Rush for Treaty claims as deadline passes

By Yvonne Tahana

More Treaty claims have been laid in the last month than since the Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975 but that doesn't mean it will take decades to sort them out, its director says.

Not all of them will make the final cut, either.

Monday was the last day to lodge historical claims, and while final counts were still being calculated yesterday, tribunal director Darrin Sykes said this year over 2000 claims had been received - 98 per cent in August.

Half of those arrived as midnight approached, with tribunal staff still receiving emailed and faxed claims at 11.59pm.

Since 1975, 1489 claims have been registered - but these new deadline claims hadn't actually been registered yet, Mr Sykes said.

"I think that's one of the challenges, that the public will think because there are 2000-odd claims - is that another 20 years' worth of work? It may not be."

Tribunal staff will have to go through the claims to see if they pass the statutory registration threshold - where claimants must be Maori and then cite the Crown act that was prejudicial in relation to the Treaty of Waitangi - to actually register a Treaty claim.

It is expected to take the next few months but has been given priority at the direction of tribunal chairman, Chief Maori Land Court Judge Joe Williams.

Further barriers include whether a district has already had a comprehensive settlement. If so, the option of registration was "very slim", Mr Sykes said. It also had to be remembered that the Government had set a 2020 deadline to settle all historical issues.

Mr Sykes only had a brief glance at "five or six hundred of them," on Monday but there seemed to be three main claim types laid.

"There was quite a considerable number of claims that used legal representation - people who've been in the process and worked on detailed historical claims.

"Then you had another cohort, the one-pagers - what we'd call the whanau type claim. They were smaller but met some of the general requirements."

As claims were able to be amended, the last type were "global, cover-all" claims which anecdotally suggested that Maori were taking out insurance "just in case" historical issues came to light in the future.

- NZ Herald

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