In a recent decision the Waitangi Tribunal considered an application for an urgent hearing in relation to the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims. In this instance the applicant sought to challenge the mandate of a group to negotiate the settlement of their claims. If granted, the urgent hearing would allow the applicant to pause the ongoing negotiations with the Crown so that the mandate of the negotiating group could be challenged.

The applicants submitted that the voting process used to form the negotiating group was biased and did not properly represent the interests of the applicant group. They argued that the Crown had failed to ensure that the applicant group were adequately represented in the negotiating group. The Crown disputed this, arguing that voting was open to all of the applicant group, and many other efforts were made to ensure they were involved.

In deciding whether an urgent hearing should proceed, the Tribunal considered a number of factors, including:

  •           whether there are alternative remedies that it is reasonable in the circumstances for the applicant to exercise; 
  •           whether the applicant has demonstrated a sufficient level of support; and
  •           whether the applicant will suffer significant and irreversible prejudice as a result of the imminent signing of an agreement in principle between the Crown and the negotiating group.

In this case, the Tribunal was not satisfied that the applicant had exhausted all other alternative remedies to deal with the issue and did not think that the applicant group were likely to suffer an irreversible prejudice at this stage of the settlement process. Accordingly, the application was dismissed.

This decision confirms the high threshold that an applicant must meet to bring a successful application for an urgent hearing before the Tribunal.