Catherine Delahunty
Te Tiriti o Waitangi and constitutional change

In the two weeks leading up to Waitangi two public forums were held at Te Papa on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and constitutional change. They were excellent contributions to the national conversation, the first being lawyers Moana Jackson (Ngati Kahungungu and Ngati Porou) and Matthew Palmer. Both speakers had a deep understanding of the issues and some fresh ideas about the relationship between Te Tiriti and a possible written constitution. I was particularly struck by Moana’s description of the work of the Matike Mai, the Independent Working Group on Constitutional Transformation” which is a flaxroots approach involving hapu throughout the country.

Moana reminded us that tangata whenua and citizens are capable of imagining and designing a Te Tiriti based conversation for a harmonious and just future. He identified the two big questions we need to embrace – the nature of power and the site of power for governance.

The next week I attended the youth forum on this topic, chaired by Kim Hill. Four young people discussed their vision around constitutional change. They were all articulate, respectful and hopeful that we can develop a constitutional approach with Te Tiriti at the heart. Meanwhile in the audience some angry Pakeha men from the John Ansell campaign to engender contempt for Te Tiriti attempted to heckle and were dealt to with surgical precision by the indomitable Kim.

Not everyone wanted a written constitution but all these young people displayed an understanding of our history and a willingness to engage deeply which was very positive. Best of all, they recognised their own privilege in being comfortable with what remains an elite discussion. If the Government constitutional working party is to come up with anything useful they should study the alternative approach led by Matike Mai and listen to these young people on the issue of who gets to participate.

As a Tangata Tiriti spokesperson for the Greens I am planning to travel to communities this year to help stimulate this conversation at the grassroots. Feel free to invite me to your region, its great to hear from the lawyers but we need to get other voices heard as well.

27 thoughts on “Te Tiriti o Waitangi and constitutional change

  1. One hopes this constitution starts with the declaration all New Zealanders have equal rights, regardless of colour, creed, religion or gender.

    Otherwise I will have no time for the rest of it. Most Kiwis won’t, either.

    Fight discrimination based on race. Always.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 2 (+23)

  2. We are one, (supposedly) why do we need a constitution to fix something that isn’t broke.
    Seems we never hear all New Zealand Citizens are equal when it is anything to do with Maori.
    We don’t need an apartheid scene in New Zealand – tell the separatist bunch – NO

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1 (+14)

  3. I look forward to a discussion involving ALL citizens and that those discussions view the constitution debate from every immigrant and tangata whenau angle.

    From what I’ve heard from those Te Papa transcripts, not much was discussed how Asian, Indian, Pacific Islanders, European, American (south and north) etc. immigrants will fit into the constitution.

    Seems like Maori want to frame the constitution to favour them as Tangata Whenua and the rest can take a hike.

    Total revisit of the treaty claims process is all I heard in those transcripts.

    No inclusiveness of ALL other Kiwis wishes, asperations, or potential acknowledgements of their contributions to the debate (or New Zealand society).

    Perhaps Catherine might think about how tribalism fits into a democratic society.

    A society where one group of people, by birthright, is more favoured then the democratic process.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1 (+17)

  4. Best of all, they recognised their own privilege in being comfortable with what remains an elite discussion.

    What does this sentence mean? Anyone?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1 (+7)

  5. Maybe,

    Best of all, they understood that they were the lucky, chosen plebs and were grateful to be able to present their submissions to the decision making, high flying noters.

    Wonder if any other indian, asian, african polynesian, european, etc. pleb voices will heard by the “elite”

    More inmportantly will the “elite” listen and take heed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0 (+13)

  6. ” I am planning to travel to communities this year to help stimulate this conversation at the grassroots. Feel free to invite me to your region, its great to hear from the lawyers but we need to get other voices heard as well.”

    And note that Catherine begins by saying that this is the part of the constitutional debate that involves the Treaty. There are many other aspects to it as you’ve pointed out. Nothing to stop you getting engaged in constitutional discussions and I’m sure there will be plenty of support for your views.

    I wouldn’t suggest you start with this part though – you need a better understanding of history than you seem to have to contribute anything of value.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2 (+3)

  7. I suspected it was something like that, but did a double-take. “Elite”? Who on earth do these people think they are? Aristocracy?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1 (+4)

  8. How about this bit:

    “Moana reminded us that tangata whenua and citizens are capable of imagining and designing a Te Tiriti based conversation for a harmonious and just future. He identified the two big questions we need to embrace – the nature of power and the site of power for governance.”

    Tangata Whenua are not citizens? I’m not sure why these groupings are kept separate. Any ideas?

