Aotearoa / New Zealand
The Māori are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand). Although New Zealand has adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the rights of the Maori population remain unfulfilled. In addition, New Zealand has not ratified ILO Convention 169, an international legal instrument that specifically addresses the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.
The Māori people
The Māori people represent 15% of the total population of 4.5 million in New Zealand. The Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British Iwi and Maori nations in 1840. There are two versions of the Treaty, one English version and one Maori version.
The Māori version granted a right of government to the British and promised that the Maori would retain sovereignty over their lands, resources and other treasures. However, the Maori Treaty has a limited legal status and, as a result, the protection of the rights of the Maori depends to a large extent on the political will and special recognition of the Treaty.
Main challenges for Māori
The gap between Māori and non-Māori is widespread. The life expectancy of Maori is 7.3 years less than that of non-Maori, family income is 78% of the national average, 45% of Maori leave upper secondary school without qualification and more than 50% of the prison population is Māori.
Possible progress for Māori
In 2016, Matike Mai Aotearoa, an independent working group led by iwi on constitutional transformation, published its report on an inclusive constitution for Aotearoa. The report is based on hundreds of meetings, presentations and discussions with the Maori people, and includes consideration of the possible foundational values of a new constitution, such as community, belonging and conciliation.
The working group identifies 2040 as an aspirational goal for some form of constitutional transformation for Aotearoa. Its recommendations include the need to continue discussions on constitutional transformation, as well as formal dialogue between Maori, the Crown and local authorities, and the establishment of an additional working group. It also recommends that by 2021, a dialogue be initiated with the Crown to organize a convention on the Constitutional Transformation Treaty. The government has not commented on the report.
The Māori and the Crown continued to seek the settlement of Maori claims regarding historic Treaty infractions throughout 2017. Three groups had their mandates recognized, 5 negotiating terms signed with the Crown, 6 signed an agreement in principle, 9 agreed to that their settlement writings were ready to be presented to their members for ratification, one signed a deed in agreement with the Crown, 1 signed a memorandum of understanding, 4 had enact legislation that implements their agreements and 3 enacted legislation that gave effect to your agreements.
In February 2017, in its historic decision in Wakatū v. Attorney General, the Supreme Court of New Zealand held that the Crown owes equitable duties to traditional Maori landlords to protect their property rights. The progress continues in the recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples in Aotearoa, with the pioneering decision of Wakatū and the continued impulse in the settlement of the historical claims of the Treaty.