The Treaty of Waitangi and Social Policy
Mark Barrett, Kim Connolly-Stone
This paper discusses the Treaty of Waitangi as it has been interpreted and applied in key areas of New Zealand Government policy. Policy towards the Māori population in the 1990s has emphasised the settlement of historical grievances, largely concerning traditional property rights, rather than the Crown’s obligations to Māori in the social policy area.
We point out where the English-language and Māori-language versions of the Treaty appear to diverge, including whether promising “the same rights of citizenship” to Māori amounts to an obligation of equal opportunity or equal outcomes. The Treaty is only legally enforceable to the extent that it has been incorporated in various pieces of legislation, and a brief survey of this legislation is presented. Very little is found to be characterisable as social policy legislation.
We then focus on Article 2 and demands for self-determination with respect to the health sector and the Department of Social Welfare’s iwi social services policy.
We conclude that the Government’s approach to Treaty issues in the social policy arena is currently unclear and inconsistent, and that Government should engage in an open dialogue with Māori about social policy objectives rather then seeking to set the terms of the debate as it does at present.