
(34) Tim Johnston. (2007, October 23). Anti-terror raids reopen New Zealand wounds Indigenous Maori see rights abuses :[4 Edition]. International Herald Tribune, p. 7. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1370340171).
(35) Tim Johnston. (2007, October 23). Anti-terror raids reopen New Zealand wounds Indigenous Maori see rights abuses :[4 Edition]. International Herald Tribune, p. 7. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1370340171).
(36) PAC: New charges against five arrested in ‘anti-terror’ raids. (31 October). AAP General News Wire. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from Research Library. (Document ID: 1586696281).
(37) Jury out on police anti-terror raids :[2 Edition]. (2007, October 18). The Nelson Mail, p. 9. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1367800941).
(38) Jury out on police anti-terror raids :[2 Edition]. (2007, October 18). The Nelson Mail, p. 9. Retrieved July 22, 2010, from ProQuest Newsstand. (Document ID: 1367800941).

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: Commissioner Marshall at the Maori Affairs Select Committee

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

On 4 December 2013 Police Commissioner Peter Marshall appeared before the Maori Affairs select committee to answer questions relating to Operation 8 surveillance of several people who were not involved in the activities in the Urewera and about the ongoing surveillance activities for several years after the armed paramilitary operation on 15th October 2007. The questions were put by Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell and related to a document he produced.

After the session as he spoke to reporters at Parliament Commissioner Marshall was his usual dismissive self and said he would take the document and look into the matter. He also continued the process of spinning his way out of any serious and in-depth investigation into police conduct during Operation 8 by talking about his relationship with Tamati Kruger and their ongoing discussions about repairing the relationship between Ngai Tuhoe and the NZ Police. He disclosed that he would be visiting Ngai Tuhoe before his present contract ends in April 2014.

A day later Shane Jones weighed into the issue by challenging Flavell to “put up or shut up”. The select committee hearing was closed to the media and the document in question has not been released to the media. Jones called for it to be tabled in Parliament. Flavell has declined.

Commissioner Marshall will come back and he will say that the document is not a police document. He will then spin another story about how it cannot be relied upon or somesuch. Jones will crow about how Flavell got it wrong or something like that.

Marshall will be right. Jones wrong. The document is not a police document. It is however a spreadsheet that was circulated among some of the original Operation 8 co-accused. It was compiled, as far as I can ascertain, by one or two of the co-accused from over 60,000 pages of police evidence that were dumped on all of the defence lawyers following the suppressed depositions hearing in the Auckland High Court in August and September 2008. The court had ordered the police to hand over that evidence. The co-accused and defence teams spent hundreds of hours reading it, cataloguing it, and in some cases building their own indexes.

The document that found its way to Te Ururoa Flavell’s office was one of those indexes. Although it is not a police document it is a very accurate and complete record of all of the Operation 8 evidence including references to several documents that were withheld from the defence.

The police and politicians might then use the fact that it is not a NZ Police document to rubbish the claims made by Te Ururoa based on the document.

However it is not the document itself that contains the evidence Te Ururoa Flavell is referring to. The document refers to the evidence. The evidence itself is real, it comprises over 60,000 pages of real police documents, and it is in the hands of all of the defence teams. If Commissioner Marshall is to honestly reply to the questions at the select committee he will need to put a team onto the job to delve into that huge evidence dump for themselves.

Spin will not suffice.

And I’ll give you a hint Commissioner as to why Operation 8 surveillance went wider and deeper than it should have. It was because your predecessor deliberately excluded Superintendent Wallace Haumaha and any Maori from the intelligence management and analysis process. Your Northern SIG team were therefore flying blind into Te Ao Maori and casting about and profiling whoever they could find to put into their network of suspects. You can spin the exclusion of the principal Maori advisor any way you want but it comes down to nothing more than a stupid unprofessional decision based in ignorance, racism and paranoia. We also know that no matter which way you spin it Superintendent Haumaha was deeply offended by that racist decision.

Links: The Operation 8 Series

Operation 8: An exploration into the possibility space

Read the complete analysis of alleged Maori terrorism in the Urewera

Most people, in fact, will not take the trouble in finding out the truth, but are much more inclined to accept the first story they hear.” ― Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

Alternative scenarios and interpretations of the evidence

A variety of different scenarios are usually prepared in order to emphasis the possibility of different alternative futures. By setting up several scenarios, a ‘possibility space’ is created. It is somewhere within this ‘possibility space’ that the future is likely to unfold”.

