New Zealand Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence
Last Updated: 10 April 2015
Tūhonohono: CusTom and sTaTe – a symposium1
The hon sir anand saTyanand
governor-general of new Zealand
Elders of Tainui, Your Honours (Judges), Officials and Scholars of the
University, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I greet
you in the
languages of the realm of New Zealand – English, Māori, Cook Island
Māori, Niuean, Tokelauan and Sign
I stand before you today not only in the capacity of Governor-General, but
also as a former member of the Te Mātāhauariki
Advisory Panel from 1997 to 2006. As such, I have amongst you many personal and
There is a connection between Te Mātāhauariki and Government House
that bears mention. At the launch of Dr Alex Frame’s
book Grey and
Iwikau: a journey into custom at Government House in 2002 the Institute
gifted an illustration from the book to Government House and it still hangs in
House and is a reminder of the connection.
Tūhonohono, a linking together or bonding, is the central principle of
this symposium. It describes the dual mandate of the symposium,
which is first
to present the Institute’s work, Te Mātāpunenga: A Compendium
of References to the Concepts and Institutions of Māori Customary Law,
and secondly to discuss the place of Māori customary law in New
During my time with Te Mātāhauariki the Te Mātāpunenga project was devised
and nurtured over time. It is a thrill to see it finished.
It reflects the Institute’s objective to join the customary visions of Māori and
Pākehā in a cohesive New Zealand jurisprudence.
It also reflects the coming together of Pacific scholars to advance the
understanding of custom law and its contribution to state
Yearbook of New Zealand Jurisprudence Vols 13 & 14
The symposium is based on three themes, finding, understanding and applying
custom. Each theme flows logically to the next, as one
cannot apply or
understand custom without first finding its location. However, as these three
themes will be the subject of much
discussion over the following days I would
like to comment briefly on what I consider to be the importance of tikanga
Māori to New Zealand in 2007.
Where we have come from, as a nation, is important in determining the
relevance of tikanga Māori today. As recipients of an English
system, we inherited English common law and legislation yet, even at an early
stage, tikanga Māori was recognised.
I quote Sir John Salmond in 1924 in
reference to the Native Rights Act 1865 from Grey and Iwikau: A Journey into
Custom: “aboriginal Maoris should to a large extent continue to live
by their own tribal customs, and to this extent those customs were
statute, and still remain, the authority of law”.2
As a distinct New Zealand customary law developed the survival of tikanga
Māori has often been attributed to its dynamic nature
and its ability to
change. The disappearance of some practices – such as deliberate cursing
– and the arrival of others
– such as burial practices – is an
example of the adaptability of tikanga Māori.
In conjunction with this, a continual recognition and application of tikanga
Māori by Judges in our courts has seen it survive
and, if anything, gain
importance as a part of New Zealand common law. Today it is of practical
relevance in sentencing, in family
protection claims or where a statute
expressly requires consideration of it, for example the Resource Management Act.
It is also
applied in situations where customary law survives unaffected by any
other subsequent legislation.
This symposium will not only explore the origins of tikanga Māori but
perhaps, more importantly, consider the future role it
may play in our legal
system. With the attendance of our Pacific neighbours, where native customary
law is in many cases more prevalent,
much can be learned both from their
experiences and our own over the next two days.
I would like to close by resonating a Māori proverb which I believe is
reflective of the symposium’s purpose:
Waiho i tetoipoto, kaua i tetoiroa
“Let us keep close together, not far apart.”
2 Sir John Salmond Jurisprudence or the Theory of Law (7th ed, Stevens and Haynes, London,
1924) at 210, quoted in Alex Frame Grey and Iwikau: A Journey into Custom (Victoria
University Press, Wellington, 2002) at 64.
2010 & 2011 Foreword
I wish Tainui Endowed College and Te Mātāhauariki Research
Institute all the best for the Tūhonohono: the State and
I began speaking in all the New Zealand realm languages. May I close by
speaking in Māori issuing greetings and wishing you good
fortitude in your endeavours.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, kia ora, kia kaha, tēnā koutou katoa.