20 Mar 2014

Maori Council wants to lead reform

8:22 pm on 20 March 2014

The Maori Council has told the Waitangi Tribunal the council should lead a reform of its own organisation, not the Crown.

Pipitea Marae in Wellington.

Pipitea Marae in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Gareth Thomas

Closing submissions have been given in the three-day urgent tribunal hearing at Pipitea Marae in Wellington.

The hearing follows the Maori Council's concern that the Government lead a review of the Maori Community Development Act, which governs the council and Maori wardens.

Te Puni Kokiri led the review of the act late last year, which concluded changes should be made to the Maori wardens, which the Maori Council has statutory authority of.

The Crown has stood by its decision to initiate the review, saying both the wardens and council are publicly funded and fall under Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples.

It has proposed to set up separate Maori Council and Maori wardens reference groups to consult Maori stakeholders and advise the Crown, as the review continues.

The Maori Council says under the act, the wardens come under the council, and therefore the two should not be separated or given equal rights.

Its co-chair Sir Taihakurei Eddie Durie says the council should lead any reform, and should only prove to the Crown that its own review has been robust.

More than 100 Maori wardens from throughout the country attended the hearing.

A member of the Waitangi Tribunal, Sir Hirini Moko Mead, has told them that they're no longer seen as just wardens, but as enforcers of law and order in Maori communities.

He says there was an instance where a kaumatua tried to deal with violence in a home and was beaten severely to the point where he later died.

Sir Hirini says that tikanga or Maori way of dealing with issues may no longer be feasible because the world has changed, and Maori wardens are seen as providing law and order for Maori people.

The Tribunal says it will release its findings as soon as possible.