Maori: Celebrating 175 years of the Treaty

Be it the 1835 Declaration of Independence, 1840 Treaty of Waitangi or the Waitangi Tribunal of 1975, the wait by Māoris – indigenous people of New Zealand – for resolution of their rightful grievances seems long and never-unending, with the latest contention being the Maori freshwater rights 

It was on February 6, 1840, when a little-known place in Bay of Islands assumed historical importance for the land of the long-white cloud. And 2015 marked the 175th anniversary of that momentous event - the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand’s founding document.

While the text of the treaty never actually became the law – due to differences between the English and Maori versions – subsequent developments including Tribunal findings, court judgements and the 1989 Government Statement laid down the treaty principles of 'partnership' and the 'duty to act reasonably and in good faith'.

The Crown also recognised its duty to remedy past breaches, actively protect Maori interests and consult with them, as well as let Maoris retain rangatiratanga over their resources and taonga and have all the rights and privileges of citizenship.

Water rights

As it happened, the latest issue of contention is the argument put forward by the New Zealand Maori Council that Maoris have proprietary interests in country's freshwater, and thus must have water allocation and usage rights.

The Government, on its part is clear. “No one owns the water,” said the PM unequivocally, repeating his Government's stand put forward in the Supreme Court. But, he added, “Maori water rights would be dealt with on a catchment-by-catchment basis.”

And to take this approach forward, more than 40 Iwi leaders and the Government agreed to sort out the water rights issue by Waitangi Day 2016.

The announcement was made in Kerikeri at the annual Waitangi week celebrations this year.