Since the NZ Maori Council’s establishment it had made submissions to government on many matters affecting Maori. These are some of our greatest victories:
Efforts to secure the survival of the Māori language stepped up a gear in 1985. In that year the Waitangi Tribunal heard the Te Reo Māori claim by the NZ Maori Council which asserted that te reo was a taonga (a treasure) that the Crown or government was obliged to protect under the Treaty of Waitangi. The Waitangi Tribunal found in favour of the claimants and recommended a number of legislative and policy remedies. The following year saw Māori made an official language of New Zealand under the Māori Language Act 1987.
In 1988 the Crown announced its wish to sell the 90 State-owned forests. The New Zealand Māori Council and the Federation of Māori Authorities, on behalf of all Māori, took the Crown to court to stop the sales. The court ruled that Crown and Māori negotiate a solution. The two parties reached an agreement on a process where the Crown could sell the trees, but not the land. The land was put in trust to protect Māori Treaty claims relating to that land. This agreement became law in the Crown Forest Assets Act 1989 and saw the establishment of The Crown Forest Rental Trust.
In June 1990, claim Wai 150 was lodged by Sir Graham Latimer on behalf of the New Zealand Maori Council. It sought an urgent interim ruling and recommendation that nothing be done to pursue the spectrum management policy embodied in the Radio Communications Act 1989 until there had been a negotiated resolution of all the issues raised in the claim and that any title to radio spectrum products created by the Act be subject to a caveat which recognized and protected the Maori interest in radio frequencies.
The claim sought findings that Maori have rangatiratanga over the allocation of radio frequencies and that, in the absence of an agreement with Maori, the sale of frequency management licences under the Radio Communications Act 1989 would breach the Treaty of Waitangi and be prejudicial to the interests of Maori.
Representatives of four Māori groups – Ngai Tahu, Muriwhenua, Tainui and the New Zealand Māori Council – sought and won on behalf of Iwi a 1987 High Court injunction preventing the Crown from allocating further quota under the system until Māori commercial fishing rights had been clarified. In 1989, after drawn-out negotiations, the Crown and the Maori parties reached an interim agreement and in 1992, they reached a full and final settlement. The settlement is an historic agreement as it was the first agreement to extinguish claims, and the first to affect all Iwi.