Shane Jones making bold moves to strip Waitangi Tribunal of crucial powers

By Talisa Kupenga

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones is making bold moves that could strip the Waitangi Tribunal of crucial powers. Jones says iwi should ultimately decide who has the right to make treaty claims in their area and that the Tribunal keeps interfering. He believes iwi politics should be addressed within the iwi but others claim smaller voices won't be heard.

The Tribunal is an independent body that decides who is heard but New Zealand First’s Shane Jones wants to curb its power.

"The Tribunal needs to stop meddling when it comes to iwi politics, that is a matter for iwi to resolve."

Jones cited the Whakatōhea and Ngāpuhi claims which were halted by disputes around who had the negotiation mandate.

If Jones and New Zealand First get their way iwi and hapū will have to decide who has the right to negotiate but that raises the issue of the majority possibly ruling the minority.

Ngāpuhi’s Te Kotahitanga group Co-Chair Pita Tipene says "If the Tribunal's power is restricted, which some groups do want, the government could really run riot on Māori issues and that won't be good for Māori."

The Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little says while it might not be ideal it is process.

"Look I haven't thought deeply about it. I just know from some of the issues I'm dealing with it raises - I raise my eyebrows. I have questions about it. But in the end we've got 80 or so settlements done and dusted, we've got 50-odd more to go and we will deal with frustrations such as they might be."

Former Treaty Negotiations Minister and National’s Crown Māori Relations spokesman Chris Finlayson says "I think it is getting to the stage where it'll be timely to have a review of the Tribunal and its operations and I don't think Shane Jones is far off the mark."

For a new policy to fly Jones will need to gain support at the New Zealand First AGM come September.