January 16, 2014
Maori Council claim given urgency
The Waitangi Tribunal has granted urgency to a claim by the New Zealand Maori Council against government-driven reforms that will see it stripped of its responsibility for Maori wardens.
The council challenged the reform process, which were instigated without negotiation or consultation with it.
The crown argued against urgency, because cabinet decided in December that it would make no changes in the Maori Community Development Act in respect of the New Zealand Maori Council.
It still intended to continue talking with stakeholders about setting up the wardens as an independent body.
Waitangi Tribunal presiding officer Judge Karen Fox says the New Zealand Maori Councils and the district councils have a real and meaningful statutory responsibility to actively be engaged with any proposals for reform and or amendment to the 1962 Act.
She says there is a case to be answered as to whether the reform process adopeted by the Ministry for Maori Development has been or will be consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The council argues that the Maori council system is not a creation of the crown but the end-product of a Maori search for self- government, with the wardens as part of the self-government system. Any reform is for Maori to take, not the Crown.
It intends to show that not only is the government ignorant of or ignoring history, it is failing to recognise the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Judge Fox ordered the parties to be ready for a hearing in March, which will include argument as to whether the tribunal can make an interim recommendation or direction that the review process be halted until it releases its report.
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