Te Tiriti o Waitangi – how long is the the wait for justice?

As Waitangi Day approaches, we join with people across Aotearoa to demand justice for Māori, for decolonisation and for transformative constitutional change. It is long overdue.

Everyday we see and feel the social and economic effects of Te Tiriti not being honoured – namely poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, white supremacy and racism. They are embedded in all aspects of our society.

It’s been just over five years since the Waitangi Tribunal’s landmark ruling that the first Māori signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi – rangatira (chiefs) of Ngāpuhi – did not cede their sovereignty to the Crown. In the words of the tribunal, ‘they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories.’

The starting point for any genuine and lasting settlement must be the acknowledgement of this basic fact by the Crown.

Māori have done so much of the hard work for us. The Matike Mai report pulls together a vision for an inclusive Constitution for Aotearoa based on tikanga and kawa, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni of 1835, Te Tiriti o Waitangi of 1840, and other indigenous human rights instruments which enjoy a wide degree of international recognition.

In the same vein, we condemn successive governments for inaction over Waitangi Tribunal recommendations.  As revealed in December’s Te Puni Kōkiri report, the Crown has fully settled the claims in only 21 out of the 130 tribunal reports which have been completed since 1978. In April last year, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights found that Waitangi Tribunal recommendations are ‘frequently ignored’ and recommended that the government ‘ensure systematic and full implementation of recommendations put forward by the Waitangi Tribunal, including in its landmark report Ko Aotearoa Tēnei (Wai 262).’

The Crown’s abysmal response to the Wai 262 Report is just one of many inexcusable and ongoing breaches of Te Tiriti. How long is too long to wait for justice? One hundred and seventy-nine years on, Māori are still waiting.

 

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