Quarmby N (2011), Futures work in strategic criminal intelligence, in Ratcliffe, JH (Ed), Strategic thinking in criminal intelligence, 2nd Edition, The Federation Press, NSW.

Intelligence analysis is about predicting the future from past and present information and is rarely about certainty. It is in the realm of probability. And before probability or a probability rating can be applied to scenarios, or predictions of the future, it is an exploration of possibility. Possible conclusions, scenarios and narratives are extracted from the known information or evidence, being always aware that some information is not yet known or might never be known. No one possibility should be preferred over another (i.e. probability) until all are tested and evaluated for that process might itself throw up new insights and certainly new questions. Many analytical tools have been developed to aid in this process.

The human mind does not naturally and easily allow itself to doubt the conclusions it forms in order to instantly create coherence and certainty from ambiguity. Which is why intelligence analysis is both a discipline and an art. The discipline lies in curbing the human tendency to create coherence and certainty, in using analytical tools to focus the mind, and in allowing the art to flourish. The art lies in the lateral thinking that creates the possibility space from the available information. In that process the greater the subject or target knowledge and expertise of the analyst(s) the more realistic, and often broader, the possibility space. Discipline then requires rigorous testing and evaluation of the possibilities to determine probability. Or even to conclude that you don’t know and need to go back and draw up a new intelligence plan with new aims and collection plans.

The Operation 8 intelligence process considered neither possibility nor probablity. It made the giant leap from collection and collation to certainty and from there straight into an armed paramilitary operation against an unarmed and innocent community and against innocent families. There is no evidence in Operation 8 that the police considered any different scenarios other than the one they wanted to believe. There was no “possibility space“; no discipline and no art.

The language of the intelligence analyst is replete with words like “seems”, “appears”, “might”, “maybe” and “possibly”. The language of the Operation 8 team in all of their documentation was “I believe” from even before much relevant information had been collected.

Te Putatara raises these alternative interpretations as possible scenarios based on the evidence presented by the NZ Police to justify Operation 8. I do not claim that one or more of them are definitive interpretations. The definitive interpretation could and probably would have included elements of one or more of these scenarios. But they are all in that ‘possibility space’ and should have been considered, with the expert assistance of Superintendent Haumaha and his team, and other expert analysts including psychologists.

My aim in presenting these scenarios in the “possibility space” is not therefore to determine beyond doubt which of them is the most probable but to show that there were alternative scenarios and that the intelligence operation never quite made it to being an intelligence operation. The evidence is that only one of them was ever considered from early in the operation and before there was any evidence to support that scenario.

Even though the Northern SIG was established as an intelligence unit and claimed it was collecting and analysing intelligence, it did not function as an intelligence unit and did not employ any of the analytical processes, tools and techniques expected of an intelligence unit. Its sole aim was to gain convictions against as many of the suspects as it could by whatever means and under whatever legislation possible. It was an aim that led directly into a great deal of unlawful behaviour by the police including a thoroughly outrageous and reprehensible overreaction in the form of an armed paramilitary operation against innocents.

Scenario 1.

That the participants in the series of wananga in the Urewera were training and preparing for illegal armed political, terrorist and or criminal activity.


The police scenario.

Over the years quite a few fantasists in the Maori activist community have indeed considered the possibility of an armed uprising to achieve their aims, and a few have asked me for my views. I have always replied that such an activity would not only be defeated by the forces of the Government in very short order, it would also set back the Maori cause by generations. Some of my views are online and known to some of the activists.

I have always been adamant that it would certainly be defeated by Maori informants from within even before it started, for the hapu/tribes are all of them very leaky sieves. Maori informants have been in the pay of the SIS and the police for a very long time. And it is most unlikely that any of the tribes would support armed confrontation. We are at heart and despite the rhetoric a very conservative people.

Taame Iti knew all that. He knew that despite its long running grievance and collective sense of frustration and anger, and the rhetoric of Mana Motuhake, Ngai Tuhoe is collectively as conservative as the rest of us, if not more so. One of the frustrations of Ngai Tuhoe activists has been the ultra conservatism of some of the Ngai Tuhoe leadership over many decades. For a time I worked with that conservative leadership. He would have known that armed political and/or criminal activity would not have been countenanced by Ngai Tuhoe as a whole. Without the complete backing of Ngai Tuhoe he would have been on a suicide mission. Was he on a suicide mission?

