Monday, March 08, 2010

Is Kiwibank honouring a grave-robbing crank?

[Reproduced below is an article I'll be circulating in various places over the next couple of days. Regular readers of this blog will already have had the dubious pleasure of encountering many of the characters mentioned in the text. Update: it now seems possible Noel Hilliam has falsely reported receiving a prestigious award from Kiwibank, and that his local paper has repeated and elaborated his claims. See the comments thread at the bottom of this post for more information on this curious development...]

Kiwibank has dismayed archaeologists, historians, and Maori by handing a prestigious award to an untrained self-proclaimed archaeologist with a history of illegally removing bones from Maori burial sites.

Noel Hilliam, a retired farmer from Dargaville, was recently awarded the Kiwibank New Zealand Senior of the Year Award for 2010. According to Kiwibank, the award recognises older people who have been responsible for 'incredible achievements' that create 'national pride'. In an article reporting the award, the Dargaville Online newsletter presents Hilliam as one of New Zealand's top scholars, and claims that his work 'may well contribute to a new understanding' of New Zealand's history.

In reality, Hilliam lacks any training in archaeology, history, or any related subject, has never published research in an academic journal, has never presented a paper at an academic conference, and has never taken part in a scientific archaeological excavation or survey.

Despite his lack of training and expertise, Hilliam confidently promotes a bizarre theory about the prehistory of New Zealand in his writings and his public pronouncements. Hilliam believes that a race of white people lived in New Zealand thousands of years ago, before being conquered by the ancestors of the Maori. He claims that there is an enormous conspiracy, involving the New Zealand government, academics, museum curators, and Maori politicians, to hide the fact that white people arrived in New Zealand long before Polynesians. In a profile published in the Franklin E Local courier last year, Hilliam characterised himself as a 'warrior for truth' who is continually persecuted for his views.

Without the permission of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust or local iwi, and in violation of the 1993 New Zealand Historic Places Act, Hilliam has repeatedly raided Maori burial sites in the Kaipara region and removed human remains, in the hope of using them as evidence for his claims about an ancient white race. In December 2005 Hilliam gave a lecture at Dargaville's museum, during which he displayed some of the many skulls he has removed from Maori grave sites. The theory that an advanced race of white people settled New Zealand long ago before being conquered by primitive Maori has never had any credibility with experts on our history, but it has appealed to this country's white racist groups. The first person to argue that whites are New Zealand's indigenous people was Kerry Bolton, a pseudo-scholar who has had a leading role in a series of neo-Nazi groups, including the New Zealand Fascist Union and the National Front. Another high-profile advocate of the theory that whites reached New Zealand long before Polynesians is Martin Doutre, a self-proclaimed 'astro-archaeologist' with firm connections to white racist groups and Holocaust deniers. Doutre and Hilliam have collaborated on a number of projects, and Doutre often uses photographs of skulls Hilliam has unearthed in the articles he publishes on his website and in racist magazines.

Besides Doutre, Hilliam has worked with the 'Universal Peace Nation of Waitaha', a New Age religious group which claims to be descended from a race of aliens which arrived on the earth over half a million years ago and settled in New Zealand a few thousand years ago. In 1996 Hilliam and Pat Ruka, a leading member of the Universal Peace Nation of Waitaha, held a ceremony at Dargaville museum to celebrate Waitaha 'history'. Ruka and his 'Universal Peace Nation' have been characterised as fraudsters by authorities on Maori history like Tipene O'Regan and Keri Hulme.

Hilliam's raids on grave sites, his connections to white racists like Martin Doutre, and his claims that Kiwi scholars of the past are engaged in a massive, politically-motivated conspiracy have long caused concern in the Kaipara region and beyond. David Williams, a Queens Counsel, University of Auckland professor of law and long-time legal advisor to the Te Uri o Hau iwi of the northern Kaipara, has said that iwi elders were already aware of and disturbed by Hilliam's grave robbing in the
1990s. Williams has compared Hilliam to Andreas Reishchek, an Austrian taxidermist who pillaged burial caves in the Kaipara during the nineteenth century.

The longstanding unease at Hilliam's activities led to a controversy last year when it was discovered that the Dargaville museum, a private institution with which Hilliam has had a long association, was displaying an ancient Maori artefact in an insulting way and misrepresenting it as an example of a pre-Maori 'Waitaha' civilisation. Hilliam was identified as the creator of the exhibit, and the museum was deluged with complaints from across the country. In one widely-circulated complaint, the respected Kai Tahu blogger Marty Mars called Dargaville museum's exhibit 'a complete and utter lie' and denounced the institution as 'a disgrace'.

