Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Michael Bassett: Shane Jones deserves support about Waitangi Tribunal

Shane Jones deserves full support for his round-arm swing at the Waitangi Tribunal which is now fiddling about with a constitutional inquiry and deciding who can take part in it. A clause in New Zealand First’s coalition agreement with the National Party commits the government to amending the Waitangi Tribunal’s legislation so that the body refocuses the scope, purpose and the nature of its inquiries back to the original intent of the legislation it operates under.

The Tribunal was already wandering beyond its brief when I was a member, 1994-2004. Today, it is off on frolics that are costing needless expense to taxpayers and inventing mischievous notions about the Treaty that are widening racial tension in our community.

Let me explain. When it was established in 1975, the Waitangi Tribunal’s brief was to examine complaints lodged about current government activities that ran counter to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. At the time, some Maori argued that the legislation did not enable the Tribunal to investigate historical grievances back to 1840. David Lange’s government responded to that criticism in 1985 by empowering the Tribunal to look into claims that Maori tribes in some cases had been unfairly deprived of their land. The government expanded the membership of the Tribunal from three members to seven, soon lifted to a maximum of 17, in order to deal with the initial rush of claims. When I joined in 1994 there were 14 members, but gradually they increased. The Tribunal’s staff expanded too, and the cost of all this rose to many millions. Some readers will remember the debates of the early 1990s about how much money would be available to redress grievances – the so-called “fiscal envelope” debate.

Gradually, a major Waitangi Tribunal industry was emerging, encouraged by research funded by the Crown Forest Rental Trust and an assortment of research grants. Tribunal members were flooded with reports of varying degrees of literacy and usefulness, most of them excessive in length. I remember asking when it was anticipated that the Tribunal’s historical investigations would wind down. Nobody could tell me. I concluded that it was unlikely they ever would. While funding was available, there would be people helping themselves to it. There were no incentives to stop the gravy train. As final reports were eventually completed, and settlements were negotiated with claimants, noises emerged amongst Maori about new historical claims, despite the legislated settlements containing the words “full and final”. Neither claimants, nor the Tribunal with its expanding staff had any incentive to contemplate a world beyond the ever-lasting Waitangi gravy train.

With the bulk of historical claims nearing an end, Helen Clark’s government had the courage to put an end to the lodging of new historical claims in September 2008. But neither her government, nor John Key’s, nor Jacinda Ardern’s cut back the Waitangi Tribunal’s funds. Right now, it still has 20 Tribunal members, augmented by a few previous members and the Maori Land Court judges. The Tribunal’s only new work is what was dealt with by 3 members between 1975 and 1985 – dealing with claims about Treaty transgressions in the here and now. Not surprisingly, “Satan finds work for idle hands”. Much of the current gobbledygook assertions about the meaning of the Treaty can be traced back to the under-employed academics and stirrers currently on the Waitangi Tribunal who are trying hard to justify their existence, plus all the staff (currently more than 60) who want to keep their jobs. The recent bid, that caused Shane Jones’ ire, to have them all cogitate about a new constitution is being driven by no one except the Tribunal itself and a handful of tribal elites looking for further opportunities at the taxpayers’ expense.

Cometh the hour, hopefully cometh the Minister. Nicola Willis in the run-up to her first budget is currently looking to down-size the monstrous bureaucracy with its additional 16,000 civil servants she inherited from the Ardern-Hipkins administration. She should add the Waitangi Tribunal to her list of possible savings. Assuming that the government wishes to retain the essence of the 1975 legislation, no more than six Tribunal members are needed, and probably a staff at the Tribunal that is one third its current size.

The Treaty of Waitangi that was signed on 6 February 1840 has been subjected to quite enough scrutiny over the years. It speaks for itself in carefully translated words, thanks to Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu. His translation was good enough for the late Maori Queen, mother of King Tuheitia. No further embellishments are needed. Nor is the over-large gravy train that successive governments have kept shovelling precious dollars into.

Shane Jones is right. A substantial down-sizing of the Tribunal would be an appropriate response to his criticism.

Historian Dr Michael Bassett, a Minister in the Fourth Labour Government, blogs HERE. - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

The 1987 Court of Appeal between the New Zealand Maori Council and the Attorney General stated, “The Treaty of Waitangi has been primarily interpreted in the New Zealand Courts and this appeal was significant in establishing the modern views on the Principles of the Treaty”. This court also confirmed the Treaty was a Partnership between Maori and the Crown.

