February 22, 2020
Many people will be relieved that a group of amateur explorers have given up their search for evidence of a race of eight-foot pre-Polynesian people in caves in the remote rural area of Waikaretu.
Every culture has ancient legends of unusual people in their folk lore. The Irish have their mischievous leprechauns and Maori have the pale skinned Patupaiarehe. Giants also feature in most cultural histories but, so far, there is no reliable evidence of any giant humans of that size in New Zealand or anywhere else.
It is highly unlikely that humans could grow to eight feet in height and still function normally and many people of heights close to seven feet have skeletal and mobility disabilities.
The unidentified explorers, like many mis-informed enthusiasts before them have, however, not given up the quest to find evidence of giant people who lived in New Zealand before the Polynesians who became known as Maori. They claim to have three other locations to search for proof that these giants were the first humans in New Zealand, which they expect to be the most talked about worldwide story of the millennium. It won’t be. It will just another idealistic tale based on nothing more than a mis-identified bone, thought to be that of a moa, guess work and day dreams. Beyond the insensitivity of digging about for human remains it seemed relatively harmless.
However, one archaeologist has detected something a little more sinister than misguided explorers and suggested there were racist undertones among people who refute the right of Maori to bring claims against Crown for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi. That view is support by a teaching academic who studies conspiracy theories and who said theories about pre-Polynesian inhabitants of New Zealand were often used to make some variation of the claim that white people were here first and (therefore) the Treaty of Waitangi was null and void.
Sadly, those opinions are not new and indicate a lamentable ignorance of New Zealand history. The treaty in fact did nothing more than establish British law and the Westminster parliamentary style of government in New Zealand. In doing that the treaty conveyed the rights and obligations of British subjects on all New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori alike and ceded the power of Sovereignty to Britain. Thereafter all people in New Zealand were British subjects whether they wanted to be or not, understood it or even cared one way or the other. Then followed the systematic, deliberate and cynical dishonesty with which Maori were denied those rights as British subjects by officials and authorities for most of the century and half which followed.
Unimaginably huge tracts of land were simply stolen under a range of official but illegal instruments including armed invasion. The fact that they were Maori was a legal irrelevancy. They were first and foremost British subjects who were entitled to the rights and protections of British law. One of the most important of those rights was the right to own property either collectively or privately free from interference of the State. That principle was established by the Magna Carter in 1215, encapsulated in British law in 1582, and simply repeated in Article Two of the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840. It should have applied to all New Zealanders equally from 1840. It did not. The right of Maori to own land and resources became a common law right when British law was introduced, rather than a “treaty right” itself
Whether an earlier people existed here or not is equally irrelevant. British Crown officials negotiated with the Polynesians who were here and in legal possession of the land and its resources in 1840. What may or may not have happened before that time is of no account.
All the Maori people have ever asked for was to be treated the same as all other New Zealanders. To have their pre-1840 tribal property rights recognised and protected as common law rights and to have the same freedom to manage their own affairs without interference as are all other people. Maori have never asked to be treated as special or different, only that those things which properly belonged to them prior to 1840 should still be safe in their ownership after 1840. That reasonable and lawful expectation has been and still is denied them in many instances today. No other sector of New Zealand society would tolerate that imposition.
Looking for evidence of giants should be left to little children while they look for fairies on toadstools at the bottom of the garden and not used as yet another weapon of ignorance to attack Maori or any other sector of the community.