The New Zealand wars
Why do they matter?
The government and people of New Zealand have been involved in a remarkable number of wars over the past 175 years, though their commitment to most of those wars has been questionable. The wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan were conducted reluctantly, in token fashion, and enjoyed little popular support. Earlier wars, in Malaya and Korea were not particularly popular, and were actively opposed by the peace and anti-imperialist movements. The Second World War was the last truly popular war, because it was the last war during which European New Zealanders saw themselves more as part and parcel of the British Empire than as an independent South Pacific nation. Even then it was not an entirely popular war, and the Labour government of the time needed to impose conscription, political censorship and strict laws against sedition in order to maintain political stability and military effectiveness for the duration.
Going back another two decades, from a New Zealand point of view, the First World War, the "Great War" as it was at the time would have been better termed "the Great Imperial War" for it began just a decade after the "high tide" of British Imperial sentiment in New Zealand. British imperialism did not loom large in New Zealand before the 1880s. It developed strongly through the latter years of Queen Victoria's reign, then began to wane through the Edwardian era as New Zealanders began once more to perceive themselves as a separate people, not primarily, necessarily or exclusively British. These changes owed nothing to the personality or character of British monarchs, however. They were a response to changing conditions of the New Zealand economy and increasing wealth which allowed and encouraged the development of "high culture" in the colony. Through the first half the nineteenth century New Zealand produced a broad range of manufactures and primary produce for domestic consumption. Trade, such as it was, was largely conducted with Australia. With refrigerated shipping, the scope of the economy progressively narrowed and became heavily dependent on the export of butter, cheese, frozen meat and wool to Britain, in exchange for British manufactured goods. At the same time, a broad stratum of European New Zealanders had the wealth and leisure to indulge in cultural pursuits which re-connected them to the the attitudes, interests and values of the leisured classes of Great Britain. In these circumstances it is hardly surprising that New Zealanders began to see themselves as subjects of the British empire, and were willing to join in wars which were deemed necessary to defend and expand that empire. The first such was the South African war, now known as the Boer war. New Zealand involvement in the South African war depended entirely on the formation of a class of affluent pastoral farmers, who were committed to the ideals of empire, and who could afford to send their young men, horses and equipage to make war on peasant farmers in a distant land who had no desire to become subject to the British crown. The Boer war marked the high point of mindless, jingoistic, middle class British imperialism in New Zealand. It was to be followed some fifteen years later by the "Great War" or First World War which marked a stage in the remorseless decline of imperial sentiment among New Zealanders of all classes, but most particularly of the working class.
This "Great War" has been singled out by the New Zealand political establishment as the war that supposedly defined the New Zealand national identity. More particularly, one short and ill-fated campaign in this four year war, the Gallipoli campaign, is credited with the birth of a nation. This is curious, because the Great War was not a New Zealand war as such. It was an imperial war in which New Zealand participated almost regardless of its own national interest. Why the Great War, and why the Gallipoli campaign? There is no single answer to that question. Among the reasons that can be given is that the Great War was a relatively popular war in which New Zealanders were seen to be doing their duty by a greater power - in this case, Great Britain. It also followed shortly after, albeit only very shortly after, the peak of imperialist sentiment in New Zealand. Thus a significant fraction of the working class actively resisted military conscription in particular and the war in general, and even among those who served there was some slight, tentative, even ironic expression of a distinctive New Zealand national character and interests during the course of the war. But despite the great loss of life, the Great War did not greatly change New Zealand, in the way that it changed, for example, Russia or Germany which suffered massive political and social upheavals. If we were to think of New Zealand as a tree, it was as though a storm had passed through, ripping off a massive branch. In the first decade after the war the damage was painfully conspicuous, but after the passage of two or three decades the wounds had occluded and the tree had grown back into balance. The Great War did not alter the fundamentals of New Zealand society and neither did it change the direction in which New Zealand was moving, socially, economically, and politically.
