October 25, 2015
Crown protests for silence derided
The lady doth protest too much.
That’s the Shakesperian response by a claimant lawyer to the Crown’s attempt to block the Waitangi Tribunal from knowing what Maori Land Court judges think about the government’s radical rewrite of Maori land law.
Crown Law says a 163-page submission by the judges on the so-called “exposure draft” of Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill was confidential and there is a convention that such communications between the judiciary and the executive aren’t made public.
Leo Watson, who is acting for lead claimant Marise Lant, says the submission was not to the executive branch of government, but was requested by the ministerial advisory group working on the bill.
He says the advisory group’s terms of reference say the advice it gives belongs to the Minister of Maori Development, but it is subject to the Official Information Act.
In fact the group was specifically set up to be independent of the minister.
Mr Watson says the Waitangi Tribunal needs to have whatever information it needs to deal with the claim effectively, and the Maori Land Court Judges are the most knowledgeable people available on the workings of the current law and of the court’s role and functions.
He says the horse has already bolted as the submission is publically available through media outlets (Waateanews.com).
Among concerns raised by the judges was that the reform proposals would increase the likelihood of alienation of Maori land.
"On that basis, it seems wholly inappropriate for the detailed reasoning behind that proposition not to be properly assessed by the tribunal by reference to the text of the judges’ submission," he says.
The submission is a damning indictment of the draft bill, saying it threatens the property rights of Maori landowners and in many aspects will achieve the opposite of its stated objectives.
While the bill’s promoters claim it will simplify Maori land law, the judges say it makes procedures like setting up trusts far more complicated.
The claimants says it’s a matter of good faith and the honour that the crown allows the tribunal to consider all relevant information to assist it, rather than attempting to block information which is clearly not supportive of its own position.
TO READ THE SUBMISSIONS CLICK ON THE LINK
Te Ture Whenua Maori Bill Submission of the Judges of the Māori Land Court
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