The Properties Of Tino Rangatiratanga – On Judith Collins’ Convention Speech


I took a brief look through Judith Collins’ speech to the New Zealand National Party’s northern convention today and uh …

“Article 2, Tino Rangatiratanga, confirms the property rights of all people. It establishes that all iwi, families and individuals have rights over their own land and property. Property rights are again a key democratic principle and core to National party values.”

Now … what I suspect has happened here is that Collins has not realized the problem.

That problem being that while, yeah, that’s what Article Two broadly sets out in the English version – she’s mixed it up a bit by terming this “Tino Rangatiratanga”.

Which, again to be fair, is what is in the Te Reo Maori version of Article Two.

It’s just that “Tino Rangatiratanga” very definitely does not (just) mean “Property Rights”. And, if we are running on the Te Reo version of the text, I’m also very sure that the definition of ‘taonga katoa’ (i.e. what Maori thought they were maintaining rangatiratanga over) is quite a lot broader than “land and property”.

I haven’t actually checked the jurisprudence upon the matter in any great depth, but it does appear that for Treaty purposes, (Maori) Health does indeed constitute a Taonga [c.f the Wai 2575 Treaty claim]

Which, yes, we can have an open conversation about how to protect and uphold. Whether this is best done as part of a unitary state system … with a specialized Maori component; or whether a patchwork of DHBs is the better answer, for example.

TDB Recommends

Or, to take things further – whether Iwi can themselves act, in a much closer manner to what the Te Reo Maori version of Article Two seems to have envisaged (intentionally or otherwise) as the active authorities themselves.

Previously, National hasn’t had too much issue with this. It’s an integral part of the settlement they were quite proud to negotiate with Tuhoe that the Iwi would be able to work in partnership with the Crown to deliver key services – including with relation to welfare and healthcare.

It’s also something which somewhat underpinned the previous National-led government’s very expansive welfare ‘reform’ project, Whanau Ora (which Collins talks up in her speech). Although that went far further in the degree to which it was open to non-Governmental components playing a role in Maori (but also Pasifika .. and in theory, other New Zealanders as well … in theory) service delivery in that sphere.

Tariana Turia put it best, I feel –

“I’m a firm believer in the private or NGO sector carrying out a lot of functions of the state – that is what rangatiratanga is about.”

Which probably explains why she got a standing ovation when she spoke to ACT’s 2006 party convention.

And it’s that kind of thinking which provides a potential ‘Option Two’ for the interpretation of the relevant portion of Collins’ speech … namely, that it’s deliberate, and is part of a subtle culture-jamming ‘privatization’ of Maori political ethos. Although to be honest, I doubt the Nats of 2021 are clever (or long-term focused) for that.

Either way, the incipient ‘redefinition’ of a cornerstone of Maori political aspirations – whatever one may happen to think of various demands for ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ and its various forms – into mere material attainment is something odious.

Although I suppose, upon closer inspection, that that’s simply National all up – taking the supernal, the transcendental, the actively meaningful … and saying “these are values, that means they’re convertible into dollar-signs”.

To bring things back to the specific Labour proposal which Collins is attempting to attack –

I must admit I haven’t seen enough detail upon it to decide one way or the other whether I support it or not. I am not a fan of having separate this that and the other thing ‘just because’ – but also feel that this is not a case of ‘just because’ being the sum total of the justification for exploring the possibility of a Maori Health Authority.

Even leaving aside the direct claim that such a structure might be Treaty mandated (which I’m not sure that it would be, for reasons I’ll soon address) – there is a practical dimension to the consideration. What we’re doing at the moment for healthcare in general isn’t succeeding optimally for many New Zealanders, and is failing quite dismally for a variety of reasons for many Maori over and above this as well.

If there is evidence to suggest that the Maori Health Authority proposal would meaningfully improve performance, then what is wrong with that? It would surely take a hard heart indeed to insist that a philosophical commitment to the same kind of ‘egalitarianism’ which holds things fair and equal as both the rich and the poor are legally prohibited from sleeping under bridges … means that a useful health reform proposal cannot go ahead.

The way I’ve generally thought about the Treaty is that it has by necessity become a compromise between the two versions. In theory, the Te Reo Maori version has legal precedency – but it is quite plainly apparent that in reality, even its terms are not absolute. In the strictest literal sense of the words, ‘Tino Rangatiratanga’ remains held by the Crown – hence why some are still quite keen to protest for it.

The specific maintenance and performance of various Taonga related rights and duties have likewise been vested in the state. Hence why there was a wave of Treaty claims upon these when the state divested itself of these during the waves of privatization slash vandalism carried out in the 1980s and 1990s. Because if the State wasn’t going to look after these things which had – somewhat involuntarily – become invested in it by Maori … then Maori would quite understandably be rather keen to be having them back, thanks. [The various developments around radio broadcast frequency – for the support of Maori language and culture – are an interesting case-study, perhaps … but more upon that some other time]

One of these Taonga, as we have noted above, is Health. Which, in terms of the exercise of rangatiratanga, would entail healthcare provision – something that is both a core Crown capability and responsibility (via the public healthcare system), and which also exists in the private sector sphere.