Yet New Zealanders are now subject to the myth that not just the Great War, but one particular campaign within that war, fundamentally changed the nature of New Zealand society. In terms of myth-making, the Gallipoli campaign has the advantage that it was war abstracted from the impact upon women, children, old people and civilians in general. There were no villages to be bombed and burned, no women to be raped and no children to be mutilated. Because the campaign was a failure almost from the first day, few enemy soldiers were taken prisoner, and thus New Zealand troops had little opportunity to summarily execute prisoners, a practice which had been their rule during the New Zealand wars, and was still widely followed through the Second World War, the Vietnam war, and the war in Afghanistan. The enemy, the Turks, were people with whom New Zealanders had no connections and to whom they had no sense of obligation. Despite the furious propaganda against "the Hun" the same could not be said of the Germans. Germanic culture was still respected, quite a few Germans had settled in New Zealand, and the monarch himself was of German descent.
In many respects, therefore, Gallipoli is a convenient hook on which to hang the coat of New Zealand "national identity", but in reality it is almost irrelevant to the course of New Zealand history. Despite the cliche, Gallipoli did not change New Zealand "forever". If Winston Churchill had not invaded the Dardenelles in 1915, New Zealand would be little different except for the fact that there would be no public holiday on the twenty-fifth of April. But if British and Australian troops had not invaded the Waikato in 1863 New Zealand would be a dramatically different nation. Most probably it would have developed into a confederation made up of Maori tribes, predominantly European coastal towns in the North Island, and more expansive European settlements in the South. If the development of Maori had continued uninterrupted on its normal course from 1860 onwards, the central North Island, under Maori rule, would be a collectivist society following the Christian faith and supported by a productive agricultural economy. Those characteristics of Maoridom survived the destruction and can still be observed today, but the social and economic damage wrought by the wars is equally evident. European society recovered from the destruction of the Great War in the space of decades. For Maori, whose ruin in the New Zealand wars went much deeper, the process of recovery has taken as many centuries and has yet to reach its end.
It was the New Zealand wars, of which we hardly ever speak, that really defined us as a people and shaped our history. They were unjustified, bloody and brutal, but also the occasion for acts of great courage and compassion. Villages and farms were burned and their occupants slaughtered. Prisoners were executed summarily and indiscriminately, by pistol or tomahawk. Small groups of warriors fought to the death against overwhelming odds. Members of the warring parties risked death to take water to enemy wounded left lying on the battlefield. On occasion the compassion of the victors may have allowed the remnants of a defeated force to escape the battlefield without further loss. These are the wars which truly defined us a nation, yet we do not wish to admit it, because we are not yet ready to confront the truth about ourselves. We have a number of partisan accounts supporting either the "loyalist" or "rebel" side and by implication at least denigrating the opposition, but within the public sphere there has been little attention given to objective, impartial analysis which can explain how we have got to where we are as a people.
In fact, the point we have arrived at is not very far from our point of departure in the nineteenth century. Our civilized society abhors the indiscriminate killing of women and children, along with their menfolk, as happened in the Matawhero massacre and Te Kooti's "apologists" get short shrift from contemporary pundits. But the rules of New Zealand's market society still conform to the primitive ethics of the nineteenth century. When the market condemns parents to a life of poverty, their children must share in the sentence. In nineteenth century New Zealand women, old people and children quickly succumbed to starvation in the absence of adult males, so that those who killed all the men of fighting age, may as well have killed the entire village. All would perish in the end. The same harsh logic applies in the market economy of the present day.
Human society is organic. Even the most resolutely individualist society cannot escape collective responsibility and collective consequences. In theory the principle of personal accountability rules, but in practice the "collateral damage" inflicted by civilised society is indistinguishable from the collective punishment of earlier eras.
