Should we keep the Waitangi Tribunal once the historical claims are settled?

Michael Fox at Stuff reports:

The has set new targets for resolving Treaty claims, aiming to have all land-based and historic claims resolved by 2020.

Excellent. The Waitangi Tribunal plays a useful role in investigating and reporting on historic claims, helping Iwi and the Crown reach settlements.

“These inquiries have played an important role in assisting iwi and the Crown to resolve historic claims under the Treaty of Waitangi, as well as broadening all New Zealanders’ understanding of the role of the Treaty in our nation’s past, present and future,” he said.

The tribunal’s focus would shift from the completion of those inquiries to hearing kaupapa (issue-based) and contemporary claims.

Kaupapa claims involved issues of national significance such as the inquiries into the recognition of the Maori language, New Zealand’s law and policy affecting Maori culture and identity and national freshwater and geothermal issues.

Contemporary claims, such as that relating to the decision to leave the sunken Rena where it lay, related to the application of the Treaty to modern-day issues that have occurred since 21 September 1992, Judge Isaac said.

I’m less convinced that we should keep the Tribunal to hear contemporary claims. I’d rather we give Iwi the right to go to the High Court and get a declaratory judgement that a certain action was in breach of the Treaty. I think the Tribunal has played a useful role with the historical claims, but contemporary claims are, in my opinion, better suited to a court of law.

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