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Reaping the whirlwind united we stand, divided we fall: the Ngapuhi chief who says Maori are not indigenous to NZ.

David Rankin: does the name sound familiar? He is a chief and elder of Ngapuhi, a fearless warrior unafraid of controversy because he has a strong conscience and a powerful pedigreed whakapapa to back him up. David represents the culture within Maoridom of speaking your mind and knowing that the truth will set you free. Famous for a quip about lodging a treaty claim for control of the wind, Rankin spoke recently to elocal magazine editor MYKELJON WINCKEL

Q: "You recently voiced support for historians who claim that New Zealand was settled much earlier than commonly accepted. Are you merely supporting free speech and political incorrectness, or do you genuinely believe that there were other civilizations here in NZ before the arrival of Kupe circa 1250AD?"

DR: "Let me just start off and say this, Maori are not the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. There were many other races already living here long before Kupe arrived. I am his direct descendant and I know from our oral history passed down 44 generations. I believe this needs to be investigated further because every Maori community talks about Waitaha, Turehu and Patupaiarehe. This goes hand-in-hand with the other research. As Maori, we have come to a time of maturity where we need to debate these issues. I want to get to a genuine consensus about this issue, although I think academics want it to disappear. If we start talking about it and investigating it, it's an exciting opportunity to explore.

My ancestors like Kupe came to the Hokianga in search of other people. In the Waima ranges, there was a pipi shelter on the mountains, and the kuia used to talk about the fair skinned people up there. A lot of people identify as Paniora (translated as Spaniard), indicating that the Portuguese and Spanish washed up on ancient ships in Northland. In 2002, I went to the Austronesian Leaders Conference in Taiwan and we discussed similarities with Taiwanese Aborigines. We traced our origins and the Maori and Polynesian connection to China. All the leaders such as myself and Matiu Rei, Aborigines, Solomon islanders, Rapa Nui and Hawaiians were all interested in early settlement theories. There is a lot of writing about the whole ancestral link.

Really, Maori didn't navigate here, we came on a tidal drift. Te Tai Tokerau is actually the tidal drift from the Tokelau islands. When my ancestors arrived at the shores of Aotearoa, there were people here to greet them. The question is: who are those people? It goes hand-in-hand with our oral history. There are questions written by Ian Wishart, Noel Hilliam and others that need to be answered."

Q: "What do you think the ramifications would be if Maori appeared not to be the indigenous people of New Zealand?"

DR: "That would put all our treaty claims in question and our indigenous rights at the UN. It would open up a whole can of worms. I do believe if we start approaching it the right way other Maori would be keen to discuss it. I think there has been a rot been allowed to set in to Maoridom since the Lange government took power in the early 1980's. In many ways, all the changes that have taken place have taken the basic responsibility away, their mana, from being true Maori, like working for a living, educating themselves and their families, leading strong lives and observing the laws of the land. If you are able to work then work! Help your fellow Maori and Pakehas be successful in life. Being Maori and, let's face it, you only need to be 32% by government standards, does not mean you need to take the easy way out and have your hand out. I have never taken anything from the government, I am self made, strong and I say stop the funding. Maori need to return to the warriors they once were. It may be hard at first but intergenerational beneficiaries are embarrassing to my culture."

Q: "What does the word 'indigenous' mean to you?"

DR: "Because I can be politically incorrect, it's more of a hippie, New Age, feel-good academic word. It's an airy fairy thing. Really, in Maori society in the past, it was about survival of the fittest, like all human beings.

It's about what every individual perceives, it's what is important to them, it's your spiritual side. It's all about the individual.

Q: "Tell me about the Hone Heke Foundation. What are its aims/purpose?"

DR: "To provide scholarship for young Ngapuhi. It's about how we improve the lot of our people, not from the perspective of handouts, but about thinking in a different direction and getting Maori to be active participants in our society. For Maori development, I have a capitalist approach. It's about how much Maori can develop from the sweat of their own brows. I'm a self-made man, a property developer. I don't believe in handouts."

Q: "Some would say that you are a moderate Maori voice and that you balance the media presence of Labour and Maori Party-Maori. Is it fair to label you a moderate?"

