Maori Party discussion around role of Treaty of in NZ’s Constitution won't go away

Te Ururoa Flavell on Q+A

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.

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6 Comments & Questions

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We will always be in conflict so long as some perceive an advantage to be won from it. Every time the courts award one, conflicts multiply.

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What about all the wrongs to be addressed - historical right up to late last century?

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There is a Statute of Limitations for good reason. We could all find reason to sue someone otherwise.

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Flavell is critical of Mr Round and his supporters for preempting the outcome of this "discussion" yet he is one of the leaders of the group who, having forced this "discussion", have their own predetermined outcome.

Flavell, you hypocite!

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I disagree with the idea that Treaty of Waitangi 'issue' will not disappear. I think it will over time, as many other historical events have. They simply lose relevance in a contemporary conversation. The Disarming Act of 1746 anyone?

Try and talk Treaty of Waitangi to new immigrants or 'non-Maori' who are not Pakeha. Blank stares is what you will receive. Many new New Zealanders pay only lip service to the Crown and the Treaty in order to gain entry to the country. They are here to move forward rather than look back to something that has no relevance to them.

Consider this, in another 100 years what will the percentage of maori be in New Zealand? Or will all our descendants have a small percentage of maori blood and so we will all be considered maori? Either way the bi-cultural position of maori / non-maori will carry even less weight then it does now.

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The Treaty of Waitangi is dead in the water

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