Māori DNA "a taonga"

By Te Kāea

Māori customary rights doctoral researcher Karaitiana Taiuru is urging Māori to engage with the Law Commission's public consultation on DNA samples being used in investigations. 

He says it's even more important for those who have already provided DNA to the police.

The purpose of the consultation is to ensure that the laws governing the use of DNA in criminal investigations are fit for purpose, constitutionally sound and accessible. 

The commission began the consultation process to identify tikanga concepts that are relevant to the use of DNA in criminal investigations. 

Taiuru has made six key recommendations:

  • The law must acknowledge that DNA is a taonga.
  • The Law must recognise customary rights of DNA.
  • DNA must be stored in a tikanga appropriate and safe manner.
  • DNA must be obtained with customary rights considered (where possible).
  • Treaty of Waitangi rights must be considered in all aspects of DNA retrieval and storage.
  • There must be adequate Māori representation on governance and advisory groups both locally and nationally at all levels of all organisations and government who deal with DNA samples for criminal investigations and privacy.

Taiuru says, "Many people do not understand that your DNA sample is also the sample for you, your whānau and iwi.  It is our whakapapa and tapu...proper retrieval and storage considerations should be implemented and recommendations made to the Law Commission to protect Māori." 

"DNA can be used to trace whānau and iwi connections, personality traits and can be used to determine health issues, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, psychiatric disorders, physical, behavioral and psychological traits."

Taiuru outlines key points that impact Māori from the report in a personal blog post.