The Treaty of Waitangi – the Maori Magna Carta: 13 September

The NZ Council for Civil Liberties hosted The Treaty of Waitangi – the Maori Magna Carta. This talk was given by Dr David V Williams, Professor of Law, University of Auckland at St Andrews on The Terrace, Wellington, 7:30pm Sunday 13 September.

“In our national context we need to note that, as well as being the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, this year is also the 175th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. That treaty was a solemn compact or covenant to protect and guarantee Maori land rights, the continuance of tikanga as law and the affirmation of rangatiratanga for the governance of hapu. The notion of ‘British sovereignty’ as understood in 1840 (rather than as understood in later and in more recent times) was consistent with this continued application of tikanga and rangatiratanga for governance of the affairs of hapu, whilst the colonial administration exercised direct authority over settlers and foreign traders.”

“In debates about the Treaty of Waitangi in the early 1840s there were numerous references by the Governor and his officers to the Treaty as the ‘Maori Magna Carta.’ The suggestion was that the Treaty provided protection for the rights and liberties of Maori in a similar fashion to the understanding that the Magna Carta provided protection against arbitrary government actions to deprive English subjects of their rights and liberties.”

“In the late 1840s, with the appointment of a new Governor and the arrival of a flow of settlers to New Zealand emigrating in the aftermath of famines in Ireland and Scotland, strong efforts were made to avoid and restrict the Treaty guarantees. The long history of breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi by successive governments began in earnest.” – Dr David Williams

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