My first impressions were very favourable. As is obvious in the book's references and bibliography, the author has drawn from a very wide range of primary sources, notably early correspondence collections and government reports.
My high hopes, however, were short-lived. In her introduction the author stated that “the Maori were guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other prized possessions.” As even a quick look makes clear, there is nothing about forests and fisheries in Te Tiriti.
I then wondered what the author would have made of the word 'taonga' in Te Tiriti. I assumed she would have spent some time in researching its 1840 meaning.
In her copious notes, however, I found no mention of Kendall and Lee's 1820 vocabulary, the Williams' 1844 dictionary or Frederick Maning's account of old New Zealand. Had she checked these, she would have learnt that taonga were simply goods, property, things, chattels, or in modern parlance – stuff! (Note: Some may have been treasures, but this is a secondary meaning).
Claudia Orange, however, has relied on others for translation. On page 250 of her book (1987 edition) she talks of the Waitangi Tribunal's report on the Maori Language Claim. The 'taonga' guaranteed by article two of the treaty, the report noted, had incorporated the Maori language, because taonga included intangible as well as tangible things! She also noted that the Tribunal's terms of reference included the task of determining the treaty's meaning and intent.
As is becoming increasingly clear, the Waitangi Tribunal relies a lot more on wishful thinking than solid research. Yet it continues have the Government, its departments and agencies firmly in its grip.
I would have expected better of Claudia Orange though. By not independently researching the meaning of Te Tiriti she has badly let her readers down. For those wanting this vital information her book is indeed a lemon.