9 May 2024

ACT's interpretation of Treaty of Waitangi inaccurate and misleading - claimants

1:35 pm on 9 May 2024
Hone Sadler

Ngāpuhi Kaumātua Hone Sadler. Photo: RNZ

A Waitangi Tribunal claim into the government's proposed Treaty Principles Bill is underway in Wellington.

Claimants were presenting evidence on Thursday in yet another Tribunal claim into the government's policies, with five filed over recent months.

In her opening statements, Chief Judge Dr Caren Fox noted the hearing was particularly full, with an overfill room being set up for people to watch the livestream.

The Treaty Principles Bill put forward by ACT has provoked particularly fierce opposition from Māori. It sets out ACT's vision of the principles of the Treaty, based on the three articles of the Treaty. The Party wants to "continue the process of defining the Treaty principles, for the first time incorporating the voices of all people through a democratic Parliamentary process, instead of through the Tribunal or the courts".

ACT's Democracy or Co-Government Policy Paper said the Treaty should be defined as:

  • Article 1: "kawanatanga katoa o o ratou whenua" - the New Zealand Government has the right to govern all New Zealanders.
  • Article 2: "ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou whenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa" - the New Zealand Government will honour all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and all their property.
  • Article 3: "a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi" - all New Zealanders are equal under the law with the same rights and duties.

The claimants said ACT's interpretation was inaccurate and misleading. Speaking to the Tribunal, Ngāpuhi Kaumātua Hone Sadler said ACT's interpretation was not in tune with the intent of Te Tiriti.

"This cutting and pasting exercise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi demeans, debases and trivialises our founding document as a nation, and disparages and denigrates Ngāpuhi as the guardian of these sacred covenants" he said.

Claimants were seeking the Tribunal find "the proposed Treaty Principles Bill and the review of statutory references to the 'principles of the Treaty' - that could remove references to the Treaty altogether from statute, aside from Treaty settlements - constitutes a unilateral rewriting of Te Tiriti itself."

They have also asked the Tribunal to reiterate that "the findings in Te Raki Stage Two, Te Tiriti o Waitangi is an international treaty between two sovereignty states in which Māori did not cede their sovereignty".

The Tribunal will examine whether the policy was consistent with Te Tiriti and whether Māori were likely to suffer prejudice as a result of the policy.

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