Why Gareth Morgan Called Winston Peters Uncle Tom

Here’s the definition of an “Uncle Tom” – one who works against the interests of his own people, sometimes pretending that he is not. Used particularly in the context of a people who are enslaved or do not enjoy the full rights they should.


In the New Zealand context, it is the Treaty of Waitangi that defines the rights of Maori and of subsequent settlers. In particular the right of Maori to rangatiratanga (self determination) as per Article 2 (of the te reo Ti Tiriti O Waitangi which after all was the treaty almost all chiefs signed and as per the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, takes precedence anyway).

The issue is why Maori are over-represented in statistics of economic and social underperformance. The general agreement is because of decades of denial of rights, breaches of the treaty and a centralized delivery system of education, health and social security that is not empathetic to Maori values. The denial of  rangatiratanga even today means that these disadvantages are unlikely to be overcome. 

My question of Maori gathered at Ratana was why they tolerated Winston Peters and his New Zealand First Party which, from what a can see acts against Maori interests, supports the Don Brash Hard Right, Hobson’s Pledge vision of full assimilation and loss of all that is indigenous, and cares not one jot about Maori property rights as per Article 2?

The evidence for my claim that Mr Peters is little better than the Uncle Tom of historical folklore follows. Of course you will reach your own decision, mine is evidence-based – read on.

1.    The Maori Seats

It is a well-known fact that NZ First won all of the Maori Seats in the 1996 General Election (a feat previously only accomplished by Labour); which makes it all the more curious that New Zealand First has harboured such antipathy toward them ever since.

Explanations for the reasoning behind NZ First's refusal to stand candidates in the Maori Seats from 1999 onward have ranged from a distrust on the part of Mr Peters towards MPs elected from those seats (in specia, that they might prove to be more loyal to their 'people' than to their Party), through to a desire to attempt to demonstrate the Maori Seats to be unnecessary by refusing to stand in them. This has previously been accompanied by Mr Peters’ explicit support for their abolition; as well as a certain degree of annoyance when National, in the early-2000s decided to "pinch" NZ First's enthusiasm for the removal of the Maori Seats.

2. Maori Wards and Reserved Seats on Local Government

Ever since the nationwide movement towards the re-organization (and amalgamation) of local government began in earnest in 2009 under then-Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, there have been parallel efforts to attempt to secure Maori Wards (in the broad model of the Maori Seats), and/or reserved seats for area Maori groups on local authorities. Winston has led the charge in opposition to these, viewing the former as an affront to his unitary nationalism (using the label "separatism" and on occasion the more inflammatory “apartheid”) to charge they are just undemocratic, despite there being no evidence that the Maori seats in parliament undermine democracy. In fact quite the reverse, both Labour and National acknowledge that affirmative action as still essential to maintaining the democratic rights of Maoridom to exist as per the Treaty. Indeed my own view is the same – if only we honoured the Treaty these wards would not be necessary. But we don’t, so they are.

3. The Foreshore & Seabed Controversy

Despite the common belief that the 2004 legislation was a Labour Party effort, Winston Peters has previously been proud to claim rather more than partial credit for some of its provisions. In specia, New Zealand First demanded that the ownership for the foreshore and seabed be vested in the Crown - rather than the "public option" which Labour had initially proposed, and which would have entailed no specific title. The import of this in a Treaty context ought be obvious – the handing over of title to one Treaty Partner ignited what's been called "the largest single theft of Maori land", providing serious concern for many Maori.

Despite the Takutai Moana Act put forward by National seeming to settle the issue in 2011, New Zealand First continued to campaign vigorously for the repeal of the 2011 legislation as part of its efforts to return to Parliament that year - insisting that were NZ First in a position to do so after that Election, that it would reinstitute Crown Ownership – something that is unconscionable to anyone familiar with the Treaty’s article 2 that holds all natural resources not willingly sold remain the property of Maori.

There is thus, arguably, a very real risk that a strong NZ First come 2017 will actually be able to arm-twist its prospective Coalition partners - whether Labour or National - into revisiting this issue and once again transferring the foreshore and seabed into Crown hands. 

