Improved Government-Māori relationship, Treaty is ‘a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship’

Protests (and crowds) were down at Waitangi this year, but the relationship between Māori and the Government seems improved. Discussing things better is a positive, but doing things better has to get more impetus.

Sam Sachdevaa (Newsroom): Patience, positivity on display for Ardern’s Waitangi visit

Patience will eventually wear out unless posit9ve communications doesn’t lead to positive actions.

…Ardern and company have succeeded in convincing Māori that while they may not have all the answers to the problems they face, they are willing to have a real discussion about how to find them.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little is the most obvious example of that, winning yet more praise (this time from Waitangi National Trust chairman Pita Tipene) for his whaikorero in te reo Māori and wider efforts to better understand the issues facing Ngapuhi in their settlement talks.

The Iwi Chairs Forum also failed to produce any public flashpoints, with Ardern saying there was “real common ground” between iwi and the Crown in a number of areas.

Given the talks took place behind closed doors, it was hard to test that, although Te Rarawa iwi leader Haami Piripi told RNZ the hui was “was one of the best meetings that we have had yet between ourselves and the Government”.

Of course, there are many justified criticisms of this government, including a number of significant issues for Māori that may be difficult to resolve.

A media statement from the Iwi Chairs Forum after their meeting emphasised the need to address the rights and interests of iwi, hapū and whānau in freshwater, Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen saying: “Nō tātau te wai – we own the water.”

Then there is the funding (or lack thereof) for Whānau Ora, with Ardern and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare meeting five Māori women leaders in Wellington next week to discuss their Waitangi Tribunal claim over the issue.

And Ihumatao continues to loom over the Government, Ardern’s hopes of a resolution before Waitangi Day dashed with more work to be done.

It appears that Winston Peters did the dashing, and may stand in the way of a resolution for Ihumatao before the election.

Simon Bridges didn’t do so well with his communications at Waitangi.

Barracked by speakers at the powhiri for an overly political speech, Bridges was then put under pressure from media over National’s stance on the Māori seats.

His absence at both the opening of Te Rau Aroha (the new museum honouring Māori servicemen and servicewomen) and the Waitangi dawn service was noted by some.

Bridges appeared unrepentant: speaking to some of his MPs after the powhiri, he was heard to exclaim, “And I’d do it again for the TV cameras” (it was not clear exactly what “it” was).

He seemed intent on trying to attract voter support for National, and there’s not going to be much of that from Māori.

Given National’s worst party vote performances last election came in the seven Māori seats, he seems to be calculating it is better to create wedge issues rather than making a doomed attempt to win voters who are unlikely to ever support him.

The problem with wedge politics is that while it may attract some voters (who Bridges and Peters appeared to be fighting over), but it can put others off. And I think there’s likely to be more moderate voters, and they can be crucial to getting a good election result.

But more quietly some in National seem to have an understanding of dealing with Māori issues.

Where there is some agreement between Labour and National, and between politicians and Māori, is that the Crown’s relationship with Māori cannot be solved simply through the transfer of land and other assets.

“This is not a partnership where there’s a commercial agreement, this is not a partnership to say, ‘Hey, look, let’s try and work things out together, let’s just go to court, it’s judicial’,” National MP Alfred Ngaro said.

“When you talk about kawenata [covenant] and what they signed up to when they heard that word, that means that goes deep. That’s a blood relationship, but we don’t treat it that way.”

The words seemed strikingly similar to Little’s description of talks with Ngāpuhi: “They don’t see if and when we do get to an agreement, that’s not the end of a process – it’s a restoration of the relationship.”

That common understanding is a start – but the gaps between the two major parties, and between the Crown and Māori, will still require much more effort to be bridged.

From the Māori Dictionary:


1. (loan) (noun) covenant, testament, charter, contract, agreement, treaty – any undertaking that binds the parties in a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship.

So a treaty – and specifically Te Tiriti o Waitangi – is not an undertaking that, once settled, is done with. It is an ongoing relationship, forever.

Understanding that is important. It means there can be no ‘full and final settlement’. Discussions and resolutions need to continue.

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  1. Bryce Edwards also noticed the improved Waitangi Day:

    “It’s incredibly harmonious and very pleasant, and there is not really the sign of politics and discontent or conflict that there has been in the past,” said Dr Edwards, who was present at Waitangi.

    “It is very clear that this has been quite a special Waitangi Day and that there has been a new spirit of togetherness and harmony, and despite being an election year, there is just not the overt politics and protest there once was.”

    Dr Edwards, who works as a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington, suggested Aotearoa’s society “is changing” and there “seems to be maturing or a greater acceptance of Waitangi Day as both a time to both celebrate, commemorate and reflect on race-relations”.

