Treaty expert disputes Jones’ claims about Waitangi Tribunal

By Talisa Kupenga

Treaty law expert Dr Carwyn Jones agrees with New Zealand First MP Shane Jones that iwi should ultimately decide who has the right to make treaty claims in their area.

But he disagrees that the Waitangi Tribunal interferes too much and its powers should be restricted when it comes to ruling who has a right to be heard.

“These should be questions for iwi to resolve according to their own tikanga but it’s then for the Crown to recognise that and to base their decisions on mandate around those iwi processes," Dr Jones says. 

“What the Tribunal is assessing is not making a decision about the iwi internal politics - it is making a decision about what the Crown has done in that process”.

Dr Jones says the problem is an imposition of Crown process which does not recognise tikanga and that the Ngāpuhi and Whakatōhea claims as well as Hauraki cross-claims in Ngāti Whātua and Tauranga Moana demonstrate this.

“One of the things that has been identified in Ngāpuhi and Whakatōhea is that it's not actually about the mandated number of individuals but it's about identifying how hapū want to participate in these settlements.”

Dr. Jones says by not engaging with tikanga to a sufficient level the government is undermining the durability of settlements.

Former Mana Party Leader Hone Harawira agrees.

“We need to be united but with that in mind we cannot discount the legitimacy of hapū, we cannot silence them.  We need to find a way for them to be heard moving forward and find a solution so we can participate together."

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones will seek support at his party's AGM to restrict the Tribunal's powers. If successful it will become part of NZ First's next election campaign.