Professor aims to raise understanding of Te Tiriti at Massey University

By Marena Mane

The advancement of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is at the centre of a newly established role, at Massey University.  Associate Professor Veronica Tawhai, has been appointed Pūkenga Tiriti, to help the university advance, embed, and apply Te Tiriti, to its programmes.

 Tawhai (Ngāti Porou and Ngāti Uepohatu) has spent 20 years advocating for Te Tiriti o Waitangi in tertiary, government and community areas. It’s a legacy that runs in her whānau.

“I'm feeling very proud of the university because we have a long history of new-beginning initiatives in Maori development," she says. "My father was working at the university when Māori studies became its own independent unit. I'm very honoured to have been able to be offered a role to help lead in this particular initiative.”

Setting up a stainable strategy to teach Te Tiriti is part of her plan.

“The long-term plan is for something more substantial, such as an activity hub to raise the levels of understanding about our tiriti because there is lots of controversy about it.”

The work by the Waitangi Tribunal has provided clarity.

Evidence in, action on

“We're in a really exciting time in our history where a lot of that confusion now, is no longer the case because of the work of the Waitangi Tribunal. So, for example, key things like what does kāwanatanga actually mean? What does rangatiratanga mean? Well, those debates in many ways have had been put to rest because of the evidence."

Tawhai has worked for 14 years in policy, politics, education and indigenous research. She credits those who mentored her.

“I have been incredibly privileged. At a young age, I was picked up by some of the real heroes of Aotearoa, Moana Jackson and Mereana Pitman, who have helped really guide me through. So I'm just incredibly privileged to be part of the movement, bringing it forward.”

Although the presence of Te Tiriti is becoming more prevalent, there is still more work to do.

“All over the country, there are really wonderful treaty statements. But there are quite fluffy, they're not really anchored to anything. They just make general commitments but those days are over. We're now in the time where our Te Tiriti analysis is strategic and specific.”

Starting with Massey University, she’ll be looking into its policies and drawing up a plan that is more specific.