Given the wrath TVNZ has incurred over their "Kiwimeter" question around Maori and whether they should be getting "special funding", let me dip my toe into an area where they do get funding based entirely on race, and whether it's value for money.

The Waitangi Tribunal is having a busy old time of it at the moment.

One might have thought that when the whole concept was dreamed up they would've given some thought to how long it was going to be around for, given it had a specific mandate which was by and large to deal with Treaty grievances.

Sadly no such luck. If you ever want an example of "build it and they will come", or of an organisation that expands its brief to ensure survival, then the tribunal is your one-stop shop.


This week it has been hearing from those concerned about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Now followers of the TPP will be well aware of the special clause that allows the Government to offer preferential treatment.

The assurance has been given over and over again that the TPP will not disadvantage Treaty claims. But that doesn't appear good enough for those filling their days in front of that tribunal wondering out loud whether the Government will be good to its word.

What can the tribunal do, to assuage the concerns? Answer? ... nothing. Nothing it does is binding. And in highlighting the example we highlight what this has become - a gravy train.

Everyone on the tribunal is getting paid, everyone presenting the cases is getting paid, and you know full well who's footing the bill.

The tribunal has also decided to hear from lawyers taking the Corrections Department to task over their handling of Maori in prisons.

Too many Maori are in prison and too many re-offend. This of course isn't news. Maori have been disproportionately represented for as long as I can remember. What is news is that the tribunal feels it can get involved in such matters, and what is also news is that lobby groups think that somehow the tribunal is now an outlet for their grievances.

At the risk of being ever so slightly blunt about it here are a couple of simple truths. If you don't commit crimes, you won't go to jail. If having gone to jail, and been let out, if you choose not to commit any more crimes, you won't be sent back to jail.

It would be refreshing to hear this conclusion from the tribunal, but I'll bet you a week's wages you won't because that wouldn't serve its purpose.


Having dealt with the vast majority of Treaty grievances just what is its purpose? At what point does a government say, "You know what? We're done."

I could and do argue something similar around the Advertising Standards Authority, which had that brilliant VW ad brought to their attention last week.

It's the one with Blair Tuke and Peter Burling where the bloke in the back of their car gets out, slips and falls over on the boat ramp, thus indicating the car has exceptional grip. It was a clever piece of visual theatre but sure enough a couple of wowsers complained to the authority and the ad was pulled.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority isn't much better. Look at the decisions it puts out, petty little matters, brought by petty little people with too much time on their hands.

If any of these authorities were producing game-changing reports - and certainly in the early days the Waitangi Tribunal did - they could mount a solid defence for their existence. But they don't. They deal with rats and mice issues of no real importance whatsoever.

But back to the tribunal. What on earth is it that the Corrections Department complainants are wanting the tribunal to do?


Do they honestly believe that governments have nothing better to do but toss people behind bars with no hope of reinvention?

All prisons are work prisons these days, there are skills to be had if you want them. Prisons offer drug programmes, there is help if you want it.

Yes they could look at the clean slate law around past records and whether getting work on the outside might be made a bit easier.

But the cold hard truth remains that like all things in life, a lot of it is up to the individual. The critical failing of these people wandering off to the tribunal trying to pin it all on Corrections is that blaming others will get them nowhere.

How much longer do we want to blame poverty, race and history? We've been doing that for decades now, same argument, same complaint, same excuses.

At some point surely the penny drops that in all this blame, there are no solutions, that excuses don't solve problems.


There isn't a department on earth that can make your decisions for you when it comes to deciding what sort of life you want to live, what sort of person you want to be, what sort of future you want to have. And when we finally wake up to that glaring error in our outlook, your tribunals, your quasi-repositories of moaning and grievance will be seen for what they are.

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