How the Treaty of Waitangi is determining the direction in which state-funded science will be taken (or dragged back?)

Buzz from the Beehive

We have come – or gone – a long way, in the past two decades. In which direction is open to discussion.  

Writing for The Independent Business Weekly on 22 January 2003, I noted how a localised Māori belief in a taniwha had obliged Transit New Zealand to stop work on a stretch of new expressway near Meremere for several weeks.

The Environmental Risk Management Authority was consulting people about ways to incorporate Māori spiritual values in a revised policy. The authority (according to newspaper reports at the time) might regard Māori spiritual concerns as sufficient reason for rejecting research applications for genetic research approvals, even if there was no physical biological risk.

A Biosecurity Council discussion document had set out a biosecurity strategy which called for the protection of land-based industries and the facilitation of exports and tourism as well as

… maintaining the relationship between Māori and their culture and traditions with ancestral lands, waters, sites, wahi tapu and taonga.

Responsiveness to Māori should recognise “the special nature of taonga,” the document explained, and it noted that Māori believed native plants and animals possessed spiritual qualities. Continue reading “How the Treaty of Waitangi is determining the direction in which state-funded science will be taken (or dragged back?)”

Unlike our leader, Joe Biden is a bloke and he is much older – but another big difference is that he is a Democrat

Point of Order’s attention was drawn to a post on The Standard headed Labour’s Ardern and Democrats’ Biden: Learnings.

Written under the pseudonym Advantage, the article kicks off:

For those fishing around for a progressive playbook in this fractious world, Biden and Ardern are pretty similar. But Biden appears to be turning the fortunes of the Democrats around, but Ardern is currently unrewarded. Is there anything to learn?

The author proceeds to check a few common fields, such as…

COVID 19 Action

Both Biden and Arden administrations successfully mobilised the largest free vaccination programme in the history of either New Zealand or the United States of America. Arguably the recalcitrance of Republican-controlled states and conservative media cost far more lives in the USA than any resistance in New Zealand. The Biden administration effort got over 75% of U.S. citizens fully vaccinated, and the New Zealand response and population-wide effect was even better.

Further comparisons are drawn under topics such as “guns” and “international leadership”.

Then the author looks into big divergences, including

The CHIPS and Science Act

President Biden signed this into law to accelerate semiconductor manufacturing in the United States. The policy focus is on bringing back manufacturing jobs from China to the United States and advance U.S.-led technological leadership. An equivalent for New Zealand would be to target key offshored manufacturing e.g., requiring Icebreaker, Fisher&Paykel Healthcare, Fonterra, and Fletcher Building to bring all their key ingredients and product lines and R&D back into New Zealand rather than being beholden to more fragile Chinese manufacturing and supply lines. One could only imagine the effect if they were required to as Biden has.

Ardern has been remarkably doctrinaire when it comes to industry protection and in-sourcing, and there’s plenty to learn as a very small and very narrow economy to vulnerability to China.

Point of Order looked in vain for something more when “science” was among the considerations.

In the US, the last time we checked, science is science is science.

In this country the Government is pouring millions of dollars into “science” education and projects that incorporate mātauranga Māori, which has a spiritual dimension.

Kiwiblog yesterday posted an article headed ACC funding lunar healing!

This was prompted by a Stuff report which noted:

A new programme designed to help Māori recover faster from injury is being piloted at the University of Auckland.

Kiwiblog’s David Farrar says he hopes the pilot will be independently evaluated.

The Stuff report went on:

Named Ngākau Oho, the university and ACC programme aims to implement rongoā Māori (traditional healing practices) in mainstream healthcare systems in Aotearoa.

Rongoā Māori is the name of a number of traditional Māori healthcare practices and remedies to cure ailments and injuries.

Passed down through generations of whānau and hapū, rongoā Māori involves physical, mental, and spiritual therapy.

Ngākau Oho includes online and in-person wānanga on rongoā Māori, including the use of medicinal native plants, romiromi (body alignment), maramataka (relationships to the lunar calendar) meditation and mahi tinana (body movement).

Farrar wants to know why Māori are being treated as second class citizens who get lunar healing foisted on them, rather than therapy that actually is proven to work?

It is quite possible that certain plants will have medicinal benefits. Meditation and body alignment and movement can be useful also. I have no issue with those.

