INDEPENDENT NEWS

Waitangi Tribunal Dying as Honest Broker

Published: Mon 3 Nov 2003 02:43 PM
Waitangi Tribunal Dying as Honest Broker
Monday 3 Nov 2003 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Treaty of Waitangi & Maori Affairs
Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia's three new appointments to the Waitangi Tribunal will help it decay into toothlessness ACT New Zealand Maori Affairs Spokesman Stephen Franks said today.
"Profs Hirini Mead, Ranginui Walker and Judith Binney have individual strengths, but none of them can reassure ordinary New Zealanders that the Tribunal will be more than a tax-funded advocacy service for Maori who will never forget the past as long as there's a buck to be made wallowing in it," Mr Franks said.
"There is no one to fill Dr Michael Bassett's role of historical conscience and whistle-blower. The Minister has left the Tribunal without a member that pakeha know will insist on historical accuracy and balance, rather than the guilt trip that had its most memorable exposure with the `holocaust' report on Taranaki.
"This is very sad for New Zealand. Perhaps it was too late anyway - the Tribunal's reputation might be unsalvageable. The appointment of one or two token anti-separatists now might not be enough on a 16-person tribunal.
"The Tribunal's stated objective is `To produce comprehensive reports sufficient to satisfy the claimants, the relevant Ministers ... the public and indeed future generations that all matters that should have been examined have been, and that the report provide a sufficient basis for a lasting settlement ...'
"Sir Geoffrey Palmer and David Lange expanded the Tribunal in 1985 with those excessive powers. No realist is surprised that the descendants of those who negotiated settlements earlier are now advancing further claims, and warning that their successors will do the same.
"It is time to recognise that this noble experiment has failed. New Zealanders are just like people everywhere else and throughout history. A sense of grievance is inexhaustible. All civilised societies have firm limitation periods on reopening old grievances. Instead, even fanciful claims are solemnly entertained.
"A true cynic, or historian of the future, might see the Government tolerance for the Minister's stacking of the Waitangi Tribunal with Maori advocates as a cunning strategy. It ensures the Tribunal loses its political legitimacy and authority. Future reports can then be treated safely as Prime Minister Helen Clark treated the oil and gas report, with a simple outright rejection.
"An honest government would stop pretending to honour the Treaty's mythical principles. It would appoint rigorous and sceptical historians and lawyers to settle genuine cases of fraudulent Crown expropriation of Maori property. It would then tell other claimants - like those demanding ownership of indigenous flora and fauna - to forget about it," Mr Franks said.
For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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