23 May 2013

Northland councils should be at tribunal hearings - lawyer

9:02 pm on 23 May 2013

A lawyer acting for a Bay of Islands hapu says Northland councils should be made to attend Waitangi Tribunal hearings in the region.

Annette Sykes is representing Ngati Manu in the tribunal's ongoing inquiry into Ngapuhi land claims.

Claimants told the tribunal last week that the Bay of Islands County Council historically colluded with the Government to force Maori off their land, taking it for public reserves and upmarket subdivisions.

Ms Sykes says Northland councils continue to make decisions that lead to unequal outcomes for Maori landowners, compared to developers.

She says councils in other districts, such as Whanganui, have attended Waitangi Tribunal hearings, but Northland's councils have been notably absent.

Far North mayor Wayne Brown says his council would willingly go to the hearings if that would be useful - but it's never been invited and there's been been no suggestion until now that it should attend.

Mr Brown says the council has felt it had no place at Tribunal hearings because it is constantly said that the Treaty of Waitangi agreement was between the Crown and Maori.

The hearings are open to the public and are set to continue at regular intervals over the next 18 months.