Monday, February 13, 2012

Ticking the boxes on treaty sell off

Patronising. Condescending. At times nonsensical. State Owned Enterprise Minister Tony Ryall’s performance at a hui in Auckland last Friday to explain the Government’s sale of shares in the four stated owned energy companies was all of those things.
The Minister wasn’t interested in hearing arguments against the sale. He says the re-election of a John Key-led government in November gives National a mandate to go ahead.
What the government wants to know is what kind of treaty clause it can get away with.
When the Act creating State Owned Enterprises was written in the 1980s, pressure from Muriwhenua claimants led to the last minute insertion of section 9, which states that “nothing in this Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”.
Using that section, the New Zealand Maori Council and a number of claimant groups went to court in what became known as the Lands Case.
The subsequent judgment by the Sir Robin Cooke-led Court of Appeal included guidance on what those principles were, and led to negotiations about how Maori interests could be protected.
A new section 27 was added to the SOE Act requiring memorials to be placed on the title of any Crown land passed over to the new SOEs.
The Waitangi Tribunal was given the power to order the Crown to buy back land it has passed over to SOEs and hand it to claimants.
The tribunal has never exerted that power.
Mr Ryall says the Government intends to retain section 27 memorials on land titles, but the SOES to be part-privatised (or move to a mixed ownership model, in National-speak) - Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand – will come under the Public Finance Act rather than the SOE Act.
The government is asking Maori whether they want section 9 included in the new legislation.
Other options include a new treaty clause describing in a more specific way how the Crown will meet its obligations, or having no treaty clause at all.
Mr Ryall says the overwhelming feedback so far is for retention of section 9.
The discussion document also asks Maori to spell out what they believe their rights and interests are in the power companies.
Ngati Whatua negotiator Margaret Kawharu told Mr Ryall it was difficult for claimants to identify rights and interests without knowing what the Crown would do in future, and they feared that if they are unable to identify particular interests now, they would not be able to claim in future.
In their presentations to the various consultation hui, Mr Ryall and Finance Minister Bill English claimed the part privatisation is an act of sound economic management.
Mr Ryall raised the spectre of the United Kingdom, where the new Conservative-led government is looking to lay off up to 700,000 public servants, and to countries like Greece and Portugal which are struggling under mountains of debt they can’t pay off.
“We want to get our debt under control, because if it gets too big, people will lose their jobs in the public service,” Mr Ryall said.
“When a country’s debt gets out of control, you lose your sovereignty … We don’t want to be in that position so we have proposing this mixed ownership model where we sell down less than half these four energy companies, free up we think between $5 billion and $7 billion and use that to invest in schools and hospitals and other capital that we have over next few years.
“We also think it’s a big opportunity for New Zealand. There is a lot of money on term deposit in banks because people are worried about where they invest it. That is why we want to provide these opportunities for investors in mixed ownership companies.”
They’re not arguments that have convinced economically literate commentators.
The drop in the Government’s revenue, and the likelihood a significant percentage of profits will go overseas, means the government’s debt situation it likely to be worse over the medium to long term.
Mr Ryall insisted that because the Crown will retain 51 percent of the shares, it will continue to control the companies. No other shareholder will be allowed to own more than 10 percent, and which it was not written down in the supporting documents, Mr Ryall told the hui he believed between 85 and 90 percent of shares will remain in that hands of New Zealanders.
Sharemarket rules on minority shareholders could mean the Crown will end up with less than absolute control.
Ryall said the Government is looking to float the shares of Mighty River Power in the third quarter, “unless the world economy hits the wall”.
He ruled out setting aside any shares to use for treaty settlements, but iwi would be encouraged to buy shares.
Asked what he saw as the principles of the treaty, Mr Ryall replied: “I understand that to be about partnership through consultation, recognition of obligations of not only consultation but of actual interests are protected, there are a lot of the elements of that we could spend all day talking about.”
There was a sound of boxes being ticked.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cullen: Treaty momentum self-sustaining

Interview conducted by Adam Gifford with the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Michael Cullen, in his office Wellington June 18, 2008, on behalf of Waatea News and broadcast on Paakiwaha June 23.

It started with a comment on the acceleration in settlement activity in the eight months he has been minister, and a question on what was driving him?

Dr Cullen: “A lot of that activity is building on what already being done, picking up on that and trying to move forward.

“It’s not so much what is driving me but for a variety of reasons things came together to create a momentum which is now self-sustaining to some extent. Because there is clearly progress occurring in the treaty area, people are wanting to get into play, to become part of the process of treaty settlements

“There has been very strong leadership from Maori which has worked to bring together groups of people who were previously not cohering to enable a range of issues to be addressed, and that has helped the Crown considerably given a couple of Waitangi Tribunal decisions and rulings clearly indicating the Crown was running into trouble in treaty settlements where there were overlapping claims and overlapping interests, and I clearly think we’ve learned a lot from that and processes are under way which are really looking very positive in terms of achieving outcomes which are enduring in that regard.

“What’s driving me is I think we do need to accelerate the process and we do need to be able to demonstrate we can deliver complex agreements, more flexible agreements, not a simple rigid model around single iwi, and therefore some real hope that we can finish the process of historical treaty claims, and I do emphasise historical in that regard.”

Waatea: Some of the criticisms were very much about the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) and its practices. Certainly the criticism of how it worked in Tamaki Makaurau, and Michael Belgrave pointed out, junior officials were ticking boxes to say which tribes had customary interests. That’s the first time since Waitara 1859 that the Crown took that responsibility on itself?

