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Balancing rangatiratanga and kawanatanga: Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu’s Treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown

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posted on 2021-11-15, 08:46 authored by Fisher, Martin

Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu’s negotiations with the Crown produced the first two major iwi-based agreements of the modern era of Treaty settlements in New Zealand/Aotearoa. While the existing historiography has previously addressed the general parameters of each agreement, and some key players have briefly written about their involvement in the process, an analysis of both negotiations through the lens of the iwi (tribe) pursuit of rangatiratanga (or self-determination) and the Crown’s defence of its sovereignty and kawanatanga (or governance) increases our understanding of these precedent-setting Treaty settlements. Māori rangatiratanga and Crown sovereignty and governance were not the only factors that drove all parties in their negotiations, but they represented the dominant motivating force in terms of reaching agreements on very difficult issues.  Through an investigation of Ngāi Tahu, Waikato-Tainui, Crown and public sources, this thesis identifies the balancing of iwi rangatiratanga and the Crown’s sovereignty and kawanatanga in four major areas of the process: the development of iwi governance systems post-settlement, the negotiation of the financial aspects of the settlement, the parameters surrounding the return of land, and the formulation of the historical accounts and Crown apologies. The political structures set by the Crown to govern the process influenced all aspects of the negotiation. Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu argued that a larger quantum would be necessary to achieve the finality and general financial certainty sought by the Crown, but were challenged most prominently by Treasury. Nonetheless both iwi were able to obtain significant concessions. The subsequent limit set on the total financial scope of each settlement also influenced the amount of land that was returned. In addition the Crown’s overall control of the process influenced the type of Crown lands that would be returned, and in Waikato-Tainui’s case, the legal form in which land was returned. The negotiations regarding the historical accounts and apologies that accompanied each settlement similarly were influenced by the limitations imposed by the Crown, in contrast to the specific details sought by Ngāi Tahu and Waikato-Tainui.  The Crown was able to strengthen its governance by achieving settlements with Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu. Both iwi also were able to enhance their own rangatiratanga by settling their claims, enhancing their political power and influence regionally and nationally. Ultimately Waikato-Tainui and Ngāi Tahu’s Treaty settlements simultaneously reinforced the Crown’s sovereignty and kawanatanga and energised Ngāi Tahu and Waikato-Tainui’s pursuit of rangatiratanga.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Hill, Richard; Locke, Cybele; Belich, James