The naming of wars: how the "New Zealand wars" became "the Maori Wars" and then "the Land Wars"
The naming of wars reflects the political perspective and the war aims of the participants. Thus the British campaigns in Taranaki and Waikato were "the New Zealand wars" because like "the South African war", the "Indian wars" or the "Canadian wars" they were one of many imperial wars fought in distant lands with the object of adding or securing new territories to the empire. To Maori, however, they were the English wars, because they were wars in which Maori came into violent conflict with the British empire. There is a parallel to the war which the United States, Australia and New Zealand call "the Vietnam war" but which, naturally, is known to the Vietnamese themselves as "the American war". The wars were fought by British regular troops supported by Australian regiments. Very few native New Zealanders, either Pakeha or Maori, fought on the British side in those first campaigns. Those Pakeha who were established in the country tended to be fully engaged in their normal occupations of trading, farming, whaling and forestry. They had no need to risk their lives in a war to deprive Maori of their land, and little interest in a fight to strictly impose Queen Victoria's claim to sovereignty over the Maori people.
The wars only became known as "the Maori wars" later, once European colonists, in particular those of British origin, had become demographically, militarily and politically dominant. There was a massive influx of new English settlers as a consequence of the war and land confiscation. These Europeans had, by and large, little understanding of Maori and no cause to feel gratitude towards, or respect for, the Maori people, as many of the old settlers had. Their loyalties were to the empire, they saw their interests as opposed to Maori, and they regarded Maori as essentially irrelevant to the political future of the colony. This changed attitude was a consequence rather than a cause of the wars. Maori nationalism had suffered a defeat, the British had achieved numerical, political and military superiority, and therefore Maori could be discounted by the new British immigrants in a way that was not possible prior to the war. The result was that the wars came to be known as the Maori wars, which is to say the wars in which "we" (meaning the British immigrants, the majority of whom had never fired a shot in anger) fought and defeated "them", meaning the Maori (or more strictly the Maori nationalists, though the distinction was rarely made).
This post-war perception of the wars as a race war between Maori and English was at odds with the pre-war reality, in which there had been a high degree of mutual dependence between Maori and colonist, and in which Maori were not universally hostile to Europeans and vice versa. Nor were the interests and sympathies of the colonists simply and unambiguously identified with the British crown which had prosecuted the wars in Taranaki and Waikato. The loyalty of the colonists to the British crown was always suspect, and often challenged. From the first, the British government had feared that the New Zealand Company settlers in Wellington might follow a "republican" course. Edward Gibbon Wakefield himself was accused of harbouring republican sentiments, and settlers freely discussed the possibility of transferring their allegiance from Britain to the rising power of United States. The United States, however, had its own problems at this time, with a civil war pending, and would have been in no position to expand its power into the South Pacific.
For reasons of their own, the British colonists later chose to portray themselves as loyal Britons and the principal players, though not the authors, of the wars. On both counts this was a historical fiction. The colonists were not, on the whole, loyal British subjects. After all, they had come to New Zealand to escape the appalling social and economic conditions of Great Britain. The wars were not primarily fought between Maori and colonists. The first phase of the wars, the campaigns against the Taranaki and Waikato tribes were fought by professional British imperial and Australian troops, and the second phase - the campaigns against Te Kooti and Titokowaru - by Ngati Hau, Ngati Porou and Te Arawa and other fighters under the direction of British generals and colonial (more or less Pakeha) officers. Pakeha, on the whole were reluctant to fight. They had better things to do, in both senses of the word, and when Pakeha troops went unpaid and were put on short rations they mutinied.
Racial, tribal, and religious divisions were only factors in the wars. Thus most Europeans aligned with the Crown and most Maori with tino rangatiratanga. Some tribes - for example Te Arawa and Ngati Porou - were in the main on the side of the Crown while others - for example Tuhoe and Ngati Maniapoto - largely supported tino rangatiratanga. On the whole, European Anglicans sided with the Crown, but most Maori Anglicans and many Anglican missionaries sympathised with the tino rangatiratanga, while Catholics and non-conformist Protestants (Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and so on) tended to be neutral and Pai Marire and Ringatu were, as might be expected, almost universally sympathetic to the cause of tino rangatiratanga. The New Zealand wars were driven by conflict between kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga, and the one thing that can be said with certainty and without qualification is that all those on one side supported kawanatanga, and all those on the opposite side were fighting for tino rangatiratanga. In other words, they were wars over sovereignty. They were not race wars, tribal wars or wars of religion even though all those factors figured in the conflict.