Dr Cullen: “And I think one of the things we learnt from that is where particular overlapping claims, ands that is a common phenomena of course, the Crown’s role is to try to facilitate agreement between different claimant groups rather than to try to pick and choose, and the analogy I’ve used a number of times now is I don’t think the Crown is very good, and certainly as minister I’m not very good, at acting as some kind of historical video referee where people go upstairs to the video referee to say ‘did it get over the line or didn’t it’ when there are arguments between individual iwi-hapu around particular interests, and what we’ve seen I think is the ability effectively to facilitate better dialogue within Maoridom around some of those issues, to try and achieve outcomes which people find fair and satisfactory. Otherwise what we do is we end up doing what we were doing, we talk to one group, we think we’ve got an agreement, and the agreement comes apart because someone else says ‘what about me?’”

Waatea: That mandating issue though? Very critical. Who should do that? Who should be the video ref?

Dr Cullen: “In terms of the mandating issue, which is somewhat different from the competing claims issues, because mandating is more about when you’ve identified the group, who speaks for the group, I don’t think we’re as well advanced as being secure about that. We haven’t had big difficulties, we’ve had some difficulties, but not big difficulties in that regard. And I there is there potentially a role for the tribunal or the Maori Land Court in that respect. I think the Crown if it becomes a really difficult issue around mandate recognition, can’t be the final decision-maker in that respect.

“We go on the best evidence we can but if people want to take us to the tribunal, we will.”

Waatea: Though in some areas, I’m thinking in particular Ngati Porou, you have made a call with a certain group. People are saying that once you get north of Tikitiki that runanga doesn’t have the support you think, that a lot of the support comes from out. But you’ve made the call, saying ‘we’re going to bulldoze ahead with this group?’

Dr Cullen: “What’s happened there is that in Ngati Porou we’ve often got agreements which are actually about the individual hapu. While it may be negotiated at runanga level, in effect at operational level it is the hapu, and that’s true of the foreshore and seabed agreement. It’s likely to be true of the negotiations around historical treaty claims with Ngati Porou. So those hapu in the end who are not part of that agreement aren’t part of that agreement. Now in one particular case there’s an argument even within that who speaks for the hapu. We go on the best evidence we can, but if at the end of the day people want to take us to the tribunal, we will take very careful note of any recommendations the tribunal makes in that regard.”

Waatea: There has also been a problem with Ngati Rangitihi splitting on whether to participate in the CNI settlement?

Dr Cullen: “What has been decided in that case is the obvious common sense solution, that is to take Rangitihi out of the central North Island settlement at this point, to take the allocation which was going to be allocated to them and to add that to the 10 percent reserve the Crown was already holding for any further claims, but also to provide in effect an open entry route back into the deal for Rangitihi if they can sort out clearly their mandating and consenting issues to the collective deal.

“It’s unfortunate what has happened but the tribunal has made suggestions as to the path forward and I hope people pick up on those suggestions.”

Waatea: It looks like the CNI deal is going ahead. The hall’s been booked.

Dr Cullen: “The Bill’s been introduced.”

Waatea: When?

Dr Cullen: “Yesterday (June 17). The first reading is next week, and because we expect hundreds of people for the Deed of Settlement signing, we will have the first reading that afternoon so they don’t need to come back down for it.”

Waatea: Discussing it (with iwi), it appears this is the population-based component of the settlement, with other details to be sorted out later?

Dr Cullen: “First of all it’s only about the commercial forestry land redress. It’s almost a suggestion made to me by (Crown Forestry Rental Trust chairperson) Sir Graham Latimer before I was minister in charge of treaty negotiations that we should perhaps try to settle some of those commercial interests first and then try to get on with non-commercial interests.”

Waatea: Define commercial?

Dr Cullen: “In the sense that this is all about the quantum of money and lands and ongoing commercial interests those iwi will have as a consequence of ownership of those forest lands.

“There’s a lot of other elements that will come into play as a result of those large non-commercial elements like cultural redress, the historical account for individual iwi, any other matters that are brought into discussion because again the shape of settlements have become a lot more flexible over the last few months.”

Waatea: And as I understand it, the current settlements and the company which will run the forests, the percentages are pretty much based on population. The underlying ownership of the land will then be sorted out and go over once this rotation is finished?

Dr Cullen: “Yes, what’s happened here is that the iwi themselves have agreed on the division of the shares in the collective. The Crown hasn’t settled that. Though interestingly enough, their decision was very close to our estimate of what it would be.

“The issues of mana whenua will be sorted out between iwi. The Crown is not going to determine those mana whenua outcomes.”

Waatea: The Waitangi Tribunal or the Maori Land Court have still not answered the question of who should have title, or if there is good title?

Dr Cullen: “But in the interim, and there is not really pressure on the iwi to settle those mana whenua matters, in the interim the iwi and their beneficiaries will have access to the income streams and a clear process around how those income streams are divided so instead of having to wait to settle what are quite difficult issues, the iwi and the beneficiaries are able to actually see through to the stage if you like and using the language again a commercial settlement and the commercial benefit of the ownership of those lands.”

Waatea: Because it is population based, it can be seen as a Labour socialist needs-based thing rather than the O’Regan thing of ‘so what we end up rich, it’s none of your business?

Dr Cullen: (Laughs) “I wouldn’t say that at all. As I say, the iwi themselves have settled that division of the ownership of the collective. The Crown has not tried to impose a model in that regard. We would have had questions had a model been suggested that was wildly different from where we thought things were going but that has not been the case so we’re very very happy with the outcome.

Waatea: Is it as model that may be applicable anywhere else but the central North Island?

