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Treaty Relationships weekend – report by Heather Denny

In mid-October  we again gathered –Friends from up and down the country, from Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Kapiti, Whanganui, Hamilton and Auckland – to share knowledge and ideas and re-inspire each other to continue the work on educating ourselves, and monitoring progress (and lack of progress) in Treaty relationships. The aim was to review the past year and gather inspiration, ideas, energy and courage to continue this work in the coming year. The weekend was organized by the Treaty Relationships Group of Yearly Meeting with Jan Hinde, Paul Thornton and Marion Sanson facilitating and Edwina Hughes from Peace Movements Aotearoa as resource person.

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Peter Watson and Nigel Brooke were our excellent hosts. We missed and acknowledged a number of people who have contributed enormously to this weekend in recent years and were not able to be with us: Murray Short, David James, Jillian Wychel, Douglas Wilson, Phil Macdiarmid, Chris Brayshaw and Phyl Short.


The format and context was familiar – shared meal and welcome provided by the settlers on Friday, followed by a warm-up session on Friday night, intensive sessions after a short Meeting for Worship on Saturday morning, afternoon and evening as well as Sunday morning after Meeting for Worship, and a wrap up and planning session and poroporoaki before Sunday lunch and departure to the four winds. This fuelled as always by excellent and irresistible vegetarian food and a spirit of co-operation and mutual support in the kitchen and in the seminar rooms. I never cease to be amazed at how welcoming and ideal the facilities at the Settlement are for the Spirit-led, stimulating yet peaceful discussion that is so important for Friends’ education and work.

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Themes covered during the weekend included what had inspired us during the year, reports back on the ongoing work and activities of the Treaty Relationships Group and monthly meetings, and of Peace Movement Aotearoa in the areas of national and international Treaty and indigenous peoples’ rights developments, a sharing of what we in our home areas had been able to find out about what local bodies are doing to fulfill their statutory Treaty obligations, a look at the features of the recent ground breaking Tūhoe settlement, and a role-play in which we, with some hilarity, tried to come with ideal answers to misinformation in those hard to have conversations with people about Treaty relationships.

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It would be impossible within the space constraints of this article to outline everything we learned so I will keep to what were highlights and key learnings for me. First of all some people highlights. We are so fortunate in the Treaty relationship group who have served, educated and inspired us with enthusiasm and a whole heap of work (including a number of submissions to government) since it was set up almost ten years ago. Sadly, but I suppose understandably, they are about to lay down this work and theirs will be big shoes to fill for whoever picks it up. And their work would be much less effective and a whole lot more challenging if it weren’t for the willing and informed input of Edwina Hughes and PMA who keep an eye on developments both national and international and keep us well informed so that we can better address the issues which need addressing. We owe a lot to all these people. Kia ora koutou katoa.

Then the issues. Firstly it became abundantly clear that the exercise we have all gone through, ably supported by the TRG, in putting together submissions on the constitutional review has not been easy, but has served not only to exercise us but educate a large number of F/friends in each district on Treaty and constitutional issues. The excellent resource produced to help us with this process and ensure it was values based was produced by Peace Movement Aotearoa in conjunction with the TRG and David James and Jillian Wychel.

Secondly in sharing what we had learnt in the last year we became aware of the importance of the Ngāpuhi Speaks report, giving that iwi’s perspective on the history that preceded 1840 including the lead up to the so-called Declaration of Independence (but really a declaration of sovereignty), He Whakaputanga. This independent report gives a more balanced and less monocultural history of the meaning for local iwi of these documents and of their origins than is normally promulgated, even by the most informed Pakeha scholars. We need to make sure this document and its revelations are more widely known amongst Friends and in this country.

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Thirdly we became aware of the huge variety of ways in which local bodies approach their treaty obligations. There is a need to find out more about what they are doing and how they are doing it, and if there is anything we can do to facilitate an informed process in this aspect of local government.

Fourthly Edwina brought us up to date with national and international developments including the UN view of New Zealand’s performance in the areas of indigenous peoples’ rights. The report of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination which came out this year draws attention to issues such as the foreshore and seabed legislation, privatization of state assets and indigenous rights, lack of action over the WAI 262 report and structural discrimination, and the lack of consultation about deep sea oil drilling. There will a report on the Universal Periodic Review of the NZ Government’s human rights performance early next year. PMA will also be doing an analysis of the report of the Constitutional Advisory Panel coming out in December.

The key points of the recent Tūhoe Treaty settlement was the final area we discussed. This settlement was ground-breaking, particularly in the plans for co-management of the area which is at present the Urewera National Park, and plans for Tūhoe self-determination in a number of areas important for the well-being of the people of this iwi. The co-management arrangements which have also been successful further north in Auckland and the Waikato are encouraging in the face of what looked like impossible hurdles.

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Which reminds us not to be disheartened in the face of seeming difficulties in working for justice. Work we (the TRG and monthly meetings) are committed to pursuing in the coming year includes educating ourselves and others in our local areas, finding out more about local body Treaty issues, following international and national developments, taking part in letter writing campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples, making submissions about issues that arise, examining carefully the report of the Constitutional Advisory Panel when it comes out and following up on that. There are plans also for a resource to be produced to help us in combatting the kinds of misinformation which was promulgated during the submission period of the Constitutional Review.

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When I read this through is sounds rather serious. I need to put on record that we also enjoyed some laughter and lots of good conversations round the meal tables and the fireside and during the activities. This weekend is annual and always worth attending.

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