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175 years on – Treaty of Waitangi now and in future?


The re-emergence of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1970s at a tumultuous period in New Zealand’s history – and its subsequent impact on New Zealand society – is the theme of an upcoming conference.

Scholars, policy makers and iwi leaders will mark the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty by sharing their views on its role in shaping the last half century and its place in the future, at a major conference organised by Massey University and Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Titled The Treaty on the Ground: Dialogue and Difference. Crisis and Response, the three-day conference at Auckland Museum and Massey’s Auckland campus in July will focus on how evolving interpretations of the Treaty have influenced New Zealand policy-making, institutions and communities.

Professor Michael Belgrave, one of New Zealand’s leading Treaty historians says; “By the end of the 1970s, New Zealand’s race relations were in crisis. Land occupations, protests and the 1975 Māori Land March were indications of Māori anger at decades of land loss, social and economic marginalisation and cultural assimilation.

“Now, five decades on, as we reach the final stages of settlements between iwi and the Crown, local and central government, business and the voluntary sector are moving into new relationships with Māori. It is timely to discuss how we got here and to what extent these changes have resolved the grievances which were at the heart of Māori protest.”

Professor Belgrave, who is based at Massey’s School of Humanities in Auckland, has worked on Waitangi Tribunal inquiries and on Treaty settlement negotiation since 1987, and has published widely on the Treaty. He will be speaking and convening discussions during the conference.

Margaret Kawharu (Ngāti Whātua), senior Māori advisor at Massey University and one of the presenters, says she is interested in the effect of “Treaty fatigue or complacency.”

“The risk is that once settlements are completed, everything returns to ‘normal’, without any real paradigm shift, and grievances are just as likely to continue. This is due in part to settlement negotiations being often behind closed doors and the general public don’t get to hear the rich tapestry of narratives from both Māori claimants and the Crown representatives.”

Roy Clare, Director of Auckland War Memorial Museum says the Treaty “has been a feature of work at Auckland Museum since our founding in 1852, but for a large part of that history the interactions did not properly respect the partnership.

“In recent times, inspired by the perspectives of Treaty Settlement and other contemporary influences, ‘Future Museum’ (published 2012) has redefined our strategic vision as a kaitiaki for Taonga. Backed by our Māori advisory board - the Taumata-ā-Iwi - the Museum has introduced He Korahi Māori - A Māori Dimension - across all our professional activities,” Mr Clare says. “We hope that our extensive public programmes - including those marking the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty - coupled with insights from this conference will energise Aucklanders to know more about the Treaty and to consider its on-going implications in a fresh light.”

Associate Professor Kerry Taylor, head of Massey’s School of Humanities and director of Massey’s W H Oliver Humanities Research Academy, says that at the core of the Treaty is the notion of partnership.

“We’ve sought to make this event reflect this notion of partnership in the programme and speaker schedule. Central to any meaningful partnership is communication and dialogue, and we hope participants will reflect critically on differences of the recent past, on how the Treaty is being lived and put into practice on the ground today, but also look to the future and imagine new ways of making the Treaty meaningful in the future.”

Panel discussion topics over two days (July 6 and 7) include an overview of the Treaty’s impact since 1945; different conversations around the Treaty between 1975 and 1985; what the Treaty means for various organisations; and visions for the Treaty for the next 25 years.

The first day will conclude with a Smart Talk panel discussion traversing fresh perspectives on the Treaty of Waitangi, and is open to the public. The third day is for new and emerging scholars to share their research at a colloquium at Massey University’s Auckland campus.

A Smart Talk panel discussion, titled TREAT-U, TREAT-I, TREAT-Y – Fresh Perspectives on the Treaty will be held as part of Auckland Museum's regular public programme at 6.30pm on Monday, July 6.  

Panel chair Te Radar will challenge diverse panellists featuring Kiritapu Allan, Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley and others to reflect on what the Treaty means today and to share their visions of how it will shape life in Aotearoa looking ahead to 2040.

Registrations for the conference close on July 1. To register, or for more information, click here.



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