As Treaty settlements draw to a close, the Government has created a one-stop shop to address major issues and policies affecting Māori.
The new agency will encompass several existing units, including the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Marine and Coastal Area Unit, the Settlement Commitments Unit, and the Māori Crown Relations Unit.
Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said Te Arawhiti aimed to build a bridge for better relations between Māori and the Crown.
Te Arawhiti was officially launched at Parliament on Monday, following dozens of hui across the country, carried out during the past year.
Davis has faced criticism for the number of meetings held, which in some cases were closed to media, without tangible results or progress announced.
The meetings with 1600 people have now resulted in an agency which will focus on a handful of key areas, including making sure the Crown meets its Treaty settlement commitments.
The agency will also work on developing engagement, and the co-designing and partnering on models that aim to ensure other agencies generate better solutions across social, environmental, cultural and economic development.
Other objectives include ensuring there is better capacity in the public sector to work effectively and meaningfully with Māori, as well as providing an independent cross-government view on the health of Māori-Crown partnerships.
Te Arawhiti will provide strategic leadership and advice on contemporary Treaty issues, and brokersolutions to challenging relationship issues.
Te Arawhiti will have its own chief executive who reports to Davis and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little.
“When the Prime Minister first asked me to lead this portfolio, we knew that we wanted to change how the Government engaged and worked with Māori, and to change how policy is developed,” Davis said.
“We didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by deciding in Wellington what we thought was best for Māori and then presenting Māori with a done deal.”
As more Treaty settlements were completed, Māori increasingly wanted to engage with the Crown on a range of issues looking to the future, he said.
Te Arawhiti would provide the focus required to move from Treaty grievance to “true partnerships”.
Davis acknowledged there was a lot of work to be done in this space.
On the same day Little revealed Ngāpuhi had not voted in favour of the Ngāpuhi Evolved Mandate Proposal.
The relationship between Ngāpuhi and the Crown has been a difficult one for a long time, with Little describing many of the issues as “thorny”.
Ngāpuhi leaders (Te Rōpu Tūhono) had required a super majority of 75 percent, which was not reached, with 73 hapū opposed and 31 in support. Individually, 51 percent of Ngāpuhi voters supported the plan, but it wasn’t enough.
Discussions between the parties are expected to continue.