The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi: Their Nature, Their Limits and Their Future

41 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2014 Last revised: 14 Oct 2015

Date Written: December 16, 2014


“The "principles" of the Treaty of Waitangi have in the last 40 years become a key measure by which Crown actions affecting Maori have been judged, having been introduced by Government into a wide range of statutes to provide the courts with the means, when asked, to assess whether those actions are consistent with those "principles." The "principles" were also adopted by Government to encourage an approach which looked more, in assessing Crown actions, to the spirit and intent of the Treaty than to its literal words. This paper therefore examines the way in which Government, the courts and the Waitangi Tribunal have articulated and applied the "principles" and how their decisions sit with the terms of the Treaty itself and with what, adopting a broad and liberal interpretation with particular focus on the Maori text, the signatories of the Treaty can reasonably be thought to have contemplated. It also looks at the principles-based approach and, as Government looks to less reliance in future on this approach and instead greater use of specific terms in statutes setting out the Crown’s particular obligations relevant to that statute, what the benefits of its "principles-based approach have been – and can continue to be."

Keywords: Treaty of Waitangi, Principles of the Treaty

Suggested Citation

Ludbrook, Lawrence, The Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi: Their Nature, Their Limits and Their Future (December 16, 2014). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series No. 117/2015, Available at SSRN: or

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