Although there is no fee to submit a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, being a claimant in the claims process may involve a considerable amount of expense. Some, but not all, of these costs will be met by the Tribunal or by other organisations. Some costs claimants will have to meet. One of the biggest costs that claimants face is time.
The Tribunal will cover the costs of:
- research that it commissions; and
- distributing documents on the record of inquiry (this is done by the Tribunal's administration).
The Tribunal will contribute to the costs of:
- hiring a marae or other hearing venue;
- hiring essential equipment needed for a hearing (such as additional seating or tables and so forth);
- providing lunches for Tribunal members and staff attending a hearing;
site visits; and
- providing interpreters at a hearing.
The Tribunal will not pay for:
- claimants' legal costs;
- claimant witnesses' costs;
- claimants' travel and accommodation costs;
- non-essential costs at a hearing (such as for hospitality and catering generally, other than that stated above); and
- costs involved in direct negotiations with the Crown.
Funding to meet some of the costs that the Tribunal does not cover may be available from other sources. For example:
- the Legal Services Agency may provide civil legal aid to meet legal costs;
- bodies such as local rūnanga may provide funding for researching claims;
- the Crown Forestry Rental Trust will provide financial assistance to those claimants whom it accepts as clients; and
- the Office of Treaty Settlements may agree to assist claimants with costs involved in negotiating settlements to claims.
Engaging a Lawyer
Claimants are not required to be represented by a lawyer at Tribunal hearings. However, lawyers are skilled in dealing with the technical legal issues that may arise in an inquiry, in ensuring that evidence is presented effectively, and in managing the large amount of documentation that the claims process often generates. For these reasons, the Tribunal usually prefers both that claimants are legally represented and, where it is appropriate, that claimants arrange joint representation with other claimants.
When claimants appoint a lawyer to represent them, the Tribunal's practice is to treat the lawyer as the address for service for the claim. That means that the Tribunal will send documentation relating to the claim to the claimants' lawyer, who is then responsible for informing her or his clients of the information received. Accordingly, it is important that claimants have a good relationship and open communication with their lawyer.
The appointment of a lawyer early in the claims process can be an advantage in that it often enables issues to be focused on and the research directed to the relevant issues.
Civil legal aid is available for Waitangi Tribunal claims, and claimants should discuss their eligibility with their lawyer. The Tribunal's Registrar can provide legal aid applications forms, but the Tribunal does not process or decide the applications. This is done by the Legal Services Agency, and completed application forms should be sent to the unit at
Legal Services Agency PO Box 5333
The Crown Forestry Rental Trust (CFRT)Despite its name, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust is not a Crown agency. It is an independent trust that was established in 1989, as a result of an agreement between the Crown and Māori, to receive the rental proceeds from the licensing of Crown forest land.
The Trust uses the interest earned from the rentals to assist Māori to prepare and present claims to the Waitangi Tribunal. It also provides assistance for Maori to negotiate settlements with the Office of Treaty Settlements. The Trust is the largest funder of research for Tribunal claims.
The Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS)
The Office of Treaty Settlements is part of the Ministry of Justice and is the key Government agency involved in the settlement of claims. The office negotiates the settlement of historical Treaty claims on behalf of the Crown, and is responsible for the implementation of these settlements.
It also runs the Government’s protection mechanism for surplus Crown owned land, which mechanism includes the ‘land banking’ of certain properties for possible use in Treaty settlements. The office has published a booklet for claimants entitled Healing the Past, Building a Future: A Guide to Treaty of Waitangi Claims and Direct Negotiations with the Crown.