Statement to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples - Roundtable 2: "Implementation of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples at the National and Local Level"

Ministry Statements & Speeches:

Statement delivered by Hon Dr Pita Sharples, 22 September 2014.


It is with great honour that I am afforded this opportunity to stand with you today, on the occasion of the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. I extend warm greetings to all indigenous peoples, and to the representatives of all nations and member states gathered here for this historic event.


In 2010, I delivered a statement in New York to declare Aotearoa New Zealand’s support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This was a significant moment for the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand, our international brothers and sisters, and for me personally as Māori, and as the Minister of Māori Affairs.

I would like to use this occasion to reaffirm New Zealand’s support for the Declaration. As I stated in 2010, the Declaration contains principles that are consistent with the duties and principles inherent in Te Tiriti o Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi - one of our nation’s founding documents. In keeping with our strong commitment to human rights, and indigenous rights in particular, New Zealand added its support to the Declaration both as an affirmation of fundamental rights and in its expression of widely supported aspirations.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi, underpins the partnership between Government and Māori, New Zealand’s indigenous peoples, and establishes relationships based on working together in good faith. It also establishes relationships based on mutual respect for each other’s contributions as we work to build a better society for all New Zealanders. The Treaty of Waitangi is an integral part of the fabric of New Zealand society, and is central to New Zealand’s legal and constitutional framework. It continues to form the basis for the Crown’s relationships with whānau, hapū, and iwi Māori.

I am honoured to be back in New York to join with other member states in adopting the Outcome Document for the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples. I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm New Zealand’s support for the outcome document and this World Conference, and also acknowledge the inclusive means by which member states and indigenous peoples have joined together in a spirit of partnership to ensure the Conference’s success. I acknowledge in particular the role of the Global Coordinating Group of Indigenous Peoples, and extend our thanks and appreciation to the Office of the President of the General Assembly and the four Advisors.


Our presence here today is a reflection of our shared commitment to advancing the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere. The New Zealand Government is committed to progressing this cause domestically, and to achieving positive outcomes for Māori that have lasting and sustainable impact. New Zealand cannot reach its full potential unless Māori are empowered to achieve their aspirations.

Supporting and empowering Māori through Māori-led initiatives is of great importance to New Zealand. The Outcome Document that we have adopted at this World Conference captures the spirit of this partnership approach, and we remain committed to working inclusively and in cooperation with Māori. We also support the commitments of other states to do the same. Recognising that responses need to be tailored, New Zealand has developed its own unique approaches to support Māori to achieve their full potential. Central to our approaches and relationships with Māori is the principle of “partnership”.

Three areas in which New Zealand's partnership approach has been particularly successful are in the resolution of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims, Māori economic development, and research and development.

This unique and well-established partnership approach recognises the rights to, and restitution of, traditionally held land and resources. The Waitangi Tribunal, established by the Treaty of Waitangi Act, provides for inquiry into historical grievances as well as contemporary issues relating to the Crown’s Treaty relationship with iwi and Māori communities. The Tribunal’s inquiries create an opportunity for further have created a foundation for meaningful dialogue between Māori and the Crown, and significant progress continues to be made to settle historic Treaty of Waitangi claims. We are now over half-way through completing Treaty settlements. This process has resulted in strengthened partnerships between iwi Māori and the Government, and formal governance arrangements over land and resources that have Māori sitting at the table as equal partners.

The settlement process has also resulted in increased capability among tribes to partner with each other and the Government on regional and national projects as they have rebuilt their social, economic and cultural bases. The earliest participants of the settlement process, Waikato Tainui and Ngai Tahu, have been in development-mode for almost two decades and have turned their original settlements made in the mid 1990’s from NZ$170 million each into tribal businesses worth today around NZ$1 Billion each. They have also taken a leadership role in the formation of a highly effective national Iwi Leaders’ collective that engages directly with the government on major policy developments including freshwater management and a wide range of other social, economic and environmental matters.

Māori economic development continues to thrive, and there are many stories of success within iwi, hapū and whānau across New Zealand. The New Zealand Government supports Māori led economic development through He kai kei aku ringa – the Crown Māori Economic Growth Partnership.

The Government is also recognising the distinctive contributions that Māori make in the areas of research, science, and technology. Through the Vision Mātauranga policy, we support Māori to further unlock the innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people.


Despite progress in New Zealand, however, we recognise that this is an on-going journey, and there is still more to do. The New Zealand Government continues to take steps to address barriers faced by Māori, in partnership with Māori. To provide one example: Our language – te reo Māori - is a taonga (treasure). I have proposed the establishment of a new entity – Te Matawai – in New Zealand to provide leadership and give practical effect to the guardianship of iwi and Māori in relation to the health of the Māori language.

My hope is that the Crown and Māori will continue to take steps together to foster and grow our reo for generations to come.

This Conference represents a positive step forward in our shared journey.


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