The Waitangi Tribunal has released its report on the Crown’s homelessness policy, concluding the first stage of the Housing Policy and Services Inquiry.

During the first stage of the Inquiry the Tribunal considered the adequacy of the Crown’s policies to address Māori homelessness from 2009 (when the Crown first developed a definition of homelessness) to 2021.

The Tribunal found that the Crown breached the Treaty of Waitangi by failing to adequately consult Māori over its definition of homelessness, and then did practically nothing to address Māori homelessness over the following seven years. The Crown developed a Māori housing strategy but did not implement it, and decreased the availability of social housing despite Māori reliance on it.

The Tribunal noted that since 2018, the Crown has taken measures to combat Māori homelessness, including a homelessness strategy and a Māori housing strategy. However, because many of these developments occurred so close to the Inquiry, the Tribunal was not able to assess whether these measures were compliant with the Treaty.

The Tribunal further noted that despite these signs of progress, there are continuing problems, including:

  • Failure to collect data on homelessness
  • Inadequate consultation with Māori about these new strategies
  • Unsatisfactory coordination between agencies
  • Failure to reform the welfare system
  • Lack of support for homeless rangatahi and recently released prisoners

The Tribunal has deferred making findings on issues relating to housing on rural Māori land until a later report, however it stressed that the shocking living conditions of many Māori who have returned to their whenua is unacceptable.

The Tribunal has recommended that the Crown and claimants work in partnership on a new definition of homelessness that incorporates Māori perspectives.

Future stages of the Housing Policy and Services Inquiry will look at broader issues underlying Māori homelessness and housing problems more generally, including colonisation, the Māori land tenure system, and the structural drivers of poverty. It is expected that the main part of the Inquiry will begin in 2024.

You can read more about the stage one report here.


Devon Tesoriero