Mike's Editorial: Waitangi Tribunal needs a stopping point

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 Nov 2014, 9:46AM
File photo (NZ Herald/NewspixNZ)
File photo (NZ Herald/NewspixNZ)

Mike's Editorial: Waitangi Tribunal needs a stopping point

Author
Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Mon, 17 Nov 2014, 9:46AM

If you missed it Friday, the Waitangi Tribunal has decided in the first of a two part report that the Treaty of Waitangi didn’t hand over power to the British.

The British got the right to run the place basically to keep the peace, the inference being I guess that if they didn’t have control of the country it would be all out war. But at no point, according to the report, did Maori hand over the deeds to the place.

This from a Waitangi Tribunal point of view is a very big and significant report. And from a Maori point of view it’s a very powerful argument for all sorts of things, like independence.

If Maori didn’t hand over the keys to the Crown, then who runs the place? The Government says they do, and they’d be right. But it won’t stop the radicals grabbing this and running with it presumably via a lawyer paid for by you and I and straight into court.

This was always the danger of having a tribunal, which in case you’ve forgotten has been going for well over 30 years now. The idea wasn’t unsound. There are or were clearly some injustices done over the past 150 or so years and the more egregious ones probably needed some attention and redress. But like so many good ideas funded by the taxpayer, it’s all got hopelessly out of control, has cost us a fortune, dragged on way too long and with an increasingly bizarre series of findings.

This latest report has a critical line in it that says they reach the conclusion they do having seen all the evidence they can. The key there is the evidence or lack of it. When you’re trawling back over one and a half centuries, evidence is in short supply. The best evidence of course is always the word of those who were in attendance, and obviously there are none left. So you’re relying on paperwork, scribblings, notes, word passed down, stories - none of which you’d argue could be concrete. So in a nutshell you’re surmising, and surmising is dangerous especially when you’re reaching far flung and profound conclusions.

The upside of the tribunal’s workings is that none of what they say is binding and the Government will quite rightly ignore this. But it does raise the question that if something this big, long winded and detailed can be ignored then what’s the point of going through the process? And when you do go through the process, what’s the cost of those who see this as the proof they need running up massive bills at our expense not to mention time and energy arguing something that really can have no conclusion?

Various governments have let us all down by not putting timeframes on all this. Some have tried but they’ve never stuck to them. This entire process - the tribunal, the courts, the grievance industry - needs a stopping point. It needs a date and a time and one in the not too distant future where we can confidently and finally say we’re done.