Don’t pull the plug on this Maori trough – let’s see if it can be adapted for Scandinavian export growth

Alf has jacked up a meeting with Pansy Wong, our Minister of Ethnic Affairs, despite his serious reservations about the need for such a portfolio.

An impulse to win a few electoral brownie points in the Tararua region has taken precedence over principle in the matter he wishes to raise with her.

He reckons the Government should put aside a bucket of money for Scandinavians (who were among the first non-Maori to move into his neck of the woods, giving rise to the naming of towns like Dannevirke and Norsewood). The objective would be to help the Scandinavians to export stuff.

Don’t ask what sort of stuff, because it seems to Alf it doesn’t matter a fat rat if it turns out they export nothing. The point essentially is to properly appropriate the money and have it targeted to help any exporter who can claim to be a Scandinavian exporter.

The inspiration for this initiative is the fuss generated over the Government-funded scheme to boost Maori exports.

As Radio NZ reported things today:

The review of the $3 million Tekau Plus Maori Agribusiness Project project, concluded there is no evidence of exports. It recommends the scheme be overhauled rather than scrapped.

The $3 million Tekau Plus Maori Agribusiness Project was suspended in November last year, after a value-for-money review found few benefits for exporters from the $1.5 million spent so far.

Nah, don’t write in to complain about the repetition in that slab of text. That’s how Alf found it on the Radio NZ web-site.

More important, take note that the aim of the Te Puni Kokiri-commissioned project, set up in 2007, was to get Maori agribusinesses exporting up to $10 million of export earnings within 10 years.

Great idea! It’s a taxpayer-supplied trough for business people to dip their snouts into, but only so long as they can pass muster from an ethnicity point of view. Whether there is a need for such a trough, or whether race-based eligibility is calculated to make the best use of the swill in the trough, is neither here nor there.

At least, it was neither here nor there until the bloody media started sniffing into the trough and raising a fuss about its purpose, although what business the media had in the matter is a great mystery to Alf.

Alas, as generally should be known by now, the fuss led to a review that found the scheme was poorly governed, with poor management of conflicts of interest. It found the Tekau Plus advisory board, its administrative arm and even two companies targeted for assistance were run by the same people (although so long as they were Maori, Alf seriously doubts this should give cause for complaint)

According to the report, the greatest benefit so far has gone to a subsidiary of the Federation of Maori Authorities, Fomana, which operates the scheme, rather than to Maori exporters.

But hey, let’s not get too excited, because we shouldn’t believe everything the media tells us, and:

Paul Morgan, managing director of Fomana Capital and a former board member of Tekau Plus, told Morning Report the review was incorrect when it said $1 million had gone to the organisation managing the scheme.

He says the scheme was only two years into what was supposed to be a 10-year project, and needed more time to achieve its goals.

Alf has enormous sympathy with this point of view.

A farmer who stops feeding his pigs because the buggers aren’t putting on weight is being short-sighted.

Alf refers any sceptics to this advice from a web-site on hog fattening:

Pigs are often seen as lazy, overweight creatures, but that is frequently not the case. Both show and market hogs are judged according to their weight, and many pigs are often too underweight to make the cut. Pigs are naturally voracious eaters and will consume a wide variety of foods, but still have a hard time gaining weight. There are a number of steps you can take to help your pig gain weight rapidly for show or market evaluations.

The aforementioned web-site gives these tips:

# Make sure to feed your pig as much as he wants to eat. Keep the feeder full at all times to encourage him to eat.

# Don’t allow your pig to roam too much. If you pig has to walk long distances to eat, he will burn off more calories than he is taking in and will lose weight.

Alf accordingly will be commending his idea to Pansy and calling for a few million bucks for a rich swill to do for Scandinavian exporters what it should be doing for Maori exporters, although naturally he will be submitting that Scandinavians will take great care with the governance thing that is getting people so excited and that, furthermore, the Scandinavians will actually increase their exports with this money.

He notes that Te Puni Kokiri chief executive, Leith Comer is accepting responsibility for the poor management of the Maori scheme.

Comer will be working to resurrect the scheme with better structures and accountability for the money spent.

This goes to show that Comer, at least, does not think the idea is a crock.

If Alf gets the necessary approvals, he will expect Comer to support the Scandinavian export idea, and maybe allow the Scandinavians to establish the right governance arrangements to help Maori exporters. Then – who knows? – we could have troughs for Scottish exporters, and Chinese exporters, and Welsh exporters, and even Hottentot exporters, if we can find any Hottentots, although a dearth of applicants in any particular category should not be regarded as an impediment to the scheme’s implementation.

Alf is aware that some smart-arse will demand to know how we should define “Scandinavian” for eligibility purposes.

But damn it, no-one gets too excited about how we define “Maori” for trough-slurping purposes. Has anyone seen an official definition of “Maori” before they can take any of the benefits the state has provided only for them?

An applicant’s surname should be a good guide for Alf’s scheme: Petersens and Nielsens would get the nod to dip into the trough, but Petersons and Nelsons would dip out.

A Maori with the name Petersen may well qualify to dip into both troughs.

Paul Morgan would certainly qualify for the Maori trough and the Welsh one, by the looks of it, when we get around to raising the readies for a trough for Welsh exporters.

Alf is counting on him to endorse the idea, accordingly.

But more important than Morgan’s support, dear constituents, what do you think?

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