Dr Cullen: “I think there are other examples where joint progress can be made, where there are issues, for example there are some issues around some foreshore and seabed claims where it would be very hard to draw a hard and fast line between different iwi claims.

“One is aware of 90 Mile Beach where one iwi draws a line here, another iwi draws a line significantly differently. It is very hard for the Crown to act as an historical video referee, because this is very much about battles that occurred in the 1820s.

“And probably my gut instinct is a solution is going to have to be found whereby we don’t have to try and resolve that if the two iwi cannot actually agree on an outcome, there’s going to have to be some kind of joint arrangement.”

Waatea: People who have had a long involvement in the claim sector that I have been talking to say there are still questions about the stickability of some of these claims, that there is still a perception that you are going in and talking to people who may present best, may have a track record of being around, whether they are representative or not?

Dr Cullen: “Well there are always minorities. One doesn’t expect any group of people to speak with a unanimous voice. What would concern me is if we see lawyers intervening basically to try and collect rents from small minorities in groups, because that is unfair to the great majority in iwi hapu.

Waatea: It’s not all lawyers I have been speaking to, but in the tribunal process there have certainly been suggestions of a certain amount of rent seeking?

Dr Cullen: “That may be true but the issues in dispute are important issues, and therefore the process becomes important.”

Waatea: “In the old days when Maori Affairs would do a lot of this stuff, they would know who was charlatan, who would represent people, so they could work this out?

Dr Cullen: “It’s true to say though that OTS is working more closely with Te Puni Kokiri than was preciously the case and indeed the cooperation between TPK, OTS, the tribunal and the Crown Forest Rental Trust has been at a much higher level in recent times, so there are a lot of people looking over these processes, so if there are really serious flags to be put up, then I’d expect them to be put up.”

Waatea: What do you think you’ve really managed to do by throwing Treasury into the process in the way you have?

Dr Cullen: “A number of things. Some of these issues, the Central North Island, the Waitako Tainui river discussions involve a range of complex matters which aren’t simple treaty settlements. Treasury brings to that process both a wider governmental view, experience across a wide range of governmental operations. It also brings a rigorous analytical view. It brings a lot of expertise around the financial and commercial arrangements where commerciality is involved in these matters, and if you talked to anyone involved in the CNI process, they would probably tell you the treasury involvement has been very helpful in an outcome.

“One thing I’ve learnt from this is it would probably be helpful to have Treasury involved in at least the more significant treaty settlements from an early stage, rather than some second guessing further down the tracks.”

Waatea: “If I could come back to the question I’ve been asking for years, because I think it’s germane to where the process may have gone off the rails. What are treaty settlements for? Why do we do them?

Dr Cullen: “Because we have a clear process for settling the historical grievances of iwi hapu who will be able to argue that they have been badly treated by the Crown in the past and that ranges from the extreme end of massive land confiscation, as obviously Waikato Tainui is one of the clearest examples of that, through to a range of rather dubious dealings by the Native Land Court and elsewhere where land was acquired, not always from people who were the proper people to make those decisions, through to a range of other slights and injuries and grievances around matters of language and culture and so on, all of which should be settled if we are to move forward in this country. We can’t move forward on a proper and honest basis unless those historical issues have been properly addressed.

“The great virtue of the Waitangi Tribunal process and the subsequent treaty negotiation process is we have a very clear method for achieving those outcomes in New Zealand.

“I think the hard thing to explain to many Pakeha is that the treaty remains however a living document and that contemporary issues will continue to arise in quite new circumstances, as they have for example round the emissions trading scheme and forest allocation units. Therefore we can’t say this is over and done with. What we can settle is the past. We can’t settle the future because we don’t know what it is.”

Waatea: In the past I have heard people, politicians, talking about the outcome of treaty settlements as being part of an economic development policy or a social development policy and I’ve always though they may not quite get what they’re hoping for there?

Dr Cullen: “No, but what settlements can sometimes do is provide a much stronger economic base and a social base for iwi and hapu moving forward and indeed what we’re looking for in a range of current treaty settlements for a variety of reasons may be trying to reestablish the base of that iwi in terms of its ability to deliver to its membership.”

Waatea: One of the things I look at is the process instigated by Labour under Matiu Rata, the 1975 Royal Commission on Maori Reserved Lands, which kicked off the process of returning blocks from Crown management back into Maori hands. That was a billion dollar transfer of wealth. Has that done much for the Maori rank and file?

Dr Cullen: “I think it has done a lot, because I don’t think we can underestimate the strength of the Maori renaissance in the last 25 years, and how much those kind of processes have contributed to that in a large variety of different ways, and certainly when you see what’s happening with Tainui, what’s happening with Ngai Tahu, you can see that their treaty settlements have been a very important part of creating a much stronger base for those iwi moving forward.

“There’s a new breed emerging in the management of iwi, and we’ve seen that very clearly in some recent negotiations which haven’t been very public around things like the forest allocations in terms of carbon credit units etc where we have seen people coming to the fore, taking on a leadership role and arriving at really excellent solutions from a broader New Zealand as well as a specifically Maori perspective.”

Waatea: This is of course not the first time you’ve seen treaty settlements from a Cabinet perspective because the previous Labour Government, the initial fisheries settlement was on your watch. What do you remember of that and how things differ now?

Dr Cullen: “I think that was sort of grasping in the dark for the broad shape of principles moving forward, a much different kind of process. What we’re dealing with now is the fruits of that work in terms of a clearly defined set of processes which can be followed – always new challenges, always new issues, but a much greater confidence about how to go about trying to settle those issues and meet those challenges.”

