Don Brash resurfaces with reheated arguments

9:20 am on 3 October 2016

Power Play - In 2004 Don Brash gave his infamous Orewa Speech as National Party leader, where he decried what he saw as the special status given to Māori. Now, 12 years later he is resurrecting the same arguments.

Don Brash

Don Brash Photo: ACT Party

Dr Brash entered Parliament as a National Party MP in 2002, after 14 years as the Reserve Bank governor.

He rolled Bill English in October 2003 and became National Party leader just months after the Ngāti Apa decision, which ruled, among other things, that the Māori Land Court had jurisdiction to determine whether the foreshore and seabed was Māori customary land.

In early January 2004, as the then Labour-led government was considering its response to that ruling, Dr Brash took the stage at the Orewa Rotary Club and told those gathered that the Crown should take ownership of the foreshore and seabed.

The speech contained several other sentiments which were labelled as racist, and despite New Zealand until that point being widely promoted as a proudly bi-cultural nation, the National Party got a massive boost in the polls after the speech.

Then-National Party leader Don Brash has mud thrown at him by a protester at Waitangi's Te Tii Marae in 2004, days after his controversial speech at Orewa.

The then-National Party leader Don Brash has mud thrown at him by a protester at Waitangi's in 2004, days after his controversial speech at Orewa. Photo:

That boost completely threw the Labour Government, which in turn took a tougher line with its proposed foreshore and seabed legislation and kicked off reviews of many of its programmes to see if they were "race-based".

The years following were divisive, as tangata whenua marched on Parliament in anger at the foreshore and seabed law and Tariana Turia left Labour and formed the Māori Party.

The 2005 election campaign continued with race-focused rhetoric, marked by National's 'Iwi-Kiwi' billboards and Don Brash talking up his 'one law for all' policy.

Don Brash's infamous Iwi vs Kiwi billboard.

Don Brash's infamous Iwi vs Kiwi billboard. Photo: National Party

A new Act for Brash

Labour narrowly won the election, but it was tight.

Dr Brash resigned as leader in 2006, then left Parliament - but that was not the end of his political career.

He reappeared in 2011 as the ACT Party leader and again talked up "equality for all New Zealanders" and the abolition of the Māori seats, but ACT got little traction, and after the election he again resigned.

Earlier this year Dr Brash resurfaced as part of the New Zealand Centre for Political Research, arguing that New Zealanders should be fearful of iwi and their plans for water.

Epsom MP John Banks, left, and Don Brash on election night.

Epsom MP John Banks, left, and Dr Brash on election night in 2011. Photo: RNZ

Hobson's Pledge

That group contains many of the people who are now part of Dr Brash's latest venture, Hobson's Pledge.

Twelve years ago Dr Brash argued that there was no homogenous, distinct Māori population because there were no "full-blooded" Māori left.

He called for the abolition of Māori seats, the removal of Treaty references in legislation and the winding up of the Waitangi Tribunal.

Once all that was done, then "we really will be one people - as Hobson declared us to be in 1840", he said.

Sound familiar?

The thrust of his arguments then and now appear to boil down to a lack of willingness to recognise Māori as tangata whenua, and to ignore the damage and destruction that colonisation has wrought on Te Ao Māori, rejecting any notion that that colonisation continues.

His critics say his actions and words simply compound it.

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