    He reminded us we are capable of imagining and designing a conversation….That doesn’t make much sense. Imagining and designing a conversation? I think that means we’re capable of having a conversation about a harmonious and just future. Erm….yes. Yes, we are. Sounds rather patronising – could that be the “elite” thing creeping in?

    What is the “alternative approach led by Matike Mai”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1 (+8)

  9. Any review of the ‘constitution’ needs to respect the various parties, so we ALL can move forward.. any talk of apartheid & seperatism gets a thumbs down from I&I !!
    All Kiwis should hold Te Tiriti up as a symbol of finding commonality, not division. Of course the only possible exception are those tribes who did NOT sign it (they need to decide where they stand) ?

    Maybe we need to consider it in light of other nations & how they deal with their ‘first nations people’ (who do not have such a document)

    Kia-ora Koutou Katoa

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  10. Janet,

    I wouldn’t suggest you start with this part though – you need a better understanding of history than you seem to have to contribute anything of value.

    Started already, this seperatism.

    In my(Janet McVeagh’s) opinion, you dont know jack s*** therefore your voice dont count.

    Please explain the level of history I need to understand before I can comment and have my voice heard?

    And do you know what level my history is at presently, to enable me to make comments, or are you assuming I’m not “historically educated” enough to make a comment?

    You the jury and judge?

    Or are you Janet, talking as one of the “elites” that have the required level of history to be able to write the constitution and us plebs should just keep quite and let us, the “elites” (the all knowing historically educated ones) make the constitutional decisions?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2 (+8)

  11. Moana reminded us that tangata whenua and citizens are capable of imagining and designing a Te Tiriti based conversation for a harmonious and just future….

    Not everyone wanted a written constitution…

    Hmmm. These comments are a bit alarming.

    Firstly, why would a constitution need to be based on the Treaty?
    To me, this assumption presupposes the terms of any constitution. I could well be wrong, but I have never heard of a constitutional document – essentially a set of universal principles – being based on a treaty – effectively a contract between two parties. Does anyone know if this situation exists anywhere else in the world?

    Secondly, although they were kids, I wonder what the dissenters logic was behind advocated the absence of a written constitution?

    A constitution unwritten is a a constitution ignored; precisely the problem we have today with the unfettered primacy of Parliament.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0 (+9)

  12. “Fight discrimination based on race.” – Absolutely agree
    “Always” – Perhaps not..
    The Maori ‘Allblacks’ (or whatever they’re called) are an example of racial segregation that is fine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2 (-1)

  13. Discrimination means “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race”

    The Maori AllBlacks is not unjust or prejudicial treatment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3 (-1)

  14. Arana, to the question you asked about what was meant in the opening post

    Those comfortable acknowledging their own privilege are presumably aware that pakeha benefited from the theft of land of the indigenous people despite their land ownership being protected in the Treaty. Given the Treaty promise of chieftainship was predicated on continuing land ownership monetary settlement for the land taken is patently less than comprehensive.

    As to also being comfortable with the discussions amongst some elite, maye this refers to having no problem with the legacy of the past being confronted rather than avoided. Being more grown up than their elders. That is unsurprising, some of the old have difficulty with same sex marriage (equality regardless of sexual identity/preference) let alone moving beyond assimilation to Treaty settlment and an emerging bi-cultural nation identity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 9 (-6)

  15. The elite being people who understand existing Treaty incorporation in law – lawyers. That is the constitutional legacy existing via parliament’s legislation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3 (+1)

  16. Gregor, the only commonality we have with other nations is the UN position on the rights of indigenous peoples.

    You do raise a reasonable question, just because the nation was founded by a Treaty, this does not mean that a constitution is (primarily) about the Treaty being brought into a constitution. But given we a nation founded by a Treaty, how can we have a constitution that does not refer to it?

    After all the Treaty is now part of our legislative law – our constitution within parliament.

    The first responsibility for those advocating a constitution that incorporates the Treaty is to quantify what the consequence would be for future legislation and the rule of this country.

    Personally I would defer a constitution for when we become a republic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4 (-1)

  17. SPC,

    Those comfortable acknowledging their own privilege are presumably aware that pakeha benefited from the theft of land of the indigenous people despite their land ownership being protected in the Treaty. Given the Treaty promise of chieftainship was predicated on continuing land ownership monetary settlement for the land taken is patently less than comprehensive.

    In other words unless we settle all treaty claims first there is no place for a constitution.

    For only treaty claims can settle the injustice of the past.

    Problem is treaty claims will never be settled (was it the Maori party claiming only 1% of treaty claims were settled?).