Waatea: What that government had to put up with is be in court every week with Matiu Rata ands Graham Latimer and Sian Elias and David Baragwanath throwing rocks at you?

Dr Cullen: “Yes, that’s right. Rocks still occasionally get thrown but luckily they tend to be a somewhat smaller size these days, I think as I say because we’ve got a clearer process.

“There will always be difficult issues that come up and the contemporary issues can be particularly difficult. It will be a great challenge I think for the Government when the tribunal finally produces its report on the WAI 262 claim, that’s going to obviously create some significant political interest, but I would hope that we’ve matured enough that we would be able to deal with those issues in a thoughtful manner moving forward.”

Waatea: There’s a perspective George Habib put to me once that if you look at New Zealand’s economic history, it was built on taking Maori assets by whatever means, and building a society, a country, an economy on it. When the government decided it was no longer in that business, the assets needed to go back to where they came from?

Dr Cullen: “Certainly New Zealand’s colonial history is a classic colonial history. Settlers came from outside and the losers in that were very largely the indigenous peoples.

“I think what’s different in New Zealand is not that we were much better or much worse in the 19th century – I think our claims to be much better have largely fallen apart under closer historical analysis – I think what we can say is we have developed much better processes in the last quarter century or so for resolving the consequences of that period of colonisation.”

©Adam Gifford 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Never trust a politician

Plans for a long overdue overhaul of the Maori Trust Office could come unstuck because of a combination of political ineptitude, ignorance and gamesmanship.

It’s been clear for more than 20 years that change was needed in the Maori Trustee. In the 15 years after the 1975 Royal Commission on Maori Reserved Land, economically viable block were transferred out of Crown management back into the hands of owners – who now make up the membership of the Federation of Maori Authorities. That left the trustee looking after about 2200 blocks totalling 105,000 hectares for 186,000 owners, many of who couldn’t be found. Changes were needed to take account of the office’s changing role.

The proposals the government took out for consultation last year were sensible. The Maori Trust Office was to be split out of Te Puni Kokiri to stand alone. There would be changes to the way interest was paid in the Common Fund, ie, money held for landowners, in a way which would be to their benefit.

But when the Maori Trustee and Maori Development Amendment Bill was snuck into Parliament late last year, it included a major new proposal that had not been presented to the consultation hui. The trustee’s General Fund, which is accumulated profits from fees and investments, would be raided to the tune of $35 million to set up a statutory corporation, Maori Business Aotearoa New Zealand, “to further Maori economic development by utilising the potential of resources available to Maori.”

The board of this corporation will be chaired by the Maori Trustee with other members appointed by the Ministers of Finance and Maori Affairs.

The Government wanted to fold some other Maori funds into MBANZ, which it is keen to stress is not a bank. But the trust deeds of the Crown Forestry Rental Trust and Poutama Trust blocked those ambitions.

Interestingly, the Poutama Trust, which works to encourage small and medium size Maori business development, is funded with the residue of another failed development agency, the Maori Development Corporation. It is not clear that the current generation of policymakers is aware of or learned any of the lessons of that sad story.

The preamble to the Bill says the MBANZ fund would include “a significant contribution from the Government”, the Maori Trustee’s $35 million and “potentially, future contributions from other organisations”. Yeah, right.

The Government refuses to say how much it will put in or where it will come from – is it new money or a reallocation of putea already set aside for some Maori purpose? That has encouraged damaging speculation about its source.

The fund has been the rallying point for opponents of the Bill, and meant what should have been a relatively uncontroversial and essentially administrative move was challenged on its first reading.

Unfortunately, the challenges show that despite the high salaries MPs are paid, they don’t seem to be able to do the basic reading – in this case, the Bill in question and the Maori Trustee’s annual reports, tabled each year for their edification and available in the website.

National and the Maori Party tried to claim the moral high ground by saying they were standing up for beneficiaries whose money was being taken from them.

That is reprehensible. Tau Henare is a former Minister for Maori Affairs (who did nothing about this problem on his watch). Georgina te Heuheu was a member of the 1975 Royal Commission. The Maori Party claims to know everything there is to know about things Maori.

The key phrase is General Fund. According to the latest available annual report, for the year to March 31, 2006, that stood at $60 million.

It made up of $12 million in shares (representing its investment in Quantum Ltd, which owns and manages Copthorne and Millennium hotels), another $2.5 million in a joint investment company with Lake Taupo Forest Trust, $23 million in local authority and commercial bonds, plus government stock, commercial loans to Maori businesses, mortgages, cash and other assets. A conservative portfolio, as befits a trustee. While there may be arguments about the whakapapa of some of that money, it’s the Maori Trustee’s to do with as he likes in the continuance of his business.

Some 81 percent of his revenue came from investments, including $4.2 million in interest payments from the hotel investment, with the balance from commissions and fees. Income outweighed expenditure by $1.4 million, leaving a surplus to go into the, wait for it, General Fund.

The Maori Trustee also has what is called the Common Fund.

To quote from the report: “All money collected by the Maori Trustee from various sources on behalf of Maori owners is administered within the Common Fund. Sources of funds include rental, royalties, interest and income from primary sector activities.”

In March 2006 the Common Fund stood at $38.8 million. That’s the landowners’ money. It gets paid out every year to those it’s owed to. If the owners can’t be found, it sits there collecting interest until they or their successors turn up.

The Common Fund, the landowners’ money, has nothing to do with Maori Business Aotearoa New Zealand. But by saying it is, National and the Maori Party have dealt their credibility on this matter a major blow.

