Submissions on Treaty claims deadline
the deadline for submissions on the Maori Purposes Bill is Friday, 18 August. The Bill is an omnibus piece of legislation that amends 4 statutes - Te Ture Whenua Maori Act 1993, the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975, the Maori Fisheries Act 2004, and the Maori Commercial Aquaculture Claims Settlement Act 2004. The amendments to the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 include setting a deadline of 1 September 2008 for the lodging of historical claims.
Below is some information about the amendments, links to more information, and details of how you can make a submission on the Bill.
The first reading of the Maori Purposes Bill was on 17 June, it is being considered by the Maori Affairs Select Committee, the deadline for written submissions is 18 August, and it is to be reported back to parliament on 21 November 2006.
The explanatory note with the Maori Purposes Bill describes the amendments to Treaty of Waitangi Act as follows:
"The Bill proposes 3 main amendments to this Act. It specifies a closing date of 1 September 2008 for new historical Treaty claims to be submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal and includes other amendments required to provide for or clarify this change in the scope of the Tribunal's jurisdiction. The Bill provides a definition of historical Treaty claim to encompass claims relating to events occurring before 21 September 1992. This definition will provide certainty to the Tribunal and to claimants about what constitutes a historical Treaty claim. It also provides a definition of submit, in relation to historical Treaty claims, that links to the discretion added to Schedule 2 for the Chairperson of the Tribunal to issue practice notes. The intention of these amendments is that, after 1 September 2008, Maori, the Tribunal, and the general public of New Zealand will have certainty about the number of historical claims the Tribunal is to inquire into" - a link to the full text of the Bill in included in the 'Links to more information' section below.
It is difficult to imagine how a unilateral decision by one party to the Treaty to impose such a deadline can be positive in any sense. The role of the Tribunal has often been described as part of a process of reconciliation, see for example "The Waitangi Tribunal inquiry process contributes to the resolution of Treaty claims and, in that way, to the reconciliation of outstanding issues between Maori and Pakeha." About the Waitangi Tribunal
Yet for a process of reconciliation, surely not only should past wrongs be righted as best they can, but there should also be a commitment to ensure that no further harm is caused. The wording of the explanatory note with its references to "certainty", an uncanny echo of the "certainty" arguments used to justify the foreshore and seabed confiscation legislation, provides no hint of a commitment to preventing Treaty breaches now or in the future. Furthermore, the unilateral imposition of a time limit seems to suggest little commitment to an ongoing relationship - this is clearly not something which can, or should, have a finite time scale, it is inherently without end.
In addition, there is the significant issue of resourcing as delays in processing the claims already before the Tribunal is in large part due to lack of funding, both for the Tribunal and for those hapu and iwi who wish to lodge a claim - setting a deadline will not magically resolve this.
For the government to put forward these amendments to the Treaty of Waitangi Act without negotiation with hapu and iwi, and without mutual agreement as to whether or not a deadline is necessary, what a reasonable time period for that might be, and what resources would be provided to assist in meeting any agreed deadline, looks very much like yet another breach of the Treaty.
General information on making a submission to a parliamentary select committee is available on-line here.
For this Bill, you need to either post two copies of your submission to Maori Affairs Select Committee Secretariat, Level 9, Bowen House, Parliament Buildings, Wellington; or you can email your submission.