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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waitangi Day

Well today is Waitangi Day, our national day. And what a shame it is that so many people in this country have no knowledge of the Treaty of Waitangi, and many of those that do, misinform others. On TVNZ's Marae this morning there was a debate "Is the Treaty holding us back". Some of those who promote the role of the Treaty in this country have an indigenous argument and look to the future, those who think it is holding us back often look to the past, pointing to the fact that the Treaty is a historic document - and the " undemocratic nature" of the Maori seats in parliament of the failure of Maori focused units in prison. And those like Matthew Hooten try to have a bob each way.

Take Stephen Franks: "The Treaty has invented principles eg separate seats". At least that is what it sounded like. Well, the Treaty didn't invent the separate seats, nor are the seats a principle under it. Like the promotion of the Maori language, they were promoted through Acts of Parliament, even if they did reflect the intent of Treaty articles.

Sure the programme started at 8am and I was out on the town last night so I may have misheard Franks due to lack of sleep and coffee. But what I didn't mishear is that much of the discussion around the Treaty related to the Maori language, and land confiscations, none of which are are as direct result of the Treaty. Promoters emphasised indigeneity, substantive equality and equal citizenship. There is a clash of ideology - those who accept the concept of indigeneity and self-determination and and those who don't. There are different concepts of what equality is - and the role of the state.

One commentator said the Maori seats have led us into a "disgusting racial mess" and that land confiscations were done "because Maori rebelled against the Crown". - and it is the Treaty that is at fault.

It is not the Treaty that is holding us back. It is people who are holding the Treaty back. The Treaty can be a framework to move New Zealand on. If people understood the relevance, significance and potential of our founding constitutional document we'd be better informed. If people discussed the issues without dismissing relevant perspectives as irrelevant, we`d have a greater understanding of the Treaty and its relevance today. After 170 years, its time to have an open conversation, not an ideological debate.

Update The debate is now online.Franks, while not saying that dedicated seats are Treaty principles(see, it was too early to get up) said they are seen as justified on a constructed version of the Treaty, one that is a "millstone".He also claimed that Maori MPs changed our Electoral Act, changing the definition of "Maori" to one of self-identification, thus potentially bumping up the numbers on the Maori roll, purely because to not do so would have meant that there would be no Maori seats left if you had to be more Maori than Pakeha!

Anyway, here's a great video from Minuit.
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