New Myths and Old Politics: The Waitangi Tribunal and the Challenge of Tradition
by Tipene O’Regan (BWB Texts, paper $14.99; e-book $4.99)
Reviewed by Vaughan Rapatahana
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of reviews of books in the BWB Texts series.
This BWB book – available via various media – is itself a refinement and refurbishment of a 1991 Beaglehole Lecture, with some general housekeeping and more recent upkeep. It is indeed a small book to look at and to thumb through as it is ‘only’ 74 pages. Yet within this space there is a quite hard-hitting BIG issue being considered, namely how claims to the Waitangi Tribunal could well be derailed by ‘alternative iwi’, by the machinations of far-out claimants, in this particular case by various ‘Waitaha’ members, during the loooooooooong Ngāi Tahu settlement process of the 1990s.
As such, this pithy book is well worth reading, for it provides us plenty of the gritty detail only a staunch insider to the negotiation process – here Tipene O’Regan – could provide. As such it also tangentially tempts the reader to further research the New Wave aspects of ‘Waitaha’*, and to ponder just who these rather odd claimants were, and are, even today in their diminished (numbers and stature) forms.
Ngāi Tahu, of course, claim affiliation to ‘genuine’ and ancient Waitaha, but O’Regan gives short shrift to latter day ‘Waitaha’ and groups like them – not by any means exclusively Māori – who seemed determined to file their own claims to the big bundle of Treaty settlement cash and indeed to money available during the settlement process, both “well resourced from the public purse”. In so doing – and this is the nub of this pukapuka iti (small book) – such groups end up “complicating the Treaty settlement process” and ensuring the sometimes “ruinous levels of cost” created.