Wai 262 is the 262nd claim registered with the Waitangi Tribunal, lodged in 1991 by six claimants on behalf of themselves and their iwi. The claim examined the Crown’s policies and laws that impact indigenous knowledge (mātauranga Māori) and taonga, including indigenous flora and fauna, the environment, Māori culture and the products of Māori culture.

Last updated: Wednesday, 13 March 2024 | Rāapa, 13 Poutūterangi, 2024

Specifically, the Wai 262 claim is about the place of Māori culture, identity and mātauranga Māori in New Zealand's laws, and in government policies and practices. The claim was concerned with who controls Māori traditional knowledge, who controls artistic and cultural works such as haka and waiata, and who controls the environment that created Māori culture. The Wai 262 claim also concerns the place in contemporary New Zealand life of core Māori cultural values such as the obligation of iwi and hapū to act as kaitiaki (cultural guardians) towards taonga (treasured things) such as traditional knowledge, artistic and cultural works, important places, and flora and fauna that are significant to iwi or hapū identity.

The contemporary Wai 262 claim is one of the most complex and far-reaching in the Tribunal’s history. It was the Waitangi Tribunal’s first ‘whole-of-government’ inquiry, examining the policy areas of more than 20 government agencies. The claim related to:

“te tino rangatiratanga o te Iwi Māori in respect of indigenous flora and fauna me ō rātou taonga katoa (and all their treasures) including but not limited to mātauranga, whakairo, wāhi tapu, biodiversity, genetics, Māori symbols and designs and their use and development and associated indigenous cultural and customary heritage rights in relation to such taonga.”

The issues raised in the Wai 262 claim have also been frequently raised by Māori elsewhere, including in Treaty settlements, legislative reviews and other domestic and international forums. Although the claim was lodged by specific claimants, it is the desire of ‘iwi katoa’ to protect and preserve their mātauranga and taonga.

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