For hundreds of years all 66 million acres of Aotearoa New Zealand belonged to groups of Māori on a collective basis. The land sustained Māori. This wealth from the land included, with the arrival of non-Māori, goods for Māori to trade. The land was the source of wealth in Aotearoa New Zealand and belonged to Māori.
In 1840 the Crown and some Māori signed the Treaty of Waitangi. The Treaty did not transfer any land from Māori to the Crown. Article 2 guaranteed that Māori retained their land, but if they wanted to sell, they committed to sell only to the Crown by giving a right of pre-emption. The Treaty was consistent with international law at the time.
From 1840 the Crown, in breach of the Treaty, embarked on a series of processes which separated Māori from nearly all of their land. These processes included unfair land transactions, war, confiscation and the operation of the Native Land Court. Today approximately only 5% of Aotearoa New Zealand remains in collective Māori ownership. Through Treaty breach, Māori lost nearly all of their source of sustenance and this wealth was removed from Māori.
The loss of approximately 95% of their land, and other Crown breaches of the Treaty, left Māori in an impoverished state, and many Māori remain impoverished today. The effects of the historical context, including the economic effects,
continue today. Welfare payments, provided by the Crown, that do not support families to live well, are a continuation of this devastating colonisation story.
Punitive welfare entrenches poverty and the ongoing impoverishment of Māori. Punitive welfare is a breach of Te Tirit o Waitangi. Te Tiriti promised tino rangatiratanga and equity for Māori. Punitive welfare undermines this promise. For this reason, Poverty Action Waikato supports the Statement of Claim and affidavit filed by Lady Tureiti Moxon in Wai 3015. This Claim stipulates that punitive welfare is a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and entrenches poverty in Māori communities.
The following are the omissions by the Crown listed in the Claim:
- The benefits to impoverished Maori are too low to live on;
- Crown agencies punitively administer benefits and other support for impoverished Māori.
- Crown agencies are actively preventing impoverished Māori from lifting themselves out of poverty, and entrenching multi-generational poverty.
- Benefits provided to groups of New Zealanders other than impoverished Māori are significantly higher than those provided to impoverished Māori.
- Māori organisations have the capacity and capability to support impoverished Māori. However, much of their work is trying to address harm directly attributable to poverty, initially caused by the historical context and being entrenched by Crown agencies.
More and more families are being pushed into poverty due to COVID-19. Whānau are under-resourced, overstressed and unable to give children real opportunities to thrive. Whānau cannot afford to wait for increased income support.
Poverty Action Waikato supports the Wai 3015 claim and agrees with Lady Moxon that an urgent hearing should be held to address the issues raised in this claim. Poverty Action Waikato has submitted an affidavit in support of the Wai 3015 Claim.