20 Feb 2015

Treaty claim success through courts 'unlikely'

9:49 am on 20 February 2015

Using the courts to get Treaty money from the Crown has been attempted before and can help put claimants in a stronger position to negotiate at a political level, a law professor says.

The former head of Te Wananga o Aotearoa, Rongo Wetere, wants to become Ngati Maniapoto's lead negotiator and take its claim to the High Court.

While it would be an unusual move, Professor David Williams of the University of Auckland, said there was a precedent for using court litigation to leverage a better form of redress.

"Tainui Maori Trust Board, back in 1989, brought court proceedings related to the Coal Corporation at that time.

"And the Court of Appeal did give a judgement which greatly assisted Tainui in getting a much, much better deal than Richard Prebble in the then Labour government was prepared to offer them.

"So that when Doug Graham came around in 1995 with his settlement policies it was certainly a very different situation than what it had been before that 1989 court case".

However Professor Williams thinks success through the courts would be unlikely because the Treaty negotiating framework is firmly in place.

"There are so many iwi and hapū that have signed up under the present policies that to come up with a completely different scenario for one of the late settling tribes, such as Ngāti Maniapoto, would be a huge difficulty".