Saturday, December 19, 2009

Year 170: 365 days in the life of the Treaty relationship

With the recent announcement that the Māori flag will be flown at some official sites on Waitangi Day, it seems that attention is turning toward 6 February and the commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi a little earlier than usual.

Each year, those commemorations remind us of the agreement between Māori rangatira and the British Crown which established the formal relationship on which our nation could be built. It seems appropriate to me that 6 February should also be an opportunity, not only to recall the foundation of that relationship, but also to take stock of how well that relationship has been nurtured during the 365 days since the nation last focused on Waitangi.

During the last year we have seen a number of high profile issues which have had significant Treaty dimensions - the question of whether or not there should be separate Māori representation on Auckland’s new supercity council, whether it ought to be Whanganui or Wanganui, finding a national Māori flag to fly on Waitangi Day, the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, the Māori Television bid for broadcasting rights to the Rugby World Cup, the measures in the amended Emmissions Trading Scheme which aim to address settled Treaty claims. And then of course there was that email from Hone Harawira. Some of these issues clearly have more significant implications for our law, government, and public life than others, but each tells us something about the health of the Treaty relationship in its 170th year. Between now and Waitangi Day 2010, I'll post on each of these issues and examine them in light of the Treaty of Waitangi, its provisions, and the relationship it established.