No legal basis for gang's Treaty claim - Cullen

By Yvonne Tahana, Yvonne Tahana with NZPA

Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen says there is no legal basis for Black Power to lodge a Treaty of Waitangi claim.

The gang has lodged a claim saying gangs exist because of colonisation.

The gang says it is not about seeking compensation or engaging in bitching or whining.

But Dr Cullen today said he found it hard to believe that such a claim, which had no "basis in fact" would be treated seriously by the tribunal.

"The Treaty is a treaty between the Crown and iwi hapu. Black Power does not come within those definitions. Black Power did not exist in 1840 and have rights which were guaranteed under the Treaty in 1840," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"I cannot see any possible legal basis for this proceeding and I certainly don't see any future government no matter what hue it might be ... taking this kind of claim in the least bit seriously."

Wellington gang spokesman Eugene Ryder, who the Herald understands to be a major driver behind the claim, would not provide specifics but said the gang was not seeking money.

Gangs did not just appear out of nowhere, the social conditions for them arose out of colonisation, Mr Ryder said.

"The object of the claim is education as to why we're in the position we're in.

"It's the story of our lives really and the way we're treated. From our perspective there have been multiple Treaty breaches, every article has been broken.

"The way we've dealt with the different breaches is to get together with other like-minded people."

The tribunal will have to decide whether it has the jurisdiction to hear the claim before it is registered formally, and as it was one of 2059 received in the months leading up to the September 1 deadline it could be months before that decision is made.

Until it is registered it will not become a public document and the tribunal will not release it. Neither will the gang.

Lawyer Moana Jackson said the claim was likely to be large and substantive. As any Maori individual or group could lay a claim, the fact Black Power did not sign the Treaty was irrelevant to the current process.

New Zealand First law and order spokesman Ron Mark said the tribunal should turf the claim out because it was "laughable".

It sounded like a poor attempt to excuse criminal behaviour but gang members should take some responsibility - belonging to a gang was a choice, Mr Mark said.

"Their claim that they only exist because of disempowerment is rubbish."

- NZ Herald

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