Rore Kahu – Soaring Eagle of the Spirit

Rore Kahu

Rore Kahu

This week on Christmas Day we come to the 200 year anniversary of the proclamation of Te Harinui in New Zealand.  A beautiful structure named Rore Kahu – soaring eagle – has been established on the hill top at Rangihoua overlooking the bay where Rev Samuel Marsden came ashore and preached glad tidings of great joy. It is aptly named, for from that beginning the Spirit took flight in our land.

No doubt the reporting this week will focus on the social and cultural significance of this event. In particular it will be celebrated as the beginning of Maori and European relationship, and the start of the journey to the Treaty. And of course it was. But the prime significance of this historic event was neither social or cultural. It was spiritual.

Christmas Day 1814 was the moment when the transforming and redemptive power of Te Rongopai – the good news of Jesus Christ – found its way to these islands at the uttermost ends of the earth. Much social, cultural and even political change followed. But the underlying dynamism driving it all was essentially spiritual.

Our secular historians struggle with this. However they cannot deny the huge move of Christianity across New Zealand. The historical records speak for themselves. Within twenty years of Marsden’s first visit, tens of thousands of Maori were in regular attendance at church services from Paihia to Kapiti to the East Cape. Even Michael King in his Penguin history of New Zealand had to acknowledge that by the 1830s “Te Atua, the God of the Bible was on the move”.

And this was no mere pragmatic adaptation of European cultural form. Christianity found authentic indigenous expression in places all over New Zealand before missionaries had even been there. Slaves liberated in the Bay of Islands had taken the message back to their own tribes and faith sprang up wherever they went. And it was genuine faith. The evidence for this abounds in the stories that have come down to us.

There was Far North chief Nopera Panakareao who sent a gold sovereign to Paihia for his personal copy of the the newly printed Maori New Testament. There was Tamihana Te Rauparaha who with his cousin Matene and friends retreated to Kapiti Island to study, memorise and pray over the mere fragments of Bible they had obtained. There was Wiremu Tamihana, the Maori kingmaker, who set up the Christian village of Peria near Matamata and who lived and died with his Bible in his hands.

These Maori leaders and many others like them, bear witness to the foundational spiritual reality that was established at Rangihoua on Christmas Day 1814. Like so many before them across the centuries, this was a people responding to the love of God. Te Harinui was real. It still is. The One born in Bethlehem is still changing the world, one heart at a time.

May His Spirit soar again in our nation.

Ewen McQueen
20 December 2014

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Parliamentary prayer should reflect our spiritual DNA

Parliamentary MaceNews today that the Speaker of the House the Hon David Carter is considering changes to the Parliamentary prayer. The NZ Herald reports the decision about a change could be as early as next week. This in spite of no public debate about the issue.

Parliament belongs to all New Zealanders. These sorts of changes may seem minor to some, but they are not. They are decisions about our national identity – about the foundational values that define who we are.  In this context, the rituals and symbols of Parliament are important cultural touchstones. Changes to them should not be made lightly. They should certainly not be made after a short consultation with a few MPs and no public input.

What is even more disappointing however, is the continual drive to expunge all traces of Christianity from our culture. This move comes at a time when we are about to celebrate 200 years since Te Harinui, glad tidings of great joy, was first preached on these shores. The bicentenary of Samuel Marsden’s famous service at Rangihoua on Christmas Day 1814 is just two weeks away. This is a time we should be reflecting on our spiritual heritage with gratitude – not seeking to further secularise our nation.

Indeed we wouldn’t even have the nation we enjoy today were it not for the influence that Christianity had on early New Zealand. Te Harinui completely transformed these islands and laid the foundation for the Treaty (refer my ODT article from Waitangi Day this year). The secularists may not like it but the historical reality is that New Zealand was birthed out of the Judeo-Christian faith. It is in our spiritual DNA.

So rather than trying to deny who we really are, our MPs should take the opportunity to honour the One whose influence helped establish constitutional government and Parliamentary democracy in our land. That would be the most fitting response to the upcoming milestone in our nation’s journey.

Ewen McQueen
December 2014

Email Hon David Carter and your MP – Parliament contact list 

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Nats one-eyed on housing

Blenheim Home May 1960The National Government has lost perspective. That’s what happens when you cover one eye.

