Te Tiriti o Waitangi is not an historical agreement between the British and Maori. It is a contemporary agreement between Iwi and all other New Zealanders. Having a New Zealander as Head of State will make this clear and will help all Kiwis to appreciate that the Treaty of Waitangi is something only New Zealanders understand.
In 1839, the War and Colonial Office of the British Government under Colonial Secretary Lord Normanby and Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, ordered Captain William Hobson, Lieutenant Governor of New South Wales, to arrange a Treaty with Maori so that New Zealand could be incorporated into the British Empire.
The Treaty was necessary because the British had already recognised the Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes in 1835. The Treaty was drawn up in the name of Queen Victoria, hastily translated, and on February 6th 1840 it was first signed at Waitangi. Hobson later travelled around New Zealand signing up more Iwi. Queen Victoria did not sign it of course. She was busy getting ready to marry her cousin Albert, four days later in London.
Nga Puhi kaumatua Kingi Taurua is a descendant of signatories to both the Declaration of Indeopendence and the Treaty. He is also against the TPPA and this week he wrote to each country involved in the agreement and to Queen Elizabeth as "Protector" and "Treaty Partner" asking her to stand in opposition to the TPPA.
It is understandable that Kingi Taurua has made this mistake. The Treaty was signed in the name of Queen Victoria. Elizabeth is her decendant by birth and that symbolises the 176 years that have elapsed since 1840. Unfortunately that symbolism is out of date.
In 1840, Queen Victoria was a 20 year old Monarch under the direction and tutelage of the Prime Minister of the day. She was a symbolic representative of British imperial power. The Treaty was really all about the British Parliament, the British Aristocracy and their designs for New Zealand. Since then, all of the power of 'The Crown' as Treaty partner has shifted to the New Zealand Parliament and to New Zealand courts, and it has been New Zealanders who have done the hard yards to settle disputes and make amends for past injustices. The Treaty belongs to all New Zealanders and it is time this was made clear.
Our Head of State arrangements are out of date and this becomes very apparent every time someone writes to the Queen asking her to stop Parliament from passing legislation. All of the Monarch's powers are vested in the New Zealand Governor-General and the Governor-General acts on the advice of the Cabinet. So long as party or a coalition has a majority in the house they are entitled to sign such agreements. That is how our democracy works.
TPPA opponents presented a petition at Government House asking Sir Jerry Mateparae to refuse assent to the TPPA legislation and they will no doubt do it again when his successor is on office. They know such petitions do not succeed. Their act is symbolic and expresses their concern over the possible loss of sovereignty. It creates publicity and signals to the public that there is an issue to be discussed. If they want a Head of State with the discretion to refuse legislation then they will need to campaign for that and specify under what criteria that would ever occur.
It is at times like this, on Waitangi Day, when issues like the TPPA are a topic for intense protest and debate, that it becomes ever more obvious that we need to clarify who our Head of State is and what their powers are. The best way to do that is appoint a Head of State Commission and make plans to transition to a Kiwi Head of State.
We are looking forward to the day when New Zealand's first democratic Head of State, appointed by merit, and representative of all New Zealanders, will be welcomed at Waitangi in celebration of our history and our journey together as a nation. New Zealanders deserve to have a New Zealander as Head of State. Kia mana motuhake o Aotearoa.