But to have the Government funding injury recovery based on the lunar calendar is akin to them funding astrology as careers advice.

 But back to The Standard and the article by Advantage.

The final item examined is…

Rescue Plan

All citizens like to think their government has a plan, and the first big one to come out of the Biden administration was simply the American Rescue Plan. This US$1.9 trillion rescue plan paid for the full vaccination programme, family debt relief with mailed cheques to most people, and a new child tax credit that led to the largest-ever one-year decrease in recorded U.S. child poverty.

The Ardern government has been renowned less for its plan for recovery per se than for Ardern’s own daily media briefings. It is s substitute of perpetual visibility for a durable plan. New Zealand’s government expenditure was as a proportion of GDP even greater than that of the United States, but the economic effects have been uneven with unemployment remaining low yet economic growth stagnating.

What hasn’t remained is a sense that the Ardern government is continuing to be guided by a plan, a plan with a visible public shape and direction.

The key differences with Biden’s broad and very bold plans are the focus on costed benefits to citizens, the focus on strong guidance of the whole economy, and translating the legislative and policy wins into fresh political momentum.

Progressives have similarities, but Biden has a performance edge Ardern can learn from.

Here at Point of Order we were bursting to point out a fundamental difference between Biden and Ardern that was not addressed in Advantage’s article.

No, neither the age nor gender of the two leaders.

The big difference is that Biden is a Democrat.

In contrast, Ardern’s Government has been unabashedly undermining our  democracy and she resists efforts to have her declare her position on the basic principle that all citizens should have equal electoral rights.

On her watch, legislation has been passed to ensure some people are given preferential representation on a local authority by being exempted from the need to campaign for electoral support. Instead, they simply  appoint their representatives.

Not one Labour MP expressed misgivings at this anti-democratic arrangement.

Having determined who must be represented on a public authority, regardless of voter support, the Government is working on a process for excluding people, without gauging voter support.

Associate Education Minister Jan Tinetti is seeking urgent advice about the conduct of school board elections, after a white supremacist, Philip Arps, announced he is standing for Te Aratai College’s board of trustees in Linwood, Christchurch.

Arps was sentenced to 21 months’ jail for sharing footage of the Christchurch terror attack. Tinetti wants guidance on the scope of a code of conduct that is being developed for school boards. She and her officials are also looking at eligibility.

If a government can distort the electoral process by barring one group of citizens from standing for  office today, it can further distort it by barring other groups it deems unworthy  from standing for office in the future.

Moreover, it is declaring parents unfit to decide for themselves who should sit on the boards that govern  the schools attended by their children.

After the system for electing school boards has been doctored – who will be next?



No, Prime Minister – those lunches are not free and they draw attention to shortcomings in the war against poverty

Buzz from the Beehive

It’s not the sort of accomplishment – some of us might think – that a Prime Minister would be proud to bray about.

The Government’s healthy lunches in school programme has ramped up to deliver a million free lunches to school kids every week.

The PM dished up these numbers:

  • Savings for a family with two children at school of up to $62 a week, over $2000 a year
  • Lunches now reaching 220,000 kids at 950 schools every school day
  • A million lunches delivered a week, over 63 million in total to date
  • 2,361 jobs created or retained

What should we make of this?

On the one hand, yes, it is noteworthy that the Government is delivering a million lunches to school kids every week.

But is it praiseworthy?

The PM calls them “free” lunches, opting for political patter that is apt to find favour with lefties. But free lunch

“… refers to a situation where there is no cost incurred by the individual receiving the goods or services being provided, but economists point out that even if something were truly free there is an opportunity cost in what is not taken.”

In this case, the critical question is: why must the government feed school children?

The answer can only reflect badly on the success (or otherwise) of its assault on poverty.

The Ardern Cabinet includes a Minister with the Child Poverty Reduction portfolio.

Ardern appointed herself to this job, presumably to underscore the importance she attaches to it.

Success  – we suggest – will be reflected in an announcement that significantly fewer “free” lunches are being served in our schools.

Government money meanwhile is being pumped into an array of initiatives, some of them unabashedly designed to help eligible people on the basis of race.  Continue reading “No, Prime Minister – those lunches are not free and they draw attention to shortcomings in the war against poverty”

Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing

This country’s relations with the Pacific were the subjects of two fresh statements from the Beehive and were mentioned in despatches from Washington, although nothing suggested Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta would be headed to look up our near neighbours any time soon.