4. The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion Bill

In 2005, New Zealand First's long-running campaign against the Treaty of Waitangi and its Principles in our politics took its next logical step. The party introduced a bill into Parliament designed to delete all mention of said Treaty Principles from New Zealand legislation. Indeed it stated to remove the Treaty of Waitangi and its Principles from legislation.

This draconian backward step was predictably, responded to rather unenthusiastically by most of the political spectrum - and even resulted in the Party being criticized by the United Nations. Some members of the House recommended that Winston Peters obtain at least a rudimentary education of what the Treaty is about, and at least make the effort to understand the Principles.

The import of such a move - and its potential ramifications for Maoridom ought be plainly obvious. New Zealand legislation being read in the absence of the Treaty and its principles would considerably weaken the position of Maori - and undermine the reciprocal and consultative relationship which is supposed to exist between the Crown and Maori as Treaty signatories. Such a move would also, interestingly, seriously weaken the capacity and abilities of the Waitangi Tribunal.

5. Hobson's Pledge 

Don Brash has stated publicly that his organization are considering donating money to New Zealand First, on grounds that the latter is "the only political party" which seems to be in accordance with the Hobson's Pledge organization's strong "one law for all" ideology. The fact that Don Brash's radical agenda apparently has no better electoral vehicle in our politics than New Zealand First ought be of some concern to Maoridom - not least because NZF are far more numerous and effective advocates for same than the ACT Party of yesteryear. NZ First has a far better record than other parties of actually attempting to turn rhetoric into policy on this subject. 


New Zealand First is poised to make political inroads later this year on a scale unseen since the Party's 1996 heyday. Part of this insurgent appeal may very well be an effort to lure in disgruntled non-Maori voters with talking-points and rallying-cries along the lines of its previous campaigns' calls to oppose "separatism" and support "one law for all".

This has already been signalled by Winston as a "bottom line" policy-area for any post-2017 coalition negotiation. He sees honouring the Treaty by the two societies that signed it as creating "a parallel state where you've got a state within a state because of separatist racist laws". For parties of the Hard Right such denial of the treaty would accord with their ideology. Thankfully our governments over the 40 years since 1975 at least, have acknowledged the treaty as our foundation document.

But what makes NZ First exceptional, is that it has always enjoyed - and looks set to continue to benefit from – too much support from Maoridom. Part of the explanation for this, of course, is that Winston (and a not insignificant number of NZF's MPs both present and past) is Maori.  As a kaumatua, Winston is also afforded a duty of respect. Prior to the early 2000’s when he blatantly became a turncoat, he was acclaimed within the Maori World for championing solutions to the Maori predicament. Some of that residual acclaim lingers.

But they say power corrupts and with Winston things changed dramatically. This has facilitated a seemingly contradictory situation wherein NZ First can peddle a message explicitly tailored to anti-Maoridom voters ... while still somehow continuing to garnish Maori support. For sure, some voters are slow to recognise the change, but part of the reasoning for his lingering support amongst Maori is possibly because virtually none of the political actors have endeavoured to seriously put the spotlight upon this seeming inconsistency.

The reasons for that can only be posited. So I will - either these politicians agree with NZ First’s policy-set [as ACT and the Conservative Party do for instance], or they have potential need for NZ First in a future coalition ... and so have no wish to directly antagonize Winston in such a way. Sadly, political cowardice from Establishment parties is all to common and likely the stronger reason for silence.

My charge that Mr Peters is an Uncle Tom, acting against his own people in this case for political gain, remains. The Treaty is accepted in New Zealand as our founding document and its principles are in over 300 statutes. His relentless undermining of the Treaty is a betrayal not just of his own people, but to the whole of New Zealand. He might be Dr Brash’s favourite but to any reasonable New Zealander his party should be repugnant, just on these grounds alone.

That his political modus operandi is to hunt with the hounds while run with the hares, is the subject for another day – as is the event that turned him against the Maori interest.


