Treaty Principles Bill: Māori translators pen letter over ‘deeply flawed translations’

A group of licensed Māori translators have hit out at the upcoming Treaty Principles Bill, calling it factually incorrect and misleading.

In an open letter sent to senior ministers – including Prime Minister Christopher Luxon – 27 translators said the bill was based on a translation of te Tiriti which was “deeply flawed” and failed “international translation ethical standards”.

Signatories include Dr Jeremy Tātere MacLeod, broadcaster and language revitalist Stacey Morrison and Piripi Walker – a key figure in the establishment of the Māori language radio network.

Jeremy Tātere MacLeod

The group want the prime minister and the National Party to:

  • Allow a conscience vote by all Members of Parliament should the Bill proceed to Parliament,
  • Publicly and firmly state the content of the Bill is premised on inaccurate translation and analysis,
  • Maintain a standard of truth for legislation, and do not allow the Treaty Principles Bill to be introduced to Parliament until it can be publicly confirmed the translation which is foundational to it, has been professionally completed and verified, and rigorous quality assurance undertaken,
  • If such verification cannot be given, confirm publicly that the translation does not meet the standards required by government

Walker said the translation used for the bill was not objective, informed, or faithful to the literal or intended meaning of the original text.

“None of the key concepts contained in the proposed principles are truly present in te Tiriti. Instead, the proposed principles are built on additions, omissions and distortions of the original text”.

The Treaty Principles Bill is part of the ACT Party’s coalition agreement with National, and seeks to define the ‘principles’ of the Treaty, based on the three articles of the Treaty.

If the bill were to progress through Parliament, it would then put this question to the public in a nationwide referendum.

The letter encouraged the prime minister to insist all ministers “uphold truth and accuracy as the most basic standards of good governance”.

“We are highly concerned that ministers are using deeply flawed translations of te reo Māori in the Treaty Principles Bill. Doing so misrepresents foundational concepts; misinforms public discourse; does violence to a treasured and official language; and does serious long term harm to national unity and confidence in good governance.

“The resulting material is completely inadequate for a government process, even more so one which seeks to radically change the constitutional platform of our country. This should never be undertaken on a foundation of misinformation.”

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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