Sir William Gallagher comments on Treaty of Waitangi labelled "old thinking"

By Raniera Harrison

A Māori business leader is calling Sir William Gallagher's comments "old", and from the "history books."

"This is old thinking, this is thinking from a time that we have left in our history books," says Federation of Māori Authorities chair, Traci Houpapa.

Māori businesswoman, Traci Houpapa was formally recognised on Friday evening, at the Waikato branch dinner of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand. Receiving their highest level of membership as a 'Chartered Fellow', the achievement was quickly overshadowed by disparaging comments made by Sir William Gallagher, present as a guest speaker at the event.

"The majority of the people in the room did not support the comments [and] there was a clear change in the mood and atmosphere in the room" recalls Houpapa, the chair vested with the responsibility of $1`1.5 billion dollars of assets from it's 150 members.

Addressing the Waikato branch of the Institute of Directors on Friday night, Gallagher said that "the Treaty papers on display at Te Papa were fraudulent documents", likening Māori to an "apartheid" regime, and there being "no doubt [Māori] gave up sovereignty" when signing the Treaty of Waitangi.

Gallagher, who made his controversial statements at Hamilton's FMG Stadium, did not want to speak with media today, and issued a statement through the communications arm of his Hamilton-based company, saying his view "was a personal view and does not represent the views of his company."

"They {Gallagher} would be wise to consider their partnership and commercial relationship with customers like Māori ahuwhenua" warned Houpapa.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Hon Andrew Little MP also did not want to comment, however, he issued a statement today describing the comments as "out of step" and citing "plenty of scholarly research about what happened with the signing."

"They [Gallagher's comments] do not reflect where this country is heading, where Māori are heading, where Māori are heading in terms of economy, business, technology, education, all of the great gains that we are making," says Houpapa. 

Wellington-based Institute of Directors, the hosts of the event, issued a statement of their own also today, denouncing the comments, saying they have "a strong commitment to Treaty of Waitangi principles" and wish to "apologise to anyone who was offended by the remarks made at our Waikato Branch Christmas event."