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Maori and the State: Crown-Māori relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa, 1950-2000

The Hunn Report

The Hunn Report

By the beginning of 1960, publicity about social maladjustment in the cities had focused the Labour government’s attention on Maori issues. Crown monitoring put figures to popular perceptions: ‘Maoris appear in disproportionate numbers in the Court records and their educational achievements (but not their capacity) are below par.’ Under sustained fire for ignoring their own party’s policies, Labour ministers were attempting to find more efficient ways and mechanisms for interacting with Maori and solving the problems arising from urban resettlement. Prime Minister Nash, in particular, had become increasingly aware of a general Maori disquiet about, or even hostility to, the Department of Maori Affairs. Relating essentially to perceptions of departmental paternalism and inefficiency, such widespread attitudes were seen as a major impediment to progress.

One significant line of advice on addressing the difficulty was posited on reports that committees and welfare agencies were still held in high regard. A full 10% of Maori, in fact, were estimated to have some kind of connection with an official committee. It was argued that progress on Crown–Maori relations could best occur through building on the concepts which had originally underpinned the committee system. If committees were to be given greater powers and range, they could become anchors for better integrating the department with Maoridom and attuning its bureaucrats to the needs of the people. It was in the context of such advice that the government was prepared to accede to several significant demands made by individuals and groups supporting and operating through the institutions of the 1945 Maori Social and Economic Advancement Act. At the very least, addressing some of their wishes was increasingly seen as better than ignoring them and thereby handing ammunition to elements within Maoridom which advocated a more confrontational stance.

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Not only were concessions made over representation in the official system, moreover, but also on issues such as coordinating arrangements between departments dealing with urban adjustment – a response to criticisms from delegates at the Young Maori Leaders’ Conference, among others, of ‘piecemeal’ bureaucratic procedures. It was just as a number of new arrangements were being put in place that the Labour government lost office in late 1960. The incoming National administration, despite its formal commitment to laissez-faire policies, was not averse to planning and social intervention. Moreover, it appreciated that it would need to rely a great deal for its success in Maori policy on the staff of the public service, especially those in Maori Affairs who mediated between the official committee system and the government. Given its small Maori base, in fact, the government would need to lean particularly heavily on its officials for policy and operational advice. Fortunately for Prime Minister Holyoake and his ministers, the DMA officials had already undertaken a complete re-examination of Crown–Maori relations.

At the beginning of the 1960s, in the middle of the most intensive period of urban migration in New Zealand history, few observers would have disagreed that it was timely to revisit the premises and implementation of the 1945 legislation under which Maori Affairs operated. Its structures had been worked out at an early stage of urban migration, before it was clear that this migration would become both huge and permanent. In his capacity as Minister of Maori Affairs, Nash had eventually been forced to give more serious attention to Maori aspirations. In early 1960, he tasked his department with investigating the state of Maoridom. This initiation of a comprehensive ‘stocktaking’ of Maori policies, management and ‘assets’, both human and material, was designed to provide a factual basis for more coherent and coordinated forward planning. In addition to providing a better knowledge basis for addressing the many problems relating to urban relocation, Nash had other outcomes in mind as well. He had, for example, become convinced of the need for the state to finally redress the problems arising from the relentless fragmentation of ownership of interests in Maori land – particularly the consequent locking-up of would-be productive farmland. More generally, he and his ministry believed that the pace of urban migration meant that it was now timely ‘to prevent further dissipation of [Maori] material resources’; Maori should be able to build upon, rather than lose, those assets they still retained. In doing so, they would both better integrate into pakeha society and contribute to the general prosperity of the nation.6

Maori welcomed the proposed review as being, among other things, one way by which they might be able to further pursue both rangatiratanga and socio-economic betterment. On the surface, the prospects of the Crownpage 90 acceding to autonomist aspirations at this time were far from likely. Elements within the bureaucracy and polity, for example, had even expressed disquiet at the government’s endorsement of the regional groupings coordinating the tribal committee system. In the eyes of many left-leaning or liberal-minded pakeha, moreover, use of any remotely ‘separatist’ terminology was anathema, resonant of South Africa or the southern United States. Even those who empathised with the Maori aspiration for self-determination generally placed it well behind the goal of socio-economic advancement. For them, the material benefits brought by urban migration and the loosening of tribal identities considerably outweighed, in the final analysis, any cultural or governance difficulties Maori might face – let alone any aspirations they might harbour to effect rangatiratanga. Few pakeha observers, in fact, believed that greater political autonomy was compatible with significant socio-economic progress, given the extent to which (in their eyes) the latter implied integration into the world of the pakeha. The best that could be achieved was for ‘remnants of Maori culture to be perpetuated’ in the process of Maori procurement of full equality before the law and socio-economic parity with white New Zealand.

