The Effectiveness of the Waitangi Tribunal

The Effectiveness of the Waitangi Tribunal


The Treaty of Waitangi was an accord signed between the Crown and the Maori people through its 500 chief representatives. The treaty, as of 1840, contained several expectations from both sides. The Maori people, nonetheless, felt short-changed when it came to the expectations of the agreement (Hayward & Wheen, 2016). As a result, challenges emerged with continuous grievances charged towards the understanding either being inadequate in meeting its expectations or not meeting them at all. The government recognized that the Crown and the Maori needed to resolve their differences and the Waitangi Tribunal was formed (Hayward & Wheen, 2016). The following paper aims to discuss the effectiveness of the Waitangi Tribunal in satisfying the complaints arising from the Crown fissures of the treaty. The analysis will encompass the fiscal envelope in resolving the agreement and the significance of the principles underlying the piece of legislation.

History of the Waitangi Tribunal

In 1860, the Kohimarama conference was established as an outcome of the increased claim of the Crown disgracing the treaty. In 1860 a skirmish broke out between the Maori and the British troops at Taranaki over uncertain land transaction (Belgrave, 2018). The specifics of the controversy were that Governor Thomas Gore Brown hoped to persuade the Maori leaders to support the actions of the Taranaki and reject the Maori king undertaking. The governor arranged a meeting as a mediator to ensure that the process of the procurement of the land could be established (Belgrave, 2018). However, the Maori people who thought they would play a significant role did not and the Crown held no meetings regarding the procurement process.

Another instance of the rise of the Waitangi tribunal was the invasion by the British troops in Waikato. The Crown’s understanding was that the king’s movement of the Maori movement proved to be a challenge to the Crown’s and government’s rule. The conflict brought on a rebelling against the government where the Crown demanded an assertion of the British supremacy (Came, Comes & McCreanor, 2018). Since then, the country witnessed a lot of breach of the treaty from the British converting land rights to their favor, the establishment of European settlements in Maori land and lack of protection of the Maori people during land dealings. The situation between the Maori and the Crown and British people grew significantly and the government sought to end the rebellion to find peace through the establishment of the Waitangi Tribunal. To exercise the undertakings, the Tribunal was instituted, and it consisted of twenty members (Came et al., 2018). The members of the committee include the chairperson, deputy chairperson and other sixteen members as well as specialist contractors (Boast, 2016).  Additionally, the tribunal contains a list of lawyers and other experts who are involved with the tribunal activities on behalf of the claimants and the Crown.

The purpose of the tribunal was to understand and seek resolutions to the grievances raised against the Crown by the Maori people. In 1975, the government established the Waitangi Tribunal with specific powers and authorities to resolve the issues. The controls included the Crown acts and omissions dating back as far as 1840 (Coutts Morris & Jones, 2016). The tribunal was also tasked with the forces of inquiry which entailed researching the claims forwarded on behalf of the Maori people. The philosophy behind this was that the tribunal was to provide detailed information and existing historical research which at the time was scarce. The result of the extension of the tribunal led to increased claims by the Maori people since 1840.

The Workings of the Tribunal

The role of the Waitangi tribunal was to ensure that the issues raised by the Maori people were investigated and methods to resolve them instituted. The primary functions included inquisitiveness into and making commendations on the well-founded claims of the Maori people. Also, the tribunal was tasked with examining and reporting proposed regulations which would be mentioned to the Tribunal by the House of Representatives of a Minister of the Crown (Coutts et al., 2016). The tribunal was also tasked with making recommendations and determinations that were positive on Crown forest land, railway, state-owned business land and land transferred to instructive institutions.

The tribunal is also tasked with the duties of reporting back to the government as well as other concerned parties based on the covered facts and recommendations that need to be redressed. However, the tribunal is limited in its powers including that the tribunal cannot enforce any judgments on behalf of the government (Coutts et al., 2016). The government, therefore, is tasked with the duties of either rejecting or accepting the recommendations. If the federal administration agrees with the claims, then there is a historic ground that the demands of the claimants are genuine. Then the government is authorized to negotiate with the Crown and the office of the Treaty Defrayals on the way forward.

Numerous treaties claims have been settled over the years. Among them is the Ngai Tahu, Rangiteaorere, Waimakuku, Tainui, and Rotoma. The settlement that stands out is the Ngai Tahu settlements resulted in a value settlement of NZ $ 170, 000, 000 (Reid et al., 2016). Ngai Tahu is a southern region of New Zealand where the largest tribe Takiwa inhabits. The Ngai Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 was a settlement claim that binds the Crown. The settlement was in line with the issues that the Crown did not respect the traditions and ancestry of the Ngai Tahu (Reid et al., 2016). In the settlement apology, the Crown was required to redress the issue in statement admitting to having acted unconscionably and this in repeat breached the treaty based on the philosophies of the Treaty of Waitangi. Additionally, the Crown was to acknowledge that the land under Nagi Tahu was sacred and ought to be returned in due diligence. In general, the Crown was to show good faith to the people of Ngai Tahu and further ensure that there would be no conflicts arising from their interaction (Reid et al., 2016). The due diligence entails the Crown honoring its injustices to the tribe and ensuring that the Deed Settlement signed in November 1997 would be considered in continuity.

