Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Fears for future of Maori Council

Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall. File photo / NZ Herald
Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall. File photo / NZ Herald

The Maori Council has lodged a Waitangi Tribunal claim over Government consultation about its future which some Maori fear could spell the end of the organisation.

The council, which lost its Supreme Court challenge over Maori water rights and asset sales earlier this year, says the Crown's consultation which was begun earlier this month is a Government led process for reform. However the council and other Maori organisations also being reviewed including the Maori Wardens were of "such significance as to call for direct Crown and Maori negotiations".

It says the consultation, announced in August by Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, "is claimed to be inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi".

Maori Council lawyer Donna Hall said the process was all Crown tikanga, "there's no council presence in there anywhere".

The consultation process was set up by Te Puni Kokiri.

"The council was not consulted about this round and this is the council's response to what is occurring."

The claim was lodged this afternoon.

Ms Hall acknowledged that nowhere in the consultation documents was there any suggestion it was the Crown's intention to remove, abolish or diminish the council, 'but it's just what every Maori in the room thinks and that's what they've been saying everywhere".

Dr Sharples earlier this month offered a reassurance "there is no agenda to get rid of the New Zealand Maori Council".

The consultation was about seeking community input on the Maori Community Development Act 1962 which established the council as an entity supported by Maori Committees, Maori Wardens and Community Officers.

"The Act is out of date. For example, it currently empowers Maori Wardens to evict Maori patrons from public bars, which is not appropriate today," Dr Sharples said.

There were only two options being considered for the council, one was to "refocus" the organisation, the second was "no change" to its current role.

"Neither of those options are about getting rid of them."

While it has won some historic legal victories for Maori, the council has struggled for to maintain relevancy in recent years and Ms Hall acknowledged it was currently struggling with a lack of resources.

The claim this afternoon also questions the timing of the consultation giving it is taking place during the second phase of the tribunal's consideration of the council's water claim.

- NZ Herald

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