The tribunal found the Crown formulated a definition of homelessness in 2009 without adequate consultation with Māori and took no action to address the rising levels of Māori homelessness. Photo / File
The Waitangi Tribunal has found the Crown has breached its Treaty obligation on Māori homelessness.
The first stage of the Waitangi Tribunal inquiry into housing policy and services from 2009 to 2021 is now complete.
The tribunal found the Crown formulated a definition of homelessness in 2009 without adequate consultation with Māori and took no action to address the rising levels of Māori homelessness.
The Crown also formulated a Māori housing strategy but did not implement it and despite Māori reliance on social housing, their access to it was made harder.
Altogether, these actions breached the Treaty principles of active protection, equity and good government.
The Crown itself conceded it had breached the Treaty in the early part of the inquiry time frame.
Continued to fail
The tribunal's report noted in the period since 2016, when the government was forced to recognise a housing crisis, the Crown had taken a series of measures to combat Māori homelessness.
Most of these occurred before, or even during, the tribunal's inquiry, so their impact and Treaty-compliance could not yet be measured.
However, the tribunal said the Crown had continued to breach the Treaty through the narrowness of its consultation about its new strategies, its continuing failure to collect thorough homelessness data, shortcomings in interagency coordination, the continued failure to reform the welfare system to improve outcomes for Māori, and its lack of support for homeless rangatahi.
While deferring findings on issues concerning housing on rural Māori land, the Tribunal noted the appalling living conditions of many Māori who had returned to live on their whenua, which it said should be unacceptable in 21st-century New Zealand.
The Tribunal heard claimants in 79 claims, and witnesses appeared for the Crown from five separate agencies. Technical witnesses were called by the claimants but no research was commissioned for this part of the inquiry.
The Housing Policy and Services inquiry will move into the main part of its hearing programme in 2024.