    However, he also said the Coalition Government had calmed concerns in Māoridom by listening and communicating effectively, even if the problems themselves had not yet been solved. Among the issues raised with the Government prior to Waitangi Day were Ihumātao, Oranga Tamariki’s uplifts and Whanau Ora.

    “I think a lot of Māori leaders have been almost disarmed by this Government because they are being listened to,” he said.

  2. Corky

     /  7th February 2020

    ”Understanding that is important. It means there can be no ‘full and final settlement’. Discussions and resolutions need to continue.”

    Correct. The understanding of time and obligations are very different between European and Maori cultures. Hence, there will never be one people. Maori see themselves as Maori first; not New Zealanders, as non racist Europeans see themselves and Maori. Then of course you have the not inconsiderable groups of Maori and European who cannot stand each other.

    If Bridges presented a draft copy for a constitution that nulls the Treaty, he would win by a landslide. Given the Treaty has no legal status, this country can only move forward with a constitution that sets out individual rights, not collective rights.

    • Won’t happen (and it shouldn’t happen). No sign of anything but posturing for votes from bridges. No substance.

      • Corky

         /  7th February 2020

        Why shouldn’t it happen, Pete? Think of what you are bequeathing your grandchildren.

  3. Gerrit

     /  7th February 2020

    In full agreement with what Corky said.

    With 30% of the Labour seats held by Maori naturally they (Labour) would be most subservient to the wishes of Maori.

    As Barry Soper said on Newstalk ZB, Bridges speech was not aimed at Maori directly but at the 85% of New Zealander of Tauiwi extraction.

    And as such, you are right PG, it is posturing by Bridges but it is tapping into a large current of unease at the way Maori are being favoured by Labour.

    Labour have a real problem now with the Ihumatao. Trample on private property rights and every treaty settlement will be up for renegotiation through the use of occupation.

    Add to that the desire for Maoridom to “own” the fresh water, You are further edging into the transfer of common ownership into private hands.

    Saving grace is that this Labour government is great on talkz, hugz and feelz but not so good in constructing outcomes.

    • Duker

       /  7th February 2020

      Its a Labour -NZF coalition government, not matter if 90% of Labour Mps were Maori they still need NZF votes in Cabinet.
      As well you have not noticed that NZF has about 6 Maori Mps too and a possible future leader Shane Jones is …you guessed it Maori
      After the last election
      National was 8 ( when it included Jami-Lee Ross)
      Labour 13
      NZF 6
      Greens 1

      ACT 1 Seymour has Ngāti Rēhia ancestry

      So Maori descent is very loosely interpreted as Bridges is clearly Maori ancestry but not when it conflicts with wanting to remain National leader.

  4. Geoffrey

     /  7th February 2020

    I too agree with Corky. “Treaty” is an English word, with a specific meaning. When signed, it conferred on Maori British citizenship under British law. Most legal scholars agree that, once signed, the Treaty was done and dusted. The concept of an eternal covenant “kawanata”is a modern Maori invention created in a language vastly different to the Te Reo Maori of those party to the actual Treaty. It is inconsistent with British, and now New Zealand law. There is no gentle way to halt the perpetual treaty-creep that hog-ties governments of both left and right. Just say NO

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  7th February 2020

    It can’t be eternal when at least one of the parties is inevitably becoming unidentifiable through inter-marriage.

    It is therefore at best a legal scam.

  6. adamsmith1922

     /  7th February 2020

    The reason for any perceived improvement is the way Ardern caves into Maori and their apartheid beliefs.

    • duperez

       /  7th February 2020

      So the perceived improvement is down to perceived ‘caving in’ to perceived apartheid beliefs?

  7. PartisanZ

     /  7th February 2020

    When exactly was the Treaty “all done and dusted”?

    Was it 6 Feb 1840 immediately after the signings at Waitangi? Or after the very last signings of the Treaty’s travelling roadshow? With Hobson’s proclamation of sovereignty over the South Island (Te Wai o Pounamu) by “discovery”?

    1841 with the Queen’s ‘Letters Patent’?

    Was it 1853 when we were granted “colonial self-government”? The New Munster, New Ulster years when Maori couldn’t vote?

    Or was it 1867, after the Land Wars, when Four Maori Seats were created, at a time when proportional to their population Maori deserved 16 or 17 seats?

    Or one of these many other dates – – ?

    And if all those things evolved as ‘The Crown’ entity, the Settler Government, why ever would we expect commensurate socio-political evolution NOT TO HAPPEN in Maoridom? (It’s patently fucken absurd!) And sure enough, Maori politics did evolve. It evolved “in relationship” with Pakeha/Tauiwi politics.

    At what dilution of blood does a person become non-Maori even if they strongly identify Maori?

    Ko te whakapapa ko taku hononga ki te Whenua

    PS, the ‘Ihumatoa precedent’ is a Right-Wing media myth. The whole Waitangi Treaty Settlements process is long overdue for an overhaul. It was coming anyhow, not a matter of “if” but “when” …

    • Gerrit

       /  7th February 2020

      Well if extinguishing private property rights is a “right wing myth” perhaps you could explain what is going on at Ihumatoa? The reported version has one iwi group, that held title to the land, selling it to build housing for their iwi and for commercial gain. The purchaser started to develop the land (well away from the stonefield by the way). A foreign iwi group occupied the land and the government caved in to demands for it it be repatriated to a as yet to be determined iwi group. I guess it fits in with the old pre-colonial activity where conquest through occupation was the norm?

      Well if the left wing are OK with extinguishing the private property rights of the iwi owners to do with their property to best suit their peoples needs. Good for the left wing. Naturally this fits in well with left wing ideology as there is no room for private property in a comrade governed socialist state.

      How long before all private property (including Maori land) is deemed to be state owned? For if the state can overturn private property rights for one groups how long before your private property rights are confiscated by the state?

      Will the treaty settlement overhaul take into consideration the 85% of Tauiwi wishes or will they be ignored? Be interesting to see the magical Ardern bridge being built and who pays and who benefits.

      • PartisanZ

         /  7th February 2020

        Gerrit, all private property rights are not in dispute, only potentially some individual pieces of private property.

        Ihumatoa might lead to the overturning of the Allan Titford Law, which can only be a good thing.

        This outcome would be very similar to overturning cannabis prohibition. Simply the removal from the statutes of an unjust law.

        • Gerrit

           /  7th February 2020

          So who decides which “individual” pieces of private property are in dispute? Overturn what law? The one relating to no privately owned property being able to be used in treaty settlements? Bypassing that law basically means the state can decide to take private property in treaty settlements to appease illegal occupation. Not sure that is going to sit well with a large number of voters. A very slippery slope indeed.

          Titford was a scumbag true enough but he had private property rights to the farm. In the end the taxpayer bought the farm to hand back to Te Roroa after Titford’s conviction.

          The Raglan Golf Course and the Bastion Point occupation were different in that the crown had seized the land for the war effort and as such should have returned it back to the owners (local Maori) after the land was no longer required. Instead the state turned it into a golf course (Raglan) and a reserve (Bastion Point). The land in question was never in private ownership. Moutoa Gardens could also be added to that list.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  7th February 2020

      At what dilution of blood does a person become non-Maori even if they strongly identify Maori?

      Quite. At what point does merely your wish to identify as Maori fail to suffice to share in associated political, legal, property and economic rights?

      • Geoffrey

         /  7th February 2020

        I believe Ngai Tahu have a formula which tests the acceptability of aspiring members..

    • Geoffrey

       /  7th February 2020

      One of the main objectives of the Treaty was to impose the rule of law and thereby bring to an end the horrors of the inter-tribal musket wars. In this it was an instant success – job done, move on

      • PartisanZ

         /  7th February 2020

        Which history book are you reading!? The so-called Musket Wars were well and truly over by about the mid-1830s. The Treaty didn’t stop any of them.

        Here’s a slightly unusual perception of it from NZHistory website –

        “As well as having a profound impact on Māori, the Musket Wars – and in particular the unease of British authorities about the role of traders in enabling them – contributed to the decision to colonise New Zealand in 1840.” –

        To any Rightie, of course, this is dismissed and derided as being Left-Wing “revised history” …

        • Geoffrey

           /  7th February 2020

          I think labelling me as a “Rightie” adds little to your argument.
          The plea from the less militant Iwi for protection from the Crown during the decade leading up to the Treaty had rather more significance than simple unease on the part of the Crown; they were horrified. Even so, the decision to colonise was quite specifically subject to the acceptance of the majority of Maori to be so colonised.
          Did any tribe occupy another’s rohe by force after the signing of the Treaty? Is it not so that the only occasions when Maori resorted to force of arms after the Treaty was signed was when they were in armed rebellion against the Crown? And is it not so that the only sanctions of any meaning at the time, short of slaughtering all of the rebels (as had been the Maori custom) was to confiscate the rebels’ land?

  1. Improved Government-Māori relationship, Treaty is ‘a permanent and morally irrevocable relationship’ — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition

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