Waitangi Tribunal should eventually go - National leader Simon Bridges

Charlie Dreaver writing for RNZ

National Party leader Simon Bridges has added the Waitangi Tribunal to the list of what he thinks New Zealand should eventually do away with.

He said at Waitangi this week that he and his party believed Māori electorate seats should eventually go.

Bridges cited the Royal Commission in 1986, which proposed that if the country adopted the MMP system, it should abolish the Māori electorates.

That logic still stood, he said.

"We have more Māori in Parliament today than in a very long time under a MMP environment, but that doesn't mean I'm going to impose that. In fact, the reality of the situation we are in New Zealand at the moment is that it is a long time coming.

"It does have to be with Māori, with iwi there does have to be consultation, you would need to see Māori voices realistically proposing that the time has come," he said.

Bridges said the same may also be true for the Waitangi Tribunal.

"When we have moved past grievance, which I hope all New Zealanders would like to see at some point in time and those historic[al] issues with settlements have been full and final, you do have to say what is the role of the Waitangi Tribunal?" he said.

While many people would say a new, updated role for the tribunal should be found, Bridges said that was not his view.

He wanted to be clear he still saw a strong role for the government in partnership iwi, hapū and Māori in general when it came to the likes of te reo and partnership schools.

It has been a turbulent trip for the Opposition leader this week at Waitangi, sparking challenges from both sides of the marae ātea for his highly-politicised speech on the paepae.

The response from New Zealand First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters was highly critical.

"If we can come to this famous place after 180 years and trample all over the recognition of its significance and what it means in the past and in the future for politics then we are in trouble."

The final speaker for the hau kāinga, Waihoroi Shortland, said his harshest critique was reserved for Bridges and his party's decision not to stand candidates in the Māori seats.

Bridges said he did not regret what he said on the paepae.

RNZ

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