by Metiria Turei
The Green Party welcomes the announcement that the Aotearoa/New Zealand will finally adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. It has been our policy for many years and we are very pleased that it has happened at last.
We consider it the minimum international standard for the protection of indigenous communities and their right to self determination. The concept of self determination is protected in the UN Charter. Indigenous communities are people too.
This battle has been going on for 20 years, and I would like acknowledge the Maori Party who have pressured the National Party into agreeing to adopt the Declaration.
The Declaration recognises and helps to protect the rights of Maori and it’s great that progress has at last been made
The struggle to have this declaration recognised has been a long time coming and I would like to pay tribute to all the people who have fought long and hard to see this day – including Moana Jackson, Aroha Mead, Nganeko Minhinnick to name only a few.
I would also like to pay my respects to Dr Erihapeti Rehu-Murchie, Alec Whiti-te-Ra Kaihau, and Dame Miraka Szaszy who fought for the recognition of the declaration and who are sadly no longer with us.
This is a particular achievement worthy of celebration – because John Key’s Government has been so hostile to the development of iwi and hapu rights. We need only consider John Key’s opposition to Maori having seats in the Auckland supercity.
National have only agreed to this because they continue to assert here at home that iwi and hapu interests remain subservient to their own, as we heard from Murray McCully this morning.
Placing restrictions or caveats on the Declaration is the wrong message to be sending, on what should be a day of celebration. The Declaration was already watered down to meet the demands of nation States– it does not need to be watered down further by a National Government hostile to Maori interests.
One of the main objections to the signing of the Declaration, particularly by Labour has been the desire to amend the Declaration to make it consist with New Zealand domestic law. One of the problems with this is that iwi and hapu rights under Te Tiriti do not have constitutional protection in New Zealand law, unlike in other countries.
We can see that failure in our domestic law in Labour’s Foreshore and Seabed legislation and second in National’s foreshore proposal that simply mimics Labour’s.
But today is a good day for iwi, Maori and for all New Zealanders. Our status as one of only three countries in the world not to sign the Declaration was an ongoing source of shame for us – both in the international community and at home.
We have an obligation to act as responsible global citizens. New Zealand’s failure to support the Declaration has left many millions of indigenous people around the world without a framework for the protection of their human rights. New Zealand has made a small step in favour of those vulnerable communities.
The Declaration gives our country another tool to work through the issues of colonisation and create a fair society based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.