18 Sep 2008

Little hope held for gang Treaty claims

10:14 am on 18 September 2008

Treaty of Waitangi claims by two gangs are being dismissed as time-wasting exercises that are doomed to fail.

Black Power and the Mongrel Mob have lodged applications with the Waitangi Tribunal, alleging that the Crown has breached its obligations.

Labour Party MP Dover Samuels, a former Minister of Maori Affairs, says if the Tribunal was to take on the gang claims it would undermine the entire Treaty process.

Treaty expert Paul Moon says technically, the gangs are entitled to put a claim in. However, he says he expects they will not get past the first hurdle, because the claims do not stand up to scrutiny.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Michael Cullen said on Wednesday he could not see any legal basis for a Treaty claim by members of the Black Power gang.

The claim is one of more than 2,000 received by the Waitangi Tribunal leading up to the cutoff date of 1 September for new claims to be filed.

A Black Power life member, who has been involved in putting together the claim, says the gang is not seeking compensation.

Denis O'Reilly says the rise of Black Power can be attributed to many things, including colonisation. He would not give specifics but says the Waitangi claim is wide-ranging, and looks at the overall hand they have been dealt.

"It's seeking the right for people to be as they may be. To assemble for legitimate purposes in the way that they see fit."

But Dr Cullen says he cannot see how the claim could be treated seriously.

"The Treaty is a treaty between the Crown and iwi (and) hapu. Black Power does not come within those definitions.

"Black Power did not exist in 1840 and have rights which were guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, so I cannot see any possible legal basis for this proceeding."

New Zealand First law and order spokesperson Ron Mark says the claim is laughable and wants it to be thrown out.

"People make a choice to enter the lifestyle and to become a member of a gang. They subsequently choose to remain in that lifestyle - no one forces them."

It could be several months before a decision is made on whether the tribunal has the jurisdiction to hear the claim.

But Moana Jackson, a lawyer for Black Power, says Dr Cullen's comments are mischievous, and the gang has a right to be heard.

Veteran Maori activist Titewhai Harawira supports the gang's claim, saying the application will be a test case.