In a statement issued in response to the complaints, museum administrators said that the exhibit had already been under review, because of concerns of local iwi, and that it would be removed. The museum also disassociated itself from Hilliam, saying that he no longer occupied any official position at the institution and that his views on New Zealand history were not accepted there. In the aftermath of the controversy at Dargaville museum, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust decided to open an investigation into Hilliam's activities at Maori burial sites.

Even before last year's controversy, Hilliam had been facing public ridicule over a series of strange claims he had made in the national media about other aspects of New Zealand history. In 2007, for instance, Hilliam announced that he had discovered the wreck of a German U boat off the west coast of Northland. According to Hilliam, the U boat had left Germany in the last years of World War Two, and was full of Nazi gold. Hilliam's claims were widely reported in the media, but he was mocked when he failed to make good his promise to provide the location of his 'discovery' to the public.

In a statement he made late last year, David Williams said that he hoped that the controversy at Dargaville's museum and the investigation into grave-robbing by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust would mean that Hilliam would finally be comprehensively publically discredited, and would thus find it unable to continue his raids on ancient grave sites. With its decision to give Hilliam the New Zealand Senior of the Year Award, though, Kiwibank has risked giving credibility to the man's bizarre views and his criminal methods of 'research'.

Archaeologist Edward Ashby, who himself hails from Dargaville, has described Kiwibank's decision to give Hilliam an award as a 'slap in the face'. Ashby said that many archaeologists were upset that the work of an 'unethical amateur' who has made 'unfounded accusations against serious scholars' was being celebrated by Kiwibank. University of Auckland lecturer in philosophy Matthew Dentith, who specialises in studying bizarre and irrational ideas, has described Kiwibank's decision to recognise Hilliam as a 'travesty'. 'It isn't a good look for such an award to go to someone who promotes a distorted view of our indigenous history', Dentith said.

If the Senior of the Year Award is supposed to recognise 'incredible achievement' which creates 'national pride', then it is hard to see how Hilliam deserves the prize. For scholars of New Zealand's past and many other Kiwis, Hilliam's grave- robbing and conspiracy theories are sources of embarrassment, not pride.


Blogger stephen said...

Maps, have you talked to Kiwibank at all?

I ask because I drafted a stern letter, but I thought I'd check before I sent it, and I discovered that the winner appears to be Eion Edgar:

Is the truth perhaps that Hilliam is claiming an award he has not received?

7:27 am  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Stephen,

it's a strange old world, isn't it? I think you may be right. I banged out this post shortly after being sent a copy of the Dargaville Online article reporting Hilliam's Award by Edward Ashby, who reported that unhappy archaeologists were passing it round. I contacted Kiwibank and asked to speak to someone from the sponsorship department but didn't get any satisfaction, and so sent them an e mail instead (I still haven't heard back). But I took the article and Hilliam's participation in it as proof that Hilliam had in fact received the Award.

After a few google searches late last night, though, I began to get a trifle suspicious.

Is it possible that Hilliam is odd enough to claim to have won an award that has not gone to him? And are Dargy journos really credulous enough to write a hagiographical article about him in response to his claim without checking it out?

I'll hold off circulating the article until this is sorted out.

9:44 am  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

It is very strange indeed - certainly Eion Edgar is recognised on the NZ of the year website but that article from the dargy online is hearty in its praise of noel and his award

this could get quite interesting indeed

9:55 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe this is a trap Hilliam has created?

1:06 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The senior NZer of the year was indeed awarded to Sir Eion Edgar. And the award was sponsored by Ryman Healthcare (not Kiwibank)... Kiwibank sponsored the NZer of the Year (awarded to Ray Avery) and the Local Hero (awarded to Sam Tutu Chapman).

1:09 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Thanks for that anon. I've just e mailed Dargaville Online to try to get them to provide some explanation for their claims. This is a very strange case indeed.

1:40 pm  
Blogger Marty Mars said...

dargy online is quite explicit

"Kiwibank's Senior New Zealander of the Year Award has this year gone to local identity Noel Hilliam."

and to finish the sandwich - from the end

"This award is a tribute to a man who has devoted his life to his community and historical research. Much of his research is ongoing and may well contribute to a new understanding of the origins of human habitation in New Zealand which up till now is still shrouded in question marks and mythology."

something is very wrong up in dargy

1:49 pm  
Anonymous Grant McCabe said...

Hi there

My name is Grant McCabe and I am the National Coordinator of the New Zealander of the Year Awards. I thought I should respond to the incorrect information that has been reported in the Dargaville Online Weekly Newsletter.

Noel Hilliam was not the winner of the Kiwibank Senior Award. Firstly Kiwibank do not sponsor the Senior New Zealander of the Year Award they sponsor the New Zealander of the Year Award and Local Heroes Awards. These were won by Ray Avery and Sam Tutu Chapman respectively.

