Our aim with the Talk Treaty project is to inspire conversations about the Treaty of Waitangi and wider issues related to that including identity, cultural differences, race relations, te reo, discrimination, poverty and public power.

We’re hoping that after spending time on the talktreaty.org website, and seeing high profile New Zealanders talk candidly about these potentially sensitive issues, others will be encouraged to talk about them too. We’re hopeful they will see it is OK even if their views are not ‘politically correct’ (some of our interviewees have views not considered that). We want to free the Treaty from the image that it only relates to lawyers, politicians and activists. We feel strongly that the Treaty belongs to everyone and anyone should feel free to talk about it.

Another aim of our project is to share new information with the public. Often the media present different points of view as caricatures which are overly simplistic – this tends to polarise people and prevents progress on some issues. We have interviewed people who have been in the media and whose views have been polarising but here, in our “unplugged” interviews, we see their fuller views which are more nuanced. So we hopeful the project will make a useful contribution to public debate in areas where little progress has been made to date.

Who worked on this project?

unnamed (4)Jevan Goulter. Dazzling front man. Arguably the best connected young man in New Zealand, Jevan had the job of persuading our interviewees to throw caution to the wind and take part in the project. Jevan was also interviewer and cameraman rolled into one, filming the majority of the interviews. In the face of his lively and candid approach, our interviewees responded in kind, answering with honesty and humour.



717_Nick-Tansley-Head-shotNick Tansley. Production genius. Having spent large amounts of time in front of the camera, during a long and varied media career, Nick knows a thing or two about film. But for this project Nick was behind the camera, as interviewer and cameraman. Very importantly, Nick was also the digital editor, spending many weeks without break condensing hours of footage into the 200-plus clips and trailers which make up the video collection. Nick was also a key player in delivering the touring Talk Treaty video exhibition.


susanSusan Guthrie. Creative maestro. Susan conceived of Talk Treaty after writing the book “Are we there yet?, the future of the Treaty of Waitangi” with Gareth Morgan in 2013. Being responsible for setting the overall direction of the Talk Treaty project, and bringing it to fruition, Susan set the interview questions, helped Jevan and Nick identify people to interview, selected the raw interview segments that eventually became edited clips and fretted a great deal about deadlines!


About the Morgan Foundation:

The Morgan Foundation is a New Zealand-based and New Zealand-funded charitable trust which delivers projects in New Zealand and overseas. A key purpose of our work in New Zealand is to produce high quality research on important public issues which we then communicate to the general public in novel and innovative ways. We try to be an effective bridge between the expert community and the New Zealand public. Because we are completely independent of any government funding or political party, and respect confidentiality, we are fortunate to have candid conversations with many New Zealand experts.

Our take on policy issues can be very different to mainstream views. In recent years the Foundation has produced and communicated research on climate change, the tax and welfare system, the food industry, fishing policy, river management and, most recently, the Treaty of Waitangi.

Background to the Talk Treaty project:

In 2014 the Morgan Foundation published a book about the Treaty of Waitangi. It was called “Are we there yet? the future of the Treaty of Waitangi”.

One of the findings in the book was that how well connected people are in a diverse society – how much “social capital” there is – impacts significantly on their country’s economic and social performance. Social capital is reflected in economic growth, the crime rate, population health and the level of family violence. Importantly, the benefits of living in a well connected society are enjoyed by everyone, not just those who are personally closely connected to friends, family and their community.

Another finding was that constitutional arrangements – the way a country governs itself – impact on this connectedness, doing harm in some cases. So while the common view in New Zealand is that the Maori seats for example are justified by poor socio-economic outcomes for Maori it is possible these constitutional arrangements are contributing to these poor outcomes. This was a surprising and challenging result and it prompted us to begin a new phase of research.

We found little in the way of in-depth New Zealand research to inform us about connectedness in New Zealand. It seemed that no-one was adequately monitoring this essential resource “social capital”. So if constitutional arrangements or other factors were eroding social capital in New Zealand, who would notice? It seemed to us we could lose this essential resource quietly, slowly, without anyone really noticing.

We decided to investigate connectedness between Maori and Pakeha. How do people see themselves? What role does ethnicity play in identity? When do people first become aware of cultural differences? How do they navigate cultural differences at work, at home, in the community? We wanted to discover the prevalence of discrimination and find out whether people thought poverty is socially divisive. We wanted to explore the impact of recent applications of the Treaty on Maori-Pakeha relations.

It also became clear early on that the interview footage we were collecting could contribute positively in another area. Another conclusion we came to in Are we there yet? was that the New Zealand public needed to discuss the Treaty more. The Treaty has been increasingly applied in all areas of public life in NZ but to a large extent this has been without the knowledge or understanding of the general public. Our view was that ultimately how the Treaty is to be applied is a decision the public as a whole has to come to, Maori and non-Maori working together to decide. None of the arrangements made by politicians and the courts will ultimately be enduring if the wider public are left out of the process. So another goal of the Talk Treaty project is to inspire conversations about the Treaty and related issues in people’s homes, at work, in social settings.

Originally our interviews were solely for this research purpose. But from the moment the first interviews were done it became clear to us that we should try and share the interviews as widely as possible. The interviews were so engaging, the stories so compelling, we thought many other people would value seeing them. Fortunately for us, almost all the interviewees agreed to the wider use of their footage.