On page 663 of the appeal document we find instead of using an ‘official text’ of the treaty*, this court used an ‘unauthorised text’ by Hugh Kawharu, which he calls his “attempt at a reconstruction of the literal translation of the Maori text”.

The Court decided to use an ATTEMPT at a reconstruction of the literal translation of the Maori text by a man representing people who were to gain the most from its outcome.

Kawharu served on the Waitangi Tribunal for 10 years (1986–96), and contributed to 12 reports, including the three volume Ngāi Tahu report (1991). In that inquiry the tribunal found that the Crown had acted ‘unconscionably’ and recommended that a tribal structure which would allow Ngāi Tahu to begin negotiating with the Crown about remedies be implemented; this became established practice for later settlements. He also gave evidence to various tribunal inquiries, including those into Indigenous Flora and Fauna and Māori Intellectual Property (Wai 262) and the Foreshore and Seabed (Wai 1071).

The Court further stated, “It was put before us on behalf of the applicants. The Crown likewise accepted it for the purpose of this case”.

So here we have the Crown accepting a ‘bogus translation’ to interpret the Treaty and establish the unfounded “Five Principles of the Treaty” and a “Partnership between Maori and the Crown”?

Yet according to Mr Bassett, “It speaks for itself in carefully translated words, thanks to Professor Sir Hugh Kawharu. His translation was good enough for the late Maori Queen, mother of King Tuheitia”??

*(Mr T E Young’s 1869 official back translation of the Maori text into English)

Anonymous said...

How much money had been allocated to the Maori gravy train since it was first implemented.

Anonymous said...

In 1986 the Labour Government decided to change most of our trading departments into corporations run on commercial principles for profit.

Maori became concerned that this reorganization would have the effect of denying them Crown Assets that passed out of the Crown’s hands to the State Owned Enterprises and then could not be given back to Maori by the Waitangi Tribunal.

The Government opposed taking this to the Privy Council with Palmer stating, “I was utterly opposed to the Privy Council having anything to say at all about what the Treaty meant in New Zealand”.

When Mr Palmer was minister of the State Owned Enterprises, he made the following amendment to the State Owned Enterprise Act (9) Treaty of Waitangi. “Nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner inconsistent with the Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. This Act stated that any State assets sold by the Crown would have a clause stating resumption to the Crown if a claim was successful.

Mr Palmer thought this a rather elegant legal solution?

The Waitangi Tribunal recommendations in this instance were legally binding on the Crown.

The APARTHEID Waitangi Tribunal and the Courts now controlled the Crowns assets, OUR assets and Mr Palmer at the time thought this was “a rather elegant legal solution”.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

“The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.”
― Oscar Wilde

Anonymous said...

If ,as we are told, Luxon and Willis have both said there is a Maori - Crown partnership then all of above is irrelevant.
NZ is a lost cause.

Doesn’t any one care about what is happening in NZ? Where are the leaders? Why have Luxon and Willis betrayed the people who voted for them? Why do they kowtow to the wild self serving extreme propagandists?

What a mess.

Anonymous said...

Crooks and opportunists certainly can make a mess of things. But to really make a right bugger's mess, you need lawyers, politicians, and a Waitangi Tribunal. They all so need reining in!

One New Zealand Foundation Inc said...

The Act that Destroyed New Zealand.
It’s not a “Treaty Principles Bill” we need, we need to abolish the 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act, the Waitangi Tribunal, and the Five Principles for Crown Action on the Treaty of Waitangi. They have nothing to do with the Treaty of Waitangi or Queen Victoria’s Royal Charter/Letters Patent dated 16 November 1840 that set up our political, legal and justice systems under one flag and one law, irrespective race, colour or creed in 1841.
The 1975 Treaty of Waitangi Act destroyed New Zealand and must be immediately abolished!

Anonymous said...

All agreements have an end date,wind up the tribunal now

Auntie Podes said...

We need to be very careful what support we give to Shane Jones. He is simply another of those seeking to satisfy his feelings of privilege and superiority but, unusually, a Maori elitist not on the side of Maori.

Lee Leonard said...

The Waitangi Tribunal has become a self-serving entity, way past its 'use by' date',trying to justify its existence at tax payers' expense. It's no longer needed and should be wound up.