Information for Schools
Ki te whai koe i te mohiotanga, ka puta ko te mātauranga
Ki te whai koe i te mātauranga, ka puta ko te māramatanga
Nau mai, haere mai ki tēnei wāhanga o tō tātou ipurangi e pā ana ki ngā kura.
Welcome to this section, which has been designed especially for schools.
At the Waitangi Tribunal, we receive a wide range of inquiries from around the world asking about the Tribunal, what it does and the Treaty of Waitangi. Here, we answer a few of the questions often asked by school pupils.
Why did the Treaty of Waitangi gain particular significance after 1975?
The Treaty of Waitangi has been a significant document – especially for Māori – since it was signed in 1840. However, it was not until the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975, which established the Waitangi Tribunal, that a forum was created with the sole purpose of investigating Treaty grievances held by Māori against the Crown. Prior to 1975, many Māori petitions and protests relating to the Treaty fell on deaf ears. In fact, the Treaty was declared a ‘legal nullity’ by one judge in 1877.
What is the Function of the Waitangi Tribunal?
The Waitangi Tribunal was set up to inquire into claims by Māori against any Crown act, policy, action, or omission that prejudicially affects them. A claim lodged with the Tribunal is checked against section 6 of the Treaty of Waitangi Act 1975 to ascertain whether it is one that the Tribunal may look into. If it is, the claim is then registered, heard, and reported on to the Minister of Māori Affairs. Deciding whether the claim is well founded is a key issue for the Tribunal. If it sees fit, the Tribunal may make recommendations about the claim to the Government. Check out our claims process section.
How are Treaty Claims Resolved?
The Office of Treaty Settlements, not the Waitangi Tribunal, is responsible for settling claims and, as such, is the body that can best report on how claims are resolved. However, the Tribunal has completed over 100 reports on claims covering a range of issues – from te reo Māori and the radio spectrum to the environment, geothermal resources, and fisheries – and the Government has implemented many of the recommendations contained in those reports. The reports have also played a very important role in kick-starting many initiatives and institutions, including Māori radio (reo irirangi), the Māori Language Commission (Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori), and the Māori Broadcasting Funding Agency (Te Māngai Pāho).
What is a Wai Number?
As it is registered, each claim is assigned a number for identification purposes. This is known as its 'Wai number', 'Wai' being short for 'Waitangi Tribunal claim'. Wai 686, for example, identifies the consolidation of Hauraki claims.
What is a District Inquiry?
In order to deal efficiently with all the claims registered with it, the Tribunal groups together those claims within a common geographical area. These areas are known as hearing districts, and the researching and hearing of the claims in an area is known as a district inquiry. Not all claims are grouped in this way: claims that affect most or all Māori and claims that are granted urgency may be heard in separate inquiries.
What is a Casebook?
A casebook contains all the research reports that are to be presented to the Tribunal during the course of an inquiry into a claim or a group of claims. Generally, the casebook is made up of a number of volumes. The casebook compiled for the first hearing contains all the research reports that the claimants intend to rely on in the inquiry, as well as research reports and documents that the Tribunal considers relevant.
What is the Record of Inquiry?
The record of inquiry is, as the name suggests, a record of all the papers, legal documents, research reports, evidence, and submissions generated during the course of an inquiry into a claim. The record of inquiry is broken down into the record of hearings, the record of proceedings, and the record of documents.
- The record of hearings lists the hearings, site visits, and conferences held, the Tribunal members and lawyers present, and the people who gave evidence or made submissions.
- The record of proceedings lists the claims and amendments filed in an inquiry, finally filed as a particularised statement of claim, and the legal papers generated by the lawyers and the Tribunal throughout the claims process, including the statement of issues and the Crown statement of response to the identified issues.
- The record of documents lists the submissions made and the evidence presented to the Tribunal during the course of an inquiry.
The documents making up the record of a current inquiry are stored at the Tribunal's offices and are available for members of the public to view, although an appointment must be made.
What do Tribunal Staff do?
The Tribunal's role is to make recommendations on claims brought by Māori relating to the practical application of the Treaty of Waitangi and to determine whether certain matters are inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty. It is supported in this by the Ministry of Justice through the Waitangi Tribunal Unit. The Tribunal has up to 20 members, a deputy chairperson, and a chairperson. The Waitangi Tribunal Unit has about 60 staff, who carry out many functions, from providing the Tribunal with financial and administrative support services to registering claims, conducting claims research, liaising with claimants, running Tribunal hearings, and providing report-writing and editorial assistance to Tribunal members. Some of these jobs are outlined below.
Tribunal members: The Tribunal has 20 members, most of whom also have other jobs and therefore work only part time with the Tribunal. Members are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Minister of Māori Affairs, and it is their job to attend the hearings, listen to and read the evidence, and make findings and recommendations on the claims. Members are chosen for their knowledge of the issues likely to come before the Tribunal, and current and previous members have included businesspeople, academics, and legal experts.
Presiding officers: Each Tribunal constituted to hear a claim has a presiding officer. It is their job to chair the proceedings. Members of the Tribunal who are retired District Court judges or have at least seven years' standing as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand may preside over Tribunal inquiries. Judges of the Māori Land Court, while not members of the Tribunal, may also preside over an inquiry.
The registrar: The registrar is responsible for the registration of claims and the maintenance of the record of inquiry, advises the general public on the claims process, and provides reports on claims to the Legal Aid Subcommittee. As a qualified solicitor, the registrar also provides legal advice to the Tribunal and advises Tribunal staff and members on procedural issues.
Research officers: Research officers undertake claims research in preparation for Tribunal hearings and may be called on to give evidence before the Tribunal. They also undertake the role of claims facilitator for district inquiries, coordinating the research for the casebook and working with commissioned researchers, claimants, and claims administrators to ensure deadlines and standards are met in preparation for hearings. Most researchers are history graduates.
Claims administrators: Claims administrators are responsible for supporting Tribunal inquiries. They ensure that all the necessary documentation required by the parties has been filed and distributed, they arrange for the advertising of upcoming hearings, and they manage the running of the hearings, which includes such duties as organising transport for members, hiring and setting up the venue, setting the agenda, and overseeing the audio and visual recording of Tribunal fixtures.