State of the World's Minorities 2008 - New Zealand
|Publisher||Minority Rights Group International|
|Publication Date||11 March 2008|
|Cite as||Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities 2008 - New Zealand, 11 March 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/48a7eaea41.html [accessed 25 July 2014]|
Issues attendant on reconciliation between white settlers and the Maori community continue to be examined in 2007 by the Waitangi Tribunal, which was created by an Act of the New Zealand Parliament in 1975. The findings of the tribunal are not legally binding but its recommendations are generally respected by society. The progress of land claims before the tribunal in 2007 remained typically slow.
Maori Party representatives (who hold four of the seven designated Maori seats in the Parliament of New Zealand) accuse the government of 'eroding the relationship between the Crown and Maori'. They applauded the September 2007 recommendation of the New Zealand Parliament's Justice and Electoral Committee that the 2006 Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi Deletion bill not be passed. The bill, which was supported by all parties except the Green Party and the Maori Party, proposed to wipe the words 'Treaty of Waitangi and its principles' from New Zealand's law books. The August 2007 report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the New Zealand government was acting to 'diminish the importance and relevance of the Treaty and to create a context unfavourable to the rights of Maori'.
The government also sent a clear message regarding its recognition of the status of Maori and Pacific Islanders, being one of only four countries that opposed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark defended the decision not to sign, saying the Treaty of Waitangi and common law already protected New Zealand's indigenous peoples' right to lands, territories and resources they have traditionally owned or used. Maori leaders meanwhile claimed they were 'ashamed and outraged' by the decision.
In July 2007 the New Zealand Law Commission began a project to develop a legal framework for Maori who want to manage communal resources and responsibilities. Existing legal structures in New Zealand such as trusts, companies and incorporated societies do not cater well for the cultural norms of Maori groups and the 'Waka Umanga (Maori Corporations) Act' project proposes an alternative that allows tribes to interact with the legal system. Maori leaders, however, hold out little hope that the government coalition will support the bill in its unamended form.
In October 2007, police arrested a group of Maori activists in the eastern North Island on weapons and terrorism offences, alleging that the group had been training and preparing to commit acts of terrorism within New Zealand. Although they were initially arrested under the Terrorism Suppression Act, the Solicitor General decided against charging them under this Act, describing it as 'almost impossible to apply in a coherent manner'. However, the weapons charges remain. The Maori arrested were all members of Tuhoe, a tribe that did not sign the Treaty of Waitangi and seeks to create a Tuhoe nation within New Zealand. The police have been criticized for the manner in which they carried out the raids: cordoning off whole communities, detaining, searching and photographing individuals without charge and seizing property. There has been a series of protests and calls for an inquiry into the government's conduct over the police raids.