Brian Turner

Trustee and co-spokesman for PANZ
[link to other spokesman - Bruce Mason]

Writings for PANZ (pdf documents)



on DOC
"The Department of Conservation is acutely sensitive to criticism that it is too hard line, not flexible enough, wants to "lock everything up", and is a poor neighbour. In my view DOC is silly to think that it can be all things to all people; its priorities must be with conservation and recreational needs".

on water margins and covenants
"Wetlands and the margins of rivers and lakes should be better protected. Some people -- not too many I believe -- think that private owners will quite happily and responsibly attend to these matters, I don't. Some promote the idea of covenants. Covenant is a word with a nice ring to it, but I'm not convinced that this approach will work. Covenants can be amended or extinguished in secret without any public input".

on PANZ, truth and the news media
"Bodies lobbying on behalf of 'private interests' have managed to persuade a substantial number of media staff that PANZ (is) too radical. (A prominent journalist advised that) although it was clear that we had been speaking the truth for the last three years or more, our timing had been wrong. What we've been saying, he said, is okay now that others have at last cottoned on. In other words the truth is of lesser or little importance; it's who says what, when, and how you say it that counts most".

"What our opponents don't like about us is that we are committed to resist private predation of the public estate. We don't mealy-mouth; we ask for public consultation and open debate. Our opponents are loath to come out into the open, to come clean".

"PANZ doesn't think it's supporters want us to mealy-mouth, kowtow, cower. Every year we make dozens of detailed, well researched and reasonable proposals. We examine legislation; we try to uncover the truth".

on the Treaty
"Much is made these days of preferred interpretations of Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi, and of what is meant -- or was intended to be meant -- by it. There is also much talk of what is meant by reference to the "principles of the treaty".

"I have heard it said that the meaning of the "principles" is what Maori advocates say it means in any given circumstance and that's it. Certainly this is an area of profound disquiet".

"There is also, in my view, a marked disinclination to refer to Articles 1 and 3 of the treaty, to consider them and their importance in determining the meaning and application of the treaty as a whole. It will be remembered that in Article 1 Maoris ceded sovereignty "absolutely and without reservation".

on race and conservation
"The Minister of Treaty Settlements, Doug Graham, has been working very hard to accommodate Ngai Tahu's wishes in respect to specific provisions relating to what he and they term "customary rights".

"Running through the whole issue is an implied assertion that Maoris are supreme and superior conservationists, have a deeper understanding of the natural world and values inherent in it, and that pakehas are crasser by comparison".

"It would be fairer to say that both races have a record of being seriously, even ruthlessly exploitative of natural resources at times, and that today a growing number of both Maoris and pakehas are coming round to acknowledging the error of some of their previous ways".

on cultural insensitivity
"Some Maori are scornful of those non Maori who see the natural world as having aesthetic appeal and spiritual taonga and everything in it as intrinsically valuable".

"Those of us who object to Maori claims to the Greenstone and Caples (Valleys), for instance, and say that before the government should consider handing over such lands to any private interest groups, claimants should have to prove that the lands were nicked in the first place, are accused of being racist".

"It's long past time that those who bleat about cultural sensitivity showed more of it themselves. The moral high ground is a knife edge".

on history and the present
"As human beings we are often reminded that we ought to revise our thinking in accordance with what, given the lessons to be drawn from history, seems sensible and desirable. Attempts to graft or enforce the thinking of earlier times on to subsequent, increasingly distant generations grate and often fail, for good reason".

"Decisions on allocation of and access to natural resources that are based on a sense of guilt, are driven by aggrievement or moral outrage, will never be readily accepted".

"Perhaps Maori and non-Maori alike should stop wrangling over who did what, when, and to whom, in the past. Say, "Look, we're sorry, but every race and community has, and has had, its ratbags, so let's get on and try to do better from now on."


Brian Turner was born in Dunedin, NZ in 1944. He is a poet and a freelance journalist, editor and writer. His first book of poems Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. This was followed by a number of highly-acclaimed poetry collections and award-winning writing in a wide range of genres including journalism, biography, memoir (Somebodies and Nobodies 2002) and sports writing.

In 1984 he was Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago and in 1997 he was writer in residence at the University of Canterbury. His most recent collection of poetry Taking Off was published by Victoria University Press in 2001 and made the final three in the Poetry category of the 2002 Montana NZ Book Awards.

'Beneath the wit, the no-nonsense honesty, the rigorous clarity of sense and the sinewy rhythmic energy of the poems' surfaces runs the craft of a sophisticated, confident and well-read poet.' -Oxford Companion

He lives in Central Otago, NZ.

One of his poems "Semi-Kiwi" was selected for the online collection Best NZ Poems 2001.

Brian Turner was named as the Te Mata New Zealand Poet Laureate 2003.

Source: New Zealand Literature File


Te Mata Poet Laureate


Public Access New Zealand, P.O.Box 17, Dunedin, New Zealand