Since the mid-twentieth century there have been further fundamental changes in New Zealand's trading relations, at the same time as relations between Maori and Pakeha working people lead to a new understanding and a developing sense of common identity. Pakeha no longer call the wars "the Maori wars", because among Pakeha "we" are no longer British, and "they" are no longer "Maori". The Europeans have in some ways reverted to the status quo ante, the thinking and perceptions of the pre-war era. Pakeha do not wish to see the wars as race wars, and they no longer take pride in the battles fought and victories won. They also feel guilt as to the causes of war, which they now portray as "land wars": a struggle between two peoples, Maori and Pakeha, for the rights to the land. They tend to ignore the issue of sovereignty, which was the justification for war on both sides, even though the underlying motivation may have been the acquisition or retention of land by European and Maori respectively.
The struggle for sovereignty: the real casus belli of the New Zealand wars
Disputes over land are a daily occurrence in every land and every jurisdiction. They may lead to angry words or punches thrown, even the presentation of firearms, but not to war unless two competing powers (states or other systems of authority) claim the sovereign right to adjudicate in the dispute. Then, and only then, do we have war. The casus belli is always sovereignty, even if it originates out of a dispute over rights to land. People can and do fight over land, but can only, and do only, go to war over sovereignty. The New Zealand wars were no exception to this rule. The Taranaki wars were sparked by disputes over land purchases but only in the context of Wiremu Kingi's claim to exercise a sovereign right of veto over the alienation of tribal lands. Desire for land influenced the government to invade the Waikato, but the incident which actually provoked the first outbreak of fighting was Governor Grey's demand that all Maori pledge allegiance to the Queen. The incontrovertible fact is that the wars were fought over the competing claims of the British Crown and Maori tribes to the exercise of sovereign authority over the land. In the beginning, the Crown decreed that any Maori to the north of the Waikato who refused to pledge allegiance to the Queen would be expelled from their land. If they had accepted the sovereignty of the Crown, they would presumably have been allowed to remain on their land. But they did not accept, and thus almost the entire Maori population of the Tuakau area was driven off the land, and forced to seek refuge in the Waikato. By the end of the war the Crown had upped the ante, and scores of Maori who refused to swear allegiance to Queen Victoria were being executed without trial or ceremony. Nothing could more clearly confirm that the purpose of the British wars was to impose British sovereignty upon our people by whatever means should be deemed necessary. The issue of sovereignty is only ignored now because if addressed it would have de-stabilizing, even revolutionary, implications for a society which rests on Pakeha and Maori acquiscence to the sovereignty of the British crown.
The only wars of lasting importance to New Zealanders are the wars that were fought right here, in our own land by our own peoples. From a Maori perspective they were not the New Zealand Wars. They were not the Maori wars. They were the British wars, nga pakanga a Ingarangi, the wars which were fought against the British. In future they may become known as the First British Wars, but for the moment the British wars will suffice. It is those wars which really defined our national character, for better or for worse. Yet they are the wars which New Zealanders strive to ignore.
Invasion, conquest, rebellion or civil war?
To come to grips with the question in relation to the New Zealand experience it is necessary to understand the military conditions under which colonial regimes in general come into and pass out of being. The colonisation of Ireland by England, and of Algeria and Vietnam by France are classic cases, in which three distinct phases are evident.
The first phase in the process of colonisation of occupied territories is invasion and resistance, in which the fighting takes place between foreign invading forces and indigenous peoples for whom the vehicle of resistance is the traditional social and political structure and leadership.
