Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Trouble in 'Middle Earth'

I've just been listening to a recording from yesterday evening of a programme on BBC Radio4, in the Crossing Continents strand, entitled "Trouble in paradise?". It discussed what seem to be growing racial tensions in, of all places, New Zealand. I remember hearing vaguely about this a few months ago, but New Zealand is a long way away (from the UK). Nevertheless, the programme was a real eye-opener for me, when a great deal of unfamiliar material was discussed and names brought up that I find surreal (for example, rival Maori gangs called Black Power and Mongrel Mob), but unfortunately all too grounded in reality. The programme will be available via an audio feed from the link above, for the next couple of days - until the next programme is broadcast on Thursday. There is a lengthier BBC internet article about the programme here, in case you miss the audio broadcast.

The trigger for what may be a major factor in next year's general election there is the Foreshore and Seabed Bill proposed by the country's current Labour administration, which would have the effect of nationalising these areas, by making them 'Crown Property'; as an aside, here in the UK the foreshore is already Crown Property and has always been so. In New Zealand it seems to be different, perhaps (and I speculate here) because of the provisions of the Treaty of Waitangi, signed between the British Crown and the Maori in 1840. A fuller treatment of the documents which comprise the Treaty can be found here. The crux of the current dispute is that the Maori claim that the Treaty recognised Maori ownership of the natural resources of the country, whilst granting the Crown preemption in acquiring same.

My impression of New Zealand is that they had so far managed relations between the European incomers and the indigenous inhabitants in a rather successful manner, at any rate far more successfully than in neighbouring Australia, with Maori participating much more fully in the life of modern-day New Zealand than is the case across the Tasman Sea. This happy consensus may be breaking down; a startling fact is that, coupled with the immigration into New Zealand in recent years of sizeable numbers from Asia (i.e. non-European) it is estimated that within the next thirty years the Europoean population will become a minority there; the character of the country is likely to change significantly as a result. Unfortunately all these changes will probably take many decades to develop fully, so will probably only become of international significance long after I am 'pushing up the daisies', but I will certainly be very interested to see how this interesting transformation progresses in the coming years. New Zealand is one of the few countries I haven't yet visited that I really want to see (and not just because of 'The Lord of the Rings' although that has added some topicality).

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