Ngāti Kahu pen letter to King Charles over Te Tiriti O Waitangi

Māori academic Makere Mutu says ACT's paper is "nonsensical" (file image). Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

This article was first published by RNZ.

Ngāti Kahu has finished drafting a letter to King Charles calling on him to stop what they say is a violent attack on Te Tiriti O Waitangi, a Māori academic and iwi chairperson says.

Makere Mutu presented her evidence on the second day of the urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing into the Treaty Principals Bill.

She echoed concerns raised by fellow claimants - including linguists, academics, historians and legal professionals - about the ACT Party’s interpretation of the Articles of the Treaty in its Democracy or Co-Government policy paper.

Mutu said ACT’s paper was “nonsensical” and its “cherry-picking” approach led to the creation of sentences in te reo Māori that “made absolutely no sense whatsoever”.

“Which tells me, either that the person has absolutely no understanding of the reo at all or is so disparaging of the reo that they think nothing of doing it, such a damage, such a gratuitous violence to our language. A language is precious and you don’t go messing about with it,” Mutu said.

It was a sentiment shared by tribunal panel member and historian Monty Soutar, who thanked Mutu for her analysis, saying it is “just not possible to draw that English translation from the Māori that’s there”.

ACT’s Democracy or Co-Government Policy Paper said the Treaty should be defined as:

  • Article 1: “Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou whenua” - the New Zealand government has the right to govern all New Zealanders
  • Article 2: “Ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou whenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa” - the New Zealand government will honour all New Zealanders in the chieftainship of their land and all their property
  • Article 3: “A ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi” - all New Zealanders are equal under the law with the same rights and duties

Speaking to the Waitangi Tribunal, she said the government was disgracing the Crown as Ngāti Kahu held Queen Elizabeth II in a high regard, saying she was viewed as the rangatira of the English.

“She was the only one as far as our tīpuna could see, she knew how to control the lawless Pākehās and they accorded her the great honour of being able to exercise her own rule of law in this country for her own people in a way that had to uphold the mana and the tino rangatiratanga of our people. That was a very solemn and serious and sacred undertaking that could only be undertaken by a person who held the necessary respect,” Mutu said.

They would be giving King Charles a reminder of the agreement of Te Tiriti and how he needed to keep this government in line, she said.

“We still look to Charles III to do something about his government. We have just finished drafting a letter to him, reminding him of the undertakings of his ancestors, the very sacred undertaking of his ancestors and to therefore say something to his government about the fact that they cannot behave the way they are because they bring shame, they bring all sorts of disrespect on the head of the Crown,” Mutu said.

“We still look to King Charles III, we look to Queen Elizabeth II in the same way, to stop the lawless behaviour of the Pākēhas. And that’s all we’re dealing with here, is the lawless behaviour, ongoing lawless behaviour of Pākēhas in this country.”

The Treaty could change so much to a point where iwi might not be able to pursue their historical claims, she said.

Her evidence comes a day after the first day of the hearing on Thursday where te reo Māori expert and Ngāpuhi historian Hone Sadler called out ACT’s bill.

“This cutting and pasting exercise of Te Tiriti O Waitangi demeans, debases and trivialises our founding document as a nation and disparages and denigrates Ngāpuhi, the guardian of these sacred covenants,” Sadler said.

But ACT leader David Seymour, who is behind the Treaty Principals Bill, rejected that.

“I believe that he’s entitled to that view. However, I just make the point that there’s been people saying for a long time that the Treaty of Waitangi requires us to be divided by a partnership between races, rather than a compact that gives us the same rights, duties and then gives us, all of us the right to self determine,” Seymour said.

He said he had listened to many experts over the years and was confident with the interpretation which had been taken.

By Ashleigh McCaull of RNZ.