Summary and video of the Māori in Parliament Treaty Debate

Treaty debates 2009 Māori in Parliament and the future of the Māori seats

Claudia Geiringer, co-chair, comment on the two speakers:

There is a great deal of food for thought in the two speeches, and it is clear from them that the future of the Māori seats remains a hotly contested question. There would seem to be at least three related levels on which we could frame the debate that is going on here:

First, we could frame it in functional terms: as a debate over whether the Māori seats facilitate or hinder fair and effective representation for Māori on the one hand, and for non-Māori on the other.

But secondly, sitting behind that functional question are broader and contested questions about the nature of our constitution – the principles that it protects, how we define those principles and what happens when they come into conflict with each other. For example, both the speakers invoked their own conceptions of “democracy” and “equality”. Perhaps we can all agree that these are principles that our constitution values, but what do they actually mean? And are they advanced or undermined by separate representation? And how do they sit in relation to other principles that we might also value such as biculturalism, minority protection and, of course, the principles of Te Tiriti itself.

Finally, at a third level, there is a conversation going on here about the symbolic significance of the Māori seats – what symbolic message do they convey to Maori and to non-Māori? And what significance, if any, should we place on the symbolic value of the seats, as compared with the more functional questions concerning their ability to secure a fair and effective representation system?

Question to Derek Fox from online audience

Question: How do you define a sovereign state, and do you think New Zealand was such a sovereign state by 1840, and why?

Answer from Derek Fox (11/02/09): In terms of the question – actually after the actual debate the other night it struck me that the whole thing was probably a classic case of two different world views. Even the question about sovereign state depends very much on what your starting point is. The conventional wisdom is that a sovereign state is one with secure borders respected by your neighbors containing peoples who want to be part of the state and have a shared vision and purpose and are working towards that.

In 1840 the Rangatira and iwi their constituent hapu and whānau had tino rangatiratanga over their rohe and assets. My view is there was a steady state of security worked out over several hundred years – I’d call that rangatiratanga. It might also amount to sovereignty.

Video recording of the second Treaty Debate

We apologise for the poor quality of this recording. We had some technical issues but have recovered the debate as best as we could.

 All Treaty Debate recordings

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