Who Should Negotiate The Principles Of Te Tiriti?

Published: Tue 21 Nov 2023 02:05 AM
In the fabric of Aotearoa New Zealand's history, Te Tiriti o Waitangi stands as a pivotal agreement, one that laid the foundations for the nation's present and future. Recent propositions, notably by the Act Party, to broaden the discussion on the principles of Te Tiriti to include the general New Zealand populace merit scrutiny. It is imperative to recall that Te Tiriti was originally negotiated between the Crown and Māori Chiefs – a fact that must steer any contemporary discussions about its interpretation or amendment.
This editorial posits that discussions on Te Tiriti should remain exclusive to its original signatories: the Crown and iwi Māori leaders. Such exclusivity is not only a matter of historical accuracy but also a principle deeply rooted in the ethos of contract law. When two entities enter into an agreement, it is they alone who hold the right to alter or challenge its terms. This principle remains pertinent regardless of time's passage or demographic shifts.
The call for a referendum by the wider New Zealand populace on the principles of Te Tiriti raises significant concerns. It overlooks the sanctity of the original agreement and the unique position of iwi Māori as Treaty partners. The majority, regardless of its size, should not dictate the terms of a contract to which it was not a party. This is not just a matter of legal correctness but of honouring the commitments made to a minority that has faced historical marginalisation.
One might argue that in a democratic society, the voice of the majority should prevail. However, this argument falters when it threatens to undermine the rights and agreements made with a now current minority, especially in a context as sensitive and significant as Te Tiriti. Upholding the treaty's integrity means ensuring that its interpretation and any discussions around it are conducted through the appropriate channels – between the Crown and iwi Māori.
Moreover, I urge any discussions or negotiations over Te Tiriti should be done through a tikanga process, respecting Māori cultural protocols. This approach not only honours the spirit in which Te Tiriti was originally signed but also ensures that discussions are grounded in mutual respect and understanding.
Finally, there is a belief that Non-Māori set to be held back in some way if the principles of Te Tiriti are removed or changed. I would argue that Non-Māori have continued to benefit from Te Tiriti and it’s interpretation since it was first originally signed. As I speak with non-Māori about Te Tiriti, not one person is able to articulate to me how they have been impacted negatively in any way of its interpretations or influence over how legislation has been developed or implemented. The idea that anyone doesn’t benefit from the current interpretations is unfounded and, as far as I’m aware, there is zero evidence to back this up.
The future of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, a cornerstone of New Zealand's bicultural foundation, should remain in the hands of those to whom it was originally entrusted. By maintaining the exclusivity of discussions between the Crown and iwi Māori, we uphold not only legal principles but also the values of respect, honour, and partnership that are essential to our nation's identity and future.

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