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7 Feb, 2022 09:29

Maori call for breakup with British crown

Indigenous political leaders in New Zealand wish for more “meaningful and fulfilling partnership”
Maori call for breakup with British crown

New Zealand’s Maori party has called for the removal of the British monarch as the head of state on Sunday, as the island nation marked its founding, which coincided with the day Queen Elizabeth II saluted her 70th anniversary as ruler.

The statement from Māori Pāti co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer came as part of the virtual celebration of Waitangi Day, marking the 182nd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, or Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand’s foundational document.

“If you look at our founding covenant as a marriage between tangata whenua [indigenous people] and the crown, then Te Tiriti is the child of that marriage. It’s time [for] tangata whenua to take full custody,” said Waititi, adding that this decision wouldn’t leave the British royal family “off the hook,” and called it “an opportunity to reimagine a more meaningful and fulfilling partnership.”

“The only way this nation can work is when Māori assert their rights to self-management, self-determination, and self-governance over all our domains,” added Waitit’s co-leader Ngarewa-Packer during the online gathering.

According to her, the Maori party wished to set in motion a revolutionary plan in order to hand power over to New Zealanders. The plan included an overhaul of the Treaty Settlement process, the creation of a Maori parliament, and constitutional transformation.

The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, guaranteed the indigenous people protection from the British crown. However, in the 100 years after its signing, the Maori lost 90% of their land due to low-price sales, confiscation, and court actions. For these reasons, the Maori consider the treaty to have been breached on many occasions, and are seeking to settle these disputes with the British royal family.

New Zealand Republic Campaign chair Lewis Holden, leader of the organization advocating for selection of a local New Zealand head of state, welcomed the Maori party plans and called the transition policy “straightforward.” In a media release published on the campaign website, he expressed hope that more political parties would join the debate and support the change.

Te Pāti Māori currently holds two seats in New Zealand’s Parliament. This call to remove the queen as the head of state is a change in the party’s policy, as it opposed the appeals for republican reforms that came from the Labor party in 2017.