20 years ago, in a book exploring the cultures of violence in New Zealand, Jane And James Ritchie considered the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand society. They wrote:
“The facts of history are clear. The Maori people owned the resources, which the treaty guaranteed to them. The treaty, for all its several versions, had an elegant simplicity. Leaving aside the preamble, it contains only three provisions. Article I gives sovereignty, Kawanatanga, the right to govern, to make laws, to the British Crown and its heirs and descendants. Everything that is derived from the state is an Article I function. Even the courts, which draw their authority from the Crown, are agents of that sovereignty. The treaty does not say in detail what sovereignty comprises, or what the Article I partner must do, but having established the notion of sovereignty the Crown goes on to make guarantees to the rangatira, representing the Maori people, in Articles II and III.
Article II recognises the rights of rangatiratanga, the authority of the chiefs, in their owndership of, and right to manage, their own resources and everything they valued, both material and non-material – o ratou taonga katoa.
Article III simply states that the Crown will guarantee to Maori people all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
The treaty has never been ratified in statue nor has it been explicitly revoked. it has merely been neglected, ignored, and dishonoured [the Ritchies wrote this in 1993]. Nevertheless, it remains the primary contract by right of which non-Maori people are here in New Zealand. The treaty was blatantly violated both before and after the land wars, until it was judicially declared a nullity by Jedge Pendergrast in 1877. The so-called protective institutions, the Department of Maori Affairs and the Maori Land Court, became agencies to facilitate further dispossession. After World War II, government policy was to relocate Maori people in urban areas where there was work for the growing population. the migration policy was essentially economically based, and not motivated by greed, as had been the land wars and other acquisitions. The government of the 1950s and thereafter considered that Maori employment, housing, and other social needs could be better met in urban areas. Yet further land loss ensued.” (pp.145)
The Ritchies continue: “We now see this policy to have been wrong. It eroded the tribal [-p.146] and rural basis of Maori society which depended upon collectivity and replaced it with an imposed individualism. The consequence is that many young Maori have grown up in an alien cultural environment in a society in which they have no stake.” (pp.145-146)
Ref: Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington