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Dame Claudia Orange

In her new book about Te Tiriti, eminent Treaty historian Claudia Orange supports co-governance and co-management:

“Co-governance or co-management arrangements with DOC and other agencies are significant advances.  They are more than just a thin layer over the agencies’ usual ways of working; the changes now in place are substantial.  The evolutionary settlement process has created what could be called a revolutionary shift in Māori-Crown relationships.  However, it is essential that a commitment to this relationship becomes an established part of government practice”.

In an interview with Audrey Young about the book (behind a paywall), Claudia Orange has said that Maori had signed the Treaty with the promise of shared authority.  “A partnership is always going to be a shared authority and shared power.  That’s what Maori agreed to.”

She said that in 1840, Maori were concerned that they might be treated badly as Aborigines were treated in Australia.  But they had been assured that they would have shared authority under Te Tiriti. They would not have signed without it.

Read her updated book in your library: Claudia Orange (2022).  The Story of a Treaty/He Kōrero Tiriti.  Bridget Williams Books.  p. 211. The publisher’s site has more links to other interviews about the book.

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Dr Carwyn Jones

Dr Jones (Ngāti Kahungunu) is lead academic in the Māori Laws and Philosophy programme at Te Wānanga o Raukawa

“Sharing decision making equally between Māori and the Crown is certainly not a radical view of the relationship established in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Te Tiriti doesn’t specify any particular model for how decision making ought to be shared, but boards with equal numbers of members appointed by Māori and government is one mechanism which is often used in Treaty settlements and other areas. There is no single model for expressing the authority of tino rangatiratanga and kāwanatanga and the relationship between them”. 

From Charlotte Muru-Lanning, April 2023, Explained: What’s going on with formerly-named Three Waters and co-governance, The Spinoff.

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Hon Chris Finlayson

The Hon Chris Finlayson is a former Minister of Treaty Settlements in the National government

“A decade of my life was spent on Treaty settlements. I think many people would be a lot more sympathetic toward the notion of co-governance if they learned the things that I was able to learn as a public official in that role.  Once you’ve read the factual concessions by the Crown, read the apologies, you begin to realise the wrongs that have been committed. 

The Crown promised to protect “the unqualified exercise of . . . [Māori] chieftainship over their lands, villages and . . . treasures.  But it not only failed to perform that obligation — it went out of its way to breach it. We must acknowledge that failure and that breach, and remain committed to putting things right.


… I will continue to talk about co-governance as something to be embraced, not feared. We must be interested in, and talking about, the substance of power-sharing to make sure that we are continually breathing life into our Treaty and our agreements”.

From Connie Buchanan, May 2022, Chris Finlayson: Co-governance should be embraced — not feared, E-Tangata.

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Rachel Keedwell

Chair, Horizons Regional Council

“I look forward to New Zealand history being taught in schools. It is a crucial step in the process of bringing people on the journey of understanding how the Treaty of Waitangi can be honoured in today’s world and helping people to understand and connect with our shared history. Much of the fear being expressed around co-governance is based on misunderstanding of what it means and how it can enrich our society.

If honouring the Treaty will help to lay a foundation for us to move forward and reverse inequities, then let’s just get on with it. Whether that approach is called co-governance, or partnership or some other word, let’s focus the conversation on how to effect positive change and collaboration that will help re-engineer our system for a better fit for all of our people”.

From Rachel Keedwell, Feb 2023, Co-governance nothing to be scared of, Manawatu Guardian.

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Professor Andrew Geddis

Professor Geddis works in the Faculty of Law at the University of Otago

“Article Two of Te Tiriti guaranteed Māori “Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa” – with even the less applicable English version guaranteeing Māori undisturbed possession of their properties for as long as they wished to retain them. 

In 2012, the Waitangi Tribunal found that Māori traditionally exercised authority and control over water and over its use in a way that is akin to exerting common law property rights. If that’s the case, then Māori now being required to share governance with local councils of the water resources over which they were guaranteed full and ongoing te tino rangatiratanga, or at the very least “undisturbed possession”, is actually far less than te Tiriti promised, not more”.

From Charlotte Muru-Lanning, April 2023, Explained: What’s going on with formerly-named Three Waters and co-governance, The Spinoff.

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Alexa Forbes

Alexa Forbes is a Councillor on Otago Regional Council

“Whoever wants to argue [that co-governance is not democratic] would need to define democracy for me first, then co-governance and then the NZ application of both.  The New Zealand democracy is founded in a document – Te Tiriti. That document could be considered undemocratic in some narrow applications of the word but in New Zealand it is and remains the founding document of our own unique democracy and that’s not going to change anytime soon, nor should it. …


In the terms that I understand based on Te Tiriti, the New Zealand democracy demands some form of co-governance that offers levels of mana whenua input that may be considered undemocratic in another jurisdiction with a different founding document. In our context, co-governance is a necessary part of our democracy – it would just be easier if we knew or agreed a bit more what that meant and looked like – a full definition of that term might be helpful here too”.  


as told to Sue Abel 6 May 2023.

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Ben Thomas

Ben Thomas is a public relations consultant and former National Party press secretary

“Co-governance … was a practical solution to certain historical Treaty grievances relating to iwi disconnection from especially significant natural resources, that could not be easily redressed with money or the transfer of public land. For example, being alienated from a river that had previously been the key to food, community, transport and spiritual life. 

On the understanding that a river was a natural resource that could not be turned over into private ownership, even its traditional owners, the solution was to share the governance and direction setting for the management of the river and its environment between, say, local council and iwi.

This allowed for the exercise of tino rangatiratanga, guaranteed in article two of Te Tiriti, and variously translated as chieftainship or an authority with corresponding responsibilities, over the Treaty partner’s lands, people and taonga.”

From Ben Thomas, February 2023, Dump the 'co-governance' name, it's too tainted by confusion, Stuff.

Associate Professor Gehan Gunasekara

Gehan Gunasekara is Associate Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Auckland

“Te Tiriti o Waitangi has given us a framework for successful co-existence and co-governance in Aotearoa.  We just need the courage to follow it.”

From Gehan Gunasekara, April 2023, Clearing the smoke from co-governance claims, University of Auckland.

Waitangi Tribunal

In Wai 2358: The Stage 2 Report on the National Freshwater and Geothermal Claims the Waitangi Tribunal ruled that the Māori Treaty right in freshwater taonga is co-governance/co-management: 


“Having heard the evidence of the claimants and interested parties in both stage 1 and stage 2 of this inquiry, our view is that the Māori Treaty right in the management of most freshwater taonga is at the co-governance / co-management part of the scale. Freshwater taonga are central to tribal identity and to the spiritual and cultural well-being of iwi and hapū, and traditionally played a crucial role in the economic life and survival of the tribe. The Crown’s guarantees to Māori in the Treaty, including the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga, require the use of partnership mechanisms for the joint governance and management of freshwater taonga.”

“The exception to co-governance and co-management is that, in some cases, the strength of the Māori interest in a particular freshwater taonga may be such that it requires Māori governance of that taonga. Our view was that the presence of other interests in New Zealand’s water bodies will more often require a co-governance/co-management partnership between Māori and councils for the control and management of freshwater taonga; that is the Treaty standard for freshwater management.”

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