There has been well-justified anger that Iwi have been supported by the police in setting up roadblocks. Rāhui, a prohibition on a particular activity occurring, are being instigated by Iwi and then illegally enforced by the police. The principles of equality before the law are disappearing as are the norms of policing.
Evidently, something was going seriously wrong in New Zealand when the police allowed and supported illegal roadblocks set up by Iwi (for overseas readers, these are Maori tribal groups). In a move fitting of a banana republic, the Labour government then provided legislative support for these illegal roadblocks but, until then, the police supported and sanctioned unlawful activity. This support tells us much about the politicisation of the police. It also highlights the direction in which New Zealand is travelling under the divisive He Puapua agenda of Labour.
The roadblocks are just one example of the police following Iwi’s direction and supporting unlawful movement restrictions. For some time, the police have been putting the force of law behind Rāhui. Indeed, the roadblocks are themselves cloaked under the mantle of Rāhui. In essence, Rāhui is a temporary prohibition of access or use. In practice, in addition to the Covid related usage, these prohibitions, issued by Iwis, are being used to prohibit access to places like beaches or rivers. Below are some examples in which the police have declared Rāhui.
- Missing persons, Manawatu river: “A rāhui was placed on the river by kaumātua Manu Kawana, extending from the Ashhurst Bridge to Ōpiki. No-one but search and rescues teams can enter the water until it is lifted.”
- Drowning, Napier: “A rāhui is expected to be put in place and further details will be provided once available.”
- Diving death, Hawkes Bay: “Central Hawkes Bay District Council said in a statement a rahui has been put in place to respect the deceased.”
- Missing kayaker, Wellington: “A rāhui has been put in place by Te Āti Awa, following the suspension of the search for the missing kayaker in Wellington.” Note, the source of the quote is the police website.
As is evident in the examples, police (and other authorities) apply Rāhui for situations where people have died, are missing, etc. In each case, the police declare prohibitions of access to areas for all people, and there is no legal basis for this whatsoever. Thus, their actions are illegal. In one case, the police have even allowed the erection of a fence to block access to a wharf to enforce a Rāhui. There are some legislative provisions for Rāhui, but those provisions do not allow for what the police are doing. The conditions are specific and apply to situations such as a temporary halt to fishing if fish stocks are falling to low levels. They have no legal standing outside of these narrow provisions. And, of course, the heavily politicised New Zealand police seem to be quite determined to extend their illegal support of Rāhui.
Nevertheless, as can be seen from the examples above, Rāhui are increasingly commonplace, and the police put the weight of state power behind them. A straightforward way to understand how egregious abuse of power is taking place is to ask what would happen if, for example, an Anglican priest (or a Buddhist Monk, etc.) were to demand a temporary ban on using a particular area on religious principles. Most people would reasonably view the demand as absurd, and all would ignore it except perhaps devoted followers of the religion. The same should be the case with Rāhui. Of course, an Iwi should be able to declare a Rāhui, but that declaration should have absolutely no standing for anyone who wishes to ignore it.
What should be very apparent from the police enforcing Rāhui is that New Zealand police are now entirely politicised to such a degree that they will support illegal activity for the right political cause. More than this, we can also see the emerging divide in New Zealand. An Iwi leader should have no higher status than any other person in New Zealand concerning state support, action, etc. For example, a religious leader may be important to their followers but should have no special status with the state (a point made by others). The same should be the case for Iwi leaders. From the state’s point of view, they should be ordinary citizens like all other ordinary citizens. However, when the police grant Iwi leaders the power to declare a Rāhui and then illegally enforce the Rāhui, they are given a special status. This special status is not just an affront to the principles of liberal democracy, which is supposed to be the foundation of New Zealand governance – it is also just plain stupid.
It is easy to illustrate the stupidity of enforcing Rāhui with a hypothetical example. Imagine an ordinary Kiwi family, for whom the highlight of the year is their holiday at the beach. So they save hard to pay for the holiday and rent a house next to a beach. They arrive at their rental and, on their arrival, the local Iwi declare a Rāhui on the beach for the next five days. How will those people feel about it? The honest and common sense answer is that they will not be happy. The answer provided by the deluded, although they would never put it so bluntly, is that they must accept the special status of Iwi and thus, there is no cause to be unhappy.
Of course, the followers of identity politics will claim that any questioning of any special status given to Iwi leaders is racist. However, they cannot see that the special status is real racism. It is a status based on racial identity group. Furthermore, the same people who will make such an accusation will claim they are fighting racism. Instead, in pushing for the special status of Iwi leaders, they will only cause the kind of resentment that will, in the end, foster racism. Again, think of how the Rāhui in the example ruined the family’s holiday. If this is one incident amongst many, which will be the case if the government enacts He Puapua, there will be growing resentment.
In 2018, the ethnicity of New Zealand was 70% European, 16.5% Maori, 15% Asian, 8% Pacific peoples, and ‘others’ made up the rest. Projections show that the future will see an even more significant proportion of Asian Kiwis and no doubt increases in ‘other’ ethnicity. All of us live in the same country, and all of us should have equal status in the eyes of the state. This equality is the only way New Zealand can create a harmonious and flourishing country. Unfortunately, the growing implementation of divisive identity-based policy can only mean that New Zealand will eventually fracture based on identity, and there can be no worse outcome than that. And it is the opposite of racism to say that policy implementation based on ethnic identity is wrong.
Reference: Wheen, N., & Ruru, J. (2011). Providing for rāhui in the law of Aotearoa New Zealand. The Journal of the Polynesian Society, 169-182.