8 Jun 2021

Goldsmith colonisation comments find little support from colleagues

4:58 pm on 8 June 2021

National Party MP Paul Goldsmith has received next to no support from his colleagues for his comment that colonisation was "on balance" a good thing for Māori because it led to the creation of New Zealand.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

In a televised interview at the weekend, Goldsmith said good and bad came with colonisation in the 19th century but, on balance, it had been good for Māori.

In the wake of public backlash, he tempered his comments when asked if he stood by what he said today.

"I think the fundamental point I'm trying to make is that when we stand back and look at New Zealand and what we've created, which is the result of colonisation, I think it's a good thing.

"I'm proud of New Zealand, I'm proud of what we've achieved."

He said it did not "diminish" the "harsh experience" of Māori but he was positive about New Zealand "on balance".

There were still "challenges" for New Zealand, he said, when questioned about how Māori could be advantaged by colonisation, considering the health and housing statistics.

Māori on average die seven years younger than non-Māori, and the over 11,000 Māori on the social housing waitlist - accounting for about half the list.

University of Auckland professor of Māori studies Margaret Mutu said the latter statistic is a result of Māori having 95 percent of their whenua taken from them, which "brutally and violently dispossessed Māori".

"That brutality and violence did include the murder, rape, pillage of our people; invasions of our terrorities, having war declared on us - so I doubt very much there is a lot of benefit from that."

Professor Mutu said Goldsmith had ignored the research and findings of the Waitangi Tribunal and other information that is "readily available for him" on the impacts of colonisation on Māori.

There was little support from within the National caucus for Goldsmith's position.

"I don't know that I would say that, but I do think that New Zealand today is significantly better than many other countries," leader Judith Collins said.

She said while "most colonised people don't feel that colonisation works well for them", she was proud of how New Zealand had fought very hard to come together.

She was comfortable that Goldsmith had clarified his point, which was that he was proud of New Zealand.

National MP Matt Doocey said it had to be accepted that "colonisation has had some negative impact on Māori".

Todd Muller said it was "on balance, a very brutal time for Māori".

Christopher Luxon was unequivocal that "colonisation was not good for Māori as we saw with breaches of the Treaty and we saw with Land Wars as well."

On the other side of the house, Minister of Māori Development Willie Jackson was unsurprised by Goldsmith's comments, and said the view that "Māori should be grateful" was the track National were going down, reminiscent of former leaders like Don Brash.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said it was "really sad" the National Party was resorting to that type of politics.

"Paul knows exactly what he's doing, he's trying to ignite its dangerous presence, that's been coming out of this party for the last three or four weeks, we've been warning about our concerns about how they're emboldening racists and emboldening this type of low-level debate."

"It's the twilight politicking of someone trying to find a relevant audience," she said.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said Goldsmith's comments were "abhorrent" and "undermining the harmful impacts of colonisation".

Goldmsith has found at least one ally in the house in ACT Party leader David Seymour.

"I think there was always going to be an impact when New Zealand reconnected with the world," Seymour said. "That's not saying that it's justified, it's about balancing everything that's happened.

"The question is on balance, has colonisation been a good thing, and the answer is yes, because New Zealand is one of the most successful societies in human history to grow up in today," he said.

When asked how Māori dying seven years younger than non-Māori was good for them, he said it did need to be improved, but framing everything in light of colonisation was not going to solve it.

When asked what the benefits of colonisation were, he said parliamentary democracy and the court system.

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