Report Released on Crown’s Review of Māori Community Development Act and Role of Māori Wardens
In its report Whaia te Mana Motuhake / In Pursuit of Mana Motuhake: Report on the Māori Community Development Act Claim released on 8 December 2014, the Waitangi Tribunal has upheld the New Zealand Māori Council’s claim that the Crown’s review of the Māori Community Development Act 1962, and its administration of the Māori Warden’s Project, has breached the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. The Tribunal’s report is the first to give an extensive opinion on how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples can inform Treaty principles. The Tribunal held hearings into the claim in March this year.
The Tribunal concludes that in the early 1960s there was an historic agreement reached between the Crown and Māori to give statutory recognition and powers to Māori institutions of self-government including District Māori Councils and the New Zealand Māori Council.
This collaborative agreement was enshrined in the Māori Community Development Act 1962. In reaching this conclusion, the Tribunal was informed by its review of the long history of the Māori pursuit of mana motuhake or autonomy and self-government since 1840. It was also informed by the manner in which negotiations unfolded between the Crown and Māori leaders over the period 1959 to 1963, when both sides agreed to promote the legislation.
The Tribunal also noted that the 1962 Act is the only statute in New Zealand that recognises that Māori have a general right to self-government. Thus the Tribunal’s primary recommendation is that nothing should detract from this statutory recognition of that right.
Turning to Māori wardens, the Tribunal noted that Wātene Māori have existed since the nineteenth century. Today, they are unpaid volunteer workers with a broad range of community roles: tackling truancy, assisting with neighbourhood patrols and at tangi and major events, and advocating for Māori dealing with Government agencies and the courts. Their powers and their administration are provided for under the 1962 Act.
The Tribunal finds that the Māori Wardens Project has undermined the 1962 Crown–Māori agreement and the position of the New Zealand Māori Council and its District Māori Councils in breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Tribunal notes that both the claimants and the Crown now agree that Māori should control their own institutions, including the wardens, and lead any reform of them, not the Crown. The Tribunal recommends interim measures to ensure Māori oversight of the Māori Warden’s Project; and a review of the 1962 Act by the New Zealand Māori Council, which should take into account the views of Māori wardens and a broad range of Māori communities.
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