Treaty did not establish any “principles”


Hobson’s Pledge is clear that the Treaty of Waitangi did not establish any “principles” and all references to such “principles” should be removed from legislation.

Although the “principles” of the Treaty of Waitangi were referred to in the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, no one knew what they actually were – that was until the Appeal Court president, Justice Robin Cooke, created a summary for the 1987 New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney General decision. Cooke’s six principles were:

  1. ‘[T]he Queen was to govern and the Maori were to be her subjects; in return their Chieftainship and possessions were to be protected, but . . . sales of the land to the Crown could be negotiated.’
  2. Because there was some inevitable potential conflict between those principles, both parties had a duty ‘to act reasonably and with the utmost good faith’ towards one another.
  3. The principles of the treaty do not authorise unreasonable restrictions on the right of a duly elected government to follow its chosen policy.
  4. The Crown assumed a duty of protection towards Maori: ‘the duty is not passive but extends to active protection of Maori people in the use of their lands and waters to the fullest extent practicable.’
  5. The Crown has a duty to remedy past breaches: ‘the Crown should grant at least some form of redress, unless there are good grounds justifying a reasonable Treaty partner in withholding it – which would only be in very special circumstances, if ever.’
  6. The Crown had an obligation to consult with Maori in the exercise of kawanatanga. Justice Cooke was guarded, however, as to the practical extent of that obligation.

The Labour Government created its own set of Treaty principles. Justice Minister Geoffrey Palmer had a Treaty unit set up within the Justice Department create a 15-page booklet titled The Principles for Crown Action on the Treaty of Waitangi that was adopted by Cabinet and published on July 4, 1989.

More principles were to appear. They included:

  • NZ Maori Council to Court of Appeal 1987 – 10 principles
  • Crown to Court of Appeal 1987 – 5 principles
  • Waitangi Tribunal 1983-1988 – 12 principles