New Zealand Law Society - Law lecturer weighs into debate about renaming country

Law lecturer weighs into debate about renaming country

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A law lecturer says the symbolism of renaming the country Aotearoa New Zealand could be enhanced by reflecting the Treaty of Waitangi partnership in the constitutional arrangements.

Dr Carwyn Jones specialises in the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Crown – Iwi Relations.

“Here, the inclusion of Aotearoa in the country’s official name makes an important link to Indigenous language and culture. It would signal that a part of our uniqueness and our nationhood is connected to the way the nation state was founded, the way Indigenous and settler communities agreed to come together in a Treaty partnership while recognising and respecting each other’s authority,” he says.

Dr Jones writes and reflects on a development last year, when a new government agency was launched entitled, the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti (‘the bridge’). The new office, he says brings together a range of existing teams, including the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Settlement Commitments Unit, and the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Team.

“There is certainly some value in bringing these teams together and seeing their collective work as driven by giving effect to the Treaty partnership that underpins the Māori Crown relationship. But if Te Arawhiti is going to deliver on its potential, it must be more than a re-brand of the Office of Treaty Settlements,” he says.

Dr Jones goes on to say that the real potential for improving the relationship and delivering real results for both Māori and the Crown will only be realised if the implementation of the Treaty partnership is freed from the contestation of historical breaches and settlement and instead becomes part of business as usual throughout government.

“If co-governance of the natural environment or the co-design of social service delivery mechanisms effectively provide for greater Māori participation and deliver better outcomes, there is no reason for the Crown to wait until it is negotiating a settlement of historical claims before initiating those conversations and relationships with Māori communities,” he says

Dr Jones says an even better realisation of the symbolism of ‘Aotearoa New Zealand’ would be to reflect the Treaty partnership in our constitutional arrangements.

"We can think of a constitution as essentially being the rules that regulate the power of the state and the operation of government," he says.