On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 2 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.



  • connections and alliances in the 1800s
  • implications of Te Tiriti (The Treaty) today
  • the need for constitutional change
  • the role of Pakeha as allies


Waitangi Tribunal Northland Enquiry Part 1, Te Paparahi o Te Raki: “Māori did not cede sovereignty to the British Crown in 1840…”

1826 – Ships built at the Te Horeke shipyard,  1830 sailed to Sydney and seized because they had no flag… Māori start seeking symbols of sovereignty…

1831 – Māori petition sent from Nga Puhi to King William IV.

1833 – Busby responds with “friendship and alliance” between Nu Tireni and Great Britain.

1826 – Ships built at the Te Horeke shipyard,  1830 sailed to Sydney and seized because they had no flag… Māori start seeking symbols of sovereignty…

1835 – Declaration of Independence and get a flag.

1836 – King formally acknowledges this.

1837 – Captain Hobson arrives, sent by Lord Normanby to acquire sovereignty.

Most Māori signed the Māori version of the Te Tiriti (500+), around 40 signed the English version. Where a treaty is created with indigenous peoples and is later in contention:

  • decision is made against the drafter
  • preference is given to the indigenous version

The Treaty sets out that:

  1. The Queen looks after Britons
  2. Māori look after Māori
  3. Māori have equal citizen rights with British

verbally – assurance of religious freedom was included.

There were wars through 1850s, 1860s and 1870s – New Zealand had the highest British military presence in the world at that time.

Need for constitutional changes:

ONGOING BREACHES Crown is recidivist – inherent in the systemic power of the institution.

There are 7 designated Māori seats in the NZ Parliament. This recognises the self-sovereignty of Māori as set out in Te Tiriti as providing for equal governance (rather than a minority preferencing which would assume e.g. Pacific Island people should have seats also). The number of seats is determined by the number of voters on the Māori Electoral roll.

Provision is made for a similar determination at a local government level – only two of 78 local authorities are/have set up Māori constituencies/wards.  Mayor Andrew Judd of New Plymouth lost his seat over advocating on this issue.

Anglican Church in New Zealand provides a model of three tikanga (systems of governance) – Māori, Pākehāand Pasifika – sharing equal authority but working in partnership. Each group meets in their own “house” then in the treaty house and make decisions by consensus.

There is a Kingitanga movement and also an Independent Constitutional Transformation Working Group – Matike Mai Aotearoa.

Need the ways of being yourself ‘self-determination’ – elections, processes, representation and also mutual spaces to meet and decide things together.