Claire Charters to deliver 2022 Jesson lecture

A senior legal expert is calling for a fundamental rethink of New Zealand’s constitution in the light of the “illegitimacy” of the British Crown’s claim to sovereignty over this country.

Associate Professor Claire Charters chaired the working group that produced the 2019 report He Puapua on possible strategies to implement Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

She will give this year’s Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture on Tuesday 18 October on the topic: “Legal Myth-takes and the Crown’s claim to sovereignty over Aotearoa/New Zealand: What are the implications for New Zealand’s constitution today?”

She will critically examine various legal narratives that attempt to explain, or refute, the Crown’s claim to sovereignty over Aotearoa/New Zealand under tikanga Māori, British and international law.

Exposing the conflicts between these narratives and the legal myths on which many of them rely, she will then consider their implications for New Zealand’s constitution today.

She will argue that redressing the basic illegality and illegitimacy of the Crown’s historical claim to sovereignty might require a fundamental rethinking of New Zealand’s constitution, and will offer some ideas inspired by international law and comparative constitutions.

Claire Charters is director of the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre for Indigenous Peoples and the Law in the law school at the University of Auckland and is a Royal Society of New Zealand Discovery Fellow (2019-24) investigating constitutional transformation to realise Māori aspirations under Te Tiriti o Waitangi, drawing on lessons from around the globe including North and South America, the Pacific, Asia, Africa and northern Europe.

She has links to Ngāti Whakaue, Tūwharetoa, Ngā Puhi and Tainui and grew up in Rotorua, attending Rotorua Girls’ High School.

She has degrees from Otago, New York and Cambridge Universities and wrote her doctoral thesis at Cambridge on the legitimacy of indigenous peoples’ norms under international law.

From 2010 to 2013 she worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. She was an adviser to the president of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016-17 and served as a trustee on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples from 2014 to 2020.

The Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture has been delivered annually since the year 2000 in memory of the journalist and politician Bruce Jesson (1944-1999), whose books published over several decades analysed the capture of wealth and power in New Zealand by a small elite.

Claire Charters will deliver her lecture in the Old Government House lecture theatre on the main Princes St campus of the University of Auckland at 6pm on Tuesday 18 October. The event is free and open to the public.

You can register here.