• Wed, 6, Sep, 2017 - 5:00:AM

The Pitch: Where the candidates stand on te Tiriti o Waitangi

Image: Polyrus / Flickr

This year, on September 23, New Zealand will vote on who gets to lead the country for the next three years. Over the past few months, Villainesse has reached out to a number of politicians, asking them why they think they deserve the vote of young women. In our 2017 election series, 'The Pitch', we asked politicians to make their case to you so that when you go to the ballot box you'll know exactly where they stand.

We reached out to every party currently in Parliament, and received answers from National, Labour, The Green Party, Act and United Future. Although we reached out to a number of National MPs, including the Prime Minister, only Paula Bennett agreed to take part. New Zealand First did not answer our questions, so its MPs are not represented.

Between now and the election, we’ll be providing you with a snapshot of where the politicians we interviewed stand on important issues, so that you can compare and contrast. Next up is te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We asked each politician, “In your opinion, what is the role of te Tiriti o Waitangi in modern-day Aotearoa?”

Here’s what they had to say.



Paula Bennett, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women: The Treaty was a guarantee that the Crown would treat Māori with respect and honour and would deal in good faith.

The Crown hasn’t always met its obligations which has caused harm to Māori and their descendants.

The past can’t be undone. But we have embarked on a comprehensive process of reconciliation and recompense for past wrongs. This is a matter of justice, but also doing what is right.

As the ultimate goal, we will set the basis for a much healthier ongoing relationship between the Crown and Māori. For me, the Treaty governs the relationship between Māori and everyone else and ensures the rights of both Māori and Pākehā are protected.


Jacinda Ardern, Labour Party leader: Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. It’s a living document, and should be honoured in government, and beyond. At the heart of Te Tiriti are the core values of kotahitanga, manaakitanga, whaakawhanaungatanga, and kaitiakitanga. These values are also closely held Labour values, and they continue to guide our relationship with Māori and drive our collective commitment to lift the well-being of Māori in every area.

Andrew Little: Te Tiriti is the foundation for government in New Zealand. It is vital Parliament honours the agreements made in it.

Better Māori representation will ensure that continues to happen. That’s why, after this year’s election, at least one in four Labour MPs will be Māori. That’ll be the largest representation of Māori MPs of any party, ever, in New Zealand politics.

Māori aspiration sits at the core of Labour’s vision for New Zealand. Through all Labour’s policies and in every decision we make, Māori will be at the table.

Carmel Sepuloni: Te Tiriti o Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document and there is no doubt that it must hold a central position in New Zealand society, and law. Labour recognises the Crown has not always lived up to its requirements from the Treaty, but we must make sure that does not happen again, and doing so requires placing the Treaty, its values, and its commitments in everyday life. The Treaty’s core values of kotahitanga, manaakitanga, whakawhanaungatanga, and kaitiakitanga are completely consistent with Labour values.

Kiri Allan: Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the foundation upon which our nation was established. I am pro-New Zealand becoming a republic and I think that the undertaking made between Māori and the Queen in te Tiriti o Waitangi will become fundamentally important to the way in which our future republican constitution is designed and developed. Our unique relationship between Māori and the Crown is something our nation should take great pride in, and I don’t think that is something to be nervous or afraid of – in fact, I think our unique relationship is something we should celebrate.

However, I think that some folk think that Treaty settlements mean the end of the Treaty relationship. I don’t. I think that Treaty settlements are an inadequate disproportionate compensation for the actions of the Crown in breach of the Treaty relationships over the past 160 years. 

Looking forward, if Māori (through hapū and iwi) and the Crown work together to grow our nation positively, New Zealand will have a bright future.

Louisa Wall: Te Tiriti o Waitangi has a very important role in our modern-day Aotearoa. As the founding document of our country, it affirms Māori as Tāngata Whenua of New Zealand and establishes a governance framework for our country, guarantees existing rights of Tāngata Whenua and recognition of equal rights for all.

The core values at the heart of the Treaty are reflected in the values that lie at the heart of Labour's commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Values such as kotahitanga – unity and a common purpose; manaakitanga – caring and the spirit of reciprocity; whakawhanaungtanga – family ties and connectedness and kaitiakitanga – guardianship and sustainability. We believe in and honour these core values and they form the foundation of the relationship between Labour and Tāngata Whenua.

We recognise that the Crown has in the past not always honoured Te Tiriti o Waitangi and we are committed to providing redress to Tāngata Whenua for breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi and building on the statutory acknowledgements of hapū and iwi as governors on some of our conservation, environmental and local government boards as partners in the management of our natural resources and partners in future development opportunities.


James Shaw, Green Party leader: We are committed to honouring te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of our nation. Te Tiriti is important for all New Zealanders as it gives Pakeha a right to stand in this land, and it guarantees the protection of Maori rights. It should be given the respect it deserves  - in Government, we promise to do that.

Gareth Hughes: It’s at the heart of modern Aotearoa New Zealand and should be treated as such. As a Pākehā I’d rather consider myself in New Zealand by right of treaty, and respect it, than by right of conquest.

Chlöe Swarbrick: Te Tiriti o Waitangi is entrenched in the Green Party Charter as the founding document of Aotearoa New Zealand. The United Nations, of which we’re a signatory country, recognises that it’s the indigenous text of a treaty that is the legitimate version.

Recognising te Tiriti in modern Aoteroa to me means realising that colonisation happened, and its effects are still felt. There must be a conscious and focused effort on undoing this damage, and it can only be done so if led by Māori, not those seeking to act on their behalf.

Golriz Ghahraman: Te Tititi should be entrenched as our founding constitutional document. But more than that, it is a living document. To me, the special self-governance and rights of Māori as the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand are in fact human rights. I love the amazing results we get when Māori kaupapa and tikanga are kept alive and incorporated into the justice system. One example is our marae-based – Rangatahi – youth courts, where young people and their whānau report that the tikanga-based process engenders feelings of respect and legitimacy of the courts, which in turn makes discussions about accountability for offending and compliance with orders easier. I think this is proof that the key to better outcomes for Māori lies in ongoing incorporation of Treaty principles into modern policy.

Metiria Turei: Te Tiriti is our founding document as a nation. It means the government has a responsibility to work in partnership with Māori, and not to make decisions on behalf of Māori. Honouring the Treaty is a core principle of the Green Party – we’ll be taking that into government with us.


Marama Fox, co-leader of the Māori Party: People who have knowledge of their history are much more likely to benefit from our increasingly diverse nation. For us Te Tiriti o Waitangi remains a covenant of utmost meaning. Only if it is honoured will mana be restored, and whānau able to participate fully and willingly in the nation. We advocate that all legislation be measured against te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Te Ururoa Flavell, co-leader of the Māori Party: The Māori Party believes that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a living document, not just something to be taught in a history class. The undertakings of Te Tiriti o Waitangi were farsighted, and continue to tell us how to build an orderly, prosperous and united Aotearoa.


David Seymour, ACT Party leader: It is a good document that guarantees we are all equal before the law (article three), and our property is safe (article two), but some of the more recent interpretations have been more divisive than inclusive.


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