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Are we reaching peak Treaty in New Zealand?

In brief
  • The Treaty of Waitangi  (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) now applies to outer space.
  • Does traditional Māori knowledge really apply here? Yes, says New Zealand’s Space Agency. 
  • Does this symbolise us reaching “peak Treaty”? Or “peak bureaucracy”?

The Treaty’s infinite reach over the space/time continuum 

Readers may be surprised that the Treaty of Waitangi also applies to outer space! 

The Government’s National Space Policy includes numerous mentions of the Treaty. It reads: 

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi: a commitment between the Crown and Māori which provides the basis for ongoing partnerships between the government and Māori on space.” 

In discussing “New Zealand’s politically correct efforts to indigenize science” via its National Space Policy, biologist Jerry Coyne lays it bare

“The Treaty is quoted again, and this means that not only will equity apply to the whole policy, but indigenous people will get piles of money to give their take on the policy.”

Are we reaching peak Treaty in New Zealand? - Centrist
To some, even in the vastness of space, the Treaty still applies.

Is it possible the Treaty just isn’t relevant here? 

Is there any policy not being given the Treaty treatment? Apparently not.

Coyne calls the Treaty  an “agreement” between Māori and the Crown, not a constitution. Many would agree.

ACT’s David Seymour, who is Māori, has previously said that emphasis on the Treaty has “cultivated irreconcilable expectations” between the Government and Māori. An apt observation considering expectations would only become more irreconcilable as they extend into (literally) infinite space.

Is mātauranga Māori useful when advanced science is needed? 

The policy further states that “Mātauranga Māori (traditional Māori knowledge) and space are deeply connected”. The New Zealand Space Agency sponsors the promulgation of Māori mysticism’s connection to space. Readers can learn about space’s “whakapapa” (genealogy) and the cosmic origins of kumara. 

This is all part of the Government’s wider effort to “decolonise” conventional science by only giving it “parity” with mātauranga Māori. Coyne writes  “mātauranga Māori, on the whole, is not equivalent to science, but contains science, just as the Bible contains some real history. Yet the interpretation of the Treaty as making all things Māori almost sacred is holding back science in a big way.”

Some New Zealand teachers argue their “most important” function is to “honour our commitment to Te Tiriti” by aiming for “equality” for mātauranga Māori. 

Dr Pauline Harris of Massey University agrees. She argues space is “taonga” (treasure) for Māori and “honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi” is central to developing an aerospace industry:

“Māori Are involved in many areas of space, from mātauranga Māori, to astrophysics to space medicine…And of course, our development of waka technology and sailing techniques that enabled us to travel to Aotearoa, shows the remarkable innovation that enabled these long distant journeys.”

Seems like a very academic take on it. Is that how people putting up space-exploration money (that didn’t come from the government) think? 

With the debate over the Treaty and mātauranga Māori now literally out of this world, is it safe to say we’re approaching “peak Treaty” and should maybe dial it back?

Your vote can help decide, as the ruling government decides what the Treaty means.

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