Thomas Tarurongo Wynne: Finding trust between nations

Saturday August 22, 2020 Written by Published in Editorials
Tui Dewes has worked for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 19 years, including postings to India and Turkey. 20082137 Tui Dewes has worked for New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 19 years, including postings to India and Turkey. 20082137

OPINION: The appointment of New Zealand’s High Commissioner Tui Dewes shows the two countries trust each other more than they did.

Relationships are measured by many things; love, trust, integrity, honesty and transparency.

When we think of our relationships, we look to our wives, husbands, or partners and then to our parents and children and then to our friends. And as we widen that circle, we take in more and more people into our inner circle.

From time to time, it is important to ask why is that person in your inner circle is. Why are they there and have they kept that sense of love, trust, integrity, and transparency to remain in that inner circle.

In life we move people in and out of those circle’s all the time, some stay far too long on reflection and others we hoped would have stayed longer, and yet it is this relationship, these multi layered relationships that sustain us, that hold us accountable, and that create the lens by which we see the world and others.

Countries do this: they maintain relationships between each other.

We have a High Commissioner in New Zealand and New Zealand has a High Commissioner in Cook Islands. Just this week diplomat Tui Dewes was appointed to the role, ready to take over from a daughter of the Cook Islands, the late Tessa Temata, and acting High Commissioner Rachel Bennett. 

Her appointment is significant because she is Maori and a woman, a well-educated and well-experienced Maori woman, and she signals the deepening relationship between the Cook Islands and New Zealand and New Zealand’s acknowledgement of the cultural and Te Ao Maori lens that unites both countries and its raranga of akapapa’anga and of vaka, and tribal history as we moved as a people through the Pacific.

Resident Commissioners have greatly shaped our history – it should be taught in schools. In 1891 the first British Resident Commissioner Frederick Moss (a New Zealand politician) was sent to Rarotonga.

In his time he was able to organise a Federal Parliament with representatives from each of the southern islands of the group, with the members of the Federal Parliament being Ariki, with the Resident acting as an advisor.

This period, which lasted until New Zealand annexed us in 1901, saw local Maori own and operate schooners under their own flag, trading throughout the Cooks, as well as Tahiti and down to Australia and New Zealand.

While some had European captains, others were manned from the captain down by Cook Islanders. They were all owned by tribal groups and operated by the respective Ariki who also organised much of the production and marketing.

For all of Moss’ success with local people however, it would be Papa’a businessmen and their interests that would have him removed. He challenged their hold on profits, giving rise to a petition to New Zealand to have him replaced.

In September 1898 a politician was replaced with a military man, a Colonel Walter Gudgeon. Unlike Moss, who arrived on a schooner, Gudgeon arrived on a warship.

He was introduced by the naval commander, the ship's guns were fired, and with that Gudgeon landed to take up his duties.

With his increased powers after annexation, Gudgeon tightened his grip with any independence and self-government giving way to the crushing of Ariki authority and the imposition of control from Wellington.

It was New Zealand Premier Richard Seddon’s dream of a sub-empire, through the Resident Commissioner who in nine years assumed all and total power.

Gudgeon quickly dismissed local judges, Maori officials, the postmasters and police and within five years not one of the native schooners was still running. Production and marketing on Maori tribal lines had virtually ceased.

The high school was closed down, and scholarships offered by the New Zealand Education Department were refused by the Resident who was strongly opposed to the education of the natives beyond an elementary level.

With slight modifications in the 1940s and 1950s, this administrative machine set up under Gudgeon was to govern the Cook Islands and subjugate the people of the Cook Islands for the next fifty-six years until our Constitutional self-governance in 1965.

You see, who we have as a country in our inner circle really does matter, as much as it does for individuals.

For, 120 years after Colonel Gudgeon, we welcome the arrival of Tui Dewes, a signpost – like the appointment of our very own Tessa Temata – that the relationship between our two countries has grown deeper.

We trust each other more and see each other as equals more than ever before.

Leave a comment