Ngāti Raukawa and associated iwi are challenging the Crown’s sovereignty and how that was derived in researching its Waitangi Tribunal claims.
Te Hono Ki Raukawa is one of the major claimants spearheading the claim’s process. Council member Professor Whatarangi Winiata said the group is carrying out a research programme over a wide range of topics including failure of successive governments to acknowledge tino rangatiratanga (sovereignty).
Professor Winiata said when Māori signed the treaty 176 years ago “the rangatira delegated kawanatanga to the Crown – the right to govern.”
They did not give up their power as rangatira (chiefs).
“The Ngāti Raukawa position is the legitimacy of the Crown is, and always has been, contingent on its acknowledgement of tino rangatiratanga. Every time the Crown fails to properly acknowledge tino rangatiratanga, it denies its own legitimacy.”
“The post-European history of Ngāti Raukawa is marked by the loss of tino rangatiratanga despite ongoing endeavours to maintain it.
“Tino rangatiratanga is the philosophical glue that enables the society to function and survive. It is a set of rules all abide by to ensure a viable society. Tino rangatiratanga is much more than a political power - it runs far deeper than that.”
The Waitangi Tribunal in previous claims have said sovereignty was not signed away by Māori. Professor Winiata said in a recent Waitangi Tribunal decision it found Ngāpuhi did not cede sovereignty when they signed the Treaty.
“Ngāti Raukawa will pursue the same line.”
If the government recognized tino rangatiratanga Professor Winiata said it would give Ngāti Raukawa the freedom to make decisions on its activities without requiring the permission of the Crown.
For example Te Wananga o Raukawa in exercising its affairs would not require the permission of the crown in the delivery of its courses.
“At this time the wananga is required to seek approval of the Crown for many of its offerings. This is an intrusion by the Crown in the affairs of the wananga.
The professor said Māori have been considerably patient and will need to be even more patient before the issue is rectified.
“Māori have shown the ability to play the waiting game. At the moment we live under English law - English law can be written to provide for this. I think we’d be inclined to write our own law - unraveling of the existing law and replacement by Māori-designed legislation. What we are talking about here is decades of debate.”
One of the first research reports to be completed is the Rangitikei River and its Tributaries Historical Report. Researcher David Alexander said the key kaupapa (rationale) underlying his report is the relationship between tino rangatiratanga and kawanatanga.
“Prior to 1840, authority over waterways, which included virtual ownership of natural resources of value, was exclusively held by tangata whenua, usually at the hapu level of social organisation.”
“Today, the Crown has become involved in nearly every aspect of river management, control and authority, to the extent that it is now the dominant authority.”
Mr Alexander’s report illustrates how the change from Maori to Crown authority evolved. The other 18 reports to be completed will have a similar focus.