The Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell told TV One’s Q+A programme that the current review of NZ’s Constitution was a way forward for both Maori and non-Maori in order to bring the country together under one agreed law.
The Maori Party negotiated a constitutional review into its coalition agreement talks with the National Party after the 2008 election.
A panel of 12 New Zealanders is looking into the pros and cons of having a constitution written down in a single document, the role of the Bill of Rights 1990 in a constitution, the role of the Treaty of Waitangi in our constitution, how Maori views should be represented in national and local government, and electoral issues such as the size of Parliament and the length of its term, as set out in the Review’s Terms of Reference.
Mr Flavell said that even if nothing came from this review, the issue would not disappear.
“Treaty rights are not going to go away. On the 6th of February every year, the discussion will be exactly the same, and until such time as we enter into the dialogue about how Treaty rights can be brought to the fore and recognised for Maori and also obligations on the Treaty partner – Te Taha Tiriti – then we will always be in conflict, because they will not have been settled. I mean, justice delayed is justice denied,” Mr Flavell told Q+A host Susan Wood.
But a group opposed to the Constitution’s review say it’s a major threat to NZ’s democracy.
David Round says until there is consensus on the meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi and the principles within it then it has no place in the Constitution.
“The principles are simply modern political interpretations, and essentially they are the distillation of whatever Maori choose to claim next. And so, for example, we have various Maori saying it is not the Maori way to bind future generations, and therefore there will inevitably be another round of Treaty claims in another generation. Now, if our Treaty principles were in the constitution and judges were to say, ‘Oh yes, that’s the case – Maori can’t bind future generations,’ then in a generation’s time, we would find courts declaring that current full and final settlements are not full and final, and we will have claims forever.
“I think that for the last generation, we have actually been heading in the direction of increasing separatism in this country, and this strapping and snarling is actually leading us further towards an apartheid state, which is where we’re going to end up if we’re not really careful,” Mr Round said.
But Mr Flavell said that the issue would not go away, so it was important to have a discussion on where the Treaty fitted within a Constitution so that as many voices could be heard as possible.
“We as a Maori Party and as a political movement are part of a bigger history about the recognition of Treaty rights in this country. Simply because we happened to take it off the agenda at a political level, it won’t stop… so for anybody to believe that it’s just going to fall off the table by itself and nothing come of it, they’ll be dreaming. That’s why we need to have a good discussion about it,” Mr Flavell said.
Watch the full interview here.