February 10th, 2015
Leadership requires the leader to set aside self-interest. It is a concept that sometimes seems quite alien to Prime Minister John Key – who has reached instinctively for the most inflammatory card in the race relations deck – “separatism” – to gain short-term advantage from some innocuous Waitangi Day comments made by Labour leader Andrew Little.
Reportedly, the inspiration for Little’s line of thought was a Waitangi Tribunal finding last November. According to the Tribunal, Northland tribes had not fully ceded their sovereignty when they signed the Treaty in 1840. As the Tribunal indicated, the nation’s founding document appears to have been based on a mutual misunderstanding. Britain thought it had acquired sovereign authority over the whole of New Zealand but in the Tribunal’s opinion, the chiefs who signed the document had believed they would keep their full traditional authority, with Britain’s role being restricted largely to keeping the influx of rowdy settlers in line.
This being the case, a careful exploration of what that never-ceded sovereignty might mean in a modern context is not only desirable, but incumbent on the Crown. Read the rest of this entry »