The Tribunal has dismissed a challenge from a group of Motiti Island residents who claim they are tangata whenua of the land and warrant their own Treaty settlement.

Seven years ago the Crown undertook a kinship review and determined that Māori residing on Motiti could not be considered their own tribal group. This led to the claimants challenging this decision in the Waitangi Tribunal, alleging that the kinship review was flawed and that the Crown reached incorrect findings.

The main issue was whether the Crown, through its kinship review, properly informed itself of the identity of the tangata whenua of Motiti. The Tribunal came to mixed findings.

In relation to the review’s outcome, the Tribunal found that the Crown met its duty to be informed. Specifically, the Crown did properly inform itself of the identity of Motiti Island tangata whenua through its kinship review.

However, the Tribunal considered aspects of the Crown’s initial approach to the review were flawed.

Specifically, the Crown did not prioritise the need for discussion between the groups concerned and should have adopted an approach similar to that appropriate for resolving overlapping interests in the settlement context. Additionally, the Tribunal noted that the Crown’s approach was not sufficiently culturally appropriate.

Despite the flaws in process, the Tribunal found that the Crown acted appropriately overall.

The Tribunal did not find that the review process, considered as a whole, breached the principles of partnership and equal treatment, and as such did not make formal recommendations.

However, as the process was flawed, the Tribunal offered suggestions about how the Crown should approach disputes about tribal identity in general. These can be found in the report and focused on the participation and inclusion of tangata whenua in the process.