being principled


It’s Waitangi Day and although I feel no special urge to go out today (I usually attend the Festival of the Elements at Te Rauparaha Park) I usually do find it a day to reflect a bit.

I was interested in a posting from TeAra about the principles of the Treaty and their development.

I started thinking about the Treaty most in about 1987 so these were the principles we talked about and used as a basis for understanding.

‘Some of the treaty principles identified by the 1987 lands case were:

  • the duty to act reasonably and in good faith – the treaty ‘signified a partnership between Pakeha and Maori requiring each other to act towards the other reasonably and with the utmost good faith’
  • active Crown protection of Māori interests – the duty of the Crown was not just passive but extended to active protection of Māori people in the use of their lands and waters ‘to the fullest extent practicable’
  • the government should make informed decisions – the Court of Appeal said that in order to act reasonably and in good faith, the government must make sure it was informed in making decisions relating to the treaty
  • the Crown should remedy past grievances – ‘If the Waitangi Tribunal finds merit in a claim and recommends redress, the Crown should grant at least some form of redress, unless there are grounds justifying a reasonable Treaty partner in withholding it – which would be only in very special circumstances, if ever’
  • the Crown has the right to govern – the principles of the treaty ‘do not authorise unreasonable restrictions on the right of a duly elected government to follow its chosen policy. Indeed, to try and shackle the Government unreasonably would itself be inconsistent with those principles’.5 Another Judge in the case, Gordon Bisson, said it was ‘in accordance with the principles of the Treaty that the Crown should provide laws and make related decisions for the community as a whole having regard to the economic and other needs of the day’.
  • Te Ara

    As time goes by these notions evolve and change slightly. I always found the three word mantra of “protection’ “participation” and “partnership” a bit slight and shallow but I do like the notion of ‘exchange” embodied in the Ngai Tahu claim.

    ‘In the Ngāi Tahu report, the tribunal talked about the overarching ‘principle of exchange’ which it regarded as the fundamental compact embodied in the treaty. Inherent in this principle of exchange is the notion of reciprocity – ‘the exchange of the right to govern for the right of Maori to retain their full tribal authority and control over their lands and all other valued possessions’.

    I also like the idea of the senior partner/junior partner acknowledged by the Waitangi Tribunal where the Crown has a duty to ensure Maori and Maori rights are protected and the juniour partner trusts that the senior partner will act responsibly – which is an interesting notion when you consider the structures and make up of government.

    So what do I think? I think the Treaty is an agreement between two independent people and that it is an attempt at a genuinely honourable agreement but that two world views were at play and understanding of each other was not accomplished. Mostly I think the interpretations by subsequent governments and the lack of understanding has caused Maori to be less privileged, and to have lost much of their cultural values in attempts to deal with Pakeha bureaucracies; that the situation of many Maori in this country is still, despite the several and many achievements and progresses, unfortunate and parlous.

    It’s getting a lot better – I am just not sure that many things are not lost.

    And on that note some things to consider viewing or reading:Angela Middleton, Pēwhairangi: Bay of Islands Missions and Māori 1814 to 1845.

    Alison Jones and Kuni Jenkins, Words between us. He korero, first Maori Pakeha conversations on paper. Huia press.

    Whakapono: Faith and foundations. Hocken Library, Dunedin.


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