The real issue concerning the Waitangi Tribunal will not be addressed by more resourcing, but by fundamental reform, National’s spokesperson for Justice Mark Mitchell says.
“The Tribunal was originally set up to investigate claims and make recommendations to the Crown, but the Tribunal has moulded that mandate into something entirely different.
“Increasing funding for the Tribunal so it can investigate a wide range of inquiries is not the way forward. They would not be in the place they find themselves today if the Tribunal focused on its primary directive, instead of looking at a variety of irrelevant issues.
“By opening itself up to kaupapa claims, as Minister Shane Jones has said, the Tribunal has ‘become a dumping ground for all manner of problems that they cannot resolve.’
“The Tribunal acted inappropriately when they accused former Treaty Minister Chris Finlayson of prioritising political objectives of concluding settlements over a fair process with respect to negotiations with Whakatōhea. That was serious, erroneous and extremely insulting to both Crown and Iwi.
“I agree with recent comments from Mr Jones, who said the Tribunal was ‘a judicial beagle, chasing all sorts of scents whilst lacking common sense.’
“The reluctance of Justice Minister Andrew Little to make changes while settlements are still underway is wrong.
“The time for reform is now, so as to ensure the number of cases before the Tribunal are resolved in a timely manner and to a degree that suits both parties.
“Given there is cross-party consensus for fundamental reform of the Tribunal, it is a project that should be dealt with urgently.
“The National Party will cooperate in a constructive manner when it comes to reforming the operations of the Tribunal to prevent further delays to the hearing of claims and subsequent settlements.”