Some things – like putting $3.4 million in a Super City Maori trough – can’t wait for debate

Apathetic Kiwis are curiously oblivious to the way the Treaty of Waitangi is being invoked to debase the democracy their forefathers fought to defend in two world wars.

A few months ago, they made bugger all fuss on learning that fewer than two dozen people will select members for the Super City’s Maori Statutory Board.

An iwi selection group made up of 19 tribally-drawn members was set up to go through nominations for seven “mana whenua” or iwi representatives and two others known as “mataawaka”members.

Mana whenua representatives were being split between Ngati Manuhiri, Marutuahu, Waiohua and Ngati Whatua.

Full credit to political commentator Matt McCarten for being among those who expressed outrage.

“They should be elected just like everybody else. It’s essentially appointed, it has no mandate and therefore it’s compromised. I think that the council will know and everyone will know that it doesn’t stand on its own mana and it’s just there to make the council look good.”

The split of membership was also problematic because it was heavily weighted to iwi interests and didn’t seem to give urban Maori a fair go.

“It does seem a bit unbalanced and so therefore that also smacks of patronage.”

But an iwi spokesman leading the process said Maori were making the best of a bad situation.

This means they were making the best of an arrangement set up when they spat the dummy because the Government would not give them special seats.

Iwi selection chairman Tame Te Rangi said Maori had wanted special seats and had strenuously opposed the statutory board. However, tribes now had to deal with the reality of how the Auckland Council would work.

Asked about the fairness of the selection process, Mr Te Rangi said tribes weren’t responsible for the legislation.

“We’ve basically been dealt a raw hand and we’re trying to work through the process.”

But a statement from Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples at that time put us in the picture about what was being done in Auckland and – to those with the wit to recognise the threat – sounded a warning about the prospect of a similar formula insidiously being applied elsewhere.

Membership of the statutory board was determined by mana whenua representatives, rather than by election, because the board was intended to ensure the Auckland Council fulfilled its Treaty of Waitangi obligations in local government and resource management legislation, Sharples said.

The statutory board was not part of the council structure, but was established independently under its own statute to represent the Treaty partner, he said.

Therefore, the purpose, functions and powers of the board were quite different to those of community boards.

It’s a measure of the political apathy in this country that no one marched in the streets to express their anger, as they are doing in Egypt at the moment.

Next bloody thing, we are told unelected members of the Auckland Council’s Maori advisory board will be able to vote on council committees.

The Aucklander newspaper reported that as many as 20 of the council’s committees, panels and forums will have two Maori Statutory Board members at meetings.

They will effectively act as two other councillors, as they will be able to vote.

Board chairman David Taipari said yesterday that members, who were appointed to the board, were looking forward to being involved in council proceedings.

Alf would not use the word “involved”. He is inclined to suggest “hijacked”.

Taipiri said the fact that board members would be represented in most of the council’s committees had always been something laid out in the local government legislation.

“A lot of people don’t realise [how] much, because they haven’t read the legislation,” he said.

“But they will find that the board has quite a bit of genuine participation, which includes voting.

“I think it’s appropriate that we have participation.”

An Auckland Council spokesman at that time said that in the legislation under which the Government created the new council structure, the Maori Statutory Board was always set up to be an independent body.

However one of its duties was to make appointments to the council’s committees, panels and forums that dealt with the management of natural and physical resources.

“That process is now under way. The matter will next be discussed when the governing body and the board meet early next month,” the spokesman said.

Those committees will deal with issues such as social and community development, heritage, transport, parks and strategy and finance.

But Orakei councillor Cameron Brewer said he felt most Aucklanders would be surprised to find out how much power the board had. It was essentially acting not just as an advisory body.

“I think this would surprise most Aucklanders, that Maori Statutory Board members that have not been elected by the public will be able to vote at committee meetings and arguably sway the vote and influence the result.”

Mr Brewer said the council was evenly split politically, so it was possible the two Maori votes could influence a result many times.

Citizens & Ratepayers co-leader Christine Fletcher – let the record show – welcomed the move to have two board members on committees.

“I think it can produce a really good partnership…”

A partnership?

Between democratically elected councillors and appointed Maori troughers?

Now another outrage.

The unelected Maori Statutory Board will cost Auckland ratepayers $3.4 million a year to run.

And its budget was rushed through under urgency, which is ironic, because The Maori Way – we are told – is to spend huge amounts of time talking these things through.

But according to the Herald, councillors were given virtually no time to consider the budget, which has blown out from a $400,000 estimate – by the agency that set up the Super City – to a multi-million-dollar cost.

The funding agreement approves $2,066,000 for the remaining eight months of this year’s budget and $3,435,500 for 2011-2012.

Auckland Council’s finance committee approved the budget yesterday under urgency, and it was not presented to the full council.

Wonder where the money will go?

The Herald has been helpful.

* Pay and expenses for nine board members: $494,500
* Pay and expenses for non-board members sitting on council committees: $50,500
* Staff costs: $946,500
* Legal, communication, professional advice, tikanga: $470,000
* Engaging and reporting to Maori community: $280,000
* Audit of council performance relative to Treaty of Waitangi: $175,000
* Research on wellbeing of Maori: $650,000
* Council support services: $369,000

Trouble is, the grand total has come as a surprise. And so –

Mayor Len Brown will have to slash $3 million from existing spending in his first budget or raise rates to pay for the unbudgeted cost.

It’s worth noting that board chairman David Taipari and Mayor Brown issued a press statement through the board’s public relations firm, which only made a passing reference to the $3.4 million funding agreement.

But Maori in Auckland are doing nicely, thank you, because the Auckland Council also operates a Maori strategy and relations department with 19 staff.

Protocols of how the department and Maori Statutory Board will work together are still being worked through.

So who should ratepayers throw out if they are not happy?

Good question.

Auckland Council chief executive Doug McKay said that by law the Maori Statutory Board was an independent body that did not report to the Auckland Council, but an electoral college formed by Te Puni Kokiri, which set it up.

Mr McKay said each year the board would negotiate a funding agreement with the council, saying he was responsible for monitoring its funding, employment contracts and the functioning of the board, such as office support.

He said he was not responsible for who was on the board or its policy positions – “in that sense they are very strongly independent”.

Independent. And laughing all the way back to their marae.

2 Responses to Some things – like putting $3.4 million in a Super City Maori trough – can’t wait for debate

  1. Charles Cecil says:

    How can Brown justify these unelected Maori members being able to vote and how can the budget be inflated to 3.5million.Maybe it’s payback time regardless of honesty.Brown should hang his head in shame.This is not a Counry where all are equal.Australia looks very appelling

    • Alf Grumble says:

      Alf welcomes this comment from Charles Cecil and his expressions of disapproval of Mayor Brown. But a clarification is called for: is “appelling” a misprint for “appealing” (highly likely, given the tone of the rest of the comment), or “appalling (which is true of Aussies like Shane Warne but not the way the buggers run their economy)???

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