There are no unclaimed moneys going into MBANZ. All that money lives in the Common Fund. In fact, unclaimed money and money from what used to be called “uneconomic interests”, which were taken out between 1963 and 1993 and given to the Maori Education Foundation, Maori Purposes Fund and Maori Council, were put back on the balance sheet in 1994. There is still a $7.6 million contingent liability to cover any claims that may be made.

The Maori Trustee is an obscure and arcane institution, but one of immense importance to Maori, and the politicians could be doing a much better job of tackling the issue of reform.

For starters, it could be argued the issue of independence from the Crown is mishandled in the Bill. The Maori Trustee is a statutory Maori, a status she or he shares only with the Maori Council. That means the trustee is able to act on behalf of any Maori, perhaps to stand up to the Crown in court the way the Maori Council has. That is unlikely to happen while the office is under the thumb of the Crown.

There is no way the Public Trustee would be treated in the paternalistic way the Maori Trustee is being treated by this Government. The precedent has been set in broadcasting, spectrum allocation and fisheries for Maori to choose their own representatives on national bodies, so why is members of the trustee’s governance body totally at the whim of the minister, without even representation from the trustee’s beneficiaries?

Is Maori Business Aotearoa New Zealand needed? Romantic cant about furthering Maori economic development doesn’t tell us much. Which Maori? Why can’t they go to bank like other businesses? That’s where FOMA members go. What will make it succeed where the Maori Development Corporation (and Mana Enterprises) failed? What will is do that Poutama can’t?

There’s also the fundamental question of why the Government thinks it can carry out this raid on the trustee’s putea.

The Maori Trustee is a senior executive of Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, at least until this Bill is passed, and the staff of the Maori Trust Office are also Ministry staff.

Technically, there is supposed to be a money go round, with the Maori Trustee reimbursing the ministry for expenses incurred.

Back in 1994, the last time any serious attempt was made to do something about the Maori Trust Office, it was agreed that reimbursement up to June 30, 1994 be deferred, and that he use his best endeavours to pay expenses after that date.

No payments have been made while the future of the Maori Trust Office has been under review, and the amount owed the Crown by 2006 totaled $52,824,394 – most of the General Fund.

But is this debt real and justified? The argument the going on before 1994 was that the Maori Trustee provides a whole lot of highly specialised services which allow the Crown to meet legal and moral obligations to Maori, which otherwise it would have to pay someone like the Public Trust Office to perform.

The Maori Trustee, as an independent statutory being, may want to present the Crown with a bill for past services rendered.

Those are the sorts of arguments the Opposition could be having, rather than going off on wrong-headed attacks on behalf of the trustee’s existing beneficiaries – who will in fact be better off from the bill as it stands.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Locking up sea wrong answer for Ngati Toa

Ngati Toa Rangatira chief executive Matiu Rei says alternatives to be found to marine reserves.

The Porirua-based tribe has seen many of its traditional fishing grounds eyed as potential reserves.

Mr Rei told this week's Maori Fisheries Conference in Napier that reserves fail to take into account the longstanding relationships between Maori people and the sea.

He wants to see serious discussion on alternatives to the Marine Reserves Act.

“It's quite a draconian piece of legislation and it offers very very little options except to lock everything up. I don’t think that is about sustaining the resources of Tangaroa at all,” Mr Rei says.


A kaupapa Maori sexual health worker says the high chlamydia rate among Maori is a threat to whakapapa.

Karanga Morgan, the executive director of Te Puawai Tapu, says it's cause for alarm that Maori have the highest teenage fertility rates in New Zealand, making this country second in the OECD for teen pregnancies.

Ms Morgan says the rate of sexually transmitted infections among young Maori is even more alarming than the unplanned pregnancies, because chlamydia can lead to sterility.

“If our young people are not encouraged to have protection, to take protection, to make use of protection, condom and lube go hand in hand, that sort of message, we will see a population decline within Maori within the next 20 to 30 years,” Ms Morgan says.


Maori round the country are on the move for the Easter weekend of festivals and hui.

Ngai Tuhoe will be heading for the bi-annual Ahurei festival in Ruatoki.

And Maori Catholics are off to Wanganui for the 60th Hui Aranga, a weekend of speechmaking, sports, kapa haka and of course prayer.

Kaiwhaiki kaumatua Morvin Simon says such festivals were started as a way for Maori communities to hang on to their culture.

“This was with a view to ensuring that in the same way Tuhoe makes sure their peole know their karakia, their waiata, and all that sort of thing, it’s the same sort of thing here with our faith as well. People are trying to get around some of those things they are able to enhance a bit better,” Mr Simon says.

Between two and three thousand performers and supporters are expected a Cullinane College for the Hui Aranga.


Victoria and Waikato Universities are launching a three year research project to find out why more Maori women are going into Tertiary education than men.

Paul Callister from Victoria University's Institute of Policy Studies says the pattern of behaviour starts at primary and secondary schools, when Maori pupils are more likely to truant and to leave without qualifications.

Dr Callister says the gender gap in education has a knock on effect on the labour market and the Maori economy.

“And the problem is in a society where increasing skill levels are needed to get even the basic jobs, if the men are not going into tertiary education at those levels or increasing pretty dramatically, then quite a few of those men are going to face life long problems in terms of work,” Dr Callister says

The $1.7 million study will also look at how male educational achievement could be improved.


Indigenous rights lawyer Moana Jackson says the government still doesn't understand the nature of Maori fishing rights.

Mr Jackson says the proposed shared fisheries policy seems to put recreational fishers above other users of the resource.

The issue dominated much of the discussion at this week's Maori fisheries conference in Napier.

