The Claims Process
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Once a claim is submitted to the Waitangi Tribunal, it is checked to see if it meets the requirements set down in the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975. If it does, it is then registered and assigned a 'Wai' number ('Wai' being short for 'Waitangi Tribunal claim'). However, simply because a claim has been registered and assigned a Wai number does not mean that it is well founded or that the claimant is the most appropriate person to bring that claim.
Wai numbers are assigned sequentially according to the date and time of registration. So, for example, Wai 27 was registered before Wai 449. But claims are not heard and reported on in order of their Wai numbers; instead, claims are grouped based on inquiry districts , and are grouped according to the issues or areas the claim relates to.
Claims to the Waitangi Tribunal are complaints that the Crown has breached the Treaty of Waitangi by particular actions, inactions, laws, or policies and that Māori have suffered prejudice (harmful effects) as a result. Claims need to be comprehensive - that is, cover all the matters at issue between the claimants and the Crown - and they need to be proven - that is, supported by evidence of a standard that the Tribunal will find convincing.
The Crown has an opportunity to challenge evidence by cross-examining witnesses, and to submit evidence of its own. When receiving historical evidence, the Tribunal requires reports from professional historians. When receiving traditional evidence, the Tribunal requires reports based at least partly on oral interviews with claimants, and it requires oral evidence from claimants at hearings. These and other types of evidence are all important in a Tribunal inquiry.
The process of preparing a claim for hearing is likely to include:
The material in this section is largely drawn from the Waitangi Tribunal booklet for claimants The Claims Process of the Waitangi Tribunal, written by Geoffrey Melvin.