16 Oct 2010

Waitangi Tribunal to face court action over time allocation

6:00 am on 16 October 2010

A lawyer acting for some Ngapuhi claimants is taking High Court action against the Waitangi Tribunal, saying it has not allocated enough time to do justice to the tribe's sovereignty hearing.

The tribunal has spent four weeks hearing Ngapuhi's claims that it did not cede sovereignty when it signed the Treaty of Waitangi.

Auckland lawyer Gerald Sharrock is to ask the High Court for a judicial review of the tribunal's allocation of time.

He says the inquiry into the origins of New Zealand's constitutional arrangements is of huge importance but the tribunal allocated only four weeks to hear evidence

In contrast, he says some murder trials have lasted for months.

Mr Sharrock's cross-examination of a pivotal Crown witness on Friday morning was cut short because of time constraints and he alleges this puts the entire inquiry under a cloud.

Four Crown witnesses, including the Cambridge University-based constitutional law expert Paul McHugh, gave evidence at Whitiora Marae during the past week.

The points they made include opinions that the contentious word kawanatanga was in fact the best one to express sovereignty in Maori, that the British believed they had to gain Maori consent to it and that they believed they had done so in the treaty.

The tribunal will reconvene for closing submissions in December.