The second phase, after conquest, is rebellion (which if successful is styled as a revolutionary war of independence or liberation) against the successfully installed colonial regime. Rebellion is mediated through non-traditional social structures and ideologies, and charismatic popular leaders, and this is what distinguishes it from "last gasp" acts of resistance to invasion. The institutions, ideologies and leadership of rebellions constitute de-facto recognition of the failure of traditional methods of social organisation. The leaders may be of "mixed race" (for example in the case of Ireland, Anglo-Irish) but more commonly they have been educated by and have adopted the culture of the colonial power, particularly in its more radical, anti-authoritarian or revolutionary variants. Thus the Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, like many other leaders of the anti-colonial movement in the French empire, was French-educated and took up the European revolutionary ideology of Marxism. Peka Makarini, Te Kooti's lieutenant who died in 1870 while in the rearguard of the fighting retreat from Ohinemutu to Te Urewera, qualified on both counts. He was of Maori and European descent and had received a European education and legal training before joining Te Kooti's Ringatu rebel force. Te Kooti himself was educated in a mission school, became a protege of the radical missionary Thomas Grace, adopted many European cultural mores, and founded a religious movement based on the Hebrew scriptures (the Old Testament). Grace had a much greater influence upon Te Kooti that is commonly recognised. From Grace Te Kooti learned to read the Hebrew scriptures as a testament of redemption and liberation, and in his epic guerilla campaign he literally followed in Grace's footsteps, from Turanga, where Grace first served, to Tauranga Taupo, where he established his own mission.
The third phase of civil war which normally follows a war of independence is typically a conflict between the remnants of traditional leadership, most often in alliance with groups which had collaborated with the former colonial power, and the revolutionary forces. Post-independence civil wars wracked Ireland, Vietnam, Algeria and many other nations, including, in slightly different circumstances, the United States.
In this schema the first phase of the New Zealand wars, although categorised by the British as a rebellion, was in fact a classic instance of invasion, resistance and conquest. Pakeha settlers played no significant role in the fighting which was conducted in Taranaki, Waikato and Tauranga by foreign forces (British and Australian regiments and the Royal Navy) against Maori organised within traditional iwi and hapu structures (notwithstanding the novel institution of the Kingitanga), and conducting a classic Maori defense by means of the fighting pa. Pa warfare allowed traditional tribal structures to be retained more or less intact. Warriors could remain with or close to their kaumatua, kui, wahine and tamariki. From a military point of view, the "modern pa" as employed from 1845 onwards was a significant development on the traditional pa, being designed to withstand heavy artillery bombardment. The modern pa also marked a change from traditional wartime social organisation. Unlike the traditional pa, the modern pa was not designed to shelter "non-combatants" (to the extent that the term had meaning) and was not intended for prolonged occupation. It could also be seen as intermediate step between traditional patterns of warfare and the guerilla tactics of Te Kooti and Titokowaru, which from hindsight appear to be the only viable means of defence against the overwhelming superiority in numbers and military equipment of the British forces.
In the guerilla phase of the wars the "rebel" forces needed to cover vast distances at great speed, improvise temporary camps in inhospitable wilderness, and survive on whatever they could find such as fern root, bush rats and wild honey. The young, the old and most of the wahine became an unsustainable burden upon the toa, and were abandoned. In such situations traditional social arrangements and systems of authority, complete with the checks and balances provided by the counsel of the old and the interests of the young, collapsed with unfortunate consequences. In the case of the Te Kooti's Ringatu, it was replaced by a social order which had been created in the prison camp set up by the British in the Chatham Islands. This prison culture is made up almost entirely of men of fighting age, and leadership is assumed by the strongest and the boldest, not necessarily the wisest, and certainly not the most compassionate. It remains a major facet of Maori society to this day, arguably because the British prison system remains a central part of the experience of many Maori men.
