A “level of self-governance” is not sovereignty

Labour leader Andrew Little’s comments at Waitangi today will simply add to the confusion about the foundational constitutional reality established by the Treaty – the sovereignty of the Crown in New Zealand.

Little is correct in suggesting that the Treaty incorporates an “historical commitment to some level of self-governance” for Maori. The Article 2 guarantee of rangatiratanga (Chieftainship) is just that. However he then muddies the waters with his comments that we need to investigate what sovereignty might mean for Maori.

Let’s be clear – a level of self governance is absolutely not the same thing as sovereignty. To mix them up in the same sound-bite is ill-considered and unhelpful in framing the constitutional conversation that lies ahead. Yes the Treaty guarantees Chieftainship. However it also makes it abundantly clear that this Chieftainship was to be expressed within the context of the overarching sovereignty of the Crown.

It is entirely consistent with what was actually agreed at Waitangi 175 years ago that we investigate new ways in which Chieftainship or rangatiratanga might be expressed in a modern context. This may well include a level of devolvement of central government resources (eg Whanau Ora) or a delegation of Crown authorities in particular spheres. It may also involve arrangements for Maori representation such as the Maori seats.

However any such measures must be clearly understood to fall within the auspices of Crown sovereignty. They must not be seen as some form of co-governance or dual sovereignty based on the revisionist modern partnership paradigm. And they must certainly not be expressions of a limp Crown retreat from its rightful Treaty responsibilities on the flawed grounds that Maori “never ceded sovereignty”.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

This entry was posted in Cultural Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A “level of self-governance” is not sovereignty

  1. Helen says:

    If a level of self-governance was given in the Treaty, then why did Hobson recite (in Maori) as each Chief signed, “We are now One People”? Self-governance just doesn’t stack up, wasn’t mentioned and Little is very wrong. He’s just parroting what the Waitangi Tribunal said and it is well known that that devious body just rubber stamps everything that is requested of it. They change facts to fit their opinions. The Waitangi Tribunal should be disbanded now. They have long outlived the reason they were created in the first place. They are now mischief makers and very dangerous ones at that. They are dividing our country and are not interested in democracy. The Treaty was solely to bring all the natives under the umbrella of Queen Victoria and the same rules were to apply to everyone.


  2. mobfiz says:

    Ewen, I think hundreds of thousands of us – perhaps the vast majority of us – share your concerns about our nation’s future. To your very great credit you articulate that concern, but I wonder if a change of direction and emphasis is needed?
    I am out and about every day. I visit people in their homes from all social backgrounds. I live and work in comparatively affluent Tauranga/Mt.Maunganui yet each day I am made aware of large numbers of idle people – drifters if you like – often carrying large bottles of Coke or similar, often overweight and usually Maori – of both sexes, with a great deal of time on their hands.
    It seems to me that RenewNZ has got to dig a little into statistics, perhaps via the Official Information Act, and analyse the numbers. For example what was the percentage of Maori in prison in the 40’s,50’s,60’s,70’s etc. to the present day? What is the percentage of Maori children in solo parent homes today-and how does that compare to previous decades? Many other parameters could also be explored, but my point is Maori seem to be leaderless, without any other focus other than grievance. Some of that grievance is justified and I think being gradually and appropriately redressed-but in the meantime the nation struggles with Maori under-achievement and Maori resentment.
    When a leader comes to the fore-someone who looks dispassionately at politics and the ritual posturing that goes with it, and exhorts Maori to renew themselves and take some responsibility for poor showing in most aspects of modern life-then real progress can be made and real national renewal possible.
    I really believe that leader is probably a woman- and waiting in the wings right now. She just needs to receive the call. Maybe your blog could do it.


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