Mr Jackson says the assumption is that all New Zealanders have a right to fish, but in fact that is a privilege that is dependent on Maori rights being upheld.

“In order to increase the take for recreational fishers, effectively the Crown is taking away some of the hard fought quota that our people have regained in the last 20 years. There’s a fundamental injustice in the proposed process in that the Crown is robbing Maori to allow other recreational fishers to do what they like,” Mr Jackson says.

He says the phrase "all New Zealanders" doesn't seem to take Maori into account.


A senior Maori Anglican cleric says Easter has lost its relevance for many Maori.

Hone Kaa from Saint John's Theological College says only 6 percent of New Zealanders regularly attend church, and that lack of interest is being felt in Maori congregations as well.

Reverend Kaa says churches used to be centres for Maori community activity, but the drift to the cities has led to a drift away from the churches.

“Circumstances have all changes in that 40 or 50 years. Whereas at one time we were 90 percent rural people, now we are 90 percent urbanised. People have struggled to survive in the city. There are so many things they have to do in order to live. Religion kind of gets set to one side, and it only ever pops its head up when it’s what they call the hatch ‘em, match ‘em and dispatch ‘em department, and that's about it,” Reverend Kaa says.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Tame Iti arms conviction dismissed on appeal

Tuhoe activist Tame Iti says a Court of Appeal decision overturning his firearms convictions is just one more step in a lifelong battle for indigenous rights.

Mr Iti had been found guilty of two counts of possessing a firearm in a public place after he fired a shotgun during welcomes for the Waitangi Tribunal at Ruatoki in January 2005.

The court said the prosecution failed to prove any criminal harm from Iti's action.

Mr Iti says the case was brought because of the grandstanding of former ACT MP Stephen Franks, and he has no grudge against the police for taking it.

“Tuhoe tikanga or any other iwi hapu tikanga always will be in conflict. As long as the judicial system continues to marginalise indigenous people of this country, we always will be in in conflict with it,” Mr Iti says.

He says over the past 15 years he has discharged shotguns on Tuhoe marae in front of a prime minister, a governor general and a police commissioner with no complaints.


Maori lawyer Moana Jackson says recreational fishers must understand taking fish is a privilege and not a right.

Mr Jackson, who specialises in international indigenous rights, told this week's Maori fisheries hui in Napier that pressure from the recreational sector for increased catches would be at the expense of Maori customary and commercial interests.

Mr Jackson says the recreational sector is unwilling to accept that Maori customary rights should have priority.

“So any right to fish recreationally must be subject to a similar right of Maori to exercise their preceding rights over a particular fish bed or whatever, and it’s in that context that recreational fishing in my view is a privilege subject to the pre-existing rights of Maori,” Mr Jackson says.

He says the Government's proposed shared fisheries policy will reinforce recreational privilege rather than uphold treaty and customary rights.


A Waverley High School board spokesperson says closure of the South Taranaki school will be a blow to the area's tangata whenua, Nga Rauru.

Mike Niho says up to 40 percent of students whakapapa to the iwi, and will now have to travel through to Wanganui or Paatea to finish their secondary schooling.

Mr Niho says the local Maori community fought for the school to remain open.

“For Nga Rauru as a whole, we’re disappointed in the closure, given that we now only have the Waverley Primary School, the Waitotara Primary School are the only educational facilities in Nga Rauru,” Mr Niho says.


E te koro, moe mai moe mai takoto mai ra...

Te Aitanga Hauiti hapu of Ngati Porou today buried long time educationalist and race relations advocate Vern Penfold, who died this week aged 82 after a long illness.

Mr Penfold did much of his early teaching at Ratana Pa, before become a lecturer in Maori studies at Auckland teachers training college during the 1960s.

He moved into the inspectorate, and at the end of his career was working for the Race Relations Conciliator developing education programmes.

Fellow educator and friend Turoa Royal says Mr Penfold was an inspiration to generations of teachers.

“He from my point of view was a really professional tutor who cared passionately for his students. He would have matched any professional in terms of his dedication, his understanding of children, and a special place for Maori, because of the difficulties they were having and still are having, with the education system at the present time,” Mr Royal says.

Mr Penford was buried by the sea at Tologa Bay.


Ngati Hine Health Trust today signed an agreement with the Accident Compensation Commission to improve the way Northland Maori access its services.

It's the second of six such partnerships the commission plans to announce over the next few months.

Hemi Toia, the ACC's director of Maori and community relations, says Maori lag behind non-Maori in using rehabilitation services.

“The key reason is simply a lack of knowledge on the part of Maori communities abut the entitlements under the ACC umbrella. Our entitlement take-up rates would suggest that Maori are uncomfortable with accessing the resources of this agency, as opposed to non Maori,” Mr Toia says.

ACC will help Ngati Hine train kaiawhina to raise awareness of services.


The Government's plan to cut commercial quota to make more fish available for the recreational sector dominated discussions at the second Annual Maori Fisheries Conference this week in Napier.

Matiu Rei, the chief executive of Ngati Toa Rangatira, says the hui was a valuable chance for some the main players in the industry to look at the environment ahead.

Mr Rei says the fisheries ministry hasn't been clear enough about its plans, but from what they have seen, Maori are worried.

“It was an opportunity for us to consider the shared fisheries proposal which was coming, which actually hasn’t been too widely defined by the government but it’s certainly raising concern in Maori circles,” Mr Rei says.

The hui was also an opportunity for iwi to strengthen their economic links.

Settlement process on trial in Tamaki

I’ve sat on this post for a couple of weeks ruminating, which is wrong for blogging, so now I’m spitting the cud.

