Wai 262

The Wai 262 journey began in 1990 when Dell Wihongi (Te Rarawa) and Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) attended an Indigenous Intellectual Property Conference in New York to exchange experiences with other indigenous peoples.

The following year, activists challenged the Crown about policies and laws that were taking away Māori control over taonga. In October 1991, Saana Murray-Waitai (Ngāti Kurī), Dell Wihongi (Te Rarawa), John Hippolite (Ngāti Koata), Tama Poata (Te-Whānau-o-Ruataupare, Ngāti Porou) Witi McMath (Ngāti Wai) with the assistance of lawyer Moana Jackson (Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Porou) lodged the Native Flora and Fauna Claim with the Waitangi Tribunal.

Their aspiration was for rangatiratanga, “Māori control over things Māori”, both tangible and intangible, based on He Whakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The next year, the First International Conference on the Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples was held at Whakatāne where the Mātaatua Declaration on Cultural and Intellectual Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted.

A central part of the claim was the threat of international “trade” agreements, especially on intellectual property rights, which give foreign corporations rights and power over our taonga and deny our rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over taonga and mātauranga. An urgent interim hearing inquired into a proposed joint regulator for Australia New Zealand on therapeutic products, which was later abandoned (see the rongoā kaupapa). More recent trade agreements challenged rangatiratanga and kaitiakitanga over plant variety rights and data.

The Tribunal’s final report Ko Aotearoa Tēnei called for a Tiriti-based approach to international agreements and Māori involvement that would protect and promote Māori rights, interests, duties and responsibilities.

The Crown’s long-awaited response, Te Pae Tawhiti, is meant to address these issues. One of its original three focus areas was Kawenata Aorere/Kaupapa Aorere, which focused on Māori interests and the international level. The current version identifies “International levers: enabling effective Māori and Aotearoa engagement internationally”, including Māori engagement in international instruments and fora.

But while that process moves forward slowly, the Crown is signing more and more free trade agreements that continue to breach its Tiriti obligations without effective Māori influence, and the prospects of securing a new legal and ethical framework that is grounded in Te Tiriti and tikanga Māori more remote. Ngā Toki Whakarururanga is committed to reversing that process and outcome.