Regional | Justice

The 'hearts of the people' will decide treaty justice, not Crown

Raukawa treaty negotiator Chris McKenzie (R) told Te Ao with Moana treaty justice is felt in the 'hearts of the people'.  Pictured: Former Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson, Dr Margaret Mutu and Mr McKenzie.  Photo/File.

The hearts of the people will determine when a treaty grievance has been settled, not the Crown labelling a settlement 'full and final', says a leading treaty negotiator.

Raukawa lead treaty negotiator Chris McKenzie told Te Ao with Moana that treaty settlements represent the best outcome that is possible for the present moment, but it is the future generations that will decide when justice has been done.

“[Full and final,] it’s definitely a thing that’s written into the deed of settlement. Is it a thing that’s written into the hearts of the people who negotiate this? No, not at all," said Mr McKenzie.

"What we know is that this is full and final for today because this is the best of today’s justice that we could get. But there’s a funny thing about that justice, until it comes you’ll continue to strive for it and every generation will.”

The comments were made during the first of two special episodes on Te Tiriti o Waitangi broadcast on Māori Television at 8.00pm on August 20th and 27th.

Mr McKenzie was a panellist, along with former Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson and Dr Margaret Mutu, on the first of the special Te Ao with Moana episodes devoted to treaty issues.

Dr Mutu, a Professor of Māori Studies at the University of Auckland and treaty negotiator, told presenter Moana Maniapoto that the treaty settlement process has failed Māori and the best solution is for Māori to control their own destiny.

“It's now 24 years since the first settlement was signed, you’ve had a significant number go through with a promise. One of the promises there in the Crown’s list of aims is that the people will be better, that things will be better for the people. All you have to do is look at the statistics and the statistics are very clear that things are actually getting worse,” said Dr Mutu.

“What the [Waitangi] Tribunal keeps asking for is for Māori to be able to control their own lives, to make their own decisions about their own lives. We see changes in programmes like Whānau Ora, the Kura Kaupapa and areas where Māori make decisions about our own lives is where you see improvements. You do not see it elsewhere.”

Mr Finlayson said the situation is not helped by the Crown "backsliding" on promises and the problem of "institutional amnesia".

“There will be success, there will be a good relationship if the Crown honours its commitments. If it doesn’t start to backslide the way it did to Tūhoe in the early years of the 20th century and promises were made, promises were not kept," he said.

"This may sound like an absurd proposition, but I tell you it’s the truth, the Crown forgets. And the Crown needs to be reminded time and time again that there are obligations that need to be honoured."

Mr McKenzie said restoring trust is important to the treaty relationship.

“The Crown moving forward after settlement negotiation has an important role to play. After the smiles and the cups of teas and the nice ceremonies are finished, the day after starts a new period of trying to rebuild some of that trust.”

WATCH the first of our two specials episodes on Te Tiriti o Waitangi here.
Part 1 - What is the point of treaty settlements?
Part 2 - How fit for purpose is the treaty settlement model?
Part 3 - How does the Crown restore trust?