LIAC Position Statement on Mātauranga Māori

While we are required to address Mātauranga Māori and its impact upon libraries and the National Library in particular, we acknowledge that traditional Māori knowledge was passed down orally, and carefully controlled in many different spheres. Some cultural knowledge was shared between tribes, some was limited to just one iwi, and some knowledge was limited to just one hapu, marae, or family. Any discussion of Mātauranga Māori must take this wider context into account.

The collections of Libraries around New Zealand contain art works, photographs, maps, audio recordings, physical objects and books which contain or embody Mātauranga Māori. Those libraries must build relationships with the iwi who have interests in those holdings, around governance of the items and access to them.

Copyright in New Zealand law is based around Western concepts of property rights, and there is an open and ongoing debate about whether and how copyright in New Zealand could be updated to accommodate traditional models of ownership of traditional knowledge. There are international efforts from other indigenous peoples which New Zealand could learn from and work with.

Current government work around Mātauranga Māori is the Waitangi Tribunal’s Wai 262 report, currently being considered by the Government; and the National Library’s formalised relationships with 14 iwi as part of an ongoing programme of Letters of Commitment coming from the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process. We are monitoring Wai 262′s progress for its impact upon libraries in general, and the National Library in particular.

Intellectual property in New Zealand law is based on Western concepts of property rights, and there is an open and ongoing debate about whether and how copyright in New Zealand could be updated to accommodate indigenous models of ownership of traditional knowledge.

We endorse the efforts of New Zealand library and information professionals, led by the National Library and the national professional associations, which have led successfully to:

  • Including support for indigenous cultural intellectual property rights among the Principles of the World Summit on the Information Society (Geneva, 2003)
  • covering indigenous intellectual property in the suite of licences developed for the Creative Commons Aotearoa programme
  • having New Zealand’s statement of indigenous knowledge paradigms incorporated into IFLA’s[1] recognised body of professional knowledge

We endorse New Zealand’s continuing involvement with the work of indigenous information professionals worldwide, to support their efforts and learn from their experience.

In July 2010, at the invitation of one of its members, Haromi Williams, we visited Taneatua, a principal center of the Tuhoe people.  We were welcomed onto the Taneatua marae and visited the offices of the Runanga.  In the two days of discussions we developed a more informed understanding of the Māori perspective on Mātauranga Māori, especially as it relates to the ownership of Māori intellectual property.  While we as an advisory body, were not in a position to enter into any formal commitments with Tuhoe, we undertook to inform the Minister and discuss the issues with the National Library in order to find out whether there were ways in which the National Library could assist Tuhoe to preserve their intellectual taonga.

It became clear from further discussion in Wellington that the National Library has a number of relationships with Māori groups and iwi regarding Māori materials held in the collections.  A formal Letter of Commitment has been entered into between Ngati Porou and the Crown as part of their Treaty claim settlement.  This letter is now being used as the basis for a template that can be used as starting point for discussions with other iwi going through the claims settlement process.

Mātauranga Māori is at the heart of the Wai 262 treaty claim.  The Waitangi Tribunal released its findings on the claim in 2011 in a report called Ko Aotearoa ténei.  The report includes a specific section relating to Archives and Libraries and situations where the Crown controls Mātauranga Māori.

We are monitoring Wai 262′s progress for its impact upon libraries in general and the National Library in particular.  We understand the matter is under consideration by Ministers, led by the Attorney General, and by officials in several Departments, but the Government is not yet ready to declare its reaction to the Waitangi Tribunal’s findings.  We consider that until the Government position on Wai 262 has been enunciated or we are consulted, we will not be able to give the Minister any further advice.  Accordingly this note represents our position in respect of our legal obligations under the National Library Act.

The Library and Information Advisory Commission advises the Minister of Internal Affairs who is responsible for the National Library of New Zealand.

[1] IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) is the international peak body in the library and information sector.