Research for Waitangi Tribunal inquiries

Once a claim is registered and grouped with other claims for an inquiry, the next stage is for those involved in the inquiry to gather evidence that will assist the Tribunal to understand the claim issues and determine whether or not the claims are well founded. Tribunal inquiries are founded upon a rigorous examination of evidence. That evidence, especially in historical inquiries, may extend across a wide range of claim issues dating from the signing of the Treaty to the present day.

The type and amount of research that is needed before a claim may be heard depends on the claim and the issues raised by it. To ensure that the Waitangi Tribunal is well informed about the issues covered by a claim, new research may need to be carried out.

Who does the research?

Research can be commissioned by the claimants, the Crown, third parties, and the Tribunal. Research for Waitangi Tribunal claims can be undertaken by claimants, the Crown, third parties, and the Tribunal.

Technical research (research undertaken by experts such as historians) is often undertaken by Waitangi Tribunal staff and contractors commissioned by the Tribunal, Crown Forestry Rental Trust researchers commissioned on behalf of claimants and researchers commissioned by the Crown.

Claimants are also encouraged to produce 'claimant evidence’ of their own, their community's or their tūpunas’ experience or traditions.

Find out about how you can prepare claimant evidence

The casebook research

Typically at the start of an inquiry, the Tribunal will commission a casebook review. The casebook examines all of the claim issues and the existing evidence relating to the claims to determine what further research is required to provide the Tribunal with the information it needs to determine if the claims are well founded. The Tribunal, the Crown Forestry Rental Trust and sometimes the Crown will then divide up the commissioning of experts to undertake that research.

The casebook research of professional or technical evidence involves working in Crown archives or records, libraries; with private papers and other sources of historical records.  The research itself can range from a brief of evidence on a specific topic of a few pages to comprehensive historical reports covering issues raised in multiple claims across a whole district which may contain several hundred pages of writing and take a year or more to prepare.

Tribunal staff and technical researchers will typically engage directly with claimants and other parties in the course of doing their research. This is done kanohi ki te kanohi (in person) through research hui (meetings) to build understandings of the claim issues and gather advice and information on resources they might use for their work. Tribunal staff will keep inquiry parties up to date through pānui (newsletters) and drafts of reports will typically also be provided to all parties to comment on before they are finalised.

As well as reports, research can consist of mapping or indexed collections of documents relevant to the claim issues. 

The final reports of gathered technical evidence are collated into a collection of reports and other evidence collectively called a ‘casebook’ prior to the commencement of hearings.This evidence is entered on the record of inquiry and distributed to the Crown and all claimants participating in the inquiry.

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