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Honouring the Treaty.

By Laura Black in All Sorts

thinking again about how to honour the Treaty in reality

I WAS A LITTLE TAKEN ABACK, as many others seem to have been, by Dave Witherow’s opinion piece in the ODT recently on being sick and tired of hearing Te Reo Maori spoken so frequently and so fluently on National Radio (and in other venues).
Not that someone might still think those things, I’m not so sheltered that I think that viewpoint has passed away, but that the ODT might print it. Generally, our local paper does pretty well at promoting a common frame for those of us that live in Dunedin, and this seemed to me to be a pretty divisive piece.
So either more people than I’m aware of hold these views, or the ODT’s looking for a bit of rah-rah-raru to stimulate a bit of publicity. And I reckon they should know better.
While I was quietly mulling on this, I got sent a draft copy of a paper written by a Wellington based public servant, discussing how (I think, it was a pretty ropey draft) the voices of the clients might be heard better by Wellington. All well and good, I was thinking.
Except over 18 pages, there were only two references to Maori. Now, this is a bit of a problem. Maori are a majority (a raw majority) of prisoners, 63% of children in Oranga Tamariki care, 71% of youth offenders, and nearly half again as likely to truant from school. For a group of people who are a minority of the population as a whole.
Which is really not good, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that this was a paper written on behalf of the crown, and the crown has a specific relationship with Maori: the Treaty of Waitangi.

Its an arranged marriage of sorts, with an ongoing dispute about the vows taken and a fair bit of domestic violence by one party and quite a bit of trashing of premarital property. But with no option of walking away. There really is no doubt about this – governments don’t hand over billions of dollars in reparations and apologies right left and centre without having been thoroughly embarrassed.
The crown has said that its duties under the Treaty can be described as the 3 P’s: Participation, Partnership, and Protection. Maori have never accepted these as being good enough, and they seem like pretty weak sauce to me, even when compared with the English version of the Treaty. But they are the minimum.
And still they’re not managed very well. In draft papers from Wellington or in the local newspaper. Where's the participation in being told not to speak your language? Where’s the partnership in us telling them what to do? And where’s the protection when the “debate” is continued in the letters page day after day?
My Wellington friend has taken the advice to rethink his approach with integrity and a genuine desire to learn, which is useful, I suppose. But I am less sure about the angry folk writing to the paper, rewriting the marriage vows selfishly, again.
We have the chance, though, to honour the marriage and as we enter this time of celebrating the birth of the Christ, perhaps renew again our vows (the proper ones) for another go. If you are wanting a place to start have a look at trc.org.nz.
Laura Black