These are some of the things the Operation 8 team should have known about Ngai Tuhoe but didn’t. They seem to have gleaned their scant knowledge about Ngai Tuhoe and its historic claims from Google Search. Consultation with Superintendent Houmaha and his team would have brought much needed enlightenment to Operation 8.

However, regardless of what I think, a true test of this scenario is whether or not the wananga participants were actually capable of carrying out what they were talking about or whether it was just a fantasy, or perhaps something else.

Scenario 2.

That Taame Iti was planning and rehearsing to mount a production of political or protest theatre in support of the Ngai Tuhoe claim negotiations.


Among many other things Taame Iti is a thespian; an actor. Given his long history of provocative protest theatre in support of his many causes this scenario is always in the possibility space. For example, the theatrical production on the occasion of the arrival of the Waitangi Tribunal at Ngai Tuhoe on January 16th 2005 was a very large production which visibly presented the Tuhoe point of view and part of it eventually provoked an unsuccessful criminal prosecution of Taame Iti by the NZ Police.

This whole scenario then at the series of wananga in the Urewera before October 2007 could actually be seen as preparation for another protest theatre production, or it could have been protest theatre itself . Perhaps.

This scenario might be low in the probability ratings but should not be completely discarded. There is almost always an element or thread of theatricality in all of Taame Iti’s political activities.

Scenario 3.

The wananga in the Urewera may have been designed to deliberately provoke a police response, in order to support the negotiation strategy of the Ngai Tuhoe claim negotiators by invoking solidarity within Ngai Tuhoe, and to remind the Crown of its own blameworthy record on historical grievances raised against it before the Waitangi Tribunal. The Crown’s past activity against Ngai Tuhoe has involved unjustified military aggression and involved the police killing of non combatant Ngai Tuhoe in 1869.


In support of this scenario is the fact that Taame Iti knew that he had been under surveillance for years. He also knew that the wananga and the activities at the wananga were known to media and police. Was he trying to provoke the police, or the government?

There is evidence that from February 2007 Taame knew that the media had received an anonymous letter alleging guerilla preparations. The police’s own evidence shows that Taame Iti was tipped off about their surveillance in June 2007 several months before the 15th October raids, yet he continued to organise the wananga around military style activity. Why?

All or most of the other main suspects knew that they were under police surveillance, so why were they doing whatever they were doing. Why?

This scenario may not be high in the probability ratings but it raises important questions the police didn’t ask. They should have asked them, and looked for answers. One of the aims of an  exploration of the possibility space is to raise new and important questions. Like why were they doing what they were doing, and saying what they were saying, when all of the principal suspects knew they were under surveillance.

Scenario 4.

From the time the Treaty claim negotiations process started the heat has been taken out of Maori activism and support for protest, demonstration and mass action in the pursuit of Maori and Iwi development and political goals has significantly diminished. Taame may have thought it necessary to activate young Ngai Tuhoe to get Ngai Tuhoe youth re-committed to the cause, without ever intending that armed offensive action be undertaken, in the full knowledge anyway that the resources of the State would quash any such action within weeks if not days were he stupidly to have gone down that path.


It is common knowledge in the Maori community that Taame Iti’s activism has always involved the education and motivation of Ngai Tuhoe youth in support of Ngai Tuhoe political objectives. His activism over decades covering many social and political issues have included some education about the Ngai Tuhoe cause. Always.

Scenario 5.

The Ngai Tuhoe negotiation strategy has included a plan to widen the circle of support for the Ngai Tuhoe cause. This was possibly the primary purpose of attendance at the wananga by the political activists from Wellington and elsewhere, aimed at garnering support for Ngai Tuhoe by inviting a wide range of people.


It is unlikely that the political activists (many of them Pakeha) who attended the wananga would ever have participated in an armed uprising. To start with their organisations have long been infiltrated by security and intelligence agencies and they could not be considered reliable co-conspirators. Nor could they be expected to lay down their lives for Ngai Tuhoe. In fact several of them refused to take part in the military games at the wananga.

The use of weaponry in the circumstances may be a side issue as a morale booster for some, in the same way that flag burning can be a morale booster for others. It fires up the activist passion and commits them to the cause. Maybe.

Scenario 6.

The military-like activity may have been undertaken primarily to train young men (and women) for employment by private military contractors and operators in areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan.


At the time of Operation 8 I was aware that a Maori contractor was recruiting people to work for him on a possible contract in Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa. That prospect would attract young Maori dreaming of highly paid employment and adventure, and might cause them to seek training from a former soldier such as the late Mr Tuhoe Lambert.

