For far too long Maori grievances about land and cultural loss, and being marginalised as a result of colonisation, were ignored by the rest of New Zealand. Acknowledging these grievances and validating them through offical apologies has been an important part of the Treaty settlement process. Combined with the financial settlements, this has done a significant amount to reduce Maori resentment and anger. However, the majority of the historical grievances have now passed through the Treaty settlement process and this creates something of a vacuum. Will the government and Maori continue to have Treaty ‘conversations’ after the last historic grievances are settled? If so, what about? How should we proceed with these contemporary debates and negotiations? Despite the settlement of historic grievances we expect Maori to always want to be in discussion with central government and negotiating with it. We expect Maori to want to debate and negotiate the status of Maori in NZ; the allocation of government spending towards programmes which help Maori achieve their economic, social and political aspirations, and; sharing political power. These aspirations aren’t new but to date a greater focus has been given to settling historical, typically land-related, grievances. When they have been raised these ‘contemporary’ Maori aspirations have been typically couched in terms of the Treaty and the demands have been justified with reference to the past (eg “The chiefs understood this…. in 1840”). While a historical lens was unavoidable for resolving historical claims, in our view looking to the past is not going to prove as effective in finding compromises in the face of contemporary Maori demands. We think it is essential and inevitable that Maori and non-Maori will continue to debate and negotiate over resources, status and power infinitum – but we think debating these aspirations by looking to the past is going to achieve little. There is much common ground between Maori and non-Maori, and much that can be done to progress contemporary Maori aspirations. However this reality is obscured when people insist on trying to establish the legitimacy of their present-day demands using past events. There is a limit to the contemporary social, economic and political arrangements that historical events can be used to justify. Instead of trying to defend contemporary demands by referring to the past, we need to look closely at what Maori aspire to, identify the options available to meet those demands and hunt out and analyse evidence about the beneficial and harmful effects found around the world to accompany the different options. We need to switch from looking to events in history to defend what we want and instead simply be upfront about what we want and be prepared to discuss that on its merits. We need to ask ourselves what sort of society we want, and what can be done to achieve it. We need an approach that is forward-looking, evidence-based and risk focused. The Waitangi Tribunal’s reports of late have definitely included suggestions for taking the relationship between Maori and non-Maori forward. Several of those suggestions we strongly disagree with because they involve a breach of the rights of citizenship for individual New Zealanders. But there is no question the Tribunal is trying to take matters forward. Which is why all New Zealanders need to understand what is emanating from that body. Arguably the highest hurdle to making more progress with the relationship remains Pakeha ignorance around what the Treaty means – that it defines an enduring partnership in which both parties, Maori and the rest, must be able to coexist in this land and each fulfil their aspirations. There is in fact a fiduciary duty of care between the partners – one cannot benefit at the expense of the other. And it is here where there is no question Maori are still due some progress in terms of self-determination as well as removing Maori bias in socio-economic disadvantage. There have been some changes that recognise Maori’s role in bicultural New Zealand. Our national anthem includes a te reo section, place names are increasingly transitioning to the te reo version. But more needs to be done to embed the pride Maori and Pakeha can feel to be truly part of bicultural New Zealand. The name of the country, the design of the flag are obvious. But it goes deeper, the partnership should be reflected at least in part of the governanace arrangement, and we have some thoughts on that.   The move from FPP to MMP was an example of delivering a fairer form of democracy, albeit remaining very much a democracy where each person had the same voting rights. There is no reason to believe that MMP is the last word on this insofar as making bicultural Aotearoa/New Zealand a society where both partners stand tall.   But importantly all these matters revolve around constitutional change and it’s here where all New Zealanders need direct input and it not to be assumed the preserve of the lawyers and academics in the Treaty industry. Indeed they are making a total hash of this now that they are recommending changes that violate Article 3.

How do we interpret the articles of the Treaty? was last modified: January 5th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan

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