With data today showing that Auckland house prices are surging upwards faster than ever, it is clear that focusing only on supply is not working. As I noted back in April – any market is about both supply AND demand. Its economics 1.01.

The Hon Nick Smith is doing great work on increasing housing supply. But even he admits that will be a long term solution. The problem is that in the short term, demand is pushing prices to ridiculous levels. And once prices rise it is much harder to get them back down. It’s what economists call the problem of “sticky prices”. They go up relatively easily, but are much harder to deflate. This is because rather than accept a lower price, vendors simply withdraw from the market and wait.

This means every month that the Govt does nothing to address demand, prices are getting locked in to ever higher levels. The impact is not only on first home buyers. Inevitably rents have to rise to cover the cost of capital invested in rental housing – and that hits those who can least afford it. When average weekly rents are nearly as high as the minimum wage, and often higher than benefits, it is little wonder that poverty is a growing problem.

When as reported in the NZ Herald today that 8,500 New Zealand homes are listed on a Chinese website for off-shore buyers it is also clear that there is an issue with foreign demand. Even if they only make a small portion of the overall demand it only takes a few well heeled buyers at the margin to propel the whole market upwards. Ask anyone who has been to an auction.

As I also noted back in April – a Holland or Holyoake National government would never have sat on its hands whilst foreign buyers pushed housing out of reach of ordinary New Zealanders. Neither should this one. Forget the one-eyed unbelief about foreign buyers. Open both eyes and do something.

Ewen McQueen
December 2014

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Well done Warehouse for dumping R18 videos

The Warehouse announced today that it was terminating all sales of R18 videos and computer games. (NZ Herald – Warehouse R18 ban) It comes on the back of the latest version of Grand Theft Auto sinking into new realms of sleaze, violence and depravity. The Warehouse didn’t want to sell it. Good on them.

When corporates make such decisions they lead the way on social responsibility and contribute to building a cohesive and family friendly society in New Zealand. They also reinforce that we all have choices. We don’t have to wait for the government to regulate everything.

It would be great if other corporates took up the challenge. How about TVNZ and Mediaworks voluntarily ditching the daily diet of mind numbing soaps they serve up which normalise lowest common denominator relationship morality. These constantly wash away at the ethical infrastructure that maintains resilient family life in our country. In the long run such programmes probably do far more damage than the blatantly nasty R18 products terminated by the Warehouse.

The only question mark about the Warehouse’s decision is their rationale that R18 games and videos don’t align with their family friendly “branding”. Does this mean if they change their branding it would be OK ? It seems that basic ethics is no longer good enough as the basis for doing the right thing.

However even if only for branding – the Warehouse has done the right thing. They should be commended.

Ewen McQueen
November 2014

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Waitangi Tribunal on sovereignty – fashionable but flawed

When scholarship becomes focused on what is fashionable rather than what is true then trouble is ahead. Unfortunately that is precisely where the Waitangi Tribunal is taking us with the so called “modern scholarship” it has used to declare that Maori retained sovereignty in spite of signing a Treaty which clearly states otherwise.

We should not be surprised. As I noted two years ago (“One sun in the sky” – NZ Herald 22.01.13) the claim that sovereignty was not ceded has become increasingly fashionable among certain academics, activists and bureaucrats ever since the Court of Appeal launched the concept of “partnership” into the Treaty narrative in 1987. The same Court judgement noted that “the Maori people have undertaken a duty of loyalty to the Queen, (and) full acceptance of her Government”. This part of the judgement is somewhat less regarded but it far better reflects the facts of history.

William Colenso was present at the Treaty signing and his notes of proceedings are the prime source quoted by historians. They are freely available online at the NZ Electronic Text Centre. Any honest reading will find no trace of the power-sharing, partnership concept now being endorsed by the Tribunal. Rather they show a group of initially wary and reluctant chiefs eventually deciding that their best interests lay in establishing the mana of the Queen as the supreme authority in the land. Regardless of what some may want to believe today – this was what was agreed.

