Ko Huiarau - Maori Self-Governance

According to Ko Huiarau tradition, the organisation Te Rūnanga Ko Huiarau, a native Parliament was introduced as early as 1808 as a national framework to protect and manage the affairs of the different tribal areas.
By 1816 the Ko Huiarau Parliament was officially established.

Tradition also says that the idea to form such a body was because of the increasing numbers of foreign visitors arriving on the shores of Aotearoa, with an insatiable desire to acquire tribal lands and resources. The threat that theses new times brought, caused a concern amongst the tribes, hence the plan to unite the tribes first by blood at the ariki level, armies in a common defense policy.

Structure of Ko Huiarau Parliament:

Ko Huiarau Parliament operated at two levels, an upper house composed of ariki or “Chiefs of birth” and a lower house, made up of members elected by the electoral districts based on tribal boundaries, and with debates limited to the elected members. Runanga or tribal Parliaments were debated at tribal district level, and issues affecting at a wider level were debated at national Parliament sittings with the attendance of the Runanga members (please refer to our infrastructure page).

By the time milestone dates in history for Māori had past, such as the gifting of a Sovereign national flag in 1832, established international trade relations with other countries, the Declaration of Independence in 1835, and the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840, Maori had already in placed Parliamentary structures and stems that were operating at both regional and national levels. This is the environment that the British were introduced to and accepted when they were given the right to reside in Aotearoa alongside Māori under the protection of the Treaty in 1840.

Acceptance of Native Customary laws by the British Crown:

Further acceptance of native customary laws and systems were acknowledged by the British in the Charter of 1840:

“Provided always, that nothing in these Letters Patent contained shall affect or be construed to affect the rights of any aboriginal natives of the said Colony for New Zealand, to the actual occupation of enjoyment in their own persons, or in the persons of their descendants of any lands in the said Colony now actually occupied or enjoyed by such natives”

Again, further enactments to protect the customary laws of the native inhabitants were included in the Royal Instructions of 1840, the New Zealand Government Act of 1846, Royal Instructions of 1846, with Chapter XIV dedicated wholly to “Respecting the Aborigines of New Zealand”.

Protect Native Self-Governance:

By the time the New Zealand Constitution Act of 1852 was enacted, all the prior enactments to protect native self-governance were further included in Section 71:

:” And whereas it may be expedient that the Laws, Customs, and Usages of the Aboriginal or Native Inhabitants of New Zealand, so far as they are not repugnant to the general principles of Humanity, should for the present be maintained for the Government of themselves, in all their relations to and dealings with each other, and that particular districts should be set apart within which Laws, Customs, or Usages should be so observed. It should be lawful for Her Majesty, by any Letters Patent to be issued under the Great Seal of the United Kingdom from time to time to make Provisions for the purposes aforesaid, any repugnancy of any such Native's Laws, Customs, or Usages, to the Law of England or to in any part thereof, in any wise notwithstanding:”

Queen Victoria Ratifies the Treaty of Waitangi:

In 1860, due to growing concern form the Maori that the colonial government were continuing to breach the Articles of the Treaty of Waitangi, Queen Victoria instructed Governor Gore-Brown to meet with the chiefs on her behalf at Kohimarama, to further confirm and maintain the stipulations of the Treaty of Waitangi inviolate. She reassured that all Governors will be instructed to watch over the interests and promote advancement of Her subjects without distinction of race. This hui witnessed a fuller ratification of the Treaty of Waitangi and is historically recorded as the Covenant of Kohimarama.
(please refer to our history page)

Albert Victor Pomare

To seal this contract, a child, Albert Victor Pomare was gifted to Queen Victoria in England in 1864, who she accepted as her godson. The Sovereign of the British Crown instructed the New Zealand Colonial Government to pay for the child’s schooling and living expenses in England from the Government treasury coffers and enactments were passed through Parliament to do so.

Two Decades later Maori Challenge Their Rights:

Although all of these reassurances to maintain the stipulations of the Treaty of Waitangi were re-confirmed in writing, into legislation, sealed with a live contract through the gifting of a child, less than two decades later Maori were again challenging their rights by taking grievances to the newly established NZ Parliament.

These Issues were addressed through the four Maori Parliamentary Seats, which were secured by Maori in 1867 through the enactment of the Representation Act. After Maori introduced a bill to NZ Parliament in 1893 proposing that the power to govern Maori be delegated to a Maori Parliament, the Government of the day reacted with a mixture of scorn and retribution. In response to the Native Rights Bill tabled by Hone Heke in 1894, requesting that jurisdiction over the Maori race be vested in a duly elected Maori Parliament, the European members walked out of the House causing proceedings to grind to a halt through lack of a quorum. After further failed attempts to have their bill addressed, Maori realised that Parliament would continue to ignore their requests; although it could not deny that such rights existed. The Maori request was not for the creation of a separate Maori state but for the reassignment of authority to Maori over Maori matters, with parliamentary approval and support.

The constitutional position of Maori in
New Zealand warrants fresh attention

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