The Treaty of Waitangi and the Relationship between Crown and Maori in New Zealand

31 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2003


The orthodox legitimacy of the Crown, in those countries that derive their constitutional principles from Great Britain, is the legitimacy of the inherited legal form. So long as government is conducted in accordance with the rule of law, and meets the aspirations of the majority of the population, the legitimacy of the government based on such a ground has been little questioned.

This legitimacy alone, however, is not necessarily sufficient. Nor does it alone explain the general acceptance of the current regime in New Zealand. There exists a second, potentially potent, source of legitimacy in New Zealand - the Treaty of Waitangi ("Treaty"). As the moral, if not legal, authority for European settlement of New Zealand, this 1840 compact between the Crown and Maori chiefs has become increasingly important as a constitutional founding document for New Zealand. As a party to the Treaty, the Crown may have acquired a new and significant source of legitimacy as the body with which the Maori have a partnership. It is also a source of legitimacy that belongs specifically to the Crown as a symbol of government. The purpose of this article is to examine and assess this source of legitimacy.

Keywords: Treaty of Waitangi, Maori, Crown, New Zealand

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Cox, Noel S.B., The Treaty of Waitangi and the Relationship between Crown and Maori in New Zealand. Available at SSRN: or

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