    So we will never have a constitution or a republic.

    For to have those requires ALL citizens to be considered equally.

    What I read in those transcripts is that the treaty settlement process has hijacked any discussion us “plebs” may wish to contribute to forming a constitution and a republic.

    Another issue is that the treaty is with the crown, A title that should disappear in a properly constituted republic.

    A republic has only the state where ALL people are equal.

    This is perhaps the biggest stumbling block to New Zealand ever getting a constitution, never mind a republic, for the treaty claims would effectively have to stop as there is no crown to settle with.

    Which is the reason, I think, the constitutional talks have been sidelined by the “elites” to focus on the treaty claims settlement.

    Good lawyering but not good it we want a constituted republic.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1 (+6)

  18. Tangata Whenua = all born New Zealanders.
    There, problem solved in one sentence.
    Now go ahead and write/interpret the treaty/constitution any way you wish…we are all equal.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0 (+11)

  19. You do raise a reasonable question, just because the nation was founded by a Treaty, this does not mean that a constitution is (primarily) about the Treaty being brought into a constitution. But given we a nation founded by a Treaty, how can we have a constitution that does not refer to it?

    SPC – Thank you. This is the distinction I was trying to make. While it is important to refer to The ToW, Jackson’s implication that that any ongoing constitutional discussion is “a Te Tiriti based conversation” is flawed.

    A modern constitution must be a codification of universal rights, not a rehash of a 170 year old document.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0 (+7)

  20. A modern constitution must be a codification of universal rights, not a rehash of a 170 year old document.

    Doesn’t get much more sensible than that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 (+4)

  21. What is it about the Greens that they want to embed racism in an unwanted Constitution? Surely their philosophy would be one of equality and personal freedom of expression, unfettered by any law which gives certain rights to one racial group and not the rest of society. The whole Green idiom appears to be based on a belief system which denies granting respect to all citizens without prejudice. Nothing more and nothing less. The original Treaty intentions were exactly that and accordingly were just, fair and well intentioned. What happened since 1840 may be cause for concern but redress is not found in institutionalized racism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2 (+2)

  22. What is it about the Greens that they want to embed racism in an unwanted Constitution?

    Oddly atrout, if you actually read the comments, you will several of “the Greens” who don’t want that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0 (0)

  23. I love the way the treaty unites us, and I hate the way the treaty divides us but honor requires that it BE honored in any effort to bring forward a Constitution. THAT, despite all the nice words about “equal rights for all” here, means that there is, at least at the outset and possibly for long into the future, a division and inequality can exist to haunt us all.

    Because to honor the treaty the Maori have to have the same position of equality at the Constitutional Convention Table as they had at the formation of the original treaty.

    They may be 16% (just guessing) of the population but they must provide half of the Constitutional delegates.

    From there we can work forward and not abrogate their rights and maybe even get something that gives us all that equality we hope for… but their starting position is as an entity EQUAL to the Crown.

    I have previously suggested that the form of the government that results might be similar to the British. The Maori Aristocracy electable (if they wish) among Maori in a “House of Tangata Whenua” with a House of Commons for the rest of us and some arrangement of divided powers.

    It is however, only necessary that the Maori themselves agree on an equal basis to WHATEVER the Constitutional Convention cooks up, provided their representatives there are equal in effect to the whole of the rest of the population.

    That is by the way, the answer to the question SPC raised.

    It is and will be, a sorely vexed question until a proper Constitution is reported out, voted and accepted.

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  24. Throw all the semantics around you like, but any constitution that fails to declare all New Zealanders have equal rights, regardless of colour, creed, religion or gender ‘aint going to hunt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 (+2)

  25. BJ,

    They may be 16% (just guessing) of the population but they must provide half of the Constitutional delegates.

    In other words the constitution will not be a democratic one.

    Nor will it be the constitution of a democratic republic that will be formed in the future.

    I have previously suggested that the form of the government that results might be similar to the British. The Maori Aristocracy electable (if they wish) among Maori in a “House of Tangata Whenua” with a House of Commons for the rest of us and some arrangement of divided powers.

    The blindingly obvious is, that when 16% have equal rights to the remaining 84% ratio, does not represent a democratic state.

    Bearing in mind that none today and any future treaty claims, cannot ever be settled satisfactorily, we will never form a true democratic republic in New Zealand.

    Tribalism will rule and I would go as far as to say that new tribes will form based on religious, racial, etc. divides.

    Can easily see say (example only – dont get knickers in a twist) the exclusive brethren lay claim and possession of a chunk of Northland due to continuous occupation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

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