In the context of this pakeha-led discourse, on 18 January 1960 Nash appointed a senior public servant (Deputy Chairman of the Public Service Commission), Jack Kent Hunn, to head the DMA as Acting Secretary and Maori Trustee for a fixed period. He was tasked with both carrying out the stocktake and injecting an increased vigour and sensitivity into the DMA. On the basis of his findings on the state of Maoridom, Hunn’s review was to recommend any structural and policy changes which might assist both departmental operations and the state’s immediate, medium-term and ultimate goals for Maori. In other words, what was publicly billed as essentially a stocktaking exercise was designed to have an instrumental result – not just better use of ‘Maori assets’ but, relatedly, better policies to rapidly implement the socio-economic advancement of the Maori people. As with most liberally minded pakeha of their era, Labour politicians and the top DMA and other officials saw these improvements as coming about principally through implementation of the assimilationist vision.

Hunn’s formal terms of reference, then, essentially relating to ‘an accounting of Maori assets’, masked the broad-based nature of the review of the position of Maori in society which he set at once in place, and from which he aimed to formulate recommendations for future policy. Nine interdepartmental research teams conducted the enquiry, travelling and consulting widely. In an exhausting and remarkable few months, the investigators examined, collated and probed a huge range of statistical, policy and operational matters relevant to Maori. Hunn coordinated the findings and developed the recommendations.‘The Hunn Report’, completed in August 1960, would become one of the most famous documents of Crown–Maori interaction in New Zealand history.page 91 Surveying trends in population, land settlement and titles, housing, education, employment, health, legal differentiation, crime and other matters, its findings, commentaries and conclusions were thoughtful and comprehensive. They made clear that Maori continued to lag far behind pakeha in all socio-economic indicators, and remained an essentially marginalised people.

The report was, implicitly, an indictment of post-war governments’ implementation of the Maori policies originally set in place by Labour in the 1930s. More positively, it constituted a manifesto of proactive measures for assisting Maori to acquire parity with pakeha, something seen to be a matter of urgency if New Zealand’s much vaunted race harmony was not to be jeopardised – and if Maori were to contribute their full potential to the national good. With an election looming in November, the Prime Minister ‘sat on’ the report. His official reason for delaying its release was that he did not have sufficient time to study it. If that were true, given that he was a man of prodigious report-reading capacity, it would say a great deal about the Labour leadership’s priorities. But the major reason for non-release of the Hunn report in election year was to avoid publicly highlighting (in pakeha eyes) ‘the Maori problem’ and (in Maori eyes) the government’s inability or unwillingness to seriously address indigenous marginalisation. In his delaying tactics, Nash may have been motivated by more than just electioneering. Labour knew that it was in trouble with the electorate, and Nash later said that he suppressed the report in order to deny National the chance to use its statistics as anti-Maori ammunition in the heat of an election campaign – thereby possibly preventing an incoming conservative government inheriting unfortunate policies conceived in haste.

The Hunn report has been demonised in recent years, but generally for anachronistic reasons. Critics have tended to condemn its lack of interest in Maori autonomy. It is unrealistic, however, to expect official analyses and recommendations made in 1960 to have encompassed rangatiratanga. Any such review would naturally fall within the constrained parameters of the received wisdom of officials and politicians concerned, for whatever reasons, to improve the socio-economic lot of Maori. Hunn told his working parties that the stocktake should not question the thrust of the Crown’s socio-economic intentions with regard to Maori: ‘The main purpose is not to examine what we are doing for the Maori people but to ascertain the rate or tempo at which it is being done in relation to the dynamic growth of the Maori population.’ Social, educational and economic advancement was the urgent and overriding priority expressed within the report.

