Treaty of Waitangi
The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand's founding document. It was signed on 6 February 1840 at Waitangi in the Bay of Islands, by Māori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown, and later by chiefs in other parts of New Zealand. The Treaty is a partnership between the Crown and Māori which marked the beginning of the creation of the nation-state of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The provisions of the Treaty require that the Crown and its agents respect the provisions of the Treaty. These principles, as enunciated by the Royal Commission on Social Policy in 1988 include partnership, protection and participation. While these principles have huge significance in all areas of life in New Zealand, and especially in relation to land and resources, they also have particular relevance in the provision of health services.
Partnership refers to an ongoing relationship between the Crown, it agencies and iwi (the major tribal groupings). In health it means that Māori share in decision-making and control over the nature of their health resources, and providers are expected to demonstrate how their policies and practices benefit Māori service users.
Protection creates an obligation for the Crown to proactively protect Māori health interests. This implies that the Crown and its agencies will seek out opportunities to enhance Māori health through health promotion and preventative strategies.
Participation encompasses building the capacity for Māori participation at all levels in the health and disability sector; enabling Māori communities to identify and provide for their own health needs; and fostering and supporting Māori health workforce development.
The translation of the Treaty into meaningful reality for Māori requires an understanding of the effects of culture on both the healthcare provider and the recipient, and in consideration of bioethical issues. The Treaty partnership constantly challenges the Crown,its healthcare agencies, and all healthcare providers to consider what is best for Māori, who are tangata whenua the people of the land.