What is the Māori Community Development Act Claim?
The Māori Community Development Act 1962 gave effect to an agreement to recognise a measure of Māori self government through the Māori Council system. This included a national body to represent Māori interests generally, and District Councils, with wardens and community officers, to promote Māori development at a local level.
The claim, to the Waitangi Tribunal, is against the reform of the Act, with the prospective loss of the Council system, by a process led exclusively by the Crown.
In 1858, Māori elected a King to provide a system of national, self-government for Māori. The King established Councils or Rūnanga, with Wātene or Wardens and Karere or Messengers. To end the system, the Governor invaded the Waikato and confiscated the King’s land, in 1863.
No allowance for national self-government was recognised for Māori until it was partly provided for in the Act of 1962. Crown and Māori agreed upon the national Council as an extension of the local Councils first provided for in 1900.
In September 2013, government ran consultation hui to reform the Act with the prospect of removing the Council and placing the wardens under government management. The hui gave overwhelming support to keeping the Council and majority support for keeping the wardens with the Council. The Council then filed the claim to settle a Treaty compliant process to take the reform forward.
Agreements that settle historic claims with Māori cannot be changed by one side alone. If reform is needed, the reform process should be agreed and should fit with the Treaty of Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Council’s position
With changed circumstances, Council invites reform but says:
- Māori autonomy is not located in one place. Council, Urban Groups and Iwi Leaders all have a role.
- Official recognition is critical for credibility within the organs of government.
- Māori should develop its kaupapa or position, the Crown should develop its, and the two should be negotiated under the mana of the Treaty.
- The Wardens should continue to be appointed by communities and kept accountable to them under the Council system. Their original purpose, to bring problems and issues before community committees, should be restored. They should have no police powers. These are old kaupapa which are as right for today as they were in 1860.
Questions and Answers
Can the Council manage the wardens when the Council had broken down?
When NZ First secured large funding for the wardens in a coalition agreement with Labour, public servants took over the wardens’ administration and so maintained jobs. The Māori Council broke down for lack of funding; but reformed in 2012 and is able to manage the wardens.
Can Council administer better than the government?
Yes. For one thing the huge administration costs can be substantially reduced because of the voluntary component in the Council’s work.
Has the Council co-operated with the government?
The government has not co-operated with the Council. When officials took over the wardens they were acting contrary to the 1962 agreement and to the statute.
Did Council seek to defer the consultation process?
Yes. The Council sought to defer the consultation process because:
- A reformed Council had been elected and needed to be bedded in.
- The reformed Council was heavily engaged in the Water claim.
- Several inappropriate acts of officials had first to be resolved, like refusing to recognise the Council’s elections and administering the wardens without lawful authority.
- The proposed consultation process did not fit with the Treaty or the UN Declaration.