There is a quite legitimate perception that the Crown’s provision and custodianship of this Taonga of Maori Health … hasn’t been an unqualified success – indeed, by comparison to much of the rest of the population, on equity grounds, it’s been … well, something else.

National started the week by claiming that a Maori-focused health unit would be “segregation”. They’ve since changed tac, and claimed that while they’re not opposed to the general principle of Maori-oriented service delivery vehicles … this particular one is Iwi/Kiwi, replete with the multi-coloured billboards awaiting in the wings.

They have their reasons for that, of course – even if they might be different to the ones they started out the week professing to believe so ardently in.

Yet ultimately, it’s all just so much politics. You read through the bullet-pointed list of “TWO SYSTEMS” exemplars Collins has singled out as purported Labour insidious social engineering (“by stealth”) .. and the majority of these things are elements which actually got rolled out to a significant degree under National during its previous nine years of Government anyway.

Gosh, I guess it really WAS Labour working very much “by stealth” if they were so stealthy they had the National Party do it all for them whilst they were stuck in Opposition!

National’s looking for a Shiver to send up the collective Spine of Middle New Zealand (via way of the Talkback belt), and the delicate double-speak Collins has to engage in in this speech of hers shows just how difficult it might be for her to turn the clock back on the John Key era to the Don Brash era – without bellyflopping herself all the way back to the Bill English error in the process.

She can’t make succinct stands on nice, easy, white-shining Principle, because National’s own record sells her out at almost every other turn. She can’t do Pragmatism in lieu of principle, because the pragmatic approach may just turn out to be the principled one as well – on this issue, at any rate.

So she’s left with the inchoate endeavour of redefining words as she dances upon the head of a pin, giving voice to the people who used to call in to MagicTalk Radio to tell us all how voiceless they now were, and seeking to (New)Con her way back to the lifelines of electoral relevancy.

As Matthew Hooton put it earlier this week in his own writeup of this ungainly display of the twilight hours of her political life –

“At least Don Brash had a sense of theatre.”


  1. “Rangatiratanga” translates as “sovereignty”. That is absolutely clear. Maori who signed the Treaty of Waitangi believed that they would retain sovereign authority and that Victoria would be their appointed governor. There was no suggestion that her appointment would be irrevocable or her position heritable. The example at hand in 1840 was that of Ruka 3:1 “Na i te tekau ma rima o nga tau o te rangatiratanga o Taipiria Hiha, i a Ponotia Pirato e kawana ana i Huria”. Tiberius Caesar had tino rangatiratanga. Pontius Pilate kawanatanga. Caesar was sovereign, Pilate the officer he had appointed to govern Judaea.
    What are the implications for our time? Simply that the colonialist state can not and will not “honor the treaty”. National and ACT definitely will not. Labour and the Greens will only pretend to be doing it.
    The whole colonial political establishment is on a hiding to nothing because they lack the assurance of constitutional legitimacy which a state needs in order to maintain the loyalty of its people.

  2. If you imagine the position of each party at the time; esp. considering that there were about 2000 Europeans here at the time, the cartoon at the top of the page says it all. Would the Maori chiefs have signed away their sovereignty under those circumstances? Why on earth?
    Would the Queen have signed a document that failed to grant here sovereignty with the french about to step in? Of course not.
    The discrepancy in te translation was never an error. It was a means to an end to avoid war as much as possible.
    D J S

  3. Judith just playing to the ‘great replacement’ crowd. I’m sure Tucker Carlson will do a bit on ‘that brave lady in the south pacific’ standing up for white peoples rights in the coming weeks. Could someone send Judith a new baseball cap with ”is there something wrong with being white?’ instead of the Nat logo? In the USA, Biden calls for more Black history to be taught. Republicans’ call it ‘racially divisive’ if it goes ahead. Are the nats going all ‘Trumpy”? Looks that way to me. National looking to line up ‘the Deplorables’? or doing a Dominic Cummings by targeting non voters with a ‘take back control’ message? Judith has nothing to lose and everything to win so don’t expect a backdown anytime soon. Farrer busy gauging the community response through Curia and taking the temperature on his blog. I’m hoping for a yeah nah from the majority of Kiwis. Pretty annoying if we go back to 20th century race relations where the ‘Natives’ are expected to be thankful for White Mans Rule.

  4. Forget Collins. She is just a (unpopular) messenger. Let’s look at the message. Are we happy with separate systems for anything in NZ based on race? Am I racist for suggesting this is racist?

    • For me, this isn’t a race issue. It’s a Maori issue. The current system is failing them. They say it and the stats back them up. They have asked for some self determination to address these problems. Cue the White population getting all upset and saying words like ‘separatism’, ‘racism’ and ‘Apartheid’. Would you rather they took a leaf out of the Welsh playbook and started burning holiday homes to the ground, or the Irish playbook of bombing civilians, or the Scots playbook of devolution from the Union all on the basis of wanting some self determination rather than being ruled by an alien majority with no ties to their cultural identity? Or should we crack on with what used to be called ‘The White Dominions’ plan of assimilation through genocide? If the likes of Peter Williams has a tanty over the use of ‘Aotearoa’ during anzac day, then is it any wonder that Judith goes for the deplorable vote? Maybe you should ‘look at the message’ coming form the other side that Judith is replying to. If you expect Maori to bend the knee and say ‘thankyou for treating us as equals’ then you might have a long wait.

