Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Labour on the Treaty

Labour announced its Māori development and Treaty of Waitangi policy over the weekend. There's a lot in it - no thanks to Labour's habit of shoehorning their key economic policies into everything just in case people have missed them - but there are a few key points:

  • Statutory recognition of Māori as the indigenous people of Aotearoa. Symbolic, but hugely significant all the same.
  • Completing all historical Treaty settlements by 2020. Its good for the government to prioritise this, but as with the claims deadline, I'm afraid it may lead to injustice and iwi being pressured to agree to settlements to meet an arbitrary target. There's potentially some protection against this with the proposal of an independent body to recommend settlements where the government has taken too long - or it could just be a tool to force iwi into one-sided (and therefore not unsustainable) "settlements". Labour will need to do a lot of hard work to get this right, and show a lot more good faith than they have in the past.
  • Post-2020, a review of the role of the Waitangi Tribunal. This follows naturally from the settlement deadline, but its dangerous ground. The Tribunal isn't just a backward-looking body focused on investigating past wrongs, but one which rules on the government's ongoing Treaty obligations as well. There needs to be more reassurance that that role will not be weakened.

So, potentially some good policies there, but a big problem of trust for the party of the Foreshore and Seabed Act to overcome.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering whether Labour's 2008 claims deadline led to the effects I'd feared or not. Have iwi been denied justice for their failure to jump through arbitrary procedural hoops? Or did it work as a spur to action? I'm genuinely interested in knowing.