Mr Lambert, as has been widely reported, had been an infantry soldier in Victor 5 Company in Vietnam. However he also had some experience as an operator with a private military contractor (in Africa I believe) for a short time immediately after his Vietnam service, and would therefore have some expertise in that specialist field.

Evidence was produced at the trial of the Urewera 4 by a participant at the October 2007 wananga that he was a military contractor specialising in personal and convoy protection, and that he was indeed demonstrating the techniques of his trade. He also commented that none of the people at the wananga met the minimum standards required.

Scenario 7.

The activity of a military nature may have been simply game playing or role playing , or even out of control fantasy.


The element of fantasy could have been a component of any or all of the above scenarios, or a combination of them

Following the Vietnam conflict the military became a pariah in NZ society, and Vietnam veterans were often reviled. However in recent years war veterans have noticed that soldiers are now held in quite high esteem. Veterans have also noticed that many males in society now envy those of us who wear campaign medals, as though we have passed through some process of initiation by fire, not now available to most.

At the same time ANZAC Day is being observed by more and more young people, and the legend of the ANZACS is re-writing itself into the psyche of  society. This could have led to the acting out of a fantasy centred on military type training.

And the alleged military training at the wananga in the Urewera could just have been realistic war games.

Adults now participate in significant numbers in such game playing and role playing. There are gun clubs, deerstalking clubs, military battle re-enactment clubs, paintball competitions and the like. Out in the country the youth still love to shoot, and with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in progress, to act out war game fantasies.

From the variety of activities available it seems that adults too are acting out their war game fantasies. Perhaps.

Scenario 8

In the slow progress of the Ngai Tuhoe settlement process there was a build up of frustration and anger, over and above the background anger and resentment that has persisted for generations. An outbreak of violence would have been detrimental to the Ngai Tuhoe cause and negotiations. Perhaps Taame Iti took it upon himself to divert and contain that negative energy by including military type training in his wananga knowing that the disaffected would be attracted and their energies contained and diverted.


If that is the case it is improbable that he ever intended to unleash it. See Scenario 1. What would have been essential in the Tuhoe negotiations was to give the negotiators all the time they needed to get the negotiations on track and followed through to a successful conclusion. And that is what happened. Whether or not the military training was part of that strategy could have been determined by asking.

An Assessment of Scenarios

In the first place the relative likelihood of the above scenarios could have been simply determined by asking. Superintendent Houmaha or any of his iwi liaison officers could have done that at any time. Negotiator Tamati Kruger would certainly have been happy to assist. The police however sidelined Houmaha and headed down the 007 James Bond track.

I personally think there was an element of Scenario 7 at play; the play acting scenario. The Walter Mitty scenario if you like. That was my initial reaction and after some reflection and evaluation I think there was an element of fantasy perhaps combined with other aims. From the viewpoint of a former military professional Scenario 6, the military contractor scenario in the October 2007 wananga, was definitely a Walter Mitty scenario. It may not have seemed that way to the participants if some of them thought it was an employment opportunity. However the demonstration of techniques was real. The likelihood of any of them going on to a career in military contracting was not.

I am entirely unconvinced by the police’s preferred Scenario 1; the armed uprising but I will look at it in more detail below.

It is unlikely that Taame Iti ever thought that he could mount a successful armed offensive. He didn’t have the right type of people, fighters rather than activists, and he didn’t have the logistic resources. He also knew that he himself was under surveillance and had been for years.

Despite police allegations that the training was conducted in remote bush locations some of it took place within Ruatoki within sight of Iti’s home. From the orientation of the cameras the police video evidence purported to show that it was in a remote bush location. It was not as secretive as the police made it out to be. That lack of secrecy would have to be factored into an assessment of the above scenarios.

Many people, including Te Putatara, knew that some military type activity was taking place as part of the wananga. No-one other than the Pakeha police was concerned. It may be that some of the police iwi liaison officers knew and were equally unconcerned.

Re Scenario 2, I always look forward to Taame Iti’s theatrical protest productions for they are always provocative, invariably entertaining and often humorous. And scary too if you are ignorant, racist and paranoid.

Scenario 3 designed to deliberately provoke a police response in unlikely for it might have been counter-productive. As it turned out it did provoke a massive response which in the end probably helped the Ngai Tuhoe negotiations towards a successful conclusion. So it cannot be ruled out entirely. There may have been some element of Scenario 3 at play but with a less deliberate, and a more “Up yours Mr Pirihimana” intent.

