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Waitangi Trust Board Amendment Bill passes first reading

Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill passes first reading

The Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill, which will modernise the governance structure of the Waitangi National Trust Board, passed its first reading in the House today.

The board was set up in 1932 by Lord and Lady Bledisloe when they gifted to the people of New Zealand the 506-hectare Waitangi estate, which includes the Treaty Grounds.

Under the Waitangi National Trust Board Act 1932 the board is responsible for caring for one of New Zealand’s most significant heritage sites.

Its members include representatives of the families of some of our most significant historical figures: Hone Heke, Maihi Kawiti, Tamati Waka Nene, Pomare, James Busby, Archdeacon Henry Williams and Edward Gibbon Wakefield. This special aspect of the board’s governance arrangements has been retained.

The bill creates a clear separation between the government and the board, while ensuring a continued positive working relationship.

Under changes to be made by the bill, the Governor-General will become the Trust’s Honorary Patron, in recognition of the national significance of the Treaty and the grounds.

Two Members of Parliament will also be appointed as full members of the board, one by the Prime Minister and one by the leader of the opposition, helping the board maintain strong links with the elected representatives of New Zealand.

A new Crown Representatives Group – comprising the Prime Minister, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage and the Minister of Māori Affairs – will be established to foster good relations between the government and the board.

Previously, the Governor-General and ministers were listed in the Act as members of the board. The amendments will clearly separate the roles of trustees and the constitutional roles of ministers.

“The place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 is the birthplace of our nation, attracting large numbers of New Zealanders and overseas visitors every year,” Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson said.

“The bill meets the demands of the modern era and creates a fresh working relationship between the Crown and the Waitangi National Trust Board. It is a timely bill given the national significance of Waitangi in the lead-up to the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on 6 February next year.”

The bill was passed unanimously, and will now be considered by the Māori Affairs select committee.

Ends

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