Saturday, February 06, 2010

Waitangi and Sovereignty

The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand. An important aspect of the treaty is often missed.

In the second clause of the Maori version of the Treaty of Waitangi, the crown agreed to protect the tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty) of the chiefs and hapu (subtribes) and all the people of New Zealand over “their lands, villages and all their treasures”. The English version expands the latter expression to include “lands and estates, forests, fisheries and other properties”. This clause is really important as it places significant limits on the authority of the state. It cannot interfere in the lives of the people or their possessions unless a crime occurs.

The first point, which is seldom noticed, is that it applies to “all the people of New Zealand” nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani). The second clause is for all people, and not just to Maori.

Secondly, the treaty recognises that ‘sovereignty” belongs to individuals, families and tribes and not to the Crown. The treaty does not create this sovereignty, but recognises that people already have it. The right to control legally acquired property is given by God (Exodus 20:15). It is not given by the State. It cannot interfere with a person’s property unless it is acquired by illegal activity or a crime occurs within it. Thus the treaty provides a protection for everyone against an imperialist and totalitarian state.

This ties in with the first clause of the Treaty, which gave the crown “kawanatanga” (a transliteration of governorship) over New Zealand. This is a lesser authority than sovereignty. The national government does not have sovereignty, but only governorship.

What does governorship mean? If the people and tribes have sovereignty, then governorship must be limited to the authority that they hand over to the crown. And if the people and tribes remain sovereign, they can take back authority that they have given. The governorship of the central state is limited to what the sovereign people have given to it.

Sovereignty in New Zealand belongs to people, families and tribes, not to the central state.

1 comment:

jenkinsbrigade said...

I hope you Kiwis have better success reclaiming, or defending against encroachment upon, your sovereignty than we have had here in the U.S.