It doesn’t really matter which of these scenarios was the most likely. What matters is that the police had tunnel vision and didn’t consider any alternative scenarios. I personally think that there were probably elements of many of them at play, and that Scenario 8 would be a strong contender.

However as an intelligence analyst I would have looked for evidence to confirm or eliminate all of them and to determine likelihood or probability. The police didn’t.

After the exploration of the possibility space an exploration of the offensive capacity of the suspects

The Crown alleged that the four finally accused of participation in an organised criminal group were the ringleaders of the wananga (camps), which they said were designed to train people to fight for the self-governance of the Tuhoe region. Over time that changed as the police changed their story from an act or acts of terrorism, to murder and arson. But the initial assessment that justified the 15th October paramilitary operation was that they were planning an act or acts of terrorism.

Even if Scenario 1, the police scenario, came out of an anaysis as the most probable it would still need to be evalusted in detail. However at no time during Operation 8 or during the trial did anyone put that assertion to the test of probability.

What was the actual capacity and capability of the group under surveillance to carry out the criminal or other activities it is alleged they were planning. Was their war korero based in actual capability or was it fantasy, bullshit and bravado, or something else.

The security forces against which the group would be opposed

The first part of this analysis would be an assessment of the forces of the New Zealand state that would be arrayed against any armed Ngai Tuhoe group. They would fall into two categories; 1) the NZ Police, and 2) the NZ Armed Forces if called upon to give aid to the civil power.

The NZ Police could call upon the Special Tactics Group and the Armed Offenders Squads, perhaps 200 armed paramilitary officers. They would also deploy more police officers to provide command and control, intelligence, communications, cordons, and other support; perhaps another 500 officers.

The NZ Armed Forces would provide logistic support and helicopter transport in the first instance. If called upon to field combat troops they could readily deploy a 1200-man battle group consisting of an infantry battalion, an SAS squadron, supporting arms and logistic services, helicopter support and aerial surveillance assets. The aerial surveillance assets would locate and pinpoint any hostiles holed up in the bush very quickly.

The leadership of any planned uprising would surely consider what opposition it might encounter.

Number of participants

There was no analysis of the number of people that would be required to launch the alleged planned terrorist or criminal activities, and the number that would be required to combat the weight of the security forces, or at least to evade or resist their operations. If the armed insurrection moved to the cities they would need to have a network of safe houses looked after by trusted sympathisers.

How many people would be needed, including reinforcements to replace the inevitable casualties? Were there plans and equipment and facilities and funding in place to train that many people? Where would they be trained beyond the surveillance of the NZ Police?

Supply of weapons and other military equipment

The NZ Police have produced evidence showing that there were a few weapons and other equipment that could be construed as warlike. But there is no analysis of exactly what quantity and type of weaponry and other equipment might be needed to mount the alleged  activities. There is no analysis as to the likely source of that quantity and type of weaponry and warlike equipment. Where was the explosive for the bombing campaign coming from?

Given that the weapons and other equipment are said by the NZ Police to have been sourced from Trade Me and legitimate arms and other suppliers do the police contend that these sources could also provide the quantity and type of weaponry required for the alleged terrorist or criminal activities, particularly the takeover and occupation of Ngai Tuhoe traditional lands.

Have the NZ Police produced any evidence that the weaponry and equipment could be acquired by smuggling from offshore sources, or from the criminal gangs, or by theft from the military and from gun collectors?

Source of funding

There was no analysis to estimate what funding would be required to mount and sustain the alleged planned activities.

Is there any evidence that the group had access to the money needed to mount and sustain the alleged activities; whether from offshore or onshore sources? All of my evidence suggests that they were all skint. They had no money.

Logistic support

There was no analysis of the logistic support required to mount the alleged planned activities.

How was the group planning to provide food and shelter, clothing and equipment, transport and petrol, secure communications, safe houses, medical support, and ammunition resupply?

Fitness to fight

There was no analysis of the health and fitness of the participants in the alleged planned terrorist or criminal activities to indicate whether they were physically capable of those activities.

It appears from the NZ Police evidence that many of the leaders of the group were overweight and some were known to be diabetic and to have cardiac weakness, especially the alleged ringleaders.

Support from Ngai Tuhoe

Was there any robust analysis of what support any sort of armed insurrection within the Urewera area would have actually had from the majority of Ngai Tuhoe people. And whether or not there were Ngai Tuhoe people who would spill the beans to the police iwi liaison network.

Nothing, absolutely nothing

There was none of that analysis. No military specialists were brought in to advise them. It might have made the police think again. And that’s not what they wanted.

