Accounting for Te Ao Māori

Publication Date 
04 August 2017

The Law Commission has a legal duty to take into account te ao Māori in its work, so how does it go about doing this?

The Commission is a relatively small organisation; it has four Commissioners, none of whom is tangata whenua, and currently, none of its staff identify as tangata whenua. It aims to recruit Māori staff and staff with an expertise in tikanga Māori.

Law Commission President Douglas White says the Commission's duty to acknowledge te ao Māori extends beyond simply inviting Māori to have a say on issues as the Commission raises them.

The Commission seeks regular advice on all its projects from a group of volunteers who form a Māori Liaison Committee.

These expert meetings are chaired by the Hon Justice Joe Williams and include Judge Caren Fox, Judge Denise Clark, Te Ripowai Higgins, Damian Stone, Tai Ahu and Sir Hirini Mead.

These members draw on their personal expertise and knowledge of tikanga Māori, Māori governance entities, and Māori communities to help the Commission take into account te ao Māori. They advise the Commission on how to engage and consult with Māori, and they provide advice and opinion on tikanga and other elements of te ao Māori.

The Law Commission knows that these meetings alone do not meet the Law Commission's obligations to take te ao Māori into account in its work. Nor does it expect the members of the Māori Liaison Committee to take on that responsibility.

"We are working on our capacity to engage with te ao Maori and to meet with the right people and discuss our projects with them," says Douglas White.

The Commission has recently focused on building a strong relationship with Te Hunga Rōia Māori o Aotearoa, the New Zealand Māori Law Society. This organisation can also offer advice and direction on how to bring a Māori perspective into the work the Commission does.

Douglas White says the Commission is also eager to meet and build relationships with other Māori organisations that want to have a say on improving the law.

"We are committed to working with anyone who can help us take account of te ao Māori in our work."