Morgan blogs that Te Kohanga Reo, the representative body of 417 Kohanga throughout Aotearoa is taking a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal, as a matter of urgency. Without seeing the statement of claim I can only comment on what has been reported to date although it appears that the claim argues that Kohanga have been systematically discriminated against and seeks to have an independent National body established to oversee the Kohanga movement in Aotearoa.
What will come as a surprise to many Te Tiriti lawyers is that this claim appears to have been lodged on the basis of urgency. Anyone working in the Waitangi Tribunal field will be able to tell you that it is incredibly difficult to succeed with an application for an urgent hearing. The criteria are strict and are highly unlikely to be satisfied in this case. Essentially, the Tribunal looks at the nature of the case, the immediacy of any Government action, and/or the intervention of the ordinary courts into the matter. None of those factors are in play here. The Government has indicated that it is looking into the matter, but there is no major law reform in progress at the moment with respect to Kohanga Reo. The Waitangi Tribunal has proved itself to be very reluctant to grant urgent hearings of late.
And that brings me nicely to their legal counsel, Mai Chen. As I have documented on this site, I used to work for Mai at Chen/Palmer and I am well aware of her capabilities as a Public lawyer. It is clear that Te Kohanga Reo are seeking law reform and the application to the Waitangi Tribunal is nothing more than one part of a wider plan that Mai is implementing to provide leverage for her clients. The end game here is not to get the claimants in front of the Tribunal, but rather to get them in front of the relevant Ministers and turn Kohanga Reo and Maori education into an election issue for the Maori electorates. Stage I was mobilising support through the Hikoi, Stage II was launching legal action through the Waitangi Tribunal and Stage III (which no doubt Chen/Palmer is busy working on as we speak) is the preparation of a comprehensive proposal for law reform to be presented to the relevant Ministers in the coming weeks or months.
I look forward to seeing this one unfold. It could prove to be a very important turning point for Maori education.