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Maori did not cede sovereignty: Waitangi Treaty ruling

Adam Bennett, Rebecca Quilliam The New Zealand Herald 14 November 2014

Maori Treaty of Waitangi Waitangi... Waitangi Tribunal
Dignitaries are welcomed on to Te Tii Marae, Waitangi, for the release of the Waitangi Tribunal's report.
(Photo / Michael Cunningham / The New Zealand Herald)

The tribunal in November 2014 released its report on stage one of its inquiry into Te Paparahi o te Raki (the great land of the north) treaty claims.

"Though Britain went into the Treaty negotiation intending to acquire sovereignty, and therefore the power to make and enforce law over both Maori and Pakeha, it did not explain this to the rangatira (chiefs)," the tribunal said.

Rather, Britain's representative William Hobson and his agents explained the treaty as granting Britain "the power to control British subjects and thereby to protect Maori", while rangatira were told that they would retain their "tino rangatiratanga", their independence and full chiefly authority.

"The rangatira who signed te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) in February 1840 did not cede their sovereignty to Britain," the tribunal said.

"That is, they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories."

But Mr Finlayson today said: "There is no question that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand. This report doesn't change that fact."

Mr Finlayson said the report drew together existing scholarship on the Declaration of Independence and Treaty of Waitangi and that the tribunal noted that its report "represents continuity rather than dramatic change in current Treaty scholarship".

"The Tribunal doesn't reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty, or how the Treaty relationship should operate today."

Mr Finlayson said the Government would consider the report as it would any other Tribunal report. "The Crown is focused on the future and on developing and maintaining the Crown-Maori relationship as a Treaty partner. That's why we are so focused on completing Treaty settlements in a just and durable manner."

The report notes chiefs did agree "to share power and authority with Britain".

"They agreed to the Governor having authority to control British subjects in New Zealand, and thereby keep the peace and protect Maori interests," the tribunal said.

"The rangatira consented to the treaty on the basis that they and the Governor were to be equals, though they were to have different roles and different spheres of influence. "

The detail of how this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Maori and European populations intermingled, remained to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis.

"Having considered all of the evidence available to the tribunal, the conclusion that Maori did not cede sovereignty in February 1840 was inescapable," it said.

The tribunal said nothing about how and when the Crown acquired the sovereignty that it exercises today.

However, it said, the Crown "did not acquire that sovereignty through an informed cession by the rangatira who signed te Tiriti at Waitangi, Waimate, and Mangungu".

The question of whether the agreement that was reached in February 1840 was honoured in subsequent interactions between the Crown and Maori would be considered during stage two of the inquiry.

- With NZME. News Service
- NZ Herald

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MORE MEDIA REPORTS
New Zealand's Maori did not give up sovereignty to Britain, Waitangi tribunal rules

Dominique Schwartz ABC News 14 Nov 2014

A tribunal in New Zealand has ruled that Maori chiefs did not agree to cede sovereignty to Britain when they signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

The treaty was signed by representatives of the British Crown and more than 500 Maori leaders in February 1840 at the Bay of Islands.

The Waitangi Tribunal has released its report on stage one of its inquiry into treaty claims.

It said Britain went into treaty negotiations intending to acquire sovereignty, but did not explain this to the rangatira - or Maori leaders - who agreed to share power and authority.

The tribunal upheld the claims of the Ngapuhi and other northern tribes, saying Maori chiefs did not sign away their authority to make and enforce laws over their people and territories.

A Ngapuhi leader said Friday's ruling was of huge significance.

Attorney-general Chris Finlayson said the tribunal's report "does not change the fact" that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand.

Stage two of the Waitangi Tribunal's inquiry will consider events after February 1840.

Maori did not give up sovereignty: Waitangi Tribunal

Katie Kenny Stuff 14 November 2014

A Treaty expert says he is shocked by parts of a landmark ruling on the Treaty of Waitangi that says Maori did not agree to cede sovereignty over New Zealand.