Mahuta’s contribution was to announce the appointment of Don Higgins as the next Administrator of Tokelau.

“Aotearoa New Zealand is first and foremost a Pacific nation. We value the strong and enduring relationships that we have with countries throughout the region, and I know these will only continue to grow,” Nanaia Mahuta said. 

The Administrator’s role is to support the Tokelau Government to deliver quality public services to the people of Tokelau, and to help manage the relationship between our countries.

Higgins will also oversee New Zealand’s development assistance to Tokelau, which is focused on strengthening Tokelau’s resilience to climate change, and includes “major investments” in education, internet connectivity, and renewable energy. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Pacific is discussed in PM’s chat with Biden while Nash has ‘Plan’ to transform manufacturing”

Buzz from the Beehive: Megan Woods signals no retreat from plans to incorporate mātauranga Māori in NZ science system

The news media have made much of the government’s firing a shot across the bows of the supermarket duopoly.

The Government has put supermarkets on notice that they must change at pace to increase competition and be prepared for regulation.

It will introduce an industry regulator, a mandatory code of conduct, compulsory unit pricing on groceries and more transparent loyalty schemes.

Not so much attention is likely to be paid to Megan Woods’ Cawthron Institute Centenary Speech, although it portends some key features to be incorporated in a shake-up of the country’s research, science and innovation sector.

Most contentiously, our Minister of Research, Science and Innovation signalled the government’s determination to further incorporate Mātauranga Māori in the country’s science system and to develop research priorities in a partnership with Māori. Continue reading “Buzz from the Beehive: Megan Woods signals no retreat from plans to incorporate mātauranga Māori in NZ science system”

Buzz from the Beehive – and our science minister proudly declares her position on mātauranga Māori

Here’s what our Ministers have been up to over the past 24 hours (at least, here’s what they have proclaimed, announced or disclosed in press statements).

One statement landed in our in-tray around the same time as we were posting our report on the tohunga and the knowledge he brings to the challenge of fog dispersal at airports.  It came from Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods, who declared she was proud to be backing mātauranga Māori scientific research.

In effect, she has also declared where she stands in the controversy  that has split the science community on mātauranga Māori and science.

Latest from the Beehive

13 APRIL 2022

COVID-19 research fund for future health planning

Researchers looking at the COVID-19 pandemic are being invited to apply for grants from a new fund.

C-130 Hercules departs for Europe to support Ukraine

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130H transport aircraft departed for Europe today to help partner militaries support Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s invasion, Defence Minister Peeni Henare

12 APRIL 2022

Winter tourism gets a lift with new ski workers

Winter tourism is getting a lift from a Government decision to allow 275 experienced workers to enter the country to support businesses operating ski fields and snow sports destinations.

Chris Black, Ruth Dyson appointed as Chair, Deputy Chair of EQC Board

Recently retired chief executive of the Farmers’ Mutual Group, Chris Black, and former Christchurch MP, Ruth Dyson have been appointed Chair and Deputy Chair of the Earthquake Commission Board.

Government delivering improvements to children’s lives

The Government has released its first statutory Annual Report for the Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and its third Child Poverty Related Indicators Report.

Proud to be backing mātauranga Māori scientific research

Sixteen projects including a horticultural and food enterprise, a study into intergenerational iwi knowledge, and ways of bringing traditional and modern engineering streams together will receive funding through the latest round of the Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

Column Stuff-up – defending science is challenging nowadays but professors were right about Wiles’ allegation

The Dominion-Post – without any hint of a blush – proclaimed in a Page 3 headline today:  Mauri restored to Parliament grounds. 

Really? We hope to see the photographs.

On the next page, a report is headlined ”Media Council upholds professors’ complaint”.

This tells readers “a most serious allegation” (and a baseless one) had been made against six University of Auckland professors by associate professor Siouxsie Wiles.  This had struck at the heart of academic freedom by asserting the professors were trying to stifle opposing views using lawyers’ threats and required immediate public correction.

The article beneath the Page 3 headline says work to rebuild Parliament grounds is starting after the occupation by protesters.

