Collaboration with Canadian indigenous peoples sets tone for He Puapua

By Stefan Dimitrof

One of the authors of the controversial He Puapua report says the indigenous collaboration arrangement signed this week between Aotearoa and Canada offers an opportunity for Aotearoa to learn how to realise tino rangatiratanga.

The arrangement formalises the two governments working together to improve outcomes for indigenous peoples and enhance 'indigenous to indigenous' relationships.

Dr Claire Charters, (nō Ngāti Whakaue, Ngā Puhi, Tūwharetoa, Tainui) from the University of Auckland's Faculty of Law said He Puapua had been commissioned by the government to look for ideas to implement the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Rights, which a previous government had signed New Zealand up to.

“Those of us drafting He Puapua were looking overseas to Canada for example, about how New Zealand might go about meeting the obligations under the declaration.”

“But really we just presented some short-term, medium-term and long-term ideas for the government and Māori to consider and how to realise those rights.”

A few of the ideas put forward in He Puapua were separate Māori courts and an upper house of Parliament but the likelihood of these ideas being taken seriously enough to be implemented is unknown at this stage.

Charters said there was "a real understanding that something needs to be done in Aotearoa. There is an understanding socially, economically Māori are not doing well”.

“There is also an understanding that Te Tiriti o Waitangi hasn’t been honoured and there is that sense that something needs to be done.”

Charters said there had been studies from Harvard University that concluded indigenous people did better when there was some form of self-government or authority over things Māori.

“We can’t ignore that, and we can’t ignore the example that has come out of Canada and overseas over how we might lift ourselves out of this conundrum – the ongoing impacts of colonisation.”