Incorporated Society Rules and the Treaty of Waitangi

Protect what’s important

With the new regime of the Incorporated Societies Act 2022 about to kick in it’s time to review and update your Incorporated Society Rules.

Incorporated Society Rules are an organisation’s Constitution. They are foundational and provide a great way of embedding your agency’s core values and commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi.

In the build-up to the election in NZ, we’ve seen the Treaty of Waitangi treated like a political football. We’ve seen how important it is to therefore protect core values and principles from political whims and ignorance.

While we may not be able to do anything about the tactics of some political parties, we can do something in our own turf to strengthen our organisation’s commitment to the Treaty and give it enduring effect.

Update Incorporated Society Rules

Under the Incorporated Societies Act 2022, an organisation wanting to register or reregister for incorporation will have to provide a Constitution. If you’re already registered as an incorporated society, you’ll probably have to review and update your Rules or Constitution to meet the new requirements concerning officers, dispute resolution, membership and officer requirements.

While updating for these requirements, why not also update your Rules/Constitution to embed a strong Treaty focus in your organisation’s foundation? The Act allows a long time for an organisation to bring its Constitution up to scratch so there’s plenty of time to do things well.

At the Policy Place, we aim to embed the Te Tiriti o Waitangi into policies and procedures for members. The Treaty is a foundational document for Aotearoa. Its undertakings, such as respect for Rangatiratanga, protection of taonga such as te reo Māori and active pursuit of equity are also reflected in various compliance regimes that apply to our clients like the Social Sector Accreditation Standards and Ngā Paerewa Health and Disability Standard.

Here’s some ideas for embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi into your Constitution as an incorporated society.

1. Principles

To future-proof your agency, state your purposes and values in your Rules/Constitution clearly. To incorporate Te Tiriti o Waitangi include principles like:

  • Recognition of the rights of Māori as tangata whenua
  • Kawanatanga – honour governance
  • Rangatiratanga – right of Māori to self-determination and for Māori by Māori
  • Oritetanga – equity
  • Wairuatanga – respect for diverse values and spiritual beliefs. (see Waitangi Tribunal: Te Hauroa

2. Members and Officers

If you have charitable aims and are a mainstream agency, how about providing for co-goverance. This could reflect in your rules on membership, for example, requiring Iwi/Hapū nominated positions; and/or that there is an equal representation of Māori and non-Māori in officer positions.

3. Procedures in Incorporated Society Rules

Give substance to your Treaty principles through your Rules covering various procedural aspects:

  • procedures for meetings –  requiring the observance of tikanga Māori;
  • a quorum – eg to comprise an equal number of Māori and non-Māori
  • a quorum for Kaupapa Māori – comprise at least one representative from each participating Iwi, hapū
  • meeting processes to include Māori Caucas or another way for Māori members to meet around and agree on initiatives of significance to the Society and/or whānau/tangata Māori
  • opportunity for Iwi/Hapū representatives to consult prior to decisions
  • encouragement and respect for ngā tikanga me te reo Māori  in processes including conflict and dispute resolution
  • the principle of “for Māori by Māori” will guide decision-making
  • manaakitanga for meetings
  • Cultural Advisor roles.


The Incorporated Societies Act 2022 came into force on 6 April 2022. The 1908 Act applies to an incorporated society until it registers under the new Act.

Organisations can register under the new Act from 5 October 2023 through to April 2026.

Agencies have the time to get their Constitutions into shape. Grab the chance to embed your Treaty and other core values into your Constitution.

Act now to protect the things you value. By incorporating the Treaty of Waitangi and other core values into your Constitution you give it a foundational status that can guide your organsiation into a positive and equitable future.