Radical change is needed to address fundamental shortcomings in Aotearoa's constitutional structure, and to realise Māori rights and aspirations.
However, two questions remain: What would a te Tiriti-based constitution look like, and how do we realise it?
To consider these questions and generate transformative, practical and robust options for constitutional transformation in New Zealand, international thought-leaders, indigenous peoples from around the world, and Aotearoa-based experts will gather and take part in the 2022 Constitutional Kōrero at the University of Auckland in a couple of months.
The wānanga will provide an opportunity to learn about how indigenous peoples in other countries are reflected in constitutions and what lessons they might provide for constitutional transformation here in Aotearoa.
From a global perspective, New Zealand has weak constitutional protections of indigenous peoples' rights and falls short of international legal and political obligations in this regard.
Aotearoa is frequently critiqued by the UN for this, and there is a need to ensure that Māori, as well as all minorities, are protected from the potential excesses of majoritarian power.
When it comes to constitutional change, there are many examples to look to, including the self-determination of American Indians, modern treaties in Canada, jurisdictional authority in Latin America, indigenous parliaments in Sámi territories in Scandinavia, and consent requirements in Philippine law.
There is a growing awareness of the fragile foundations underpinning our constitution, in particular the illegitimate means by which sovereignty was asserted over Aotearoa and the ongoing effects of colonisation, reflected today in health, education and criminal justice statistics.
The upcoming conference will give attendees opportunities to engage with legal and academic experts and to hear options for constitutional transformation to realise Māori rights within te Tiriti o Waitangi, He Whakaputanga and the United Nation's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Keynote speakers at the Constitutional Kōrero include indigenous rights activist Elisa Loncon Antileo, who belongs to the Mapuche people in Chile; Distinguished Professor S. James Anaya, who participated in the drafting of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and Dr Ramy Bulan, an indigenous Kelabit researcher and activist from Borneo, whose work has centred on creating awareness on indigenous peoples' legal issues in Malaysia.
We need to keep working together to find a way forward, and all should have the opportunity to participate in this kōrero.
Learn more and register for the 2022 Constitutional Kōrero.
Dr Claire Winfield Ngamihi Charters is a New Zealand Māori academic from the Ngāti Whakaue, Tūwharetoa, Ngāpuhi and Tainui tribes. She specialises in indigenous peoples' rights in international and constitutional law and is an Associate professor at Auckland University.