Government will not restructure the Māori Council – Shane Jones

in the news

The government will not restructure the New Zealand Māori Council, Regional Development Minister Shane Jones confirmed in a speech on Sunday.  

The Council, invigorated after a change in government, is dramatically expanding its work programme, partnering with different organisations to explore issues as diverse as measuring the impact of social policy to protecting individual’s data sovereignty.

But for the last eight years reforms threatened to radically reshape the Council and its twin, the Māori Wardens.

In 2010 the Māori Affairs Select Committee launched an inquiry into the Māori Community Development Act 1962, the Council’s empowering act, and in 2013 Te Puni Kōkiri consulted on widespread reforms to it.

But a Waitangi Tribunal decision in 2014 found the reform process breached the Treaty of Waitangi, cautioning the Crown that any review of the Council’s legislation must be led by the Council itself.  

The National-led government called taihoa, taking 2015 to carefully review the Tribunal’s report.

In 2016 Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell kicked the review back into gear, but a change of government in 2017 meant changes never made it to a first reading.

Now Jones is confirming the Coalition Government will not pick up where the last government left off.

“Any suggestion, any rumor mongering, that there is an agenda to radically restructure the legislation of the New Zealand Maori Council…  send them back to read our coalition agreement,” said Jones.

“It’s not there,” he said, referring to the fact there are no reform plans in the Coalition agreement.  

“That is the bible on which our government is formed.”

The guarantee from Jones comes as the Council begins a programme to reclaim its position as the government’s partner of choice.  On Monday one of the Council’s nominees, Dr Andrew Erueti, was appointed to the Royal Commission into Child and Institutional Abuse. Council nominees sit on several other government-appointed review and investigation panels including the new Kahui Wai Māori.

“This Council has a long and proud history of ensuring the aspirations of our people are met in any way possible,” said Jones.

“As we stand together, united here this weekend with all Sixteen Māori Districts present, I cannot be prouder to say that the prow of our Waka is firmly pointed in the right direction and we are all paddling in the same direction.”  

Jones and the Council are as one just as the rift between the Coalition and the Iwi Chairs Forum widens.

Jones himself has refused to meet with the Iwi Chairs while Employment Minister Willie Jackson has publicly questioned their mandate and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has labelled their work “not satisfactory.”

The Iwi Chairs Forum returned fire, boycotting the Kahui Wai Māori and threatening court action over the closure of partnership schools.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made tentative steps towards reconciliation, attending the Forum’s November meeting in Dunedin, but the Council remain ascendant as the Forum’s influence declines.


  • 1962: The Māori Welfare Act is passed, establishing the modern Māori Council;

  • 1979: Minor reforms are made to the Council’s responsibilities and functions and the Act is renamed the Māori Community Development Act;

  • 1987: The Council, led by Sir Graham Latimer, take the “Lands case”, the Court of Appeal decision establishing the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi;

  • 1993: The Council is appointed to lead the consultation process to reform Māori land law;

  • 2010: The Māori Affairs Select Committee launches its own inquiry into the Council’s empowering act;

  • 2012: The Council take, and lose, the Mighty River Power case in the Supreme Court;

  • 2013: consultation on reforms to the Council and Wardens begin;

  • 2014: the consultation comes to a halt after the Waitangi Tribunal rules it breaches the Treaty of Waitangi;

  • 2016: Te Ururoa Flavell publicly commits to reform

  • 2017: Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First form the government. Sir Taihakurei Eddie Durie is elected sole chair of the Council after internal and legal wrangling with Maanu Paul.


in the house

The House is not sitting this week.

Treaty Negotiations Minister Andrew Little will now decide whether to re-enter settlement negotiations with the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust after tribal members narrowly voted to reconfirm the Trust’s mandate. Voter turnout was 33% with 56% of those who cast eligible votes backing continued negotiations. The other 44% voted to either re-run the mandate process or seek a full Waitangi Tribunal historical inquiry. Of the hapū, three (including hapū Ngāti Ira) voted for a full inquiry and four voted for continuing negotiations. The results expose significant divisions and suggest that the mandate to re-enter negotiations is not strong enough to sustain a harmonious settlement.

Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta is reforming the underperforming Māori Housing Network. Members of the Māori Affairs Select Committee criticised the multimillion dollar fund this year after the Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) CEO admitted that TPK did not know how many houses were built or repaired as a result of support from the fund. As a result, TPK brought in a number of contractors and the fund is now spending to support repair works. Organisations that have recently received funding include Habitat for Humanity and the Ngāti Wai Trust. The largest recipient was Korimiti Consultancy Limited, receiving almost $1 m to repair and improve 21 homes in the South Canterbury area.


in the media

  • The Waitangi Tribunal is holding its second series of hearings into Mangatu remedies claim, the Gisborne Herald reports. Six claimant groups are applying for the return of Mangatu Crown forest licensed lands and compensation. The claimants estimate their economic loss at $60m.

  • Kelvin Davis is winning widespread praise after reducing the prison population by almost 1000 in his first year in the job. The reduction comes mainly via changes to the way remand inmates are assisted and dealt with.

  • Systemic racism is to blame for New Zealand’s glaring ethnic health inequalities, according to Dr Owen Sinclair, a paediatrician based at Waitakere Hospital. Sinclair’s research focuses on health inequalities in the country and explores why “a European child born in the affluent North Shore will have a completely different life trajectory to a Maori child born into poverty in South Auckland.”