Nine years after New Zealand agreed to sign up to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in relation to Māori, the Government has announced it will begin work on developing a plan to implement it.
Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta said a delegation from the UN's Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (EMRIP) was invited to New Zealand to provide advice on the plan.
"There are a range of policies and strategies already in place that are relevant to the Declaration, but there is no overall plan," Mahuta said in a statement.
The delegation would meet various organisations, experts and the Government and hold two community hui in Auckland and Wellington.
"Aotearoa is the third country to be visited by EMRIP, and this visit will show that we are genuinely committed to developing a national plan for the Declaration that meets New Zealand's needs and aspirations," Mahuta said.
The EMRIP is one of three UN expert bodies that focus specifically on the rights of indigenous peoples and is made up of seven independent experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to provide advice and expertise.
The Declaration is made up of 46 articles and recognises the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, being able to maintain their own languages, being able to protect their natural and cultural heritage and manage their own affairs.
Mahuta announced last week that a working group would be set up to provide advice on how the Government and Māori could work together to develop the plan.
Although many Government actions on Māori development and wellbeing were consistent with the aspirations of the Declaration, there was still more that should be done, she said.
In 2010 the then National government bowed to its confidence and supply partner the Māori Party and agreed to support the Declaration despite the previous Labour government's warnings that the document was fundamentally incompatible with New Zealand's constitutional and legal systems.
New Zealand was one of only four countries that voted against it when it was put in front of the UN General Assembly in 2007.
New Zealand's statement of support ended up with a rider attached that reaffirmed "the legal and constitutional frameworks that underpin New Zealand's legal system" and noted that those existing frameworks defined "the bounds of New Zealand's engagement with the declaration".
The New Zealand Maori Council said last week it would develop benchmarks to hold the Government to account on progress on the aspirations of the Declaration.
"What we need to do is make the Declaration meaningful, to build solutions and policies around how we can ensure we are meeting the obligations and then test and measure our performance against it," Maori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki said.
This is an opportunity to really throw those doors open and like the Prime Minister said at Waitangi – hold the Government to account. At Maori Council we choose to do that in a much more meaningful way with solutions," he said.