The campaigns of Te Kooti and Titokowaru, were non-tribal rebellions under charismatic leaders whose mana was grounded in their military prowess and religious revelations rather than traditional tribal status, and who were guided by the innovative theologies of Pai Marire and Ringatu which in part at least drew upon European Christianity. The rebel military tactics alternated between classical defensive pa warfare and militarily more effective guerilla offensives. But ultimately the rebellions failed because they prematurely devolved into civil war. That outcome can be put down to failures of leadership, vision and strategy by Te Kooti and Titokowaru. Neither leader seemed to fully appreciate that success depended on the willing cooperation of both combatant and non-combatant Maori within their theatre of operations, and, arguably at least, the benign neutrality of Pakeha settlers wherever that might be possible. Te Kooti in particular had fatal premonitions of abandonment and ultimate failure, which served as self-fulfilling prophecy. Despite their boldness, epic qualities of endurance, and military genius, these two leaders failed to rally the mass of Maori, and in particular the Waikato tribes under the leadership of King Tawhiao, to their cause. The record of their meetings with the Kingitanga is instructive. The Ringatu were young, brash and disrespectful; the Kingitanga leaders older, reserved, and with a sense of traditional mana. The same unfruitful dynamic may be seen on many marae to this day, whenever younger political activists or gang members conflict with the older traditional iwi or hapu leaders. If Te Kooti or even Titokowaru had succeeded in gaining broader support, such as from the Kingitanga, the North Island could well have been partitioned into Maori and European states. Instead, both leaders, in different ways, alienated a sufficiently large number of iwi and hapu and individual Maori to destroy their own prospects of success. So rebellion did not transform into a revolutionary war of independence, but passed over into a premature and brutal civil war which deepened the divide between Maori and European, divided iwi from iwi, and within iwi, hapu from hapu.
The Pakeha population was not completely spared the fratricidal struggle, and although few Pakeha were actively engaged on the side of the rebels (Kimble Bent, William Moffitt and Charles Kane being the best known of these), there were more such as Thomas Grace and Josiah Firth who suffered severe recriminations for their sympathy for the Maori cause. Individual Pakeha (for example Thomas Halbert of Poverty Bay) were arrested on charges of collaborating with Maori. It is also a little known fact that in the aftermath of the wars, the lands of Pakeha who had provided aid or comfort to Maori (for example John Cowell and the Lawrie family at Kawhia, John Faulkner at Otumoetai) were confiscated by the Crown, along with vastly greater areas of Maori land. These facts are ignored in the officially sanctioned histories of New Zealand because they challenge the fundamental premise of British sovereignty which is that divisions in New Zealand society have always been race-based, that the Pakeha can be simply identified with the institution of the British crown, and that the wars were a struggle between Maori and Pakeha for control of the land, in which the Pakeha succeeded in subverting the neutrality of the Crown and directing it to their own interests. Yet that doctrine is palpably false in all respects. Without the British crown, and its assumption of sovereignty over New Zealand, there could have been no "New Zealand wars", and New Zealand would have continued along the path of the first four decades of the nineteenth century.
By definition civil war does not directly involve an outside power, although the hand of the former imperial power is almost always evident in civil wars which follow on from revolutionary wars of independence. France was deeply though clandestinely implicated in the Algerian and Vietnamese civil wars and in all the civil wars which have followed since in "France Afrique". The British meddled in the Irish and American civil wars and had a key role in the final civil war phase of the New Zealand wars. The rebellions were suppressed in the name of the British crown, but British regiments were not actively involved in the fighting, which was conducted by Maori forces directed by European officers and funded by European government ministers.
There were three parties to the rebellion cum civil war: the European settlers, the "loyal" Maori (notably the majority of Te Arawa, Ngati Porou, Ngati Kahungungu and Ngati Hau) and lastly the non-tribal rebel forces of Te Kooti and Titokowaru (which included not a few dissident members of Te Arawa, Ngati Porou and other generally "friendly" tribes). Some among the remnants of the old order, the Waikato tribes under the leadership of King Tawhiao, were inclined to support the rebellions, and others vacillated, but the weight of opinion was in favour of remaining non-belligerent, and that was a decisive factor in the final outcome of the war.
