It is typical to hear that the Treaty is about the relationship between Maori and ‘the Crown’. This comes from the fact that one of the original signatories to the Treaty was the British monarch, through her representatives. But don’t conclude from that that only Maori have any right to talk about the Treaty or to invoke the Treaty when defending their views. The Treaty is there for all New Zealanders. It protects the rights of non-Maori too. The Treaty is a founding document of New Zealand and for the past three decades it has provided a very effective framework for settling Maori historical grievances arising from colonisation and massive land loss. However, the Treaty is being used to do far more than that too. It is now being used as a framework to debate and negotiate present-day Maori aspirations relating to resources and political power. Struggles over these issues are part and parcel of any modern diverse society, especially one with an indigenous people, so it is not unique to NZ. What is unusual in NZ is the presence of a Treaty and the understandable decision (given its success in resolving historical land grievances) to use it to frame negotiations over these contemporary issues. However the use of the Treaty to frame these negotiations is not inevitable. There are alternative frameworks available that we would argue are more likely to be effective in leading to consensus. One of the problems with the modern day interpretation of the Treaty has been that Pakeha have in large part abrogated any responsibility to be directly involved. Instead that role has been delegated to Government which in turn has passed much of the work on to those in and around the Waitangi Tribunal. This coterie of lawyers and historians have developed and modernised the agreement, but in large part leaving Pakeha in their wake, with a very poor understanding of what the agreement means today. This is a problem and public understanding needs to be significantly enhanced through education around what has been happening. This is particularly pertinent around the measures taken that have infringed on general rights of the citizenry as laid out in Article 3. Because the Treaty industry has brought in constitutional change by stealth, the need for Pakeha New Zealand in particular to get involved directly in the Treaty process is urgent.

Who owns the Treaty – can only Maori discuss it? was last modified: January 5th, 2015 by Gareth Morgan

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