3 Jul 2011

Govt needs time to digest major Maori report

1:00 pm on 3 July 2011

The Government is making it clear it won't be rushed into responding to a ground-breaking report by the Waitangi Tribunal.

The long-awaited report, produced in response to a cultural intellectual property claim known for short as Wai 262, aims to help develop relations between Maori and the Crown after Treaty grievances are resolved.

It proposes a raft of changes across all branches of government.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson says dealing with it will be a challenge.

"It's a very lengthy report - the executive summary runs to about 250 pages," the minister says.

"I'm going to read it, my colleagues will read it, government departments and ministries will read it, and there'll need to be a lot of consideration given across government."

Mr Finlayson won't say how long this will take but it will certainly not be done before the general election in November.

'We can't carry on this way'

The tribunal has called for a fundamental shift in attitude on the part of government, saying it must become more Maori in its outlook, value Maori culture in everything it says and does, and welcome Maori "into the very centre of the way we do things in this country".

The tribunal's director, Catherine Nesus, says the Maori population is growing and Treaty settlements are sparking economic renewal for iwi.

She says New Zealand is going to look very different in 30 years' time, so government can no longer afford to view Maori as "other".

"The tribunal says that unless government values Maori culture and identity in everything it says and does, and unless Maori are welcomed into the very centre of the way we do things in this country, Maori will continue to be perceived - and know they are perceived - as an alien and resented minority, and as a problem. We can't carry on this way."

Preservation of matauranga Maori

The report recommends that several government departments take a lead role in preserving Maori knowledge, or matauranga Maori. It asks Te Puni Kokiri and the Department of Culture and Heritage to lead the way in that.

The Ministry of Education is asked to set up an entity to preserve the Maori knowledge it holds, and a new body to fund scientific research into Maori culture and knowledge is also considered desirable.

The tribunal also recommends:

  • Local authorities need to recognise Maori as kaitiaki, or protectors of the environment, and give them greater say in resource management decisions.
  • The establishment of a commission to control the use of Maori artistic or cultural works such as haka or carving.
  • The Crown should fund Maori delegates to take part in international conferences, and there should be mandatory reporting to Maori and iwi bodies on the Government's foreign actions.
  • Recognition by the Crown of traditional Maori healing, or rongoa, and the expansion of rongoa services in the health system.

Claimants 'ahead of their time'

The lawyer for Northland claimants in the Wai 262 claim says he is mostly pleased with the report.

Maui Solomon, who acts for the three Northland iwi involved, says the recommendations will go a long way towards protecting those things that are precious to Maori culture.

When the claimants filed their grievances 21 years ago, Mr Solomon says, they were ridiculed by people who did not understand - but it's now clear they were ahead of their time.