DR: "It's the centre ground between right and left. I like hard right views and I like hard left views because I like debate. That's how real Maori society works. You debate the issues to find common ground."

Q: "What have the media got wrong about Ngapuhi in the past?"

DR: "The media's got wrong that we're a failing people, that we're not getting anywhere. They only focus on Waitangi Day crazy dogs. They never report about the hundreds of Maori who live in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby who are amongst the top 1% of earners in the country. These are highly successful business people who have low profiles."

Q: "Yvonne Tahana of the NZ Herald claimed in 2008 that Te Matarahurahu wants to privatise control of the Waitangi grounds. What is Te Matarahurahu's policy on the Waitangi grounds?"

DR: "The Waitangi treaty grounds should have been investigated prior to the signing of the Treaty. The owner of the grounds is actually Te Matarahurahu: we are a very smart and savvy people. We were the first subtribe to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. We realise that there are business opportunities and an economic base to create at Waitangi."

Q: "What do you think about the privatisation of state-owned enterprises/assets?"

DR: "As a New Zealander: I don't like the privatisation. I like SOEs to remain in the hands of all New Zealanders. I don't like the sale of power companies. I've seen the railways and Telecom all go before. Now another's passing. I don't want our assets sold. People have invested in these things: no one has a right to sell our family silver, our inheritance."

Q: "A lot of media were alarmed when you proposed to lodge a WAI claim for control of the wind. What's the latest news on this policy?"

DR: "That claim was put forward as an act of defiance, a protest against the sale of our assets. Once sold, we would have to look at who actually owns the resource. A lot of Kiwis took it the wrong way instead of asking themselves, what is this guy actually saying?"

Q: "You challenged the operators of Te Tii Marae over charging Waitangi Day visitors. What has been the result of this?"

DR: "The marae gets taken over by allsorts. On Waitangi Day, all the village idiots come out. Everyone must be able to see what goes on on Waitangi Day and media are required on the marae because they transmit our aspirations. By closing them off, you're blocking off New Zealanders and Maori around the country."

Q: "What is your vision for a utopian New Zealand?"

DR: "As Maori, we shouldn't be at the bottom of the heap. We should be active participants in society. We have to enhance and take on everything that is Pakeha to participate. At the end of the day it is a Pakeha world and we can't hide in our valleys. We're living in the most changing time ever: benefits, free hospitals and education may not exist."

Q: "What trends should New Zealand steer clear of?"

DR: "Selling off our SOE's to overseas investors. I buy properties all the time, I'm now trying to compete against Pakeha guys in suits at auctions bidding against me who are a front for overseas Chinese investors.

Because I'm a capitalist, I want everything that gives me advantage. I don't like policies that punish the rich because, when you punish the rich, the rich will punish the poor. An example is the Capital Gains Tax. You need to hold onto your rich and your educated people."

Q: "What else do you have to say about New Zealand?"

DR: "I don't want to sound like Pauline Hanson but you cannot bring in refugees that can't add value to our country. I'm not aligned with any political party. David Shearer is invisible; he hasn't given me anything to agree on! I don't agree with anything the Green Party says because we'll become so politically correct it will suffocate us. I like hard line policies. Every single person in this country must produce. I don't mind paying for the sick and elderly but every able bodied person should go to work."

Q: "A cultural divide in NZ is being felt. What can we do to fix it?"

DR: "That's a difficult question. So many disparities have been created since the Lange government, not only between Maori and Pakeha but but also Maori against Maori. We've seen new upper echelons of Maori society created but nothing filtering down to the poor. I do see hope in young people, I do believe that young Maori and Europeans are integrating ... we are seeing the change, it will come, we will get back to the notion of nation and the notion that we actually need each other. We should still celebrate our 'bipolar' society and not embrace our multicultural society too quickly because at the end of the day time will change everything. I see change in young Maori, they are successful now, masses are coming out of university, masses have got jobs and are competing with Europeans and Europeans are integrating with Maori."

Q: "Competing with or against?"

DR: "In European society, Europeans compete against each other anyway, to be the best. We don't want to have a handicapped past. Most of my children can cut it in the Pakeha world and that's the new direction that we're going to go."

Q: "What is Pakeha culture?"

