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The impact of Kawharu’s Treaty interpretation on Māori sovereignty 

Summarised by Centrist

Journalist Mike Butler says the current division over the treaty at Waitangi stems from a quietly rewritten version of the treaty, initially reshaped by Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu in 1986. Kawharu’s reinterpretation, influenced by his advocacy for Maori self-determination, altered key terms like “rangatiratanga” to imply sovereignty, paving the way for expansive Māori claims. 

This redefinition was further bolstered by Sir Geoffrey Palmer’s adoption of Kawharu’s principles into the government’s approach to the treaty. 

Butler says: “Outrage triggered over the past few months by the ACT Party’s proposed treaty principles bill shows alarm at a perceived risk to ‘gains for Māori’.

Historical evidence, such as William Colenso’s documentation, undermines claims that chiefs never ceded sovereignty. Butler also notes that Kawharu’s reinterpretation of “rangatiratanga” as “unqualified exercise’ of the chieftainship” is at odds with the fact that the Māori version came after the English version of the treaty, which translated the term as simply “possession”. 

Such gains came in the form of the emergence of wealthy new tribal entities nourished with treaty settlement money demanding increased political power.”

Read more over at NZCPR

Image: Harvey Barrison

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