Treaty's status needs review - commission

By Yvonne Tahana

The Human Rights Commission is renewing calls to consider entrenching the Treaty of Waitangi as part of a wider review aimed at improving the human rights of Maori.

The recommendation is part of a proposed five-year action plan to 2015 that the commission is seeking submissions on.

Entrenching the Treaty was last debated in the lead-up to the passage of the 1990 Bill of Rights Act, but Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said two decades on, it was time to re-examine constitutional arrangements.

Discussion didn't need to be based around fear either, he said.

"There's always been this kind of fear if the Treaty is included in our constitution that it will enshrine some kind of inequality or special treatment for Maori. The Treaty needs more understanding that it's not just about Maori, it's for everybody - it guarantees equality and government."

The Government's constitutional review is scheduled for this year and Mr de Bres said it was the right forum to discuss the issue.

Also out yesterday was the commission's annual progress report on Treaty issues for 2009.

Mr de Bres said there were largely positive developments including the momentum in the settlement process, the way the National Party and Maori Party worked together, the pledge to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act, recognition of a Maori flag, and new Crown/iwi co-management agreements.

Failure to provide Maori seats on the Auckland Super City council came in on the negative side of the ledger.

The report's survey component found that 2009's achievements weren't necessarily affecting attitudes, Mr de Bres said. The survey found:

56 per cent agreed that the Treaty is the country's founding document, down from 59 per cent in 2008.

49 per cent thought the 170-year-old document was for all Kiwis, the lowest point in a three-year tracking history and down from 57 per cent.

28 per cent thought the Crown/Maori relationship was healthy, down from 40 per cent.

- NZ Herald

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