The rangatira, or Maori leaders, who signed te Tiriti o Waitangi in February 1840 agreed to share power and authority with Britain, but did not give up sovereignty to the British Crown, according to stage one of The Waitangi Tribunal's inquiry into Te Paparahi o te Raki (the great land of the north) Treaty claims.

"That is, they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories," the tribunal said.

In a brief statement responding to the report, Attorney-General and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said: "There is no question that the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand. This report doesn't change that fact."

The report drew together existing scholarship on the Declaration of Independence and the treaty, with the tribunal noting its report represented continuity rather than dramatic change in current treaty scholarship.

"The tribunal doesn't reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty or how the treaty relationship should operate today," Finlayson said.

The Government would consider the report as it would any other tribunal report.

* Read the report here

* Q&A: What does it mean

Stage one of today's report looked at the "meaning and effect" of the Treaty in February 1840, when the first signings took place in the Bay of Islands and Hokianga.

Stage two will consider events after February 1840.

"Though Britain went into the Treaty negotiation intending to acquire sovereignty, and therefore the power to make and enforce law over both Maori and Pakeha, it did not explain this to the rangatira," the tribunal said.

At the time, Britain's representative William Hobson and his agents explained the Treaty as granting Britain "the power to control British subjects and thereby protect Maori," while rangatira were told they would retain their "tino rangatiratanga", or independence and full chiefly authority.

The rangatira consented to the Treaty on the basis that they and the governor were to be equals, each controlling their own people.

How this relationship would work in practice, especially where the Maori and European populations intermingled, was to be negotiated over time on a case-by-case basis, the tribunal said.

It said nothing about how and when the Crown acquired the sovereignty that it exercises today.

'SIMPLY NOT TRUE'

The report is being harshly criticised by treaty specialist Professor Paul Moon from the Auckland University of Technology.

"I was shocked by some do the statements contained in the report," he said.

"This is not a concern about some trivial detail, but over the fundamental history of our country, which the tribunal has got manifestly wrong."

He was concerned by the tribunal's statement that Britain went into the treaty negotiation intending to acquire sovereignty, and thus the power to enforce law over both races.

"This is simply not true, and there is an overwhelming body of evidence which proves precisely the opposite. I cannot understand how the tribunal got this so wrong," Moon said.

He was also critical of the importance given by the tribunal to the 1835 Declaration of Independence by the Confederation of United Tribes.

"The tribunal sees the declaration as some profound assertion of Maori sovereignty. However, the declaration had no international status, and was regarded by British officials at the time as 'a silly as well as an unauthorised act.'

"For some inexplicable reason, the tribunal has again ignored all this evidence," Moon said.

The most concerning aspect of the report was the way the tribunal seemed to be re-writing history with little apparent regard for evidence, he said.

"This report may serve the interests of some groups, but it distorts New Zealand history in the process, and seriously undermines the tribunal's credibility."

A MASSIVE CHEER

Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said there was a massive cheer at the presentation of the report in Waitangi, when the finding that rangatira who signed the treaty had not ceded sovereignty was read out.

"It's a big day for Ngapuhi," he said.

"The big thing for Ngapuhi is that it affirms what Ngapuhi always said, that when we signed the treaty we didn't cede sovereignty," Davis said.

"It's correcting the historical narrative that's gone on since 1840."

He called for calm and said it was time for "wise heads" to sit down and have a conversation about what the report meant for the country in 2014.

It was not clear what the longer term ramifications would be, Davis said.

While some "red necks" might view the report as Maori separatism, he believed it could have the opposite effect and bring people together.

Professor Khyla Russell, Otago Polytechnic kaitohutohu (adviser), said the ruling was "a pivotal turning point" and a victory for iwi.

"It does rewrite history in a way Maori have been arguing since 1849 when the claim started," she said.

"But that land is gone now, only a shadow remains."

Russell believed the rangatira would not have signed the Treaty if the word for sovereignty had been used.

"Words to express that did exist in the Maori language," she said.

"It's a personal opinion, but I'll always wonder why those words weren't used.

"They [the rangatira] signed what was in front of them.

"At last, someone has taken a claim over the wording and the Tribunal has made a ruling, a very brave ruling."