Matiu Rata's enduring legacy

  • Sandra Lee
Maori Affairs

Mana Motuhake leader and Associate Maori Affairs Minister Hon Sandra Lee says the Waitangi Tribunal remains a relevant and enduring legacy of the late Matiu Rata who established it, despite the emergence of fast-track alternatives.

Ms Lee has marked the 25th anniversary of the Waitangi Tribunal by paying tribute to work of the Tribunal's members throughout its quarter century existence.

"They have carefully and meticulously addressed the critical grievances that would otherwise corrode the fabric of our society," Ms Lee said. "Their findings may sometimes be fraught with controversy but their job is far from over."

Ms Lee said claimants now had alternative ways to seek redress for grievances such as direct negotiations with the Government.

But she said fast-tracking of a settlement by itself did not necessarily bring with it the public acceptance of historical wrongdoing. She said the more considered Waitangi Tribunal processes often produced evidence that was impossible to ignore in the seeking of fair and just settlements.

"Matiu Rata's foresight in creating the legislation setting up the Tribunal has provided our country with a vital mechanism to examine injustices that have created long-standing grievances between the two people of this nation, " Ms Lee said.

"For those who now decry the Tribunal and its important functions, they would be wise to reflect how bleak the bicultural landscape of our country might have been without this important legislation," she said.

"Essentially the most important role the Waitangi Tribunal has played is an educative one," the Minister said.

"As claims are articulated and later reported in the news media, most New Zealanders—who are essentially fair-minded people—usually understand far better what had given rise to grievances and the need for redress, after the Tribunal has done its important work."

Ms Lee said this was what Matiu Rata envisaged when he created "this precious piece of legislation".

She said it was ironic that when he founded Mana Motuhake, Matiu Rata was regarded as "radical" for calling for land taken from Maori to be returned, and for New Zealand to become a republic and be known as Aotearoa.

She says much of what the party has been advocating over the years has become almost mainstream, in terms of Maori political and social concerns.