Comments by the chief judge of the Maori Land Court, Joe Williams, are some of the most regrettable I have seen.
Judge Williams has asserted that treaty grievances are all about closing the gaps, not about settling grievances. This view is entirely wrong and misguided, and to have ot held by such a senior Judge I think just shows that the Maori Land Court is becoming a very political and activist body which has almost no regard for judicial principles.
Williams and Mutu risk undermining public support for Treaty settlements. There is considerable support for settlements based on actual proven grievances. Every party in Parliament from ACT to Greens supports these.
However claiming that the “settlements are too small to adequately address disparities” is confusing the issue badly. I don’t care whether Ngai Tahu is poor or rich – we signed a deed of settelement for theiur grievances because it was the right thing to do.
The unfortunate thing that Judge Williams has done, is reinforce in many people’s minds that the settlements will never be full and final. If the mindset is that they should continue for as long as there are “gaps” between Maori and non Maori, then support for the settlements will disappear rapidly, and Judge Williams and co will be to blame.
This is why a policy to lodge and settle all claims by a particular date is becoming more important. We must seperate the issues of settling historical grievances away from general issues of Maori education, poverty and health.