It’s great to see an enterprising iwi prepared to strike its own deal with oil companies and not come bleating to the Beehive about the need for Treaty rights to be built into oil-industry legislation.
In Alf’s experience, the Maori doing the bleating on these occasions typically are lobbying for favours – they demand to be promoted to first place in the queue of buyers when state assets are sold, for example, or they want a big chunk of fishing quota handed to them on a plate, and so on…
But a South Taranaki iwi has taken its own commendable initiative and has signed a ground-breaking agreement with an oil company which – all going well – will result in jobs being offered in exchange for support.
As debate rages in Taranaki over the oil and gas industry, Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui Trust and New Zealand Energy Corp reached an agreement last week to develop a working relationship.
The trust will offer cultural advice and support to the company as it moves through its exploration, consent and production activities in the district.
In return, the oil company will offer employment, educational and training opportunities to the trust as well as sharing relevant environmental and technical information.
Alf imagines this cultural advice will be critical. Without it, the oil explorers could blunder into something sacred or startle a taniwha or some such.
New Zealand Energy Corp controls two permits covering 169,949 net acres in the Taranaki Basin.
That’s a big patch, bound to contain many traps into which the culturally ignorant or unwary might fall.
The deal also gives the iwi influence where it matters.
Trust chief executive Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the deal would give the iwi unprecedented access to top-level decision-makers.
Mrs Ngarewa-Packer said the agreement goes beyond what the Government asks of oil companies.
Alf supposes she is referring to environmental considerations.
“We insist that if they’re in our backyard [they] are responsible,” she said.
“We want to qualify [their] practices, we want to know everything.”
Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui chairman Ngapari Nui spells it out.
“The relationship has developed at the highest level, based on transparency of environmental practices and first principles.
“This agreement provides opportunities for our youth and is a good example of what can be achieved through direct engagement between iwi and oil companies.”
There’s a whiff of race discrimination in the employment implications of the deal, because NZ Energy Corp chief executive John Proust speaks of a right of first opportunity to trust members for business, employment, educational and training opportunities in South Taranaki.
The trust embraces some 8500 people.
Alf imagines they are of the same ethnic persuasion.
But them’s the breaks, eh?
More important, as the report at Stuff points out, the announcement is in stark contrast to the posture taken by the people of Parihaka Pa.
Apparently oblivious to the employment possibilities, they have called for an immediate stop to oil and gas exploration and mining in Taranaki.
In September, a letter was sent from the pa’s three meeting houses to Crown regulators and petroleum companies detailing fears over climate-change impacts, rig-worker safety and pollution from drilling chemicals.
TV3 gave its account of the deal, signed at a hui in Stratfod at the weekend, last Saturday.
“This agreement provides opportunities for our youth and is a good example of what can be achieved through direct engagement between iwi and oil companies,” Ngapari Nui, trust chairman said.
Watching on at the meeting was David Binnie, general manager of New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, the government agency that manages oil, gas, mineral and coal resources.
“This agreement represents a big step forward for the development of oil and gas in Taranaki,” he said.
“I hope that other companies and iwi will see this as a blueprint for agreements elsewhere in New Zealand.”
That’s great advice.
It should be brought to the attention of Maori groups who say their interests are being ignored while the oil companies go looking for places to drill.
Maiki Marks, chairwoman of the Russell-based Kororareka Marae Society, made submissions on legislation to help get things under way in an oh-so-environmentally friendly way.
She said placing the management of oceans in the hands of one body – the Environmental Protection Agency – is not “inclusive and accessible for Maori and many New Zealanders”.
She told the select committee: “The Treaty of Waitangi is pivotal to this legislation … We do not cede rangatiratanga to an Environmental Protection Agency.”
This sounds suspiciously like another way of saying her marae society is telling the Government they do not recognise its authority to set up an environmental agency, and we should stick the EPA up an orifice where the sun never shines.
The Federation of Maori Authorities played the Treaty card – they said provisions recognising the interests of iwi were insufficient.
“In particular we consider the bill needs to ensure Maori are explicitly recognised as a Treaty partner,” chairwoman Traci Houpapa said.
The deal struck at the weekend exposes this Treaty stuff as bollocks.