Te Matahauariki Research Institute

"The overall aim of this research is to explore ways in which the legal system of Aotearoa/New Zealand can evolve so as to accommodate the best of the values and concepts of both major components of its society"


    Thursday, November 25, 2004

Te Matapunenga

The Project is aimed at providing a base of knowledge about Maori customary law from which to advance the Institute's study of ways in which our legal order can reflect the values of both of its major component cultures. As part of the Institute's Programme, the research team has set itself the task of compiling a reference work, named Te Matapunenga, which will attempt to bring together and present in accessible form the historical uses and meanings of selected terms and concepts of Maori customary law.

Te Matapunenga seeks to provide alphabetically listed entries setting out the terms and concepts of Maori customary law as they are recorded in traditional Maori accounts, and in historical records both written and oral. Modern interpretations of the terms and concepts will also be noted where appropriate. The contexts for the cited uses of the terms and concepts will be provided wherever possible. Etymological information will be included, enabling links to words and traditions in other parts of Polynesia to be traced, where these are known. Regional differences relating to customary law will also be noted. Of interest also will be the manner in which customary concepts have been recognized or modified by the legislative and judicial branches of the New Zealand government since 1840. The citations will provide a guide to leading sources for further information under each topic. Work on the entries has begun and will be linked to the Institute's programme of consultations and discussions with senior Maori scholars and leaders.

It is envisaged that the 'end-users'of Te Matapunenga will be members of Maori communities, students and scholars at all levels within New Zealand , Government at many levels of policy and decision-making, and judicial officers across the range of Courts and Tribunals. It is also envisaged that the compilation will be of interest to international scholars seeking an understanding of Maori customary law.

Te Matapunenga will be primarily a descriptive work. It will not advocate any particular view as to any custom or its place in the legal system. Nevertheless, the work will aim atproviding an authoritative point of reference for those wishing to engage in the ongoing public discourse on the future shape of the legal system of our country.



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