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Mike's Editorial: Waitangi Tribunal oversteps the mark

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| Thursday, October 25, 2012 12:08 PM

Mike's Editorial: Waitangi Tribunal oversteps the mark

The Waitangi Tribunal’s latest report looks into the Urewera National Park area and the people involved, mainly Tuhoe. We touched on this yesterday - it’s a three parter. Why? I don’t know but it lays out all that was done to the people of that area and the Government and Tuhoe have by and large settled it and the park becomes a special legal entity, there’s cash and there’s the apology.

But the report also tells us, almost instructs in how we need to be reacting to this. It says we should be ashamed. I have thought about it and I still cannot for the life of me work out how I could do that. How can you be ashamed of events you had no part of, no knowledge of, weren’t there, weren’t born, you have no connection, no family ties, nothing. You can think it was wrong or a mistake or something that needs rectifying. But I always connected shame with direct involvement or association like you did it, you were there, you know the perpetrator or you condoned it. That can bring shame. Is a government department, which is all the tribunal is, really now in the business of telling us how to feel? And why would they think they have that right?

The tribunal concept set up all those years ago was a generous concept and even if you supported it, you have to have wondered by now whether the whole thing hasn’t got wildly out of hand. Did a specific set of grievances need an entire tribunal as opposed to the other grievances we have over things like privacy and government and law who merely need an ombudsman or a commissioner? And does a tribunal, by becoming so activist in their findings and language, do the cause and our country any good by backing one side to the detriment of the other by instructing us to feel certain emotions around any given outcome, emotions in reaction to an event none of us had the slightest part in?

Perhaps all this reparation and guilt talk is in part designed to remind us of past mistakes so as we never make them again, which as a cause in itself isn’t the end of the world. But is it really necessary? Can anyone honestly say the wrongs committed generations ago were ever really in any danger of happening in our life time? That the colonial simplicity and aggression of those days still lingers in any tangible fashion that would somehow be able to be enacted in the 21st century?

I would’ve thought it was exactly the opposite. All I’ve know my entire life is a country that is bending over backwards to put things right, to make things better. Apologies and money and land is one thing. Giving back what was taken seems the right thing to do. But making me feel bad about it or at least trying to is guilt ridden, PC, hand ringing of the worst order. The tribunal is over stepping its mark by a large measure.

Photo: NZ Herald

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