Remember that in modern times, rangatiratanga comprises three aspirations – greater self-determination, more political power, and eradication of social and economic disadvantage. Below we have proposed solutions to each of these issues.

Self determination can be met through devolution

There’s a whole lot more that could be done to give more meaningful choice to Maori, and indeed any New Zealander, by shifting authority from central government to groups and communities. This devolution has the potential to deliver not only freedom and choice, but political equality too. New Zealand has already tiptoed down this path a bit – with self-forming communities being allowed to manage schools and offer primary health care services. There’s scope for more. What’s distinctive about the promising pilot ‘Rangatahi’ Court is that Maori and Pakeha worlds come together. An alternative to the Youth Court, it allows cases to be heard in community facilities, including marae. Members of the local community are present, with a Youth Court judge presiding. When Maori and non-Maori institutions work together like this, both gain legitimacy. This is how we see devolution working most successfully and effectively: through cooperation – bridges across diverse worlds – not competing and segregated institutions. Devolution could also be extended into new areas such as welfare – as already signaled with the Tuhoe settlement. However devolution is not a substitute for good policy – someone still needs to constantly assess the policies to make sure they are well thought through and effective. Devolution does not mean abandoning good government. Finally, a warning. The areas where we have practiced devolution like health and education have not been subjected to rigorous evaluation. Minimum standards for all must be met under Article 3, accountability is necessary.

Address disadvantage regardless of ethnicity 

Over-representation of Maori in the statistics on socio-economic disadvantage is unacceptable on any level and reflects poorly on New Zealand society. But we need to stop framing disadvantage as a Treaty issue. We should aim to address the disadvantage experienced by any individual or family irrespective of their ethnicity. All in need warrant assistance. Non-Maori groups are at risk too (e.g. Pasifika), so it’s just not credible to frame it the way the Treaty industry does. We need to strengthen our anti-discrimination and Human Rights legislation to address ethnic bias in disadvantage.

Political Power – let the people decide

 This is the tricky one. The Treaty is a relationship, a sharing relationship that requires all New Zealanders to acknowledge Maori as a unique and distinctive social group or society within our society. Some would go so far as to say Maori are even a distinct ‘nation’. The challenge is to listen to and respect the Maori voice, while protecting the equal rights of citizenship for all individual New Zealanders as per Article 3 in both versions of the Treaty.   We need to find ways to meet this challenge, ideas that are less divisive than separate Maori seats. However, ultimately any change requires the backing of all New Zealanders. When you’re fiddling with constitutional matters, the involvement of all citizens, not just appointed coteries of technocrats, is fundamental. Lay-people know when their rights are being removed, so in a free society it’s lay-people who need to agree to it.   One way to achieve this could be through citizens’ assemblies – small gatherings of members of the public. These allow the public to express their views directly, rather than having their views filtered through so-called experts or officials. Canada has led the way here and the result is they are able to evolve their constitution to meet the needs of their indigenous people, while retaining public support.

How can Maori achieve their aspirations without unique political rights? was last modified: January 5th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan

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