The Waitangi Tribunal says the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty through its review of the Māori Community Development Act, the founding document for both the New Zealand Māori Council and the Māori Wardens.
One of the major pieces to the Māori Community Development Act is the statute which recognises Māori right to self-governance, which is why the New Zealand Māori Council says Māori should be leading the review into that Act, rather than the Crown.
A view which has been upheld by the Waitangi Tribunal.
The Māori Community Development Act is the only statute in New Zealand that recognises the Māori right to self-government.
Sir Taihakurei Durie says that could have been lost through the review of the Act, were it not for the finding of the Waitangi Tribunal.
“We are dealing with one of the most precious tāonga for Māori people and that is the Māori right to manage their own matters and it's saying that that has to be respected,” says Durie.
The Waitangi Tribunal says the Crown breached the principles of the Treaty by not respecting that right in its review of the Māori Community Development Act.
The Māori Council's argument before the Tribunal in March was that Māori should be leading that review, not the Crown, namely Te Puni Kōkiri.
Durie says, “We should be concerned about the government attitude that they do not seem to comprehend at times the importance of Māori people managing their own matters.”
That particular statute in the law allowed the Māori Council to put claims before the courts including the right for Treaty settlements, iwi radio, Māori TV, Crown Forests and water rights. Other groups such as the Iwi Chairs Forum and the Māori Women's Welfare League do not have the same statutory recognition. So, the way forward according to Sir Taihakurei Durie is to appoint a body to hold and undertake that right for Māori people.
The Tribunal recommendation is for the Māori Council to lead that discussion after its elections mid-next year.
“Many people think that the MC is redundant. It may be in the future, you just never know. There's just nothing else there to replace it,” says Durie.
The idea at the moment is to consult with all major Māori groups, formulate policy options, then take them around the country to allow the people to decide.