The Government was wrong in allowing the Ministry of Maori Development to control Maori wardens, a Waitangi Tribunal report out today has found.
The Maori Council had authority over wardens in the past, but was superceded in recent years by the ministry. In a submission to the the tribunal, the council claimed it has authority, under the Maori Community Development Act 1962, over the leadership, funding and training of wardens.
Today's report "largely upheld" that claim, saying that through the act the Crown acknowledged Maori autonomy and self-government should be protected. The report says Maori Wardens are an "integral component of this system of Maori self-government".
The tribunal found that since early 2011 the Maori Wardens Project, inconsistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, has been run without Maori oversight. It also found that funding decisions have been made without any Maori input or oversight.
"We have found that the Crown has allowed systemic failure in the appointment and reappointment of Maori wardens for many years, and has even accepted unlawful nominations rather than carry out its Treaty obligation," the report reads.
Last year's decision by the Ministry of Maori Development to review the project was also found to be in breach of Treaty principles. The tribunal instead says the review "must be Maori-led".
The tribunal also found that the Maori Council "clearly needs" more funding, comparing it to a "bird without feathers".
"The pursuit of Maori self-government... has often foundered on the rocks of poverty due to lack of adequate support and funding by the Crown."
A number of recommendations were made, chiefly that an interim governance board be established to oversee the Maori Wardens Project until new legislation is pushed through.