Sir Apirana Ngata

Sir Apirana Ngata

It was also the commonly accepted understanding of the Treaty for nearly 150 years until the modern revisionists came to the fore. For instance in 1922 we find Sir Apirana Ngata explaining the Treaty in very clear terms. Speaking of the how the Treaty impacted on the authority held by the chiefs he wrote,

“It was the chiefs who bespoke the land and gave it away. They had the power even for life or death. These were the powers they surrendered to the Queen. This was the understanding of each tribe. The main purport was the transferring of the authority of the Maori chiefs for making laws for their respective tribes and sub-tribes under the Treaty of Waitangi to the Queen of England for ever.”  (Sir Apirana Ngata, 1922)

The Waitangi Tribunal has played an important role in progressing justice for Maori unfairly alienated from land and resources. However on this issue Ngata’s words stand testament as to how far the Tribunal has missed the mark.

Ewen McQueen
November 2014

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Why neither National or Labour will solve child poverty

More growth – or more redistribution. These are the two main themes offered into the child poverty debate by parties across the political spectrum in New Zealand. Both are necessary to some degree. However both will also fall well short of making a significant and sustainable difference to poverty in our nation.

The reason is that both approaches are economics based – but what has driven the increase in poverty in New Zealand over the last 40 years is not related to economics. Over that time we have had governments with both centre-right and centre-left economic programmes. Poverty remains.

If economic growth was the answer then we would expect to see real progress. In 1997 our annual GDP was $94billion. Today it is $230billion. The economic cake has grown. Poverty remains.

If redistribution was the answer we would also expect to see progress. The size of the cake pieces being shared have grown with a major expansion in spending on public services. In 1997 we spent $5billion on public health. This year we will spend $14billion. Annual education spending was $5billion and is now $12billion.  Social welfare was $12billlion and is now $22billion every year.

Even allowing for inflation and population growth, all the above figures show a significant increase in real GPD and public spending per capita. And yet poverty remains and indeed has become entrenched.

Economic prescriptions of whatever colour are clearly not going to solve this issue.

As it happens in 1997 we were having a national conversation on poverty. At the time I contributed to the debate via the New Zealand Herald – Poverty – it’s not a lack of jobs, it’s a lack of fathers. Sadly, 17 years on the analysis remains relevant. It will remain relevant in another 17 years unless our leaders have started the process of rebuilding family life in New Zealand.

And that is not about economics – it’s about values.

Ewen McQueen
October 2014

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New Zealand’s lost Christian legacy

Wiremu-Tamihana

Wiremu Tamihana – by Gottfried Lindauer               Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Many New Zealanders question if our nation ever had a strong heritage of Christian faith. Wiremu Tamihana is the answer to their doubts.

As a young Ngati Haua chief, Tamihana found faith in the early 1830s under the teaching of the CMS missionaries in Matamata. He renounced warfare and instead led his tribe on a different path – establishing the Christian villages of Tapiri and Peria. They included farms, houses, a flour mill, a school and a church that could accommodate 1,000 (perhaps New Zeland’s first so called “mega-church”).

Today you can visit the sites by following Peria Road out of Matamata and looking for the Matamata Historical Society plaques. Most people on this road are looking for Hobbiton – little do they realise it is the road to a far more significant but little known part of New Zealand’s lost Christian legacy.

Wiremu Tamihana went on to become a key player in establishing the Maori King movement. Indeed he was known as the kingmaker and presided over the coronation of the first king Potatau Te Wherowhero with prayer and Bible readings. It was a movement he hoped would bring unity among Maori and help prevent the ongoing alienation of Maori land by reinforcing chiefly authority.

Some might say it was a strategic mistake to set up another “King” rather than simply calling the new leader a paramount chief. The settler government used the formation of the Maori King as evidence of a rebellion against the sovereignty of the Crown. On this basis an inevitable conflict ensued with dire consequences for Maori – including the disintegration and dispersion of Tamihana’s Christian communities in the Waikato.

Perhaps the label “king” was a mistake. However Wiremu Tamihana never was a sly political strategist. He was simply a humble Christian chief who tried to lead his people in the ways of justice and righteousness. As the land now returns to his people, may his legacy of faith also.

Ewen McQueen
October 2014

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