Posted on March 16, 2014  on the NZCPR Blog

Treaty of Waitangi Settlements, edd. Nicola R. Wheen and Janine Howard, Bridget Williams Books with the New Zealand Law Foundation, 2012

This book contains a dozen essays on aspects of Treaty of Waitangi settlements. Three essays cover their context ~ the general history of claims, the process of negotiating, and legal challenges (by other Maori) to the settlement process. Six cover particular aspects of settlements ~ apologies, particular taonga, fresh water, fisheries, land, and financial and commercial interests. A final section focusses more on the future ~ issues of modern Maori identity and representation, the effects of settlements on Maori and what the future might hold for Crown-Maori relationships.

The fourteen contributors (including the two editors, who introduce and conclude) are all, in one sense anyway, eminently qualified to write on the subject. Nine are academics, eight are lawyers (the categories overlap), and most have been involved in Treaty claims in one way or another, as researchers, counsel, or claimants. With magnificent balance seven of the fourteen declare their Maori ancestry. Nearly all of them could fairly be described as members of the new youngish professional elite doing quite nicely out of the Treaty industry.

As one would expect, then, they sing in tune, and the message they all put forward, enriched by their diverse perspectives, runs like this. Treaty claims will never end. For one reason or another past settlements of claims weren’t good enough. It might just be because we want more now, and we’re breaking our word, but that doesn’t matter because we’ve got the Treaty, and it says we can do anything. If we want more and more then we’re entitled to have it and we’re going to have it, and there’s going to be trouble if we don’t. Nothing else is ‘justice’. And even if at some future time we do decide we won’t make another claim, that’s not the end of the story, because then the Crown and Maori just move on into a ‘new phase in their relationship’. You are never going to escape us, and our desires are insatiable. Land, wealth, power, the works.

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