Just a few of Winston Peters charming asides when describing the treaty obligations as of both signatories as “race-based” policies…


In October 2007, Peters accused both National and Labour of “marching us into apartheid” and Maori of being “the most militant racists in the country”


Close Up, 29 October 2007

“Don’t ask me, the taxpayer, to pay for their idea of our culture”


Peters on the Treaty

17 April 2002

“The country does not need the Treaty


19 September 1996

"We reject the separatism so beloved of those Maori radicals who seek to use their own people for selfish gain” (as reported in The Dominion, 20 September 1996, page 1)


National-NZ First Coalition Agreement, 6 December 1996 – the ultimate Peters’ contradiction

“The Treaty of Waitangi is fundamental to the relationship between Crown and Maori”

Showing 14 reactions

  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2017-01-29 03:20:47 +1300
    One of my Maori friends told me that Maori felt like a victim in NZ. But when they are in Australia, they become very successful immigrants. The message is clear – when you put away the “good intentions of society – treat you as victim”, you regain control of your own life. Those who care about Maori should do more research on Maori in Australia to get a better understanding what is the best ways to help Maori in NZ.
  • Karen Parata
    followed this page 2017-01-28 15:33:09 +1300
  • Pipi Barton
    followed this page 2017-01-27 23:51:59 +1300
  • Peter Bugler
    followed this page 2017-01-27 20:40:02 +1300
  • Paul King
    commented 2017-01-27 17:14:12 +1300
    I am concerned at the deterministic notion that denial of additional inherited rights and the wrongful seizure of historic estates is behind poor socioeconomic outcomes for Maori, and in particular that these results won’t improve until those rights and estates are reinstated.

    Everybody descends from ancestors who were oppressed and disenfranchised at some point, and probably many times over down through history. Those who have succeeded despite this don’t seem to have waited around nursing grievances (however valid), but instead adapted to their changed environments, exploiting whatever new opportunities presented.
    To me this suggests improving outcomes would more likely come through fostering cultural change, towards fuller engagement with the world as it is, rather than with the way things were (or romantic notions of how they were).

    Irrespective of culture, or conflicting opinions over what the treaty was actually intended to achieve, I am happy with stolen property being returned wherever possible, and with delivery of social services being tuned to what works best for the recipients, based on good evidence (and accepting one size never fits all) – though neither of these things should depend on a treaty, or preservation of pre democratic or inherited power structures.

    I am also unconvinced that for practical purposes the quality of life and rights of anyone, other than perhaps those who would have been born into high status positions in pre-European Maori culture, have not in fact improved overall, despite all the Treaty breaches, racism and injustices enroute. Some semblance of social mobility, and the right not to be a slave, or to live in fear of being raided and killed by neighbouring tribes would be high on my list of gains.

    Yes, there is loss and pain involved in any change, but the culturally nimble just seem to do better socioeconomically.
  • Friend
    followed this page 2017-01-27 15:24:13 +1300
  • Stephen Todd
    commented 2017-01-27 11:04:19 +1300
    Thank you, Oliver.

    It is important that local councils be elected at-large, by STV (as is the case in Palmerston North (15) and Dunedin (14)), to ensure all significant groups in a local government area (dependent on the number of councillors being elected together) have the opportunity to elect a representative (if that is what they want to do), not just arbitrary geographical areas, i.e. local wards / regional constituencies.
  • Oliver Krollmann
    commented 2017-01-27 10:13:18 +1300
    I agree with Stephen and Gordon. I’m an immigrant who became an NZ citizen in 2014, like many others before me. I’ve worked in NZ with people from all over the world, peacefully and respecting each other’s history, traditions, culture and beliefs. There are no special rights for Europeans or Asians or Africans or Americans. We’re all New Zealanders now.
    In a sense we’re all immigrants. Some of us just happened to arrive a few hundred years before the others. So no particular group should be able to claim New Zealand as their land – at some point all of us have taken possession in one way or another. I fully understand that the situation in the 19th century was different, and what the ToW wanted to accomplish, and that was a fantastic achievement back then, given their clash of cultures and values. But we live in the 21st century now, in a connected world, with many different people from all sorts of backgrounds living and working and playing in New Zealand. It’s no longer just an us-and-them scenario. Please let’s focus on today’s and tomorrow’s New Zealand.
    I’m also a big supporter of STV, and I’d like to see the separate electoral rolls merged into one. We are a country with a very diverse population from many different backgrounds, and the composition of our MPs is beginning to reflect that. It’s time to bring that to the local government bodies, not by introducing more separate electoral rolls, but rather by a voting system that recognises multiple preferences and distributes votes fairly.
  • Gordon Ngai
    commented 2017-01-26 11:08:55 +1300
    I expect TOP be able to do better than this (focus on attacking other parties).

