Preserving The Integrity Of Te Tiriti: Why A Referendum Is Not The Solution

Published: Wed 1 Nov 2023 08:49 AM
In a bold move, David Seymour of the Act Party has called for a referendum on the Principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, specifically Partnership, Participation, and Protection as defined by the New Zealand Courts and The Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal. While democratic engagement is a cornerstone of any functioning society, there are critical reasons why such a referendum could have far-reaching and detrimental consequences.
First and foremost, a referendum to remove the definition of the principles of Te Tiriti would undermine the credibility of the New Zealand Court System and the very essence of Case Law. Case Law serves as the bedrock of legal interpretation and application in our society. It is the accumulation of centuries of jurisprudential wisdom that ensures fair and consistent treatment under the law. To tamper with this foundation risks opening a Pandora's box of legal disputes and demands for redefinition in the future.
It is important to remember that Māori constitute only 16% of New Zealand's population. This means that in a referendum, they would be outnumbered, potentially resulting in decisions that may not necessarily align with their interests. It is unjust to use a majority vote to potentially strip away the rights and protections that Te Tiriti affords them. Not all Māori share the same perspectives on the matter, but a unilateral decision through a referendum could set Māoridom back by decades, exacerbating existing inequities that the community already faces.
Moreover, if we trust the courts to interpret and apply legislation on a daily basis, then it stands to reason that the government should not interfere with the workings of the Waitangi Tribunal and the Courts when it comes to decisions related to Te Tiriti. The appointment of judges is a process designed to ensure impartiality and expertise. To undermine this process by intervening in their decisions would erode the very trust that our legal system relies upon.

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