Waitangi Tribunal overloaded with work

12:48 pm on 1 May 2012

The Waitangi Tribunal says it is overloaded with work due to an unprecedented increase in applications for urgent hearings.

It means inquiries into claims by some iwi and hapu are being moved to the back of the queue.

The permanent commission of inquiry says the range and scope of what it is being asked to do is unprecedented and unsustainable.

The Tribunal says it is inevitable that using judicial members and staff to deal with urgency will affect its day to day work.

But Waitangi Tribunal chair Chief Judge Wilson Issac says the Tribunal is committed to continuing its regular work once it has cleared the log-jam of claims and applications.

The Maori Council's claim on freshwater and geothermal resources is among the requests for urgency that have been approved.

The Tribunal points out that it has finite resources of staff and funding.

But it says more money will not solve the problem because it needs specialists to do the job.

Under-funding blamed

A law firm representing several hapu and iwi is blaming the Crown for the increase in work.

Wackrow Williams and Davies, says a combination of under-funding and poor Treaty negotiations is contributing to a log-jam of claims.

Lawyer Te Kani Williams says the Crown needs to increase funding for the Tribunal and should be improving the way it negotiates with tribes to help reduce the number of urgency applications.

The Waitangi Tribunal is giving priority to urgent claims and Mr Williams says means iwi and hapu in te Urewera, Whanganui, and the National Park will now have to wait longer to have their claims processed.