The effectiveness of the Waitangi Tribunal

The Waitangi Tribunal has been successful since its inception through the numerous case resolutions that have been finalized with hefty value fines imposed on parties involved. Over the past years, the tribunal has accomplished lots of reports on both historical issues as well as a wide range of modern topics. The Waitangi tribunal was instituted in 1975 as a means to resolve any disputes regarding the Maori people and the Crown and its people (Parsonson, 2017). So far, the Waitangi Tribunal has settled more than one hundred cases about historical injustices facing the Maori people. Based on the duties bestowed on the tribunal, the members have been able to recommend an extensive range of decrees and through Acts of Parliament have made acts or omission concerning the undertakings of the Crown. For instance, the case law adjustment being done through privatization of the administration assets, the Treaty of Waitangi Act was revised in 1988 (Parsonson, 2017). The tribunal through this was able to acquire the power to bind recommendations on state-owned assets including forestry and railways lands.

Another useful aspect of the tribunal is the ability to handle contemporary issues. There have been numerous issues considering the primary tasks of the tribunal consist of historical handling issues. It has been noted that the tribunal has been ineffective in handling the claims of the Maori and the Crown based on contemporary issues (Parsonson, 2017). However, contemporary issues are increasingly gaining importance in the modern age compared to the historical aspects. From this approach, the tribunal function has increasingly focused on the tribunal’s purpose and purposes. For example, the association among the tribunal and the negotiation parties including the Crown are continuous (Harmsworth, Awatere & Robb, 2016). In current years, the tribunal has been successful, though overwhelmed, with the burden of handling the Crown’s settlement policy and practice. Nonetheless, the tribunal has incorporated technical expertise and experiences in ensuring that the contemporary Maori claims are treated with the same principles as those in historical practice.

On the other hand, the tribunal has failed in its competent handling of the issues regarding the settlement inquiries. The tribunal has been accused of not answering technical and resource-based questions regarding the Treaty clearance inquiries (Harmsworth et al., 2016). The lack of coverage of the technical aspects has proven inadequate in the effectiveness of the tribunal based on the treaty defrayal inquiries resembling a judicial review proceeding. A tribunal proceeding is meant to be fair, impartial, and of natural justice. In each instance, the declarations made by the claimants are primarily centered on the fiasco of the Crown to shadow appropriate procedure.

Additionally, there have been differences in the tribunal’s capacity to ensure that claimants receive their due claim from the offenders. In 1994, the New Zealand government introduced a plan to impose a financial cap on all future treaties. The ability to do so was encompassed through the fiscal envelope (Ruru et al., 2017). On one end, it is argued that the fiscal envelope was the absolute and effective limit from which the Crown would pay out its settlements. The Crown would hold a series of consultations around the country at which the Maori people would reject or accept the limitation in advance and acknowledge the claims. Since the inception of the fiscal envelope, three settlements have been instituted under the Waitangi Tribunal. There are efforts to ensure that the arrangements are increased in the future.

On the other hand, the Maori people have strongly refuted the use of financial envelopes to sustain the solutions through the Crown. The consensus is that the government is taking a stand with the Crown to victimize the Maori people (Ruru et al., 2017). Nonetheless, the government and the Waitangi Tribunal have been adamant on ensuring that the settlements are made. The Waitangi follow a particular set of principles as detailed by the Treaty of Waitangi.

Tribunal Principles Within the Legislation

            The success of the Waitangi Tribunal and its policies rely entirely on the principles that govern the legislative undertakings. The laws under which the Waitangi tribunal operates include partnership, participation, and protection (Down, 2018). The effectiveness of the Waitangi tribunal can only be possible through a collaboration with the government under the Treaty of Waitangi. The partnership is the principle through which the Waitangi tribunal acknowledges working together with the tribes of the Maori people.

These include the iwi, hapu, whanau and other Maori societies to grow the strategies including Maori education. The purpose of the partnership is to encourage and require Maori to be involved in all levels of enlightenment such as decision-making, development, and progress of curriculum (Orange, 2015). The main activities of the partnership are engaging the Maori community through the inquiry-based tribunals. Additionally, this involves the use of Maori representatives on boards of trustees through the provision of the Maori and power sharing. The partnership allows the genuine relationship of the Maori community with the tribunal. The downside of the relationship is that it takes time to build trust.

Protection is another aspect of the principles underlying the works of the tribunal. Protections entails the active safety and safeguard of the Maori people and their interests, values, and knowledge including other tribes including the taonga. Protection also requires the understanding of the language and the cultural importance of the tribes (Lourie, 2016). As such, security is determined as the valuation and validation of the local knowledge. Also, the stability of the learning institutions including the Tikanga school-wide and equity of the Maori.

The final principle is participation in which there is an emphasis on the education levels of all Maori people. The idea is to ensure that the Maori, as well as the other tribes, have increased participation through the educational initiatives (Lourie, 2016). Inherently, the plan entails working together to strengthen home-school relations. Moreover, the program also includes Maori involvement in decision making, encouragement of bi-culturalism of Aotearoa, and equity among Maori people.


The analysis has provided a succinct description of the Waitangi tribunal based on its historical overview, its workings, and principles. Moreover, the assessment also includes a review or gauge of the tribunal’s success over the years. In summary, the tribunal has been successful thus far in ensuring that the tribes are well protected under the retributions of the Waitangi Treaty. However, numerous issues undermine the effectiveness of the treaty including the fiscal envelope.


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