Nothing of what I’ve seen subsequently has made me change my mind that the Office of Treaty Settlements has no business conducting business the way it does.

The Waitangi Tribunal was in Auckland last month to hear the Tamaki Makaurau Settlement Claim, an investigation into the process by which the Crown developed by direct negotiation and Agreement in Principle to settle the claims to Auckland lands of Ngati Whatua o Orakei.

It follows a similar hearing into an Agreement in Principle with Nga Kaihauto o Te Arawa, which will settle about half the claims to land around the Rotorua lakes, with no timetable or process on the table for settling with the 50 percent or so of Te Arawa who refused to join the talks.

Similarly, there is no process to consider interests other iwi or hapu may have in the Auckland isthmus.

Tribunal acting chairperson Judge Carrie Wainwright says it will try to get the Tamaki Makaurau Settlement report out in about a month.

Some impressions and comments.

Pressure has been building for several years for an investigation of the settlement process, and what are seen as the indignities claimants are put through. Tribunal chair Joe Williams seemed loathe to tackle it himself, but with Joe taking time out to finish the Wai 262 indigenous fauna and flora claim, Carrie has taken it on.

What came out under cross examination during the week should make it impossible for the Government to continue the process as it is. It is very clear the Office of Treaty Settlements makes things up as it goes along.

The Government claims the settlement process is subject to internal relativities, so inflated settlements late in the process do not devalue earlier settlements – or more to the point, the ratchet clauses in the Tainui and Ngai Tahu settlements, guaranteeing those post-settlement corporate entities 17 percent each of the total settlement putea.

These relativities have never been made transparent. Claimants can’t go to a table in the OTS annual report and discover they are entitled to x percent of the total. It is only after years chiselling that discover what the Crown negotiators think they are worth. The negotiation process is all about reducing expectations, nothing about a fair or even an economically viable settlement.

In fact what has been happening is that with land values increasing faster than the rate of inflation, those relativities are shot anyway. So what OTS is doing to get the settlements it is giving priority to – those where claimants are willing to essentially give up their rights for a full investigation of their claims by the Waitangi Tribunal and enter direct negotiations – is it is using accounting tricks to keep the reported quantum in line with the relativity structure.

In the case of the Auckland settlement, two examples of fancy bookwork are immediately obvious.

The value of the right of first refusal for surplus Crown land in the settlement area over 100 years is given a zero value. It should be known by now what such a right is worth. Ngai Tahu has had it for a decade, and being the middleman in every surplus land sale has provided a handy cashflow. It hasn’t been such a boon to Tainui, because there is less surplus land in the Waikato to clip the ticket on.

Ngati Whatua gets the right to buy land the navy is using in Devonport for its base and staff housing. It is said to be worth $80 million, but Orakei doesn’t need to pay anything up front because the navy is getting a rent holiday (on land it currently owns freehold) for 35 years. That means a generation or so hence, Ngati Whatua will start collecting market rents on a big tract of extremely valuable land.

Setting aside the question of whether Ngati Whatua o Orakei’s historical association with the North Shore is greater than that of say Marutuahu iwi, who sold the land, this is an extraordinary gesture to make to a relatively small hapu. As one lawyer confided after the hearing, everyone will want to negotiate with this team, because they are clearly the easybeats.

Judge Wainwright asked team leader Rachel Houlbrooke a series of questions designed to determine whether the OTS had any idea of the complexity of the history of Maori Auckland.

Houlbrooke listed a series of historical accounts OTS relied on (in addition to the overview written by Brice Stirling, which was kept secret until well after the agreement in principle was signed and want never peer reviewed or subject to any expert critique in a public forum). Wainwright’s response was that she would not have used any of that material, such as Russel Stone’s book on early Auckland, if she wanted to find out about Maori Auckland.

Wainwright also asked whether OTS had any second thoughts – did Houlbrook think there might have been things it could have done differently. After an evasive answer, Wainwright asked if Houlbrooke could not or would not answer the question. “Maybe both,” Houlbrooke said, bringing questions to a close.

One obvious way to determine a major issue like who had interests in the various maunga or volcanic cones around the isthmus would have been to hold a hui and thrash the issue out. Oh no, said Houlbrooke. It wouldn’t do to have people without a mandate to make those kind of concessions.

There is no institutional capacity within OTS to make judgments on Maori customary matters, no idea how to ask the questions let alone find the answers, and not even any sense about why this could be important.

In 2007, it should be completely unacceptable that a Crown agency responsible for dealing with Maori on such an issue has no institutional capacity for moving in tea o Maori.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Aroha abducted by aliens

As a political stunt, the abduction of Aroha from the underclass by aliens must rate as one of the most bizarre and ill judged of recent times.

Let’s break it down.

John Key makes a state of the nation speech to mark his ascension to the National Party throne, mindful of the boost his predecessor Don Brash got from the Maori-bashing Orewa speech.

He talks about an underclass, singling out McGechan Close in the Auckland suburb of Owairaka as an example of its habitat, a place where "rungs on the ladder of opportunity have been broken".

He then dashes off to McGehan Close for a close look and a photo op, and there his eye falls on 12 year old Aroha Ireland.

That’s where the code breaks down immediately. There may have been Somali kids, Tongan kids, whoever, but he picks on the Maori kid. We’re back on the Brash script already.

He offers her opportunity – come with him to Waitangi Day celebrations in the Bay of Islands.

On the day he pulls up in a Crown limousine and whisks he away. On her own. Not with her mum, or auntie, or big brother. On her own.

Chaperone for the day is to be another National MP, Jackie Blue, who it seems had been Aroha’s grandmother’s doctor.