The winner of the inaugural “Ryman Healthcare” Senior New Zealander of the Year Award is Sir Eion Edgar of Otago. He was chosen through a comprehensive judging process from over 70+ nominations for this award.

Noel Hilliam was nominated for both the Ryman Healthcare Senior New Zealander of the Year Award and the Kiwibank Local Heroes Award. He was not a winner, finalist or semi finalist in either of these awards. Like all nominees he did receive a certificate to acknowledge his nomination.

More details on the New Zealander of the Year Awards can be found at If you have any questions or queries please feel free to contact me on or on free phone 0508 692 927.

Thank you.

Grant McCabe
National Awards Coordinator
New Zealander of the Year Awards

4:17 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

So, Mr Hilliam has parlayed a certificate for being nominated into being the winner of an award that doesnt exist?

Sounds par for the course...

4:46 pm  
Blogger Paul said...

The sentence quoted by Marty Mars, "Much of his research is ongoing and may well contribute to a new understanding of the origins of human habitation in New Zealand which up till now is still shrouded in question marks and mythology" is both ungrammatical and incorrect. It would better be put "Much of his research is shrouded in question marks and mythology."

7:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can Grant McCabe PROVE Noel didn't win his award???!?

7:16 pm  
Anonymous Keri h said...

I'm sorry? You, latest Anon I mean-

Grant McCabe is the AWARD CO-ORDINATOR.

Now, asking with truly loving kindness before the venom-sacs are employed...which part of that title do you not understand?

7:37 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course once the PC thought control freaks get on the job people like Grant McCabe have to back down and DENY...

Why not ask Noel himself THE HORSES MOUTH!!!

8:50 pm  
Blogger maps said...

It looks like Dargaville Online has definitely published a completely fictional claim.
Here's a message I received from Kiwibank's rep today and my response to it:

Dear Scott

With reference to your email complaint about Mr Hilliam winning the Kiwibank Senior New Zealander of the Year.

I can confirm that Kiwibank did not give Mr Hilliam the Senior New Zealander of the Year award. Any reference to this is inaccurate. In fact we don’t even sponsor this category.

Kiwibank sponsors the New Zealander of the Year Awards. There are 5 categories – Senior New Zealander (sponsored by Ryman Healthcare), Young New Zealander (sponsored by Coca Cola Amatil), Community of the Year (sponsored by Mitre 10), the Local Heroes Awards and the New Zealander of the Year (we sponsor these last two categories as well as being the sponsor of the overall programme).

I have asked the awards organisers to clear up any misunderstanding, both with the local media and any blogs on Mr Hilliam.

This is the link to the actual awards programme


Denise Beazley


Hi Denise,

thanks for the reply and clarification. I was misinformed by an article which appeared in the Dargaville Online newsletter, and which has been circulating on the net. The article can be found here:

I have asked Dargaville Online to explain their article, but have so far had no response. I think it'd be in Kiwibank's interests to get the paper to offer an explanation and a retraction, because there are certainly a few people who have taken the article seriously and believe Kiwibank has an association with Noel Hilliam. I know for a fact that the article has upset a number of people in New Zealand's archaeological community.

Scott Hamilton

9:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the loony one new zealand foundation that doutre and hilliam hang out with has been sending racist e mails to paul moon now...asking him to 'show a little respect' to his white betters

From: "Paul Moon"
Sent: Monday, January 18, 2010 1:49 PM
Subject: Re: Treaty.

Dear Ross,

As I said previously, I am very stretched for time with my heavy writing schedule. I have, however, given you the courtesy of replies to your emails, and have tried to be as fair as possible. I note that few other academics have afforded you the same time.

Your latest comments, however, fall below a standard, which would incline me to respond to them directly. In particular, your reference to belittling ancestors and needing to show respect, I consider to be unnecessary, while your statement 'Remember Paul, without British intervention, it could have been your tattooed head sitting on a pole in an enemies pa, or in a museum somewhere around the world!' I find to be offensive on many levels.

I would therefore appreciate it if you avoid sending me these sorts of emails in the future.

Thanks you,

11:42 pm  
Blogger Amnion said...

Whew! Glad I read the comments before I posted my angry mail to Kwiwbank!

Oooh isnt it interesting, more fraud!

3:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that Kiwibank is honoring a crank. I was thinking that they should be in a Senior Communities, where they can all just hang out and be crazy.

That's Kiwibank is something special.

5:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you all are getting so fired up about this bull shit it's just a insite into what may of happend and what more qulification do you need than a life time of local knolage The information is there if you want take it or leave it and move on

12:03 am  

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