16 Sep 2014

Labour criticises Tribunal appointments

6:05 am on 16 September 2014

Labour's Maryan Street is criticising the Government's appointment of new members to the Waitangi Tribunal, saying it is out of order and suspects the last time this was done was when Sir Robert Muldoon was in power.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples. Photo: RNZ

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples announced the appointments today. They are Dr Angela Ballara, Tureiti Moxon, David Cochrane and Erima Henare, and the re-appointment of seven members including Tania Simpson and Kihi Ngatai.

Ms Street is Labour's State Services spokesperson and believes the appointments go against a convention agreed to by the Government and Labour.

She said it provides a stand-down period in which a government cannot commit to any major expenditure or plans six months out from an election, as there is no guarantee that government would be re-elected.

Maryan Street believes the last person to breach this convention would have been Sir Robert, who was Prime Minister from 1975-84.

Ms Street said Dr Sharples' actions are controversial and he is walking on shaky ground because he is making new appointments before the election. She said this indicates his actions fly in the face of what the convention is about: to provide stability.

Dr Sharples was unavailable to be interviewed, but a spokesperson from his office said the minister made the appointments and reappointments because 10 warrants expired last month.

National's Maori Affairs spokesperson Chris Finlayson said by convention, ministers tend to avoid making significant appointments in the lead-up to an election.

Mr Finlayson said the reason for this is simple - it must not bind the next government. However, sometimes appointments are necessary, as they were in this case.

The election will be held on Saturday.

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