8 May 2012

Under-resourced tribunal will harm iwi - lawyer

6:39 am on 8 May 2012

An experienced Treaty claims lawyer says Ngapuhi will suffer a serious injustice unless the Waitangi Tribunal is properly resourced to deal with the iwi's grievances.

Mike Doogan, who acts for the Ngati Hine hapu says it's now unlikely the Tribunal will finish its report on Stage One - the Ngapuhi sovereignty inquiry, or even begin Stage Two - the land-claim hearings - this year.

The Tribunal says it's been forced to re-schedule district inquiries, like the northern one, to cope with an unprecedented number of urgent hearings, including the SOE and Kohanga Reo claims.

Mike Doogan says at the same time, claimants' lawyers are having to wait months for legal aid payments; and there's mounting political pressure to skip tribunal hearings, and settle claims by direct negotiation.

He says that adds up to the worst-possible climate for the resolution of Ngapuhi grievances - though it's arguably the neediest tribe, and the one that's waited the longest for a hearing.

Mr Doogan says the iwi's claim is the most complex the Tribunal has ever faced, and it's sailed into a perfect storm of adverse circumstances.

But he says Ngapuhi are entitled to as good and timely a hearing as all the other major iwi who've gone before them.

Central North Island iwi complain

In the central North Island, another iwi says the Government is unfairly putting the Waitangi Tribunal under pressure.

Ngati Rangi says ministers are not putting any more money into the machinery which deals with Maori grievances, even though the Tribunal recently announced that it would be concentrating on clearing a log-jam of urgent claims at the expense of routine work.

Che Wilson, the pou arahi (manager) of the Ngati Rangi Trust in Ohakune, says that decision is holding up his own iwi's talks with the Crown.

Iwi members want a Waitangi Tribunal report written so the tribe can enter into negotiations, and Mr Wilson says Ngati Rangi has expressed its frustrations in writing.

Mr Wilson says another tribe, Tuwharetoa, has also told the inquiry of its disappointment.