A constitution that is bi-cultural and post-colonial

New Zealand has an ‘amazing’ and very positive opportunity to create a unique, post-colonial governance arrangements, writes Wally Hicks.

I don’t like to live ‘troubled’ by wrong thought, false or mistaken action. I consider sub- and unconscious remorse, self-reproach and guilt are prime causes of dis-ease and ill health.

I believe we humans are ethical and moral beings. Entire religions and philosophies are founded on the concept of ‘right’ or ‘ethical’ relations between people and with the world. This is the source of our Law and Justice – courtroom trial – or Ture – utu (reciprocity).

Society reflects the individuals within it. Like myself, many Kiwis feel unease and disdain at aspects of our Pākehā colonial heritage imbued with racism, deceit, duplicity and injustice.

Due to Pākehā dishonouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, New Zealand society is troubled by race relations at a deep level: dis-eased to its very foundation.

Healing continues with the Waitangi Tribunal, Treaty Principles and full and final Treaty Settlements. The question of who is culpable is resolved. Present-day Māori and Pākehā are acting on behalf of our ancestors to right past wrongs.

Te Tiriti recognises tangata whenua status and the equality of hapū iwi (Maori). Their mana, rangatiratanga and tikanga stands alongside British sovereignty, parliamentary democracy and government (The Crown).

Put simply, our future Constitutional government must do the same or else perpetuate the wrongs, thus committing future generations, albeit insidiously, to outdated roles of colonised and coloniser, oppressor and oppressed: shame and dis-ease. I refuse to accept this.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the only shared, ‘partnership’ or bicultural basis for our Constitution. Pre-eminent, not Clause 11. A universal rights preamble followed by a Te Tiriti ‘partnership’ Article.

A true ‘partnership’ model of governance must be formulated and emerge from this. It may depend on Crown (Pākehā) acceptance of:

  1. The Te Reo version of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and hapū iwi understanding of it, and
  2. A hapū iwi model for ‘Māori’ representation to jointly govern the country. Discussion of this has been splendidly initiated by Matike Mai Aotearoa: Iwi Leaders Report on Constitutional Transformation.

An amazing opportunity and immense positive challenge lies ahead: The creation of a post-colonial, bicultural and multicultural Constitution for Aotearoa New Zealand, truly unique in the world: The best of Māori and Pākehā.

Will it involve what Māori academic Ani Mikaere calls “the mind-shift required amongst Pākehā society as a whole”?1 Pākehā who, says Mikaere, “must place their trust in Māori, not the other way around.”2 I agree.

I keenly anticipate “when we can come as two peoples: Māori and Pākehā … to negotiate a basis for our society”3 – a codified Constitution describing a unique, world-leading form of government I call Marae Ture/Legislative Assembly, resolutely founded on Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

1. ‘Are we all New Zealanders Now? The Search for Pakeha Indigeneity’ by Ani Mikaere: Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture, 2004.
2. Ibid.
3. Ibid, quoting Ray Nairn, 1986.

About Wally Hicks: I am a Pākehā of English descent. Fifth generation ‘Kiwi’ on all sides of my family bar one, my Jewish. I have yet to identify any ‘Māori’ ancestors. One possibility exists. I consider myself Ngāti Tiriti, People of the Treaty. One way or another my life has revolved around stories, real-life and ‘fiction’. In Playback Theatre, writing and volunteer community development this has required me to walk in others’ shoes as best I can. For me life is holistic. All things are connected. I don’t want my descendants to look back in 200 years and say, ‘They had this amazing opportunity and yet continued to do wrong.’


Read more about the Treaty of Waitangi in our proposed constitution

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