On Thursday last week I issued a media release disputing a written answer provided by the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, to a Parliamentary question.
The Minister’s answer on 13 August relates to our Claim over partnership school closures that is currently before the Waitangi Tribunal. He said: “I have been advised that the Crown has not yet been formally served with the claim.”
In my media statement on Thursday morning, I made it clear that the Minister’s answer was wrong.
The Minister then repeated this inaccuracy to media, providing a statement to Māori Television’s Rereātea later on Thursday, saying yet again that the Crown had still not been served with our Statement of Claim.
Our lawyer, Matanuku Mahuika, of Treaty law specialists Kahui Legal, confirms that the Minister was wrong:
“Minister Hipkins’ statement was incorrect. The Statement of Claim lodged by Sir Toby and Dame Iritana was served on the Crown via its solicitors (Crown Law) on 3 July. This complies with the requirements for service set out in the Waitangi Tribunal’s practice note and the Crown’s own position as to what is required to effect service in the Tribunal. At the time, Crown counsel acknowledged that Crown Law was in receipt of the claim”, said Mr Mahuika.
This is an important issue for Māori. It relates to the future of Māori education. The Minister’s denials and his response to the written Parliamentary questions seems to indicate that he has requested no briefings or meetings, nor sought any information whatsoever regarding our concerns. That would be extraordinarily dismissive of him. Briefing papers to the Minister, released by his own officials, suggest otherwise. As far back as December 2017, Education officials were warning the Minister of the “possibility of legal risk from a Treaty of Waitangi claim”
The Minister got his facts wrong the first time when he told Parliament that the Crown had not been served with papers when Crown Law had been in receipt of them since 3 July. He should stop repeating this inaccuracy in his rush to ram legislation through Parliament that he has not properly consulted on, to the detriment of Māori and in conflict with the obligations of the Crown to act in good faith towards its Treaty partner.