By the end of the 1980s Māori had regained a treaty right to a share of New Zealand's lucrative commercial fisheries. The case history of the continuing struggle to distribute its benefits among factions of retribalized and urban Māori, through a Māori commission set up as a state-owned enterprise, raises issues of cultural renaissance and identity politics in capitalist differentiation. After more than a century of Crown disregard of commercial and restriction of customary fishery rights, Māori court actions in 1986 regained recognition of both aspects of the treaty right in what appeared to be the advent of a new legal pluralism and economic independence. However, by 1992 legislation promoting tribes and other traditionalist concepts, and finalizing a settlement with a half partnership in a large fishing corporation, also radically narrowed customary and extinguished commercial fishery treaty rights while locking the settlement into the restructured economy. Over the next decade a Māori Fisheries Commission attempted to devise a formula for allocation of assets to qualifying tribal organizations pressing for conflicting criteria, while urban and other Māori organizations lacking recognition as tribes remained precluded from the formula. Major shifts in political power in both the government and the commission since 1999 show promise of a compromise out of court. Meanwhile, increasing wealth and influence of a Māori elite contribute to widening social class differences among Māori, obscured by an ideology of traditionalism and modernity.


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pp. 341-376
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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