NZ Human Rights Commission

Race Relations Report 2008 Tui Tui Tuituia

Te Tiriti o Waitangi: the Treaty of Waitangi

This is a summary of the Treaty of Waitangi chapter of the Human Rights Commission's annual review of race relations for 2008. The Treaty chapter is available on line from 4 February. The full report will be released in early March. Other sections of the report deal with action on diversity, discrimination, human rights, migration and settlement, language, media, religious diversity and research.

The previous year 2008 was an extraordinary one for Treaty settlements and other Treaty issues. 

The most significant milestone was the completion of the Central North Island forests settlement which involved the transfer of over $400 million in forest assets and rentals to iwi, but there were many other developments.  The close-off date for historical Treaty claims in September produced an unprecedented flow of over 1800 new claims. The National Partyís agreement with the Maori Party promised a review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act and New Zealandís constitutional arrangements. 

The annual poll on attitudes to the Treaty revealed that around three in every five New Zealanders agree that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealandís founding document and that the Treaty is for all New Zealanders, the highest results since polling on attitudes to the Treaty began.

The poll conducted for the Human Rights Commission by research firm UMR found that 59% of respondents agreed that ďThe Treaty is New Zealandís founding document ď(73% of Maori) and 57% agreed that ďThe Treaty is for all New ZealandersĒ (63% of Maori). The first result is the highest since the question was first posed in 2005. The second the highest since the Commissionís Treaty attitudes polling began in 2002.

The polling also revealed however that the level of declared knowledge about the Treaty had fallen to the lowest level since 2002, with only one if three (34%) respondents saying they knew a lot about the Treaty.

The new government has a target of completing the settlement of all historical Treaty claims in the next six years, six years earlier than envisaged by the previous government.  The momentum of Treaty settlements will therefore need to maintained. The reviews of the Foreshore and Seabed Act and of constitutional arrangements are other important challenges in relation to the Treaty in 2009.

Special recognition is due to former Treaty Settlements Minister Dr Michael Cullen who, together with key Maori leaders, re-energised the settlement process.

What happened in 2008?

By the numbers

Details of all these developments and more are set out in the full Treaty chapter of the Human Rights Commissionís Race Relations Report which can be downloaded from

To order resources, including the Race Relations Day 2009 poster call freephone 0800 496877 or email

For media inquiries, contact Gilbert Wong on 09 3062660 or Kat Ryan on 09 375 8616.