Key Points:

A course in history should be a part of receiving citizenship for immigrants to New Zealand, the Maori Party said yesterday.

Co-leader Tariana Turia said it was clear education was needed about what the Treaty of Waitangi means.

"We've had an email this week from a group of Asian students who are saying that the Treaty has no validity in this country.

"We think it's important for all people to understand it.

"It's critically important that people understand that the Treaty is not about settlement, it's not about grievance. The Treaty was a document of unity and all of us should understand it," Ms Turia said.

Asked why new migrants should be required to take a course on "Aotearoa History" when New Zealanders didn't, Ms Turia said Treaty education should be in all educational institutions.

The UK and US require immigrants to sit tests to qualify as citizens.

There were no specifics on what would be taught in the course but Victoria University's Maori Studies head of school Peter Adds said tests or courses were long overdue.

"It can create a whole lot of negativity around Maori people if they don't have the historical background.

"New Zealanders have some exposure just by participating in this country, these people are coming in fresh and have no context to understand the dynamic between the Crown and Maori.

The key components around Treaty education should be:

* An understanding of the Maori and English versions of the Treaty.

* How translation between the two languages gave rise to problems.

* The principals of the Treaty.

The party was in Christchurch to launch its Treaty policy, which also included entrenching the Maori seats. Support for legislation to that effect would be a bottom line in post-election negotiations, Ms Turia said.

The party also wants a parliamentary commissioner for the Treaty, and a review of the Maori electoral option to look at the five-year timing of voters being able to switch between the Maori and general rolls.

It also called for non-Maori to be automatically enrolled on the general roll at 18, or the Maori roll if they were Maori. After that, Maori could switch to the general roll if they wished.

Asked why Maori should be enrolled on the Maori roll, Ms Turia said all Maori were on the Maori roll. "It was only changed to give power to non-Maori." She said the proposed option wasn't self-serving because Maori could still switch between rolls.