The Human Rights Commission released two documents today relating to the Treaty of Waitangi.
The first document is a report on developments relating to the Treaty in 2009. This report is one section of a broader review of race relations issues. The complete review will be released in March but the Human Rights Commission has chosen to release the section focusing on the Treaty of Waitangi now in order to encourage reflection on Treaty issues as we approach Waitangi Day. The report acknowledges that there have been some ups and downs in relation to the Treaty over the past year, though ultimately it suggests that 2009 has generally seen positive progress in this area. Amongst a list of ‘Treaty milestones’, the report notes the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, progress on Treaty claims and settlements, the agreement over the Māori flag, and discussions between Māori and the government about how to improve the Treaty settlement process.
The second document is a discussion paper on human rights and the Treaty. This paper is published in preparation for the Commission’s next Status Report on Human Rights in New Zealand, which will form the basis for the second New Zealand Action Plan for Human Rights. This discussion document proposes seven priorities for action in relation to human rights issues relating to the Treaty of Waitangi:
- Examine constitutional arrangements: Review laws that make up our constitutional framework, to ensure the Treaty, indigenous rights and human rights are recognised and provided for, and consider entrenching them as constitutional norms.
- Settle the past: Conclude the settlement of historical breaches of the Treaty promptly and fairly.
- Explore new pathways: Develop and implement new pathways to partnership between Tangata Whenua and the Crown in central and local government, business, resource management, and environmental protection, in order to improve economic, social and cultural outcomes for all New Zealanders.
- Strengthen existing forums and processes: Build on existing processes and develop new forums for Tangata Whenua and the Crown to engage at local and national levels.
- Promote public awareness: Increase public understanding of the Treaty and the human rights of Indigenous peoples and build relationships between Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders at the community level.
- Focus on children and their families: Ensure all children and young people enjoy improved economic, social and cultural outcomes that more fully realise the rights set out in the Treaty of Waitangi and international human rights treaties, including the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Explore indigenous rights implications in the wider Pacific: Promote discussion of the application of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the wider Pacific context, particularly in relation to the peoples of Niue, the Cook Islands and Tokelau, who are New Zealand citizens, and in light of the whakapapa connections of Māori to other Pacific peoples.
The Commission is seeking comments on its proposals set out in this document by mid March.