Hapū question "superficial" inquiry into the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board

in the news

Whakatōhea are one step closer to securing a $100m Treaty settlement after a Ministerial Inquiry found the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board’s (the Board’s) 2017 election results stand.

The findings mean the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claims Trust (the Trust) can use the Board’s tribal register to conduct a mandating vote.  

The vote comes after the Waitangi Tribunal lashed the Crown for entering negotiations with the Trust before establishing whether or not it enjoyed a proper mandate from its people.

“The [inquiry] validates the elections process, confirms the hapū representatives elected by whānau in November 2017, and means Whakatōhea’s tribal register can be used for the upcoming vote on our future settlement process,” said Trust deputy chair Bruce Pukepuke.

The Inquiry, conducted by former Solicitor-General Michael Heron QC, found several irregularities in the 2017 election process, but those irregularities were found not to have affected the outcome of the election.

“[I]t is now up to our iwi, hapū, and whānau to decide on the future of this settlement and that’s the way the Trust believes it should be,” said Pukepuke.

“We are really looking forward to having our direction reconfirmed so we can achieve a settlement that will give our tamariki and mokopuna opportunities that others before us did not get to have.”

But deficiencies in the way the Board manages conflicts of interest and disclosure were found and Ngāi Tamahaua, the Opape-based hapū, is calling on Minister of Māori Development Nanaia Mahuta to extend the Inquiry from a “surface” one to a “forensic” investigation.

“[The Ministerial Inquiry] clearly identifies that the general allegations of inappropriate conduct and improper processes are upheld and that these major problems do exist in the Whakatōhea Māori Trust Board and that this misbehaviour has become ingrained in the culture,” said hapū chair Peter Selwyn.

The Inquiry makes several recommendations including appointing an independent returning officer to oversee the Board’s election process. Yet this does not go far enough, said Selwyn.

“Minister Mahuta's intention to validate the 2017 elections is of particular concern given Mr Heron's clear finding that [the Board’s] electoral roll was never authorised for use as the legislation requires, is unverified and unverifiable, and that one nominee was accepted despite being late.”

“It is difficult to see if this was a local government election that that would ever be permitted. Why are Māori Trust Boards subject to a second-class standard of democracy?”

The Board must report back to Mahuta in December, outlining its progress implementing the Inquiry’s recommendations.

But the state of the Board’s roll is casting doubt over the integrity of the tribe’s mandating vote.

Postal ballots are making their way to registered tribal members* asking whether they support the Trust re-entering Treaty settlement negotiations with the Crown or, if they oppose the Trust re-entering negotiations, whether they support a new mandating process or a full historical inquiry.

Ngāti Ira, Upokorehe and several other hapū are calling for an historical inquiry while Ngāti Rua and Ngāti Ngahere are backing the Trust to re-enter negotiations.   

In a signal of just how deep the division runs, the Ngāi Tamahaua representative to the Trust Board in the 2015-2017 term was Maui Hudson, the lawyer and lead negotiator for the Pre-Settlement Claims Trust.

In other words, there are not only faultlines within the iwi but within hapū too.

The first round of Whakatōhea Treaty settlement negotiations were dramatically and rightly terminated in 1998 with the tribe walking away from an offer worth $40m. The current round of settlement negotiations were put on hold after a successful Waitangi Tribunal challenge in 2017, and the postal vote will determine whether they go ahead and in what form.

Voting closes October 26.  

*Other tribal members can also cast special votes at consultation hui. Dr. Rodney Harrison QC is the overseeing the process as independent facilitator.

See also: Internal dissent threatens to cut the Whakatōhea Treaty claim in two (August 24)

in the house

The House resumes on 16 October.

Politik editor Richard Harman has revealed a dramatic proposal to restructure the Crown’s ‘Māori’ agencies. The proposal suggests the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti will become the Crown’s lead ‘Māori’ agency, advising other agencies on the Māori-Crown partnership and assuming Te Puni Kōkiri’s (TPK’s) operational functions. TPK would remain, in Harman’s words, “a boutique policy agency”. TPK’s largest “puni” (or team) is its policy puni, but it also performs investment functions (e.g. investing in papakāinga housing via its “investment puni”), commissioning and contract management functions (e.g. Whānau Ora commissioning via its whānau ora puni), and on the ground functions through its network of regional offices. It’s unclear whether these functions would remain with TPK under the leaked proposals or shift to Te Arawhiti. In September māui street spoke with Māori leaders, including a former TPK CE, who were concerned that Te Arawhiti would duplicate many of TPK’s existing functions.

Māui street can also exclusively reveal that in July TPK underwent a major internal restructure, disbanding its Strategy and Organisational Performance Puni. This might amount to a signal that major changes are on the way, but the political sell will be difficult. First, with Māori (there is no great love for government departments of any kind), and second, with Cabinet. New Zealand First stood in the way of Te Arawhiti’s first announcement, and Winston Peters (as a National Party Minister in the 1990s) is in large part responsible for TPK in its current form. In the early 90s Peters oversaw the repeal of the Runanga Iwi Act and the passage of the Ministry of Māori Development Act 1991, the Act combining the short-lived Ministry of Maori Affairs (Manatū Māori) and the Iwi Transition Agency into one - in the words of the time - “boutique” agency. Doing away with TPK, in other words, would be to do away with Peter’s work as Minister of Māori Affairs in the 90s.

selected funding rounds

Commemorative funds

  • Te Pū Harakeke Investment, Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK). Te Pū Harakeke provides support to deliver events and projects in local communities. There are three funding streams: the Matariki fund supports events celebrating the Māori new year; the Māra Kai fund supports community garden projects; and the sponsorship fund provides one-off financial assistance for community events or activities contributing to Māori development. Status: open.

  • Te Pūtake o Te Riri, TPK. This fund supports whānau, hapū and iwi to initiate, promote and deliver activities and events that commemorate the New Zealand wars. The fund is intended to work as a contribution to events and is not intended to cover the full cost. Status: open.

  • Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund, Ministry for Culture and Heritage. This fund supports events commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and promoting nation and community building. The fund does not support the full-cost of events. Status: open.