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Commission Reports On Progress Toward Tino Rangatiratanga

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission has filed a mixed report card to the United Nations on Aotearoa New Zealand’s commitment to the realisation of Indigenous rights.

Addressing a UN expert group on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva last week, Kaitahutahu Rangatahi Waimihia Maniapoto-Love acknowledged there have been periods of good progress but said this was coupled with periods of inactivity and stalled progress.

The report was to update the group (officially known as the Expert Mechanism) on progress since it visited Aotearoa in 2019.

The Government, the National Iwi Chairs Forum and the Commission jointly set about developing a national action plan to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in Aotearoa, after the 2019 visit.

“The partnership process was commendable, and considerable efforts were made to try to ensure that it operated collaboratively and equitably,” said Maniapoto-Love.

However, the Government decided to postpone the completion of the plan.

“This draft plan has effectively been shelved for now” said Maniapoto-Love.

Both the Commission and the Aotearoa Independent Monitoring Mechanism (a group of independent Māori rights experts, established by the National Iwi Chairs Forum), have invited the Expert Mechanism to revisit Aotearoa, as a follow up to its 2019 visit.

“We believe there is continued value in external, international oversight, to pressure New Zealand to maintain its work on implementing the Declaration,” said Maniapoto-Love.

Concerns raised at the breach of Wairarapa Moana’s rights

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The Commission also highlighted to the UN its concerns over the actions of the New Zealand Parliament in December last year, when it passed legislation to remove Wairarapa Moana Incorporation’s rights to seek the return of their lands, territories, and resources.

This occurred without the group’s consent, and despite their right to seek return confirmed by the Waitangi Tribunal and Supreme Court.

The Commission’s Rongomau Taketake Claire Charters said “Such action contravenes our nation's founding constitutional agreement, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, fundamental human rights, and Indigenous Peoples' rights under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It highlights the human rights breaches that can occur when human rights are not included in higher law that can bind the legislature,” she said.

The Commission has invited the UN Special Rapporteur to visit Aotearoa to investigate and provide effective remedies for this clear breach of rights.

Calls for the Doctrine of Discovery to be repudiated

The Commission also used its appearance in Geneva to echo calls by the National Iwi Chairs Forum for states to formally repudiate the doctrine of discovery.

Premised on theories of Christian-European supremacy, this doctrine provided that upon arriving in new territories, European nations automatically acquired sovereignty over the Indigenous Peoples and legal rights to their lands.

In Aotearoa, the Crown proclaimed its sovereignty using a combination of direct references to this doctrine, as well as an alleged cession of sovereignty by Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

However, as Māori have consistently maintained, and as was concluded by the Waitangi Tribunal, Māori sovereignty was never ceded under Te Tiriti.

Rather, Māori leaders agreed to a constitutional relationship where they and the Crown would have equal, but independent spheres of influence.

Charters said that until the doctrine is formally repudiated, and Aotearoa’s constitution is transformed to give meaningful effect and protection to Te Tiriti and Indigenous rights, a breach of its obligations to recognise and protect Māori self-determination will remain.

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