DR: Rugby sevens is Pakeha culture; Pakeha is the culture of the 21st century. The Chinese, the Indians want Pakeha culture, it's only Maori that don't want Pakeha culture. Pakeha culture is the culture of money, and that is a very important culture to aspire to. My Maori culture is my spiritual side. I myself will compete against Pakeha in any situation and I can operate in that world quite easily. It's a powerful culture and English is the language of money. Even the Chinese with all of their money still want to be Pakeha."

Q: "Do you think NZ spawns racism?"

DR: "It can be both ways. Chinese can be racist against Pakeha, Maori can be racist against Chinese, Pacific Islanders can be racist against Maori. Racism isn't about stereotyping, it's an individual thing. I'm wondering if Hone Harawira is racist because he comes from a minority ... I know lots of Chinese who don't like Maori ... It's human nature, it's all about being human."

Q: "Many consider the Waitangi Tribunal to be a racist environment were Maori can't claim against Maori for injustices, and Pakeha don't get a hearing."

DR: "It wasn't set up by Maori, it was set up by Pakeha. You can't blame Maori, it's actually the politically correct Pakeha ... the tribunal a lot of times doesn't work, a lot of the times it's actually divisive so no wonder it has that reputation. If it were up to me I would not have started it in the first place as Maori are not the indigenous people of this country."

Q: "The current government wants to close historical Treaty claims by 2020. What are your thoughts on that?"

DR: "If they can resolve them and get them out of the way, that is good. I'm glad they've negotiated with Tuhoe so we'll no longer see nonsensical behaviour from Tame Iti. Once we've settled, there will be no comeback. Once you start blaming people, you don't have ground. Get [your tribe's settlement] out of the way. I don't think it's really worked for the Maori (The Waitangi Tribunal) as it has made a handful very, very, wealthy and not benefited the Iwi's overall. The gravy train has got to stop."

Q: "What do you think of the current administration of the Waitangi Tribunal and its decisions?"

DR: "It's a grey area, I think that it makes a lot of recommendations but it's a toothless tiger. If we wait around thinking that we will get rich from treaty settlements, it's a waste of time, being given your own thing back. I absolutely take my hat off to (Ngai Tahu leaders) Mark Solomon and Tipene O'Regan because they have made wise decisions for their people and they can compete with and outdo Pakeha. Tainui's leader slows them down. Ngai Tahu think like Europeans and they're not into nepotism and their attitude is 'The right person for the right job.'"

Q: "What message do you want to get out to the 200,000 people reading this?"

DR: "We have to recondition our mindset and think about the changes that are going on in our country. I think as Maori and Pakeha we have to start looking at our relationship because we are living in a multicultural society. The rights of Maori and Pakeha are becoming less because the new immigrants coming into our country have exactly the same rights as people who have paid taxes for generations. We have to work closely with our treaty partners and embrace each other for a strong future, after all it's the people who make the country not the other way around."

Q: "Does NZ need a new constitution?"

DR: "Does the Treaty even work? The Treaty is like a marriage licence to say that two partners will behave themselves ... I think [a new constitution] is just a waste of money, we have to start focusing on what is best for this country because we're living in austere, changing times and in ten years the face of NZ will be entirely different and we will be following the rules of a new master. We can't compete. We have lived through the best times of this country and we have to be prepared for not very good times in the future."

Q: "Who is the new master?"

DR: "We're seeing the demise of the West and the rise of the East and you just can't compete against the numbers, and people that train their children from the age of four. We've become a lax society while the new masters go to work seven days a week. These are the new masters of the world, focused on business opportunities and making money. Look at America; look at Europe--they are falling over, and our lifestyle is going to change. It frightens me that if you don't work hard, save your money and buy property and assets we will live in a new society of very rich and very poor. Everything we've grown up with that matters to us--free education, free hospitals--they're not going to be there, because we can't compete."

This interview originally ran in the March edition of elocal magazine, and can be found on their website, elocal. co.nz. Elocal publishes stories and features relevant to the Auckland market
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Author:Winckel, Mykeljon
Publication:Investigate HIS
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:8NEWZ
Date:Jun 1, 2013
Words:2652
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