Oh look – Ngai Tahu have cashed in on forestry land by selling it to foreigners

We hear a lot of stuff about Maori having this world view that differs from the non-Maori world view and includes very different attitudes to land and resources.

Tukoroirangi Morgan, from Waikato Tainui, is among those who would have us believe Maori manage their assets differently from the result of us.

A few weeks ago he was in full blather about his plan to form a consortium of iwi, land trusts and incorporations to buy stakes in any state-owned enterprises that may be part-privatised if National is re-elected in November.

Morgan says iwi around the country have expressed preliminary interest in the consortium strategy, but more work is needed if it is to be ready by the time John Key’s next government makes its move.

That includes seeking an on-account process, so iwi who have not yet settled their historical claims can take part.

“It’s clear some of us are ahead in terms of our settlements, but the on-account approach says to the Crown if you invest in Maori you invest in a long term organisation that is not going to sell, unlike the mums and dads in this country.

“They will sell at the highest price.

“Iwi won’t sell and the investment is intergenerational,” Morgan says.

Ngai Tahu chairperson Mark Solomon has also been to the fore in this laudable attempt to establish an iwi infrastructure investment strategy.

“My view is iwi are the Crown’s perfect partner,” says Solomon, who was a member of Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples’ Maori economic taskforce.

“We’re never going to leave the country. Everything we earn stays in the country and what we do earn we reinvest in our own community. It’s a win win for everybody. ”

Ngai Tahu is reported to be keen to invest in water infrastructure – it has forestry land it wants to convert to dairy, so it would be a big user of irrigation assets as well as a supplier to others.

Hmm. Let’s cut down the trees and get into stream-polluting dairying, eh?

Oh. But surely this is at odds with another bit of bollocks, the thing about the Maori spiritual relationship with the land that means their environmental values are much more admirable than the disregard for the environment that makes oiks of the rest of us.

Hmm.

And when push comes to shove, and to the prospect of pocketing a few bucks, what happens to the Maori assets that are being held for inter-generational purposes and to keep Maori spiritually connected to the land?

They sell it, just like Alf would do.

A Radio NZ item this morning tells us the Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of another 22,000 hectares of land to foreigners in August, most of it for forest development.

In the biggest deal, a Swiss company, Corisol New Zealand, was cleared to buy more than 18,000 hectares of forestry land in Canterbury from Ngai Tahu Forest Estates.

The land is at Ashley Downs, Hanmer, Mt Thomas, Okuku, Omihi and Oxford.

Ngai Tahu apparently told the OIO it was selling the forest blocks as part of a change in its investment strategy.

We should not be astonished.

The tribe’s managers long ago commodified their spirituality.

A few years ago, Alf recalls, Contact Energy was mollifying Ngai Tahu by recognising their belief that each water body possesses its own mauri, or life force, and has its own status, or mana, that is safeguarded by tribal guardians, or kaitiaki.

Ngai Tahu cashed in on this, turning an intangible taonga into a bankable $1.62 million treasure.

Contact Energy agreed to pay the tribe that sum for the loss of traditional values for 35 years.

Ngai Tahu’s part of the deal was to support the company’s bid to gain resource consent to generate power on the river.

A few years earlier, the Ngati Wai Trust Board facilitated plans by Kaipara Excavators to dredge 2 million cubic metres of sand from the seabed off Pakiri.

Sure, they told an Auckland Regional Council panel they opposed the extraction. But hey, they had struck a royalty deal in case consent was granted. The deal involved a “cultural liaison” fee of 50c a cubic meter.

So how does the Maori world view differ from other world views?

One thing that’s different is that the rest of us don’t have this mauri thing for using as a negotiating chip.

In the upshot, however, Maori can sell to foreigners just as comfortably as non-Maori can do.

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