That’s the overclass. They have this sense of entitlement that tells them they can take away other people’s children and do what they want with them. It’s paedophile grooming behaviour (not that we’re accusing Key of that – he’s just unmindful of the consequences of his actions). It’s the kind of thinking that gave Australia its Stolen Generation, that Aboriginal children were better off being brought up in white-run institutions than among their wild kin.

Write off the parents – they can’t be saved – but inculcate the children with the values of their betters, ie, rich white males.

As a symbol for Key’s views on what the Treaty of Waitangi means, Labour MP and former fisheries commission chair Shane Jones saw it as harking back to the kiwi nationalism of 1960s National prime minister Keith Holyoake (and the gesture of his successor, Labour’s Norm Kirk at the 1973 Waitangi Day commemoration) which places Maori as "a junior partner, represented by a child who needs to be led by a white father".

Tapu Misa nails down that McGehan Close and Aroha aren’t particularly good examples of the underclass anyway, and details the agenda behing the use of such pseudo-sociology.

So is this what we can expect from a Key-led National? More coded Maori-bashing? Policies which promise choice, but only if you’re not poor? Abusive social relationships?

Key is looking as coming out of the same mold of Jenny Shipley and Ruth Richardson, that the poor are people you can experiment on, for their own good of course, because it’s all their fault anyway, the lazy thieving underclass.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ngai Tahu reports on troubled year

Ngai Tahu’s ride as the success story of Maori claim settlements seems to be hitting some choppy water.

The South Island tribe’s 2006 annual report (here eventually)reveals a bottom line loss for the year to June 30 of $10.92 million, compared with a $15.657 million profit the previous year.

Kaiwhakahaere Mark Solomon says that was driven by a tough year in fisheries, its largest operating division, including a $20 million write down in assets, which Solomon said was a decision by the new board of Ngai Tahu Holdings Corporation to reflect "honest" value.

He said a structural review helped lower operating expenses.

Distributions to tribal purposes, constituent runaka and whanau doubled from $6.2 million to $12.5 million, including the set up costs of its Whai Rawa subsidised savings scheme.

There was a $35.7 million net outflow from operating activities, compared with a $2.8 million net inflow in 2005, and a $16.2 million net inflow from investing activities, compared with a $15.5 million net outflow last year.

Most of the investing inflow came from the sale of forest land at Tapanui, Otago Coast and Berwick.

Solomon denied the sales were designed to prop up the balance sheet, saying the process was kicked off 18 months ago.

Given that this report comes after a review and restructuring, and in the middle of a long drawn out battle between the half of the board which supports Solomon and the other half who lean towards chief executive Tahu Potiki (who yesterday announced he would depart in March).

Dr Robin Pratt, an experienced executive brought in to run Holdings Corporation, quit (or was pushed out by the restructure process) in May. Salary band disclosures in the report show that Pratt’s golden handshake took his final year’s pay above $1.1 million. Some 42 other executives earned over $100,000 – good pay for Christchurch.

His departure might have also affected how the corporation’s results were reported.

Ngai Tahu Holding Corporaiton’s net profit before tax was $9.336 million, down from $31.560 million the previous year.

It made $14.427 million from ongoing trading operations, almost $10 million less than 2005, and made a $17.261 million profit on asset sales. That was all knocked out by its $22.352 million write down in assets, $20.722 million of which were in the seafood operation.

Given that Ngai Tahu will in the current financial year bring into its books the fisheries settlement assets received from Te Ohu Kaimoana Trust, it is good policy to ensure valuations are correct. What will raise eyebrows though is the fact that $15 million of the write down was in the goodwill in Cook Strait Seafoods, a Wellington-based company bought in 2003.

Former Ngai Tahu chair Sir Tipene O’Regan has been critical of that deal. Give that he would have looked the company over during his time as chair of the fisheries commission, his view the price paid was too high now seems confirmed.

The justification for the deal was contained in a 2003 Unlimited article on the tribe: Ngai Tahu Seafoods’ acquisition this year of Cook Strait Seafoods and 50% purchase of fishing fleet Pacific Trawling doubles Ngai Tahu Seafoods’ turnover to $90 million and will take its export earnings from $35 million a year to around $65 million. The two acquisitions give Ngai Tahu 50% ownership of four inshore and deepwater vessels, retail and wholesale outlets in Wellington and Auckland, plus quota. In the past the company could not get enough product to sell in Europe without dropping customers in other markets. The acquisition of Cook Strait gives it the volume to have a good global spread and less exposure to the US dollar, chief executive Gavin Holley says.

Fast forward three years and the Pacific Trawling joint ventures were dissolved, the Albany Pacific Catch store sold and some deep sea vessels were sold or laid up.

A planned expansion of the Pacific Catch chain of retil stores was suspended while the company tries to bring existing stores into profit.

The seafood division made a $3.833 million loss on its trading operations, with revenue dropping $7.6 million $73.9 million.

The report blames the high dollar, high fuel prices and poor profitability for large volume wetfish species like hoki.

Of note is a decision to treat $6,531,650 in costs related to allocation of fisheries settlement assets – in other words the accumulated legal bills for years of litigating for a larger share – as an investment pending allocation, rather than an expense.

Also of note is its decision to join the rest of the industry in processing fish like orange roughy, oreo dory and monkfish in China, meaning fewer jobs in New Zealand.

Problems in the tourism businesses over summer, especially Shotover Jet, affected profits, which were $3.3 million after asset write downs.

Ngai Tahu’s total assets now stand at $561 million, up $40 million over the year, and shareholders’ equity is $411 million, up $33 million.