Ngapuhi leader Hone Sadler hongis with Prime Minister Christopher L:uxon at Waitangi

No one summed up this year’s events at Waitangi more presciently than Waitangi National Trust CEO Ben Dalton.

He was speaking at the end of one of this year’s Waitangi innovations, a political forum on the National Marae which followed the Nga Puhi Powhiri for the Government.

Addressing the three leaders of the coalition partners and almost the entire cabinet, he said, “We’ve still got a long way to go.”

“We are not speaking the same language just yet.”

But what Maori want to talk about is Tino Rangatiratanga or sovereignty.

A Government which has scrapped the Maori Health Authority and is opposed to co-governance is going to find this hard.

POLITIK Pita Tipene

The Trust chair, Pita Tipene, echoed Dalton’s thoughts later to the media.

He said he had wanted more focus on the Treaty of Waitangi from the Prime Minister in particular.

“There was a focus on outcomes and action, which is good, but really, we’re here at Waitangi, and we needed to talk about the Treaty of Waitangi more.”

What Tipene is talking about is what he calls the “promise of the Treaty”.


“Article one was Kawanatanga talking about the government, controlling Pakeha people,” he said.

“Article two is Rangatiratanga, where the chiefs hold their own authority and make decisions for themselves.

“Therefore, there are two different spheres of influence or leadership.

“Those two spheres have to have a discussion on the direction of this country.”

That view has, up until recently, largely been confined to historians and academic lawyers, particularly Maori lawyers and, most notably, the late Moana Jackson.

But the publication last year of “The English Text of The Treaty of Waitangi” by lawyer and historian Ned Fletcher has brought to the forefront Article Two with his forensic examination of how the British Government in the 1830s developed the draft of the Treaty that was eventually signed.

POLITIK Some of the crowd who came for the political forum

Historian Paul Moon summed up what academics believe Article Two means in an op-ed piece in The NZ Herald on Saturday.

“No rangatira (chief) ceded sovereignty over their own people through the Treaty,” he wrote.

“Nor was that Britain’s intention – hence Britain’s recognition in August 1839 of hapū (kinship group) sovereignty and the guarantee in the Treaty that rangatiratanga (the powers of the chiefs) would be protected.

“Britain simply wanted jurisdiction over its own subjects in the colony”

That argument is reinforced by the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852.

The historian Vincent O’Malley has recently pointed out that when Britain’s Parliament passed the New Zealand Constitution Act in 1852, they assumed that most Māori would not be subject to the authority of the NZ Parliament to be established under it but would instead continue to govern their own affairs under section 71.

That clause says: “Whereas it may be expedient that the Laws, Customs and Usages of the Aboriginal or Native Inhabitants of New Zealand, so far as they are not repugnant to the general principles of humanity, should for the present be maintained for the Government of themselves, in all their relations to and dealings with each other, and that particular districts should be set apart within which Laws, Customs or Usages should be so observed. “

That is the basis for the recent Waitangi Tribunal finding that the northern chiefs never ceded sovereignty to the Crown.

POLITIK ACT Leader David Seymour; Prime MInister Christopher Luxon and NZ First leader Winston Peters are led on to Waitangi Marae

The Maori lawyer, Annette Sykes, has been at the forefront of this argument for many years.

Speaking at the Waitangi Forum on Sunday in front of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, she said she could hear the constitutional lawyer, the late Moana Jackson, “talking to me, whispering in my ears, the strength of this calmness, nurturing, the importance of this Gettysburg Address at Waitangi.”

Jackson played a key role in the development of the Matike Mai report for the Iwi Leaders Forum in 2015, which, with its various models of divided sovereignty in New Zealand, was a significant influence on the controversial He Puapua report.

“We will stand together in the unity of Kotahitanga,” she said.

“We aren’t here to have trivial dispute discussions.  We are here for serious engagement for the next 40 years.”

And it is Kotahitanga which has changed things at Waitangi.

POLITIK King Tuheitia at Waitangi

Kotahitanga arrived at Waitangi on Saturday in the form of King Tuheitia, leading about 450 followers from Kotahitanga but also Ratana and the Maori Party onto the Marae.

The Maori Party’s decision to join with Kotahitanga rather than the other Parliamentary Opposition parties welcomed on Friday was explained by co-leader Rawiri Waititi, who focused on the Mana Motuhake (independence) call of Kotahitanga.

“We have been in opposition since 1840. Let us put it that way,” he said.

“This is not being an opposition in a Kawanatanga space; we are an opposition in a Mana Motuhake space. 

