Friday, October 28, 2005

Mapp vs the Waitangi Tribunal

Here's another case of outright fiction about about the roles of government bodies from Wayne Mapp. On the same Morning Report interview, immediately before he made his embarassing and inconsistent comments about secularism (it applies to Maori, but not to Christians, it seems), he provided the following example of a "politically correct" body in need of eradication:

[The] Waitangi Tribunal would be another good example. There's a mixture of remaking our history with [an] advocacy role, but also trying to make recommendations on settlement of claims. Well frankly it should stick to its [billing?], which is dealing with the recomendations on claims.

But as in the case of the HRC, this simply isn't true. A quick glance at the functions of the Waitangi Tribunal shows that it has no advocacy role. Instead, its role is solely to inquire into claims or legislation submitted or referred to it. Mapp may not like the results of those inquiries - but that hardly makes them "advocacy", any more than the Court of Appeal's decision in Ngati Apa v Attorney-General (grounded solidly in the common-law doctrine of aboriginal title) was. Mapp has been a spokesperson on Treaty and constitutional issues since 1999, and has sat on both the Maori Affairs and Justice select committees. He should know this - and if he doesn't, then you have to ask why he held those positions.

I should also point out that historical claims are verified by an exhaustive process of historical research by both the crown and claimants (this is one reason the process takes so long - there aren't enough historians); it is not the Tribunal which is "remaking our history", but historians. Again, their findings may make Mapp deeply uncomfortable - but the truth sometimes is.