LAWPUBL 468 - ST: Mātauranga Māori and Taonga

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: Second Semester
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Jayden Houghton
Prerequisite: LAW 211

Course description

Cultural property topics include: the preservation of cultural heritage; the protection of cultural property during armed conflict; and the restitution and repatriation of cultural objects. Indigenous intellectual property topics include: Māori claims to mātauranga Māori and taonga, with a particular emphasis on Wai 262; and the interface between intellectual property norms and proposals for reform.

Course overview

Tēnā koutou katoa. In this course, we discuss cultural property and Indigenous intellectual property issues in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world. The course is structured in four parts.

First, we discuss key topics in cultural property law, including: the conservation and management of cultural heritage; the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict; and the restitution and repatriation of cultural objects.

Secondly, we discuss Māori claims to mātauranga Māori (the body of knowledge originating from Māori ancestors) and taonga (tangible and intangible treasures), with a particular emphasis on  the Wai 262 claim. The Wai 262 claimants sought recognition from the Waitangi Tribunal that Māori are entitled to exercise tino rangatiratanga (the unqualified exercise of our chieftainship) over Indigenous flora and fauna me o ratou taonga katoa (and all of our treasures). In the Wai 262 report, the Tribunal made findings and recommendations with respect to: taonga works (works that reflect the culture and identity of the work’s traditional owners) and intellectual property; genetic and biological resources of taonga species (species the Wai 262 claimants listed as being of particular significance to them); the Māori relationship with the environment; taonga and the conservation estate; te reo Māori (the Māori language); when the Crown controls mātauranga Māori; rongoā Māori (traditional Māori healing); and the making of international instruments. The Tribunal released its report in 2011 and the Government made a formal public announcement on the report in 2019. Māori, the Government and other stakeholders are currently liaising to develop a strategy to address the issues arising in the claim. In this part, we discuss the claim, the report and the response so far.

Thirdly, we draw on leading scholars to critically evaluate the Wai 262 report, with a particular emphasis on ideas of “collective stewardship”, “pragmatic partnership” and “political authority”.  

Finally, we consider what Māori can do under existing laws to protect mātauranga Māori and taonga, and evaluate selected proposals for reform, including: amendments to the existing intellectual property regime; potential sui generis regimes, including WIPO’s draft articles; and constitutional transformation.


Learning Resource (10%)

Students will design a 20-question quiz on one or two course readings. The quizzes will be anonymised and uploaded to Canvas for all students to access.

Discussion Board Contributions (15%)

Students will make three short (150 word approx.) contributions to the class discussion board and six short (50 word approx.) comments on other students’ contributions.  

Students will also be encouraged to use the discussion board to ask questions and answer other students’ questions during the semester.

In-Class Tests (20%)

Students will write two short (20 minute) in-class tests. The tests will be restricted book: students may bring in one double-sided A4 sheet only. The tests will be in weeks 5 and 8,
and will each include a combination of multiple choice and short-answer questions. The tests will be designed to help students revise and understand the course content before writing their essay. Students will be given clear guidance about what topics to revise and a choice of questions.

Essay (55%)

Students will either write a coursework essay based on lectures and readings or write a research essay on a topic relevant to the course. The essay will be due near the end of the semester.

The word count for the essay will be 4,125 words.

Note: the essay satisfies the requirements for “a sustained piece of legal writing of at least 4,000 words in connection with an elective course” for the purposes of LAW 498 Advanced Legal Research, Writing and Communication.

The coursework essay will require students to synthesise and critically reflect on lectures and readings. There will be some choice of questions.

Students intending to write a research essay must have their research question approved by the lecturer by the end of week 7. It is at the discretion of the lecturer whether or not a research question is approved.