In September 2007, 144 countries adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
At the time, four countries voted against: New Zealand's Labour government, Australia, Canada and the United States. Interesting when you consider these countries all had indigenous people living in their own homelands prior to the coming of white settlers. Māori, Aboriginal, Native Indians of Canada and America.
We are all familiar with their colonised and land-occupied histories.
However, in 2010 the National government reversed New Zealand's vote and supported the UNDRIP. The other three countries soon followed.
The declaration is a framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of indigenous peoples of the world. Reading the declaration, it is clear the United Nations worried about the plight of indigenous people and saw their position in society being eroded, specifically "indigenous people have suffered from historic injustices as a result of, inter alia, their colonisation and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests".
When you sign in good faith as the 2010 National government did, that's not the end of it, job done. You have to put effort into reviewing what New Zealand has in place and working out how to breathe life into the declaration so the indigenous people of New Zealand, Maori, can live with dignity, in a state of wellbeing and to their potential.
Things may move slowly but when a country commits to a declaration, that's when the real work starts and change, over time, will eventually happen.
This applies to other significant universal rights too, including in the areas of international human rights, rights of the child, civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, rights of persons with disabilities and in the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination and the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.
The recently released Government Working Group Report He Puapua seeks to realise the declaration in New Zealand.
It is a direct result of the 2010 National government doing what was right at the United Nations. National has unfinished business, even though now in opposition. It should not fold and become scared of having hard conversations with New Zealanders.
It's obvious this is what's worrying National and why it is becoming truculent. It has a big part to play in those conversations.
To start with, its MPs must actually read He Puapua before condemning it. To understand it is the first step to creating a Declaration Plan and they should be prepared to engage constructively with all New Zealanders in the months ahead.
Surely the National Party has a Māori adviser on board. A workshop is definitely called for, I suspect, for all its MPs.
He Puapua is nothing to be afraid of.
It is not government policy, it may never be, but the Labour government is prepared to make a start and He Puapua is the first step.
It was written by indigenous New Zealanders, the lead writer being a former Rotorua-born- and-educated Ngāti Whakaue scholar Dr Claire Charters. I talked with Claire recently and she succinctly explained the intent behind the report and what New Zealand could achieve by 2040, the bicentenary of the signing of te Tiriti o Waitangi.
It simply outlines proposals and actions the Government may take and touches upon nearly every aspect of Māori-Crown relations.
It does require an understanding that te Tiriti is New Zealand's constitutional foundation, and central to the realisation of the declaration.
A Tiriti that guaranteed Māori control over their lands and resources, and control of their own culture, traditions and tribal structures with the right to maintain and strengthen these and to promote their own development in accordance with their aspirations and needs.
Maybe those conversations won't be that hard after all, especially when young New Zealanders are involved.
They don't think in three-yearly cycles and are not hampered by generational cynicism.
They know they will shape the future of New Zealand where Māori are free to live as Māori and prosper in the land of their ancestor.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is chairwoman of the Whanau Ora Commissioning Agency, a Lakes District Health Board member and Rotorua district councillor.