“Both National and Labor didn’t want us. We are the party nobody wants.

“In government, they don’t want us. In opposition, they want to assimilate us.”

But Waititi might have got a surprise when Tuheitia’s spokesperson and one of his principal advisors, Rahui Papa, speaking in Te Reo, told the Powhiri that the idea for the Hui a Motu held at Turangawaewae just over two weeks ago came from the former Governor General, Dame Sylvia Cartwright and the former National Prime Minister, Dame Jenny Shipley.

Papa said they had suggested the idea to Tuheitia.

Papa took that same conciliatory approach when he addressed the Powhiri for the Government on Sunday. Still, he underlined the constitutional issues that lie at the heart of the debate Kotahitanga wants to have.

“This is a beautiful day. It’s a beautiful day to have the discussion,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful day to have the robust debate. It’s a beautiful day to have an awesome wananga amongst each other because from the foundations of He Whakaputanga (the 1835 Declaration of Independence by the United Tribes of the north) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi rise several issues. 

“And not to traverse those today but to add  to the commitment for ongoing collaborative Korero to find a solution focus to those issues and the issues facing Aotearoa New Zealand.”

That debate is going to be difficult.

POLITIK Waikato Tainui perform a waiata in support of one of their speakers

ACT Leader David Seymour, who has already provoked almost universal opposition from the Maori for his proposal to introduce a Bill to define the principles of the Treaty, does not believe it bestows tino rangatiratanga on Maori at all.

“Article two says that there is Tino Rangatiratanga or self-determination for all New Zealanders,” he told media after the Sunday Powhiri.

“And there are certainly people who will say that what was in mind at the time was New Zealanders as understood at that time.

“My question is, there have subsequently been a lot more people, including some who have arrived on the plane this morning at Auckland Airport.

“Should all New Zealanders now include them having Tino Rangatiratanga? And if they do, then you no longer have a circumstance where some New Zealanders are in partnership with the Crown and others aren’t. 

“And I would put it to you that there is no sustainable future, there’s no good model in the world, where some citizens have a certain constitutional setting in place and others don’t.”

To a certain extent, New Zealand First, though it opposes his proposal for a Bill, agrees with him on tino rangatiratanga.

New Zealand First Minister Shane Jones told reporters that we’re going to have a debate on sovereignty, whether we need it or not.

“We’re stuck in it,” he said.

“There is a deep, committed view from Pita Tipene and others that article two is a charter for iwi sovereignty.

“And at some point in time, that debate is going to be flushed out.

“It’s not a conception that I share. I conceive it to be more localised.

That also appears to be the Prime Minister’s position.

“We are a party and particularly a government that is actually about making sure there is localism and devolution and that those closest to the problem should solve the problems,” he said on Sunday.

“We should partner and work with those that can solve those problems and realize those opportunities that we have.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about.

“That’s where there has been very good alignment.

“ Our fundamental belief is localism and devolution. We do not believe in centralization and control through Wellington.

“That is a political ideological belief system of the National Party and certainly our government.”

POLITIK Waitangi Trust CEO Ben Dalton

Luxon got some support from Dalton on this approach.

Dalton said Tainui chair, Tuku Morgan, had told him at the Turangawaewae meeting that Ngapuhi didn’t know how to utilise Waitangi properly and that it should be doing deals with the Government.

But, he said, Ngapuhi, this time, had taken Ministers around the north to show them the problems and to suggest solutions.

Reflecting on the three days of political talks, he said, “The words were uncomfortable, and the actions were uncomfortable, but we have managed to get through it without any real harm.”

Dalton’s own story is emblematic of Waitangi.

He is Ngapuhi and first came to Waitangi as a protester back in the 70s with Hone Harawira and Nga Tamatoa.

Since then, he has scaled the heights of the public service, has only recently moved back to the north and has become the CEO of the Waitangi Trust.

He knows how Government – and the Beehive – works.

“I know by February the seventh, you will be back in the cabinet, and gradually, this will fade from memory,” he said, addressing the Prime Minister and Ministers after the Powhiri and Forum.

“But you will be back again next year. And hopefully, by then, there’ll be things to measure. So the proof is always in the pudding.”

The unity of Kotahitanga, its reach into so many iwi, and its focus on Article Two, and the provocation of Seymour’s proposed Bill means that Luxon’s government cannot avoid a debate on Tino rangatiratanga or sovereignty.

That will not be easy, but it will be the legacy of this Waitangi celebration.