Opposing the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio  

Disclaimer

I provide this submission in my personal capacity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of my hapū, iwi, employer or any other organisation or group to which I am affiliated.

Position

This submission opposes the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio because:

(a) Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of this nation. As such, every Minister of the Crown has a duty to ensure the ministries and subsidiaries they are responsible for act reasonably and in good faith to advance and protect the rights and interests of Māori guaranteed under Te Tiriti.

A Ministry of Crown-Māori Relations is unnecessary given every Minister of the Crown already has an obligation to ensure the health of the Crown’s relationship with Māori.

(b) Despite the planned series of hui taking place around the motu seeking feedback and input from the public, Budget 2018 stipulates an appropriation for the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio, signalling it is a fait accompli.

The approach is inconsistent with the concept of consultation and Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which provides that States must consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples and obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

(c) Establishing a caretaker portfolio potentially creates a new legal obligation requiring Māori to engage with the Crown on the Crown’s terms. Arguably, this has the effect of retrospectively amending Te Tiriti o Waitangi and ignores the Waitangi Tribunal’s finding that Māori did not cede sovereignty.

(d) There is a risk that a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio will provide the means for this government and future governments, to restrict the ability of Māori to enter into partnerships with the Crown as equals under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

It does this by potentially narrowing Māori-Crown partnership pathways to one entry point if the convention becomes that Māori must first engage the Minister for Crown-Māori Relations before access is granted to other Ministers relevant to their particular interests.

If this occurs, it would breach Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Article 3 of the UNDRIP because it would bind Māori to perpetual structural disadvantage impeding our ability to be self-determining.

(e) It is difficult to see how the health of the relationship can be objectively measured given the proposed Crown-Māori relations portfolio would be responsible for monitoring itself. It is unclear who will carry out a ‘health check’ of the relationship, and what measures or indicators will be used to determine ‘health status’.

(f) If the Crown wishes to improve its relationship with Māori, it cannot impose a new forum in which it expects Māori to engage with it using a deceptive frame that proposes to empower Māori while eroding our claim to our sovereignty. It is for Māori to determine what our relationship is with the Crown, and to determine the process by which we will engage.

Arguably, the Crown has acted dishonestly by surreptitiously using its Māori Ministers’ access to Māori forums to primarily advance the Crown’s own interests. If the Crown is genuine in its commitment to restore its relationship with Māori then it must first:

(i) address the issue of sovereignty; and

(ii) give legal effect to He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Recommendation

This submission recommends that the Crown consider its alternatives to a “Crown-Māori Relations” portfolio. In particular, that the Crown:

(a) re-scopes its purpose to reconciliation and focuses on how it (the Crown) proposes to fulfil its obligations and correct unresolved historical and contemporary grievances under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

(b) renames the portfolio “Minister for Crown Reconciliation”

(c) reframes its narrative so that it is understood by the public that the portfolio places the onus on the Crown to restore its relationship with Māori, rather than placing the onus on Māori to engage with the Crown in restoring the relationship

(d) redirects the $3.2million funding from Budget 2018 to establish an Independent Māori Advisory Panel (IMAP) to carry out a range of activities that will inform the future scope of works needed to support Māori in the realisation of their tino rangatiratānga (refer Article 18, UNDRIP)

(e) agrees to take genuine steps to work with Māori to address the issue of sovereignty and give legal effect to He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi

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