    What we need to do is to focus on what we collectively want to be our future. Equal rights for every citizen or some have more rights than others. I think we need to think out of the box.

    Here is an actual example in Hong Kong to show how strange it is to give special rights for a special group based on “cultural reason” :-
    The British respects the cultural rights of the local Chinese man in Hong Kong and up to the year 1972, a Hong Kong Chinese man can have up to 7 wives. The Chinese governments in mainland have moved with time and changed their systems to one husband a wife 50 years earlier.

    Whatever we do now will never be able to reverse what happened in the past. Treaty settlement is one of the ways to compensate the Maori. We need to come up with ways that the country can move forward united and not divided.
  • Seann Paurini
    commented 2017-01-26 10:08:43 +1300
    The one important thing to tackle that would make TOP stand out from the rest incl the likes of NZF is scrutiny of divisions among & across Maori that mean most Maori remain in the negative overrepresented statistics while a small percentage of individuals & groups are very powerful and very rich – mostly the origins are not by their own resources & money but by public resources & settlements. The general use of the term “Maori” to apply to all of us – and always excluding our real differences – especially economic or "socioeconomic " isn’t helpful.
  • Steve Cox
    commented 2017-01-25 19:52:48 +1300
    Winston has a long track record of saying something and it never happening. Back in the late 80’s, early 90’s there was a lot of talk about foreign ownership of land. At the time Winston declared that foreigners were wasting their time and money buying NZ land because when NZF formed part of the next government all this land would be bought back. And after being in three governments since …
    He has always had bottom lines that somehow became not-bottom lines.

    Now in his favour. To trot out old 1996 statements as somehow representing the Winston of today is a bit of a stretch. Remember back then he had the “tight five” in NZF.
  • Stephen Todd
    commented 2017-01-25 18:09:59 +1300
    A far more democratic way to achieve fair and effective representation for Māori on local councils is to elect all councillors city- or district-wide, by STV.

    Under STV at-large, Māori voters would have sufficient voting strength to elect at least one councillor in most North Island local councils at least (if that is what they wanted), on their own terms.

    Corralling Māori-roll voters into separate wards will only ensure that the separately-elected Māori councillor(s) will, in each case, be elected on far fewer votes than his or her council colleagues, because there will be little incentive for Māori-roll voters to vote – their representation will be guaranteed whether they vote or not.

    With STV at-large, the exact opposite would be the case. All councillors would be of equal status, because they all would have attained the final quota of votes for election. And, of course, with the quota for election being as low as 1/16th of the votes (6.25%), as for a 15-seat council, up to 93.75% of all voters would be fairly and effectively represented on their local councils, too.

    In addition, we should not overlook the near certainty that, under FPP conditions, separately-elected Māori councillors will be returned unopposed more often than not (as we have seen in the Bay of Plenty), with Māori-roll voters therefore being effectively disenfranchised at most future elections.

    Electing local councillors at-large, by STV, is the democratic way to fulfil the Treaty of Waitangi with regard to local representation for Māori. With STV, those voters who wish to see brought to the council table a “tangata whenua voice and an understanding of Te Ao Māori” [Andrew Judd, The Dominion Post, 10 March 2015] will have the means to make that happen in a way that is fair and acceptable to everyone.
  • Seann Paurini
    commented 2017-01-25 17:02:17 +1300
    This makes sense but I don’t think that matters as many people prioritise their feelings over evidence. The only way that will change is if we engage people nationwide face to face, respectfully and in a real way. In this case evidence based knowledge is the best knowledge & people are more likely to welcome it (or at least get curious) when they are engaged and involved.
  • Katharine Moody
    commented 2017-01-25 13:01:22 +1300
    Ali: “I said a lot of things in the heat of the moment that I shouldn’t have said. Called him names I shouldn’t have called him. I apologise for that. I’m sorry. It was all meant to promote the fight.”