Does Parliament also need to define taonga?

Piers Seed writes about the current definition of taonga:

According to the Waitangi Tribunal the definition of taonga is:

“Treasures’: ‘taonga’. As submissions to the Waitangi Tribunal concerning the Māori language have made clear, ‘taonga’ refers to all dimensions of a tribal group’s estate, material and non-material – heirlooms and wahi tapu (sacred places), ancestral lore and whakapapa (genealogies), etc”.


Stripped of the Tribunal’s carefully curated mystical framing this definition can be loosely translated in layman’s terms as:

“anything and everything in the world, physical, theoretical, spiritual, metaphorical, known or yet to be discovered”.

If you can see it, it is taonga. If you can think of it, it is also taonga. If you can’t think of it, it is still taonga. Taonga, then, is clearly one hyper-powerful word, seemingly the one word to rule them all.

This might be a slight exaggeration but as it has been argued it includes the telecommunications spectrum, maybe not by much.

And was this what was intended:

“The current definition [of taonga] differs from the historical definition, noted by Hongi Hika as “property procured by the spear” [one could understand this as war booty or defended property] and is now interpreted to mean a wide range of tangible and intangible possessions, especially items of historical cultural significance.”

So this is part of the entire challenge of “honouring” the Treaty. Interpretations today can be radically different to what they were when it was signed.

So the question is who should decide what is the correct interpretation? The Waitangi Tribunal? The Courts? Parliament?

I think it has to be Parliament.

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