Dec 15, 2010

Constitutional Review

It is awfully worrying that the likes of Moana Jackson and Margaret Mutu have rejected the Maori Party/National run constitutional review. These people should have been central to the debate not forced to run their own process due to dissatisfaction with the current process. In my opinion a royal commission should be handling this issue and Moana should have been included as a member. Instead we have a part time group of politicians who know nothing about constitutional law. But perhaps I am too cynical - good things may come.

In any case I hope the group explore a variation of the Westminster system, but not necessarily a departure, that better reflects Te Ao Maori.  Any changes must reflect our democratic values, provide for government stability, protect the rights and freedoms of citizens and incorporate Maori values. With that been said I actually think our constitutional arrangements work well - all I would like to see is small changes to our constitutional conventions and relevant statutes that better reflect New Zealand in the 21st century and the interests of tangata whenua.

Constitutional changes are often driven by or result in the establishment or of a new political order. But will that political order be Maori?   


  1. When working for my iwi there was a fear that if anything relating to the legal aspects of the claim was reopened, even slightly, then that would lead to an opening of the gates and a flood - that flood would rejig and ultimately lead to losses for the iwi.

    i have a little of the same fear with this consitutional review because I cannot see how maori interests will be actuated. English has said any change would go to the people to vote on or a cross-party consenscus - which means that it will be the same old same old. Without addressing the fundamental issues of colonisation and it's effects - they are just bullshitting. I cannot see the country voting to empower maori - it is not in their interest.

    So we leave everything the way it is because it is not broken? No - it is broken! We have the review and we try to change things and if there is no or negative change for maori we will fight it as much as we can as much as we do now. Until the foundations of this country are rebuilt upon fairness and equality we will continue to do this.

  2. I guess the ultimate question is what does Maori empowerment look like in a constitution? Is it an unwritten constitution that is responsive to Maori aspirations? Or is a written constitution that enshrines our ancient values?

    One feature of a constitution is that it establishes the duties of the state and defines the relationship between the state and the individual. Perhaps then it could be established that government has a duty to achieve equality, in terms of a number indicators, between Maori and Pakeha amongst other positive rights (rights of provision and support). On the second count (the relationship between the Crown and Maori) Maori are already considered equal partners under the treaty - the treaty is largely considered part of our unwritten constitution. However, the degree to which this constitutional principle is observed is worrying. What I am trying to illustrate is that there is potential for change but until Maori are in control of government, which is a long way away in my opinion, government will just choose to ignore those parts of a constitution that it does not like. As you pointed out too, Maori empowerment is unpalatable to many non-Maori.

    Personally, and as a law student, I am deeply suspicious of constitutional change on a large scale especially if that change involves wholesale change along the lines some seem to be proposing. There are grand ideas and great notions of what can be achieved but of course the practical reality is much different. The current review is operating under a fairly narrow framework that is aimed at tweaking what we have rather than upheaval. So given the framework we must push for what we can;

    1. Guaranteed Maori seats (until Maori decide to abolish them)
    2. Guaranteed Maori representation in local government (especially the Supercity)
    3. Incorporation of the principles of the treaty in all constitutional documents

    The overthrow of colonialism has always culminated in the enactment of a new constitution and the establishment of a new political order. Been my pessimistic self I feel this time will not come anytime soon.



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