Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Reported back

The Justice and Electoral Committee has reported back [PDF] on the Treaty of Waitangi (Removal of Conflict of Interest) Amendment Bill, and recommended that it not be passed. The bill would have prevented judges of the Maori Land Court from sitting on or chairing the Waitangi Tribunal, replacing them with retired High Court judges, ostensibly to prevent "conflicts of interest" (and possibly in an effort to remove tribunal members NZ First has taken a dislike to). But the committee found that the judiciary already had robust protocols in place to handle any conflict (generally involving recusal), that there was no inherent conflict of interest, and that these judges brought invaluable and irreplaceable expertise and knowledge to the Tribunal. Their conclusion:

We consider that the amendments proposed could severely limit the ability of the Waitangi Tribunal to draw on the expertise of those best qualified to act as members and to provide recommendations on matters of national importance.
Unfortunately, due to the Members' Day logjam, the bill may not get a vote before the election - meaning that it could still come back to haunt us if NZ First increases its political leverage.

(I have posted more on this bill here).