The main objective of this paper is to present benefits as well as the risks of integrating The Treaty of Waitangi into the constitution of New Zealand as proposed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler propose in their book, “A Constitution for Aotearoa, New Zealand.” The Treaty was first signed on 6th February, 1984at the Bay of Islands between representatives drawn from the British Crown and those drawn from the Maori Hapu and Iwi. Benefits such as, incorporating The Treaty of Waitangi into the New Zealand’s constitution will be key in ensuring effective decision making by the government as well as risks have been identified. Based on the analysis, the conclusion presents my view regarding optimal placement of the Trinity in New Zealand’s contemporary constitutional arrangements.
On 6th February of the year 1984, a treaty referred to as The Treaty of Waitangi was signed in the Bay of Islands between representatives drawn from the British Crown and those drawn from the Maori Hapu and Iwi. Since then, The Treaty of Waitangi has been an important document in the history of New Zealand. It has, however gone through a series of events. For instance, in the year 1877, by then Chief Justice dismissed it referring to it as “simple and nullity.” It then received a different opinion in the year 1990 from the then president of the Court of Appeal who stated that the document had a significant impact on the history of the New Zealand. There have been several controversies associated with The Treaty of Waitangi. The major one is brought about by the translation of words between the English and Te Reo Maori leading to several versions of The Treaty of Waitangi. Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler propose in their book, “A Constitution for Aotearoa, New Zealand,” that the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi should be incorporated into a written constitution. This paper presents the benefits as well as the risks associated with incorporating The Treaty of Waitangi into New Zealand’s constitution.
Incorporating The Treaty of Waitangi into the New Zealand’s constitution will be key in ensuring effective decision making by the government. The Treaty of Waitangi is available in a wide range of the New Zealand’s statutes (Liu, 2005). The court, as well as the government, has in several circumstances used it to make key decisions and to seek for guidance on how to interpret statutes. However, there has been a challenge in fully adopting The Treaty of Waitangi to be a key document for use by both the courts as well as the government in interpreting statutes and making key decisions. The challenge is brought about by many inconsistencies. The Treaty of Waitangi is found in some laws while it is completely missing in some (Harris, 2005). Thus, by incorporating it into the New Zealand’s constitution, it means that it will be recognized by all laws, thus smoothing the process of decision making by governments. The courts can as well effectively utilize it in seeking for guidance on how to interpret certain key statutes leading to the elimination of confusion and uncertainty in government as well as court decisions.
Integrating The Treaty of Waitangi into the constitution will result in a much more required coherence as well as consistency to the present legally untidy situation that is full of the risk of unplanned, unexpected as well as unpopular lurches in any direction. As it stands by now, there is an untidy, unclear and ungainly treatment of the Treaty by the New Zealand system of government. If incorporated into the constitution it will be treated with utmost respect and followed by the current government system. It will further aid in stabilizing things thus boosting the relationship between the State and the Maori (Harris, 2005). The relationship between the two plays a significant part in the general peace, order and good governance of New Zealand government to its citizens. Taking into consideration the fact that the Treaty is highly enriched with the Maori culture, its incorporation will further boost the cultural diversity of New Zealand. Most of the people who inhabit this nation have their roots in this culture thus making it a key point in the general unity of the nation (Kingi, 2007). Maori also serves as the cultural identity of the nation thus by having The Treaty of Waitangi incorporated in the constitution; it will serve to unite the people.
One of the major reasons as to why the treaty should be incorporated in the constitution according to Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler is that the Treaty is already part of the informal constitutional arrangements. However, its legal and legal constitutional effect has largely been refuted due to several reasons of which some lack the basis of argument (Liu, 2005). Despite it being used in some instances, its effect remains uncertain. It should be noted that the Treaty is still one of the most important founding documents whose status as well as effect needs to be clear and certain in a formal constitution. If it is incorporated in the same manner as what Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Andrew Butler propose, then it will be more effective and its effect felt without necessarily adjusting government structure. The Treaty will only become part of the superior law constitution while the Executive Government will still retain its role (Palmer, 2001). The general impact is that the Treaty will be formally recognized and its status as one of the important founding documents in the history of New Zealand retained.
Apart from the benefits incorporating the treaty discussed in the section above, there also exists risks when the treaty is incorporated as part of the New Zealand constitution. One of the major risks is the fading of the original meaning and status of the document. There were several instants when such attempts were made and the Maori were always the quickest people to refute such moves. Their main fear was that incorporating the Treaty as part of the national constitution will open up ways to carry out amendments to the original text for the purpose of full filling some major national interests (Harris, 2005). It will lead to the erosion of the spirit of the Treaty and the rights and obligations outlined in the text. The only way to protect the original status and spirit of the Treaty is to ensure that while incorporating it into the new constitution, there is no room for amendments to the original text.
Another risk is the misinterpretation of the document. As it was mentioned before, one of the major challenges in dealing with The Treaty of Waitangi is the many versions which are currently available. The different understanding of the available versions of The Treaty of Waitangi has been the subject of debate for several years (Harris, 2005). It is majorly caused by the variation in the language used. For instance, one of the most common misunderstandings among the Maori brought about a confusion of language is that the Maori believed the Treaty meant that were giving up government so that they can retain their lands. Such misunderstands like to exist if the Treaty is not well incorporated. It will be a catastrophic thing for a nation to have a constitution which is interpreted differently by different people. The result will be chaos in the government system
In conclusion, there exists both the benefits as well as risks when The Treaty of Waitangi is incorporated into the constitution of New Zealand. However, there are more benefits as opposed to the risks. For instance, one of the key benefits is that it will ensure effective decision making by the government and promote cultural diversity as well. The risks can as well be eliminated if necessary measures are put in place to ensure one well-understood version of the trinity is used and that it is prevented from unnecessary amendments that will ruin the original document. It makes me believe that the optimal placement of The Treaty of Waitangi is part of the New Zealand constitution.