Maori, of course, did aspire to parity with pakeha social, educational and (especially) economic standards. But the Hunn report, a product of Crown assumptions and priorities, did not reflect their oft expressed aspirations forpage 92 Crown recognition of rangatiratanga. In urging, instead, a speeding up of official programmes, it sought to provide both the solution to Maori social and economic problems and to ‘the Maori problem’ perceived by the state. Its recommendations aimed to hasten the assumed natural evolutionary path towards the ‘integrationist’ version of assimilation and (ultimately) the ‘distant end-result’ of ‘final blending’. Efforts to accommodate ways of ‘seeing and doing’ that were different from those of Anglocentric culture were not on any state agenda.7

On 17 January 1961, soon after Labour lost the election, the Hunn report was released to the public by the new Minister of Maori Affairs, J R Hanan, the third-ranking minister in Cabinet. There was, no doubt, a political element to its publication. The National government could extract mileage from the fact that an official enquiry had implicitly indicted Labour ministers for failing to adequately address the needs of one of their own most stalwart sectors of support. National held out hope that it could use this as a lever to gain some increase in the scant backing it received from Maori rank and file. However, the views of Hanan and like-minded colleagues on Maori policy differed little from those of Labour politicians and ‘progressive’ officials. All reflected, to a greater or lesser degree, the broad post-war consensus which had been emerging on the need for both Maori socio-economic progress as a fast-track towards assimilation. Moreover, such beliefs formed part of a liberal package on issues such as race-based discrimination and the virtues of equality of opportunity. When Hanan and other liberal minded pakeha read the Hunn report, they saw their own views presented in a forthright and systematic fashion. When he took on ministerial responsibility for Maori Affairs, the new minister (in Hunn’s testimony) ‘soon became devoted to the Maori cause’.

For the first time, then, an official analysis had comprehensively taken into account the various post-1945 developments both among Maori and in society in general, and drawn policy conclusions within a broad context of ‘enlightened’ national and international thought. Hanan depicted the Hunn report as having ‘a fundamental bearing on the well-being of the Maori people, the well-being of New Zealanders as a whole, and on race relations in New Zealand’. He viewed the report’s recommendations as a general blueprint for indigenous policy in New Zealand, and told Hunn even before its public release that it ‘was to be Government policy in its entirety’. On 2 February 1961, Hunn was confirmed as permanent head of the Department of Maori Affairs and placed in charge of overseeing the new policy directions.

In one sense, both Hunn’s recommendations and the government’s decision to adopt the main thrust of these as policy were bold steps. In addition to proposing measures which could be effected fairly rapidly, such as removing legal differentiation between Maori and pakeha, the Hunn report ‘called forpage 93 recognition that special assistance to the Maori people was needed if living standards, occupational distribution, educational and health levels of the Maori were to be brought to approximate equality with general non-Maori standards’. The report overtly called for targeted measures and a policy of short-term or medium-term positive discrimination in the interests of long-term equality. Despite the post-war consensus on fundamental issues and goals, a policy of ‘special measures’ was not an obvious path for a conservative government to take, with its philosophical ethos of hands-off policies and its aversion to race-based funding and programmes. But Hanan, some other ministers and key advisers saw little choice than pragmatic policies to effect public-good outcomes with regard to ‘the Maori problem’: the Crown was the guardian of the nation’s racial harmony, which was under threat by rapid Maori population

increase and urban migration. The situation demanded temporary departures from the ideal, in the pursuit of ultimate goals.8

6 Hunn, Affairs of State, p 136 (for ‘to prevent further’ quote); Hunn, Report on Department of Maori Affairs, p 13 (for ‘stocktaking’ and ‘assets’ quotes); Booth and Hunn, Integration, p 10 (for ‘disproportionate’ quote); Hill, ‘Social Revolution’, p 4; Nightingale, ‘Maori at Work’, pp 36–40, 181–2.

7 Hunn, Report on Department of Maori Affairs, p 15 (for ‘remnants of Maori culture’ quote); Hunn, Affairs of State, p 136 (for ‘an accounting’ quote), p 139 (for ‘sat on’ quote), p 137 (for ‘main purpose’ quote); Ballara, Proud to Be White? pp 133–5; Butterworth, ‘Men of Authority’, p 6ff; Booth and Hunn, Integration, pp 1–3 (p 3 for ‘distant end-result’ and ‘final blending’ quotes).

8 Hunn, Report on Department of Maori Affairs, p 3 (for ‘a fundamental bearing’ quote); Hunn, Affairs of State, p 140 (for ‘soon became devoted’ quote), p 141 (for ‘Government policy’ quote); Kenworthy, L M, Martindale, T B and Sadaraka, S M, Some Aspects of the Hunn Report: A Measure of Progress, Wellington, 1968, p 6 (for ‘called for recognition’ quote); Harris, ‘Dancing with the State’, ch 5; Booth and Hunn, Integration, pp 1–4.