Police is participating in Te Rau o te Tika - the Waitangi Tribunal Kaupapa inquiry into the justice system (WAI 3060). This is a broad system-wide inquiry examining the extent to which actions, policies or omissions within the justice system are breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi.
This inquiry is an opportunity for the Crown to hear directly from Māori about their experiences within the justice system, and for the Government to address current and past issues in continuing our commitment to achieve better outcomes for Māori.
What is the Waitangi Tribunal Inquiring into?
The claims fall into six broad themes, these are:
- Recognition of tikanga - Lack of recognition of tikanga Māori as a source of law in the common law regime;
- Discrimination of frameworks - Discrimination against Māori in statutory and institutional frameworks for the administration of justice;
- Institutional racism - Institutional racism and bias in the policy and practice of justice sector organisations;
- Discrimination in policing - Discrimination against Māori in policing policy and practice;
- Access to justice issues - access to justice, including legal aid in civil court and tribunal cases and claimant funding for progressing Treaty-based claims and rights;
- Treatment of Māori prisoners - Prison conditions and the treatment of Māori remand and sentenced prisoners.
The justice system is complex and evolving. It includes the courts, judiciary, government departments, police, lawyers, service providers and community groups.
Many New Zealanders, in particular Māori and victims of crime, have been saying over many years that the system is not meeting their needs. Māori experts have been leading voices in the call for criminal justice reform. The government has publicly acknowledged that the justice system negatively and disproportionately impacts Māori.
Justice sector issues have been the subject of applications to the Tribunal for hearings for many years. This Inquiry is significant as it provides the opportunity for outstanding claims to be heard in the context of a broad system-wide inquiry. The Inquiry will likely require the participation of more than 10 government agencies, over a number of years. The Ministry of Justice is the lead agency, and has established a small, dedicated team that is working closely with other agencies to bring together a joined-up Crown approach. The Crown is taking a helpful, collaborative, and proactive approach in preparing for and responding to this inquiry.
The inquiry has been structured into three-stages. These are:
- Whakatika ki Runga - A mini-inquiry from July 2022 to February 2023 inquiring into funding of claimant participation in Waitangi Tribunal processes, including legal aid.
- Te Tūāpapa o te Tika - A series of wānanga facilitated by Pou Tikanga (authorities on tikanga) to gain insights how tikanga should apply in the justice system and be applied to guide the inquiry process.
- Te Tāhū o te Tika - This is the hearing stage of the inquiry. The Tribunal will initially look at criminal justice, turning first to police, then criminal courts, followed by prisons. After this they will turn to examine civil justice.
Who is involved?
There are three key groups involved in this inquiry.
Te Rōpū Whakamana i te Tiriti o Waitangi | The Waitangi Tribunal
Ngā Kaikerēme | The Claimants
The tangata whenua claimants have raised grievances against the Crown through the Waitangi Tribunal process. These claims involve past and present breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi that were not previously inquired into by the Tribunal.
Te Karauna | The Crown
The Crown, in the Waitangi Tribunal process, refers to the central Government, which includes public service departments, state-owned enterprises, and non-public service departments. These entities act as extensions of the Government, assisting in policy development, law enforcement, and administration.