So within the space of a dozen years, New Zealand underwent invasion, conquest, and rebellion which swiftly descended into civil war. The country failed to make the transition to independent nationhood as most other British colonies did (the other most prominent exceptions being the predominantly European dominions of Australia and Canada). In fact, the end effect of the New Zealand wars was an increased enthusiasm for colonialism and imperialism among the mass of European settlers (who had, prior to the wars, been at best lukewarm towards the political connection with Britain) and a greater acceptance of British rule among Maori. That failure to follow the normal historical process of de-colonization has given rise to on-going difficulties: unresolved arguments over sovereignty, the absence of an authentic national identity or unifying belief system, and excessive economic, political and military dependence upon foreign powers.
The final denouement of the wars still awaits us. We live in a society in which the majority factions of certain tribes - the British, Ngati Hau, Ngati Porou and Te Arawa - vanquished the majority of Tuhoe, Tainui, Ngaruahine and other tribes in a series of wars and where the British have progressively retained and expanded their power over the other tribes over the succeeding decades. The Crown's "Treaty Settlements" programme, which purports to resolve grievances which have persisted since the wars, amounts to nothing more than a renegotiation of the terms of surrender. The question of sovereignty, the casus belli of the 1860s, is not up for negotiation. In 1863 the Crown demanded that all Maori north of the Waikato pledge allegiance to the British Crown, and on account of their refusal, they were driven off their lands. In 2013 the Crown demanded that the leftwing radical Maori leader Hone Harawira give an oath of allegiance to the Queen, on pain of losing his right to sit in the New Zealand parliament. Harawira, as we know, conceded to the Crown. Few are prepared to take a stand against British sovereignty because of the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and defeat that infects Maori and Pakeha, those of the left and of the right. Meanwhile the Crown continues to pursue the policy of mass immigration which since 1860 has been its most effective means of diluting nationalist sentiment in New Zealand. Latterly Chinese, Indian and other peoples have arrived in great numbers, effectively creating new tribal entities, although it must be remembered that Indian seamen had assimilated into Maori society long before the British assumption of sovereignty in 1840, and Chinese have been present in significant numbers since the 1860s. But like the British who arrived in the mass influx after the New Zealand wars, most of the new immigrants have no understanding of New Zealand history or culture, apart from the official version provided to them by the Crown. New immigrants are required to pledge allegiance to the British Queen, and all but a handful oblige, and thus immigration even of non-British peoples can be employed to perpetuate British rule.
The social and political system remains essentially tribal, with a British hereditary Head of State, but is in denial over its true character, which means that it is incapable of dealing with the challenges posed by new tribal inflows. None of the constituent elements of the national psyche from the time of the wars and beyond - Hahi Mihinare, Pai Marire, Ringatu, Ratana, British monarchism, imperialism, secular liberalism or left-wing radicalism - provide an adequate basis for nationhood. The apologies and compensation of the "Treaty Settlement" programme may help to relieve tensions, but they fail to draw a line under the era of the New Zealand wars. The problem of sovereignty has not gone away, and in fact becomes more pressing as European power and influence declines relative to that of new immigrant communities. The logical way forward is the re-constitution of New Zealand as a Confederation of peoples, in other words a return to something approximating the situation preceding the Treaty of Waitangi, the British assumption of sovereignty, and the brutally divisive New Zealand wars, but taking account of the new demographic and cultural reality. The wars which seemed to have resolved everything, in the long run resolved nothing. It will take an act of imagination that goes well beyond the narrow limits of conventional New Zealand politics to advance the development of an independent and unified nation from where it crashed and burned in the flames of the New Zealand wars.
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