Despite NZ First scuppering the inclusion of the word "partnership" in the new Maori Crown agency's name – it is still used in the description of what the new agency will do. Crown-Maori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said the new agency, Te Arawhiti, would help facilitate the next step in the Treaty relationship, moving beyond the settlement of Treaty grievances into "what it means to work together in partnerships".
The Settlements Commitment Unit states on its website:
“The nature of the Treaty partnership between the Crown and Māori is evolving and there are opportunities for collaboration and innovation over time.”
“Over time both the Crown and iwi will be able to increasingly focus on the question of what it means to be a Treaty partner. This will include further improving how iwi can effectively contribute to policy development and the setting of the government’s priorities”.
The constitutional implications of this policy are enormous - yet this has barely made a ripple in the media. The Point of Order blog is an exception. (Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy, launched earlier this year by a small team of veteran newspaper reporters). It has recently posted a couple of perceptive commentaries on the issue of Treaty partnership and co-governance. See: ‘Some Partnership Proposals need puncturing………’
It is obvious Government policy is raising expectations among iwi and Maori organizations that they will wield more power over Government policy. According to a news report on Maori Television, Moana Jackson (purportedly a Maōri intellectual property expert), believes a complete reset of approach is required. He told delegates at the inaugural Māori intellectual, cultural and property rights conference, held in Nelson during September:
“The Treaty relationship doesn’t talk about consultation. Treaty parties don’t consult- they negotiate, they reach agreement and as long as the Crown is wedded to the idea ‘oh, we’re fulfilling our Treaty obligations if we consult with Māori' then they’re beginning again from the wrong place.”
"So, that’s one of those fundamental mind-shifts that has to happen and I’m not sure that the government has got there yet. It still believes it has that superior right to make the final decision."
Meanwhile, another iwi group is busy pushing for “a real commitment and partnership between central and local government, and iwi”. The National Iwi Chairs Forum met last week in Dunedin. One key focus of the meeting was partnership between iwi and the Crown, including the development of a Treaty Partnership Framework to discuss with the Crown. Lisa Tumahai, the chairwoman of Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu, who hosted the event, wrote in an opinion piece published in the Otago Daily Times:
“Partnership is the key. It is a key principle espoused by the Treaty of Waitangi, and yet every Treaty settlement that has been negotiated since 1840 has acknowledged the Crown's failure to act accordingly.”
See Tumahai’s opinion piece ‘True partnership between iwi and Crown needed’ in full HERE.
And unsurprisingly, another key focus of the hui was freshwater management and ownership.
The Iwi Chairs Forum is the same crowd that promoted and then supported Matike Mai Aotearoa – the working group on constitutional transformation. Their radical report, which essentially promotes a co-governance model for the governance of New Zealand, is available HERE.