15 Jul 2014

Waitangi Tribunal funding questioned

9:34 pm on 15 July 2014

The Maori Council is considering asking for a hearing into the funding of the Waitangi Tribunal.

The  Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The claims inquiry body says it's struggling to operate due to a lack of money.

The Maori Council is a frequent user of the Waitangi Tribunal, bringing big claims about water and Maori Wardens.

It's used to waiting to be heard, but council co-chair Maanu Paul said claimants deserved better treatment from the Crown-funded body.

Set up in 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal is a permanent commission of inquiry, and Mr Paul said its purpose was clear, which was to provide an opportunity for an independent judicial body to inquire and make recommendations.

But he said claims were being addressed according to what was financially possible, which was not the right criteria.

Waitangi Tribunal chair Wilson Isaac said appeals for a bigger budget had been made to the Ministry of Justice, but he acknowledged the justice sector was large and costly.

Treaty lawyer Annette Sykes said in the past, she had successfully challenged the resourcing of the Waitangi Tribunal.

She recalled accusing the Crown of giving more money to the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra than the Tribunal, which resulted in a step-change.

The Maori Council says taking action about Waitangi Tribunal funding is just a prospect at this stage, because it's busy with claims - ranging from the Rena to Te Reo.

The Government says the Tribunal plays a critical role in supporting Maori to express their grievances and start a process of reconciliation with the Crown.

It says the Ministry of Justice will continue to work collaboratively with the Tribunal to explore opportunities for funding in the future. It currently receives nearly $8 million a year.