A critical review of the Cabinet Circular on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the Treaty of Waitangi advice to ministers

Dominic O’Sullivan, Heather Came, Tim McCreanor, Jacquie Kidd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The New Zealand state developed from a treaty between the British Crown and hapū (sub-tribes) in 1840. The te Reo (Māori language) text and the English version of the agreement are fundamentally different. Breaches of this treaty and tension over how the political relationship between Māori and the Crown should proceed are ongoing. In 2019, the Cabinet Office issued a Circular instructing bureaucratic advisers of the questions they should address when providing advice to ministers on the agreement’s contemporary application. In this article, we use Critical Tiriti Analysis (CTA) – an analytical framework applied to public policies – to suggest additional and alternative questions to inform bureaucratic advice. The article defines CTA in detail and shows how using it in this way could protect Māori rights to tino rangatiratanga (a sovereignty and authority that is not subservient to others) and substantive engagement, as citizens, in the formation of public policy. This article’s central argument is that the Circular reflects an important evolution in government policy thought. However, in showing how the Circular privileges the English version (the Treaty of Waitangi) over the Māori text (Te Tiriti o Waitangi), the article demonstrates how Māori political authority remains subservient to the Crown in ways that Te Tiriti did not intend. We show through the conceptual illustration of the care and protection of Māori children, despite the significant evolution in government thought that it represents, these rights are not fully protected by the Circular. This is significant because it was Te Tiriti, with its protection of extant Māori authority and sovereignty, that was signed by all but 39 of the more than 500 chiefs who agreed to the British Crown establishing government over their own people, but who did not agree to the colonial relationship which may be read into the English version.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1093-1112
Number of pages20
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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