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British Government may be liable for Treaty

Academic says British Government may be liable for Treaty

A leading New Zealand Treaty specialist has called on the British Government to clarify its role in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi, claiming Britain may have breached international law by transferring its responsibilities under the Treaty to the New Zealand Government without Maori consent.

Professor Paul Moon, of AUT University, says Maori chiefs signed the agreement with representatives of the British Crown in 1840, and alleges since that time, Britain has gradually relinquished all its obligations under the Treaty without obtaining Maori approval.

"We all know the New Zealand Government has taken on the role of Britain as the other treaty partner," says Professor Moon, "but this does not necessarily eliminate Britain's obligations to the agreement."

Professor Moon wrote to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the matter and received a reply which he describes as inadequate."At stake is the potential liability for billions of dollars of compensation for Crown breaches of the Treaty, as well as the possibility that Britain's actions have violated international law," he says.

"Britain consented to be bound by the Treaty as a negotiating and contracting state, but has not performed its relations in good faith as it is required to," says Professor Moon. "In fact, Britain has not performed its treaty relations at all for several decades.From one angle, this could be interpreted as a de facto withdrawal from the Treaty."

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At least two Maori hapu (sub-tribes) are believed to be preparing legal action against Britain in an international forum, in an effort to force the British Government to take responsibility for the treaty it concluded with Maori in 1840. Professor Moon has been approached by one of these groups to investigate Britain's responsibilities under the Treaty, and has been asked to testify as an expert witness.

ENDS

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