About the centre

Established in honour of Dr Nin Tomas, Te Wai Ariki is a nationally leading centre on law and policy supportive of Indigenous peoples’ rights. Our work includes research, published the world over, an impressive array of courses, internships and scholarships, expert evidence submissions in cases, inquiries and the Waitangi Tribunal, partnerships and collaborations with a number of domestic and international universities organisations, including the United Nations, and scholars who focus on Indigenous peoples issues. We regularly contribute to public discourse in public lectures, seminars, wānanga|workshops and via media in Aotearoa|New Zealand and globally.

Te Puna Rangahau o te Wai Ariki is the name gifted to us by our former colleague Amokura Kawharu (Ngā Puhi and Ngāti Whātua). It references Wai Ariki or Wai Ariki Puna Wai Tapu, the sacred water source located within the Law School’s grounds.

The core law and policy work of Te Wai Ariki includes:

  • Research/Advocacy - We conduct research on, and advocate for, Māori rights focusing on ensuring the guarantees made to Māori in Te Tiriti o Waitangi are honoured, including the guarantees of rangatiranga over our own affairs, lands, and resources and equity between Māori and non-Māori. We also advocate for the rights of all Indigenous peoples and the importance of realising the rights affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Our research and advocacy includes hosting wānanga bringing together experts on topics including freshwater rights, tikanga Māori and state courts, constitutional transformation, and tikanga Māori approaches to redress for Māori abused in state and faith-based care; expert evidence submissions in cases, inquiries and the Waitangi Tribunal; and submissions on law reform. We continue to work with groups advocating for Māori survivors of abuse in care. 
  • Thought leadership - We provide thought leadership on Māori and Indigenous rights through our public lectures, including: our annual Nin Tomas Lecture on Indigenous Peoples and the Law, which has included lectures by Professor Val Napolean, Mick Dodson FASSA AM, Annette Sykes and Amokura Kawharu on topics from tikanga Māori approaches to arbitration to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; public lectures, including by the Honourable Justice Glazebrook; and seminars on topical cases, such as Proprietors of Wakatū v Attorney-General [2017] NZSC 17, Ellis v R [2020] NZSC 89, and Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust v Attorney-General [2022] NZHC 843. In 2022 we hosted the Constitutional Kōrero, a once-in-a decade national wānanga, bringing together experts from around the world and within Aotearoa to present arguments and options for constitutional transformation to realise Māori rights. We have also contributed to kōrero on the rights of tamariki Māori, including on the basic nature and sources of those rights, a critique of proposed legislation regarding the monitoring and oversight of Oranga Tamariki, and an analysis of legislative and judicial approaches to the “best interests of the child” in care and protection cases involving tamariki Māori.
  • Student Opportunities - We offer a range of opportunities for students to learn about, research on and advocate for Māori rights and Indigenous peoples’ rights more broadly. These opportunities include our Indigenous Rights Legal Clinic, which is a clinical legal education course that aims to nurture and empower the next generation of lawyers in Indigenous rights; the internships and community placements we offer at the Centre each Semester, providing students with an opportunity to contribute to our research, advocacy and efforts to inform public debate; our scholarships and international opportunities, including our scholarships to participate in Columbia University’s Summer Program on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and to attend and contribute to the annual session of the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Geneva; and the various undergraduate and postgraduate courses taught within the Faculty by our members and collaborators on a broad array of topics connected to Māori, Te Tiriti and Indigenous peoples’ rights. For undergraduate students who pass 40 points or more from elective courses with Indigenous content we offer a Certificate of Indigenous Peoples and the Law – Nga Toki o Te Ture.
  • Collaborations - We collaborate and partner with bodies within the United Nations, universities, and leading international scholars domestically and internationally to encourage debate on and to protect Māori and Indigenous peoples’ rights and interests, and ensure Māori-led and Indigenous-led perspectives and positions are formulated and prioritised. Within the United Nations, we collaborate with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples. We work with universities and Indigenous law centres globally, including Columbia University, University of British Columbia, UCLA, University of Arizona’s Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy program. We regularly host visiting scholars from across the world whose research aligns with the Centre’s focus. Domestically, those we collaborate with include Te Hunga Roia Māori o Aotearoa|The Māori Law Society, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the NZ Human Rights Commission, and various legal practitioners.