The establishment and subsequent expansion of the Waitangi Tribunal: The politics of agenda setting

Amy L. Catalinac

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    In modern-day democratic political systems, governments are constantly presented with multiple concerns that often affect a diversity of groups. Studies of agenda setting help explain the various forces that interact to focus government attention and decision-making on a particular concern. This article examines the applicability of theories of agenda setting developed by John W. Kingdon in the American political context to two of New Zealand's most path-breaking and far-reaching policy changes: the passage of the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1975, which established the Waitangi Tribunal, and the subsequent amendment to that legislation in 1985, which widened its powers. While the three factors identified by Kingdon as being pertinent to agenda setting - problem recognition, changes in the political stream and the role of visible participants - provide the background for these two significant policy changes, the particular characteristics of the New Zealand politico- institutional system - noted in Buhrs' and Bartlett's work on environmental policy making in New Zealand - are necessary to account for the way in which Maori sought to draw government attention to their concerns via protest activism. Within the New Zealand political context these movements were able to create conditions that enabled the government to overcome the constraints posed by previous policy and embark in a new direction. Notions of path dependence are also utilised to provide a fuller account of the second policy change.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)5-22
    Number of pages18
    JournalPolitical Science
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jun 2004


    • Agenda-setting
    • New Zealand race relations
    • Waitangi Tribunal

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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