Waikato-Tainui is taking the Government to court over its plan to roll-back the use of te reo Māori in the public sector, claiming it is in breach of their 1995 Raupatu treaty settlement.
About 100 members of the iwi travelled to Wellington today to file the legal action at the High Court.
“Our 1995 Raupatu settlement is clear, that any move by the Crown to undermine or breach our settlement there’s but one track and that is directly to the High Court,” said Waikato Tainui’s Tukoroirangi Morgan.
The coalition will require the vast majority of public service departments to communicate primarily in English and use their English name first.
Waka Kotahi has already made that step, reverting to its original name, the NZ Transport Agency.
“This is a milestone in the history of Waikato, in the history of the Kiingitanga, in the pursuit of te reo. This is about putting a stake in the ground about what te reo and tikanga mean to Waikato,” said Waikato-Tainui’s Rahui Papa.
Waikato was the first to settle historical treaty grievances with the Crown in 1995.
It addressed the Crown confiscation of more than a million acres of their land, and the devastating impacts that had on their language and way of life.
“Schedule 1 of the deed of settlement talks about the preservation and the importance of the reo to Waikato-Tainui,” said Morgan.
“The reo, the culture and the land (are) inextricably bound together. This is at the heart of our identity so it’s the thing that make us unique in this country.”
The Government’s already facing a wave of legal action by Māori, including by Tauranga iwi Ngāi Te Rangi, which has filed a similar claim over the use of te reo Māori through the Waitangi Tribunal.
The tribunal has received two further applications under urgency over the Government’s plan to disestablish the Māori Health Authority and remove Section 7AA from the Oranga Tamariki Act.
Representatives of Ngāi Te Rangi travelled to Wellington today to support Waikato-Tainui’s legal bid.
“Our original plan was to file in with the Waitangi Tribunal, slow this Government down because they’re acting like drunken sailors and file in the High Court,” Paora Stanley said.
“Tainui is doing that, we’re here to support them.”
The Waitangi Tribunal can only order the Crown to do something in rare circumstances under its “resumption” powers.
But its only ever made non-binding recommendations since its inception in 1975.
“We’re taking an omnibus approach. For every breach of our settlement, we will continue to hold this Government to account. Doesn’t matter what it is. Whether its the RMA or hauora or health. Any time they breach our settlement, we’ll be into court,” said Morgan.
Waikato-Tainui plans to file separate legal action over changes to the Resource Management Act.
The iwi hope to charter a KiwiRail train carrying 1500 members from Auckland to the capital in a few weeks’ time.
In a statement, Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Paul Goldsmith said the Government takes the matter of Treaty settlements seriously.
“Te Tiriti o Waitangi – The Treaty of Waitangi – is a foundation document of New Zealand and important for the country.
“We value Māori language and culture which are fundamental to New Zealand’s past, present and future.
“We will, of course, honour existing treaty settlements, and want to resolve outstanding settlements.”
However, Goldsmith also noted the Government remained “committed to the actions set out in the coalition agreements”.