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The ‘Treaty of Waitangi’, local government and indigenous homelessness in New Zealand.

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Parity, 29(8), 22-23

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This article examines the Auckland Council's obligations and responses to Māori homelessness, emphasising the relevance of the Treaty of Waitangi (the Treaty) in addressing rough-sleeping in Auckland.

The article begins by highlighting the disproportionate experience of homelessness among Māori, with a higher representation of Māori among Auckland’s rough-sleepers compared to their percentage in the overall population. It discusses the historical breaches of the Treaty, including the alienation of Māori land and the marginalisation of Māori in state social and administrative services. The article critically examines the Treaty’s role in contemporary New Zealand, noting its lack of direct legislative enactment and its limited interpretation in legislation. It points out the challenges in addressing Māori homelessness through the Treaty due to its legal and administrative obscurity. Despite the Treaty’s historical significance, it is argued that its impact on the over-representation of Māori among the homeless is limited. The article also delves into Auckland’s housing affordability crisis and the historical context of Māori homelessness, citing factors such as urbanisation, reliance on Māori labour in primary industries, and the suppression of Māori culture and language. The Auckland Council’s funding to address homelessness is explored, with a focus on how these funds are allocated and the implied outcomes for rough-sleeping Māori. Notably, the article highlights community-based Māori responses to homelessness, exemplified by the initiative of Te Puea Memorial Marae, which independently provided shelter and support for Auckland’s rough-sleepers, not just Māori. This Indigenous-led response is contrasted with the Treaty-based approach, suggesting that Māori cultural practices can be a powerful, independent source of policy and action. The author concludes that while the Treaty transferred governance power from Māori to the Crown, the Auckland Council has the power and responsibility to address homelessness, especially Māori homelessness. The article argues for a strategic approach, including both short-term actions and long-term planning, to effectively combat homelessness and ensure equality, reflecting the Treaty’s spirit.

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