Was there an overall purpose to the wananga in the Urewera?

From the moment the police found out about the wananga they assumed that there was a strategy behind it, an overall purpose revolving around the revolutionary trash talk and the war games. I made the same assumption although unlike the police I kept an open mind about what that purpose might be. Maybe that key assumption was way off track. Maybe we were all wrong about that.

What if there was no purpose to it. What if the wananga was just an organic, evolving thing that embraced whatever the participants brought to the wananga. What if Taame Iti was just the facilitator for other people’s concerns and fantasies rather than the Che Guevara of Ngai Tuhoe.

What was Taame Iti’s usual method of operating? So now we need to back right up and compile a complete profile on Taame Iti. I’m not going to do it here but it should have been done properly, not by a bunch of Pakeha cops Googling the Web and searching through court records, but by informed and knowledgeable Maori with access to informed sources. For starters they could have looked at the principles that have guided not just his activism but also his family and community life. They would have discovered in addition to his Ngai Tuhoe nationalism and activism a strong sense of social justice, and a long history of community service out of the public eye including as a union worker and a mental health worker.

They would have discovered that there does not seem to be a great deal of deliberate strategy and planning behind his long running activism but more protest and demonstration around events as they unfold, always governed by his sense of social justice and his dedication to the Ngai Tuhoe cause. Others like Tamati Kruger are the ones who strategise and plan for Ngai Tuhoe. Prior to that the ultra-conservative Tuhoe-Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board held sway.

So if they’d looked closer at Taame Iti they might have discovered lots of ideas but no grand strategies. The principle at work here is “know thy enemy” rather than some tired old stereotype you think you know. That’s why Maori cops were needed on the job. The Taame Iti they know is a totally different person to the tired old stereotype the Pakeha cops think they know.

My investigations suggest that Taame Iti didn’t start those wananga himself and that they had been going for a while before he inherited them. What Taame seems to have done is to invite others from outside Ngai Tuhoe who in turn brought others. Looking through the lists of suspects, most of whom were not charged with anything, I recognise the names of activists who were not directly connected to Taame but were in the networks of others that he brought into the wananga.

So let’s consider another scenario. The wananga were proceeding as they had for years. Then Rangi Kemara was invited and brought his hobby of collecting firearms and other military equipment. It’s called militaria and there’s a whole community of militaria collectors out there. They have their own website. Many of them are involved in various forms of war games as part of their hobby. Tuhoe Lambert brought his experiences as a soldier and a few other attributes I will explore in a profile of him in a later post. His war games were based in the reality he knew in Vietnam. Jamie Lockett was invited and brought his obsession with the police and his bullshit and bravado and not much else.

The activists from Wellington and elsewhere brought their causes. The hot cause that united most of them at the time was the descent into a police state after 9/11, or so it seemed to them and to many others. Conveniently George W. Bush was in Australia in September 2007 and was the target of much of their ire.

The cause of the moment in the Urewera was the Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe and the claim and settlement process. These things all came together accompanied by a solid dose of wishful thinking, some trash talk, bullshit and bravado and merged and evolved into what seemed to be a conspiracy against the state. But was it?

There you go. That’s another scenario based on a different key assumption; that there was no purpose to it all. Mix that one up with elements of some of the eight scenarios above and you might get somewhere closer to the truth. And it won’t be a clean and tidy scenario with a clear cut purpose. It will be an experience without an end in sight, something like a performance in improvised theatre; making it up as it went along. That sounds more like the Taame Iti I know.

Are you any the wiser? Of course you’re not. But would you, in October 2007, have been so sure of your facts that you would have launched the cowboys in black fancy dress into an armed paramilitary operation against the whole community of Ruatoki?

Based on the evidence the police had collected by then I would have sent the local cop down the road to find out what was really going on and to tell Taame to pull his head in because he was making the Pakeha boys in blue a bit over excited. If Superintendent Wally Haumaha had not been deliberately excluded he could have told the Pakeha cops to cool it while he found out what was really going on.

Because no one knew what was going on. A few cops thought they knew. That’s what the evidence shows.

Here’s an intriguing thought. Maybe the police didn’t want to explore that far into the possibility space because they didn’t believe their own terrorism narrative anyway. That would raise some seriously embarrassing questions about why they launched the paramilitary operation, and why Helen Clark and her Cabinet condoned it and tried to justify it.. Best be seen to be dishonest and incompetent.

Links: The Operation 8 Series