There are times when the Crown or its agents do things, fail to do things, or make decisions which breach the rights of Māori under Te Tiriti o Waitangi. When this happens, it can be difficult to find a remedy, and often civil litigation is not a reasonable nor viable option.
In these situations, the Waitangi Tribunal process may be able to assist you, or the group you represent, to find a platform for your issues to be heard and hopefully resolved. The Waitangi Tribunal hears and makes recommendations on claims that the Crown has breached the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and determines whether the Crown’s actions or inactions are consistent with Te Tiriti.
The Waitangi Tribunal will hear a claim urgently under certain limited circumstances. Those circumstances are:
- Urgent hearings into a particular matter; and,
- Urgent remedies hearings.
Examples of current urgent Tribunal inquiries include the Maniapoto Mandate Inquiry, the Māori Prisoners’ Voting Rights Inquiry, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – Stage 2, Ngā Hapu o Te Moutere o Motiti Inquiry, and the Hauraki Overlapping Claims Inquiry.
Recent urgent inquiries, particularly into mandate/settlement issues, have assisted Māori groups with significant findings regarding hapū rangatiratanga. Particularly, the Tribunal has stressed the obligation the Crown has to actively protect hapū rangatiratanga during the mandating process towards settlement.
Process of applying for an urgent inquiry
There is a process for applying for an urgent inquiry. In writing, it must be demonstrated, that:
- the applicant is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant and irreversible prejudicial harm;
- that harm is being caused by Crown actions (or inactions) now or will be in the very near future;
- there is no reasonable alternative remedy available; and,
- the applicants are ready to proceed urgently to a hearing.
Following the Tribunal receiving your application, the Crown will usually be given an opportunity to respond, to which you will then be able to reply. A Judge will then decide whether or not your application meets the threshold for urgency based on the criteria above.
How we can help you
If the Crown is in breach of its obligations and duties and that breach is having an immediate negative effect on you, your whanau, hapu, or iwi, or is an issue impacting Māori at a more general level, then an urgent inquiry may well be a helpful tool to expose issues in detail and to hold the Crown accountable.
Te Tiriti o Waitangi Team at Morrison Kent has experience undertaking urgent applications to the Waitangi Tribunal.
We can assist you in assessing whether your issue is likely to meet the urgency threshold, putting together the application, and filing it with the Tribunal. If successful, we can then represent you in any hearing process.
For More Information
If you would like to discuss your issue and whether it may meet the Tribunal’s urgency criteria, please contact our Te Tiriti o Waitangi team on (04) 472-0020 and ask for Dr Bryan Gilling or Sophie Dawe.