Co-governance is tricky: the right tone must be struck and all iwi kept on side

A source of disharmony.

Mrs Grumble has drawn your hard-working MP’s attention to a fuss in the capital that he overlooked during his news monitoring yesterday.

It’s a useful – and ominous – pointer to what Alf foresees happening under the Treaty-based co-governance arrangements now being spawned around the country.

It shows the need to strike the right tone when you take up a few niggling issues with your co-governance partner.

Otherwise the other party might spit the dummy and become uncooperative.

Moreover if you are an iwi leader, you must not piss off other Maori or things become awfully complicated.

Alf’s constituents will recall that a $12 million boatshed on the Wellington waterfront was meant to hold two canoes when it was opened early last year. But a dispute over who owned the bloody waka upset arrangements.

That was sorted out, but an item in the Dom-Post, also posted on Stuff, highlights other issues.

It tells of Wellington Waterfront officials and local iwi being at loggerheads over the amount of Maori culture being showcased in the city’s $12.5 million wharewaka building.

The newspaper drew on correspondence obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Wellington Waterfront Ltd chief executive Ian Pike sent one letter to the trustees of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust on December 13.

The trust represents the interests of the Wellington City Council and three Maori outfits, the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, the Wellington Tenths Trust and Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust.

It is chaired by Sir Ngatata Love who is a very busy bloke because he is also chair of the three Maori trusts which have loaned money to build the wharewaka.

Other trustees are Liz Mellish (a trustee representing the Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust and a cousin of Sir Ngatata), Mark Te One (a trustee representing the Wellington Tenths Trust) and two Wellington City Council employees: Wendy Walker and Stavros Michael.

Wellington Waterfront Limited is a council-owned company.

So one bit of the bloody council is at odds with another bit of the council.

Anyway, this Pike feller reminded the trust of the agreement the two bodies had entered into when the wharewaka was being developed.

Fair enough, too, because the council contributed about $1m in ratepayer funds towards the building, which houses two ceremonial waka.

Pike wrote –

“The objectives included a requirement that the wharewaka development be operated so as to be a showcase for Maori culture and a significant attraction for the people of Wellington and visitors to Wellington.”

Wellington Waterfront had a clear expectation that progress would be accelerated to meet the objectives as earlier agreed.

“WWL assumes that the trust has a programme in place to develop and accelerate the operation of the wharewaka so as to achieve the stated objectives and the permitted use, to a standard and level which was clearly anticipated and indeed required at the outset of the development … The trust will be aware that not only is this of fundamental importance to WWL, but is embedded in the contractual commitments which it has made to WWL.”

Pike said Wellington Waterfront was concerned that not enough progress on showcasing Maori culture in the new building has been made.

Alas, when you write letters to some people you have to be very careful to strike the right tone.

Sure enough, in this case Te Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love bridled. He replied to Pike’s letter on December 20 expressing his “extreme concern” at the tenor of Mr Pike’s letter.

“Massive efforts have been made by both the trust and volunteers to showcase Maori cultural aspects of Te Raukura and the relationship with the Port Nicholson Block area,” Sir Ngatata wrote.

He and his colleagues had more than fulfilled the objectives of the agreement and were proud of what they had achieved.

“My personal observation is that this is widely appreciated and has been the subject of much positive comment.”

Sir Ngatata said he had sent a copy of Mr Pike’s letter and his response to the members of his trust, Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, Wellington City Council chief executive Garry Poole, WWL chairman Robert Gray, and people involved with the cultural and educational initiatives associated with Te Raukura.

Bugger me. Sorting things out by now had made way for a preoccupation with the tone struck by Pike in his first letter.

Mr Pike responded to Sir Ngatata’s letter expressing regret that his earlier letter had been received with “extreme concern” by trust members.

He extended an invitation to Sir Ngatata and his fellow trustees to meet the board on February 24.

However the parties have not been able to meet.

And so – Alf supposes – the differences remain unresolved.

But don’t get the idea all Maori are happy with Sir Ngatata and his trust.

On 31 January, a statement was issued by John Warren, Co-Chair Te Tatau o Te Po Marae (Petone) and Kura Moeahu, and Chair of Te Arohanui ki Te Tangata Marae (Waiwhetu)

His beef was that Maori money mostly paid for Wellington’s waterfront wharewaka, but Maori don’t own it.

By “Maori money”, he means taxpayers’ money channelled through Te Puni Kokiri.

Warren said –

As Waitangi Day 2012 approaches, controversy continues to cloud Wellington waterfront’s Te Raukura Te Wharewaka o Poneke (wharewaka).

Questions linger over how this building, whose original purpose was to house Wellington’s two magnificent ocean-going waka Te Raukura and Aniwaniwa, ended up becoming a conference centre, