A Waitangi Tribunal decision that Northland Maori chiefs who signed the Treaty of Waitangi did not cede sovereignty confirmed what Ngaphui always claimed, says Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.

"It's a big day for Ngapuhi," Mr Davis said of the decision released yesterday. "It's correcting the historical narrative that's gone on since 1840."

He called for calm and said it was time for "wise heads" to sit down and have a conversation about what the report meant for the country in 2014, the Stuff website reported. It was not clear what the longer term ramifications would be, Mr Davis said.

While some "rednecks" might view the report as Maori separatism, he believed it could have the opposite effect and bring people together.


Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said the tribunal's finding did not change the fact the Crown has sovereignty in New Zealand.

The report drew together existing scholarship on the Declaration of Independence and Treaty of Waitangi and the tribunal noted that its report "represents continuity rather than dramatic change in current Treaty scholarship", Dr Finlayson said.

"The tribunal doesn't reach any conclusion regarding the sovereignty the Crown exercises in New Zealand. Nor does it address the other events considered part of the Crown's acquisition of sovereignty, or how the Treaty relationship should operate today."

The tribunal yesterday released its first report of its inquiry into Te Paparahi o te Raki, focusing on the Bay of Islands and Hokianga, where the Treaty was first signed in 1840. The report concerns the "meaning and effect" of the Treaty at the time. Stage two will focus on events after 1840.

"Though Britain went into the Treaty negotiation intending to acquire sovereignty, and therefore the power to make and enforce law over both Maori and Pakeha, it did not explain this to the rangatira (chiefs)," the tribunal said.

Rather, Britain's representative William Hobson and his agents explained the Treaty as granting Britain "the power to control British subjects and thereby to protect Maori", while rangatira were told that they would retain their "tino rangatiratanga", their independence and full chiefly authority.

"The rangatira who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi in February 1840 did not cede their sovereignty to Britain.

"That is, they did not cede authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories."


Treaty specialist Paul Moon said the tribunal's inquiry got basic historical aspects wrong.

"I was shocked by some of the statements contained in the report," says the Auckland University of Technology professor. "This is not a concern about some trivial detail, but over the fundamental history of our country, which the tribunal has got manifestly wrong.

"In particular, the tribunal alleges that 'Britain went into the Treaty negotiation intending to acquire sovereignty, and therefore the power to make and enforce law over both Maori and Pakeha'. This is simply not true," says Professor Moon, "and there is an overwhelming body of evidence which proves precisely the opposite. I cannot understand how the tribunal got this so wrong."