Waitangi Tribunal asked to consider legal aid claim

The Waitangi Tribunal is considering
whether to hold a judicial review on the effect of legal aid cuts. The claimants, Sir Graham Latimer and Haami Piripi, leaders
of the Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, maintain the Crown’s failure
to provide adequate legal support is a Treaty breach in refusing to help support
their Treaty claims. Legal aid funding can’t help Maori
in their Treaty claims. The lack of assistance restricts us. It leaves us exposed in a fight. It’s difficult to come out on top
in these circumstances. So for iwi and hapu claimants
like Te Rarawa who want to go to the High Court, they won’t have access
to any legal aid. As a Maori, I stand not as an individual. I’m a collective force with my
family, tribe and region. How am I supposed to utilise those
resources when the law restricts me? But it’s not just Treaty claimants
who are feeling it, but also those seeking
criminal legal aid. However the Crown has criticised the
claimants suggesting legal aid funds have been used inappropriately. The opposition holds
the purse strings and have the power to control it. If they don’t want
to stick to the rules, they don’t have to,
and that’s wrong. For today, though, the claimants
are seeking an urgency hearing to be granted and ultimately seek
reform around legal aid funding. Peata Melbourne, Te Karere.

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