Story: Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – ngā mātāpono o te Tiriti o Waitangi

Page 3. Treaty principles developed through laws

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Since the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, various other laws have included provisions which make reference to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in different ways. At first, most of those acts related to natural resources, but a few, like the Education Act 1989, were about social policy. The number of acts which refer to the treaty have increased over time. In 2022, Te Arawhiti – The Office of Crown Māori Relations produced a guide for policy-makers to help them decide whether a legislative reference to the treaty was appropriate when new laws were being drafted, and which type of reference was most suitable in the circumstances. 

Examples of references to treaty principles in laws included:

  • ‘In the management of natural and physical resources, full and balanced account is taken of (amongst other things) the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ (Environment Act 1986).
  • ‘Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ (State Owned Enterprises Act 1986).
  • ‘This Act shall so be interpreted and administered as to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi’ (Conservation Act 1987).
  • All ‘persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall take into account the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi)’ (Resource Management Act 1991).
  • ‘All persons exercising functions and powers under this Act shall have regard to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (Te Tiriti o Waitangi)’ (Crown Minerals Act 1991).

Fisheries Act

The Fisheries Act 1983 included a provision that, under the Treaty of Waitangi, nothing in the act should affect any Māori fishing rights. In 1990 Te Rūnanga o Muriwhenua, representing a group of iwi from the Far North, claimed in court that the quota management system introduced in 1986 to manage commercial fishing rights breached this provision. The Court of Appeal upheld the rūnanga’s case, describing the treaty as a living instrument that needed to take into account the developing realities of life in present-day New Zealand. For example, the overfishing of traditional Māori fishing grounds had created a situation not foreseen in 1840.

How to cite this page:

Janine Hayward, 'Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi – ngā mātāpono o te Tiriti o Waitangi - Treaty principles developed through laws', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/principles-of-the-treaty-of-waitangi-nga-matapono-o-te-tiriti-o-waitangi/page-3 (accessed 24 July 2024)

Story by Janine Hayward, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 16 Jan 2023 with assistance from Janine Hayward