The Waitangi Tribunal

The Treaty of Waitangi Act was passed in 1975. This gave the Waitangi Tribunal the powers to investigate any Crown breaches of the Treaty in the future. In 1985 this was extended, so that claims could be brought about cases that had existed since 1840. Up until 1975, many attempts by Māori to get a hearing for their protests and petitions were ignored or dismissed.

How the Tribunal works

The Waitangi Tribunal investigates claims by Māori against any act, policy, action or omission that affects them in a negative way. The Waitangi Tribunal is instructed to make its decisions based on both the English and the Māori text, as both were signed, even though by different people. Where there is any doubt about the meaning of the text, according to international law, the indigenous language text (in this case Māori) comes first.

However the Tribunal must also take into account the cultural meanings of words, the circumstances of the time, comments made then, and the objectives of the people who made the Treaty, so that practical solutions that support the spirit of the Treaty can be found and made to work today. The Waitangi Tribunal only has the power to make recommendations to the Government. It is the Government who makes the final decision on what is to happen, and whether the Tribunal’s recommendations will be carried through.

Recommended resources

Next page: Te Kerēme – Ngāi Tahu Land claim

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