    • Speaking for myself, no, I do not want separate systems based on race. Which is why I am happy that our local Maori health service accepts patients and the marae committee offers support to anyone in need, regardless of color or creed.
      This despite the fact that the colonialist state is structured in such a way that the head of state will always be “of British stock”.
      Turn your attention to the entrenched structural racism of the colonialist state, and then wake up to the fact that Maori institutions really do work for the good of all New Zealanders, as you will have seen through the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes. The poor and destitute can always turn to the marae when they are failed by state and colonial capitalism.

  5. No.

    At the time of signing ‘taonga’ simply meant goods & chattels and nothing more.

    All this ‘spiritual treasures’ has been made up subsequently by fake Maori academics.

    • Goods and chattels translates as “taputapu”. (If this seems curious, you need to have a bit more understanding about how te reo works). “Taonga” is treasure, something of high value. Rangatiratanga has always been translated as sovereignty. Judith Collins is well off the mark, and with respect, so is Andrew.

  6. Judith Collins suggests that Maori ceded sovereignty to the British Crown in return for a British promise not to steal their land. “Andrew” goes a step further, arguing that in return for sovereignty the British had only promised not to steal the personal effects of the people they were colonising.
    None of this has much to do with the actual wording of the treaty, but does so a lot about the attitudes of modern day colonialists. In short, they regard the Treaty of Waitangi as something akin to a Mafia protection scheme, and, this is the key point, they are not at all ashamed to count themselves involved in the racket.
    Let’s be clear. The Treaty gave the British Crown the responsibility for governing Aotearoa (kawanatanga) subject to the sovereignty (rangatiratanga) of indigenous institutions. Sovereignty was subsequently stolen by the Crown, along with the land and goods and chattels of Maori.

  7. If rangatiratanga meant sovereignty why is it promised to the rangatira, the hapu and all the people of New Zealand, the last presumably including the Europeans living there. I would also note that Maori were familiar with the powers of the Governor of New South Wales. The third clause of the Treaty is pretty specific about te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini, agreement to the government of the Queen, and goes on to say “ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.” – will be given/allowed to them all the tikanga (customs, ways of doing things) the same as she does to the people of England. One chief at Hokianga, on hearing the treaty explained, hoped it would lead to the imposition of British law including the hanging of adulterers.

  8. Some of these eloquent and studied comments put me to shame with my dwindling kete. Hone Heke chopped down the british flagpole three times because he knew what it meant. Some people delude themselves that Ao/Nz was populated by the adventurous middle class however I dispute this, knowing the reason remittence men (and women) landed here (and they still do).

  9. And Patuone and Waka Nene fought for the Government because they knew what it meant. Te ture, te Kuini me te Whakapono as many chiefs reiterated during the 1860 Kohimarama Conference

    Tamati Waka Nene (a Treaty signatory in 1840) said
    “Ara, ko taku whakaaro i a Kawana Hopihana ra ano kia tangohia tera Kawana hei tiaki i a tatou. E kore hoki e kitea te whakaaro o nga Merikana, o nga Wiwi; na konei ahau i mea ai ko te Pakeha hei tiaki i a tatou. Na konei, e te iwi, i mea ai ahau, ko te Kawana nei hei Kawana mo tatou—ko te Kuini hei Kuini mo tatou. Me tango ra tatou ki tenei Kawana mo tatou katoa. Kia ki atu au e te runanga, kotahi nei toku Kawana. Hei Kingi tenei mo tatou. Whakarongo mai ra, e te iwi. Tae mai ana te Kawana ki a tatou, tae mai ana hoki te ture o te Atua ki a tatou, i ora ai tatou. Na te ture ra o te Atua i huihui mai ai tatou i tenei ra, ki te whare nei; na taua ture o te Atua, o te Pakeha hoki. Koia hoki ahau ka mea ai, ko taku Kingi tenei, ara ko te Kuini, ake, ake, ake. Kei te taha o te Pakeha ahau e haere ana. Heoti ano aku korero.

    “My desire when Governor Hobson arrived here was to take him as our Governor, in order that we might have his protection. Who knows the mind of the Americans, or that of the French? Therefore, I say, let us have the English to protect us. Therefore, my friends, do I say, let this Governor be our Governor, and this Queen our Queen. Let us accept this Governor, as a Governor for the whole of us. Let me tell yoy, ye assembled tribes, I have but one Governor. Let this Governor be a King to us. Listen again, ye people! When the Governor came here, he brought with him the Word of God by which we live; and it is through the teaching of that Word that we are able to meet together this day, under one roof. Therefore, I say, I know no Sovereign but the Queen, and I never shall know any other. I am walking by the side of the Pakeha. Mr. McLean, this is all I have to say. People of the Runanga, I have finished.

Comments are closed.