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Constitutional Transformation Needed To Honour Te Tiriti O Waitangi

Constitutional transformation is required to enable the full implementation of Te Tiriti across Aotearoa says the Human Rights Commission.

The call was made by all four Commissioners of the Human Rights Commission and the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings in commemoration of Waitangi Day.

Rangatira entered into a partnership with the Crown through the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi on February 6 1840 affirming the pre-existing rights of tangata whenua to exercise their tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake in all decision-making processes.

The treaty affirmed that tangata whenua had the inherent authority to exercise, maintain and develop their own tikanga and laws and provided non-Māori a tūrangawaewae in Aotearoa to live in co-existence with tangata whenua.

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi embodies human rights commitments the government has towards Māori. It places responsibilities on the government to uphold and protect the human rights of Māori —including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other human rights instruments,” Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said.

A written Constitution that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi is needed says the Chief Commissioner.

“New Zealand is one of few countries without a written constitution. This means the government’s human rights promises are less secure than they should be. A constitution founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi will help us build a vibrant inclusive democracy that protects everyone’s human rights. Matike Mai should be starting basis for this new constitution.”

“Constitutional change is a long term process, and it must be an inclusive national conversation. Waitangi Day is a perfect time to be thinking about these issues and having these conversations.”

The Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon has called for Te Tiriti o Waitangi to be honoured through its teaching in schools, ensuring services work in partnership with tangata whenua, establishing an action plan for the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and appointing an Indigenous Rights Commissioner to the Human Rights Commission.

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi is about the promise of tino rangatiratanga to Māori and kāwanatanga coming together in partnership to create harmonious relationships. I encourage the Crown to do all they can to honour and activate Te Tiriti.”

The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a framework for upholding Te Tiriti, enhancing Māori wellbeing and improving Crown-Māori relationships, Foon explained.

“The Declaration and international human rights treaties provide the blueprint for the government to honour the promises made in 1840.”

Disability Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero said Waitangi Day is a moment to recognise that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is pivotal to upholding the human rights of tāngata whaikaha (Māori disabled people).

“These rights can only be met within the cultural context of Māori as indigenous people, the tangata whenua of Aotearoa. Māori experience disability at higher rates than non-Māori and tangata whaikaha fare worse than non-disabled Māori. All community and disability services need to work in partnership with tangata whaikaha to implement Te Tiriti based approaches to ensure services celebrate culture and improve people’s lives,” Ms Tesoriero said.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo says Waitangi Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the beginning of the Waitangi Tribunal’s Mana Wāhine Inquiry.

“At the heart of the claims is recognition of the rangatiratanga of wāhine Māori. I salute all the women, past and present, involved in that important Inquiry, and will watch with interest as the Inquiry progresses,” Sumeo said

“Article III of Te Tiriti o Waitangi speaks to equality. This is the heartbeat of the human rights project, but remains a promise unfulfilled in Aotearoa,” the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings Michael Timmins said.

He called on Aotearoa to be kind, bold and confident pushing for constitutional protection for human rights, and be inspired by Te Tiriti o Waitangi to achieve this.

“Mā pango, mā whero ka oti ai te mahi”

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