Reporter Glenn McConnell describes a procession and a ceremony which involved poi, taiaha and karakia and the turning of soil

“… to open Papatūānuku and restore mauri to the grounds”. Continue reading “Column Stuff-up – defending science is challenging nowadays but professors were right about Wiles’ allegation”

The Treaty and ideology – the Kiwi way of thinking that is corroding our democracy and debasing our science

As ministerial announcements on the Beehive website make ominously plain, Covid is still with us.    The government’s programme of fusing science with matauranga Maori is still with us, too, although that’s not something you will learn from recent announcements.

Mind you, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Science Minister Megan Woods, Associate Science Minister Ayesha Verrall and their colleagues might be quietly back-pedalling on their concept of a Treaty-based system of science and the way it should be taught.  But this is highly unlikely.

And as long as the Great Science Experiment continues in the ethnocentric crucible of Kiwi biculturalism , the debate it fuels will keep burning brightly.

In this country in recent days, Newsroom has published an article by Professor Elizabeth Rata who writes:

No matter how intense or heated the discussion may be, NZ universities need to address the difference between ideology and science… 

In the United States, Professor Jerry Coyne has maintained a keen interest in the way science is evolving – is that the right word? – in this country.

His examination of specific claims about matauranga Maori and how it can tell us stuff that modern science can’t, or can somehow supplement modern science, has resulted in the past week in these items being published on his Evolution is True website: Continue reading “The Treaty and ideology – the Kiwi way of thinking that is corroding our democracy and debasing our science”

Minister seems oblivious to the defence of science as she pitches public funds into empowerment and a quest for knowledge

Monitoring the Ministers

While the science domain in New Zealand has been split over what is science and what is not, the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation is having a bob each way.

Not her bob – it’s the public ‘s bob.

And not just one bob.  Megan Woods was announcing a $1.6 million investment in a bunch of young people.

Expressing herself in the mix of English and te reo that is favoured for communicative purposes by the government and the establishment press, Woods’ press statement said:

“Getting rangatahi hooked on science is a key focus of this year’s Unlocking Curious Minds funding round, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced, unveiling the 13 successful recipients of $1.6 million in Government funding.

“Through the Unlocking Curious Minds 2021 contestable fund the Government is supporting a wide range of really fun, hands-on projects, investigating subjects like nature, climate change, and Mātauranga Māori to empower rangatahi to connect with science and technology in a way that is meaningful to them.

“We know students are far more engaged when they learn about subjects they can relate to. Through activities like participation in Waka Ama, thinking about where food comes from, and personalised stories, we are inspiring future generations to add value to their own lives and as well as that of their local communities.” Continue reading “Minister seems oblivious to the defence of science as she pitches public funds into empowerment and a quest for knowledge”

The philosopher stoned for his defence of science


A letter in defence of science, published in New Zealand Listener in July, was signed by seven professors from the University of Auckland.  Emeritus Professor Robert Nola,​ one of the signatories, specialises in the philosophy of science.  But the Royal Society of New Zealand is investigating him over what it claims are “misguided” views regarding Māori knowledge. Graham Adams reports.


Professor Robert Nola’s bread and butter is analysing what makes science science. This has been his focus for more than 50 years. Yet, he is facing a disciplinary hearing by the Royal Society for expressing his views on science and mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge).

Nola was one of seven eminent professors from the University of Auckland who, in a letter to  New Zealand Listener in July, criticised plans to include mātauranga Māori in the school science curriculum and to give it equal standing with “Western/ Pakeha epistemologies” — which means subjects such as physics, biology and chemistry.

The professors acknowledged the value of indigenous knowledge as “critical for the preservation and perpetuation of culture and local practices” and that it “plays key roles in management and policy”.  But (they wrote) while it “may indeed help advance scientific knowledge in some ways, it is not science”.

The Royal Society felt moved to respond with a public statement:

“The recent suggestion by a group of University of Auckland academics that mātauranga Māori is not a valid truth is utterly rejected by Royal Society Te Apārangi. The society strongly upholds the value of mātauranga Māori and rejects the narrow and outmoded definition of science outlined in the Listener Letter to the Editor.

“It deeply regrets the harm such a misguided view can cause.”

Unfortunately for a statement put out in the name of the nation’s premier academy for the sciences and humanities, it seemed to show a poor grasp of what the professors had actually written. Continue reading “The philosopher stoned for his defence of science”