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:

kawenata

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.

Maori Party-Mana Movement

Here is the agreement signed by the Maori party and the Mana Movement today.


The Executive of the MANA Movement and the National Executive for Maori Party have the power and authority to act on behalf of their respective parties in entering into this agreement.

Any and all contravening clauses/rules contained within existing party rules / constitutions / ture will be suspended for the duration of this agreement and replaced with the terms contained within this Kawenata and will conclude on September 23, 2017.

PRINCIPLES:

  1. The MANA Movement and the Maori Party recognise the importance of showing unity through diversity and the strength that this arrangement provides for the betterment of the people we serve.
  2. Through mutual respect and a commitment to build on the strengths each party possess, we sign this Kawenata to help us achieve the aspirations of both parties and more importantly Maori.

TERMS:

1. MANA confirm the decision made at its 2016 AGM, to focus on Te Tai Tokerau at the 2017 General Election, and to not stand candidates in the other 6 Maori seats (Tamaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Te Tai Hauauru, Te Tai Tonga).

2. The Maori Party confirm their determination to stand candidates in those 6 Maori seats (Tamaki Makaurau, Hauraki-Waikato, Waiariki, Ikaroa-Rawhiti, Te Tai Hauauru, Te Tai Tonga) at the 2017 General Election, while agreeing to not stand a candidate in Te Tai Tokerau.

3. Both MANA and the Maori Party also agree to allow each party:
a) to develop, present and promote the policies they think most appropriate;
b) to campaign for the party vote;
c) to criticise policies, without attacking candidates.

4. This Kawenata will take effect on signing and remain in force until 5pm Sat 23 Sep 2017.


Meaning of Kawenata from the Maori Dictionary:

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

The Maori/MANA Kawenata is not permanent as it has a termination date – election day.