Open letter to Bill English
I am writing to you as one Minister in charge of the Constitutional Advisory Panel to let you know that “New Zealand’s Constitution – the conversation so far”, released last week, includes a fundamental error in the assertion on page 9 that: "The treaty records an agreement that enabled the British to establish a government in New Zealand and confirmed to Maori the right to continue to exercise rangatiratanga".
This is incorrect. All the treaty actually says is that the Queen is sovereign and Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects, including possession of property. That is all, in both English and Maori versions. Since then, moreover, the Queen and her successors have exercised sovereignty for 172 years.
If you go back to the official English and Te Tiriti texts as posted on the Waitangi Tribunal website:
In Article 1, "the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of sovereignty" is phrased in Maori as "Ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa hoki ki hai i uru ki taua wakaminenga ka tuku rawa atu ki te Kuini o Ingarani ake tonu atu – te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua".
And, in Article 2 "Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries . . " is phrased in Maori as "Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangitira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa".
These two texts show that "sovereignty" is translated into "kawanatanga" and "possession" into "rangatiratanga". The treaty's Article 1 refers to ceding sovereignty while Article 2 guarantees possession of their lands etc.
Nowhere in these two articles does the treaty "confirm to Maori the right to continue to exercise rangatiratanga". This is a distortion of the meaning of the treaty.
Could you please ask the Constitutional Advisory Panel to correct this error by replacing the phrase "The treaty records an agreement that enabled the British to establish a government in New Zealand and confirmed to Maori the right to continue to exercise rangatiratanga", with the phrase ""The treaty records an agreement in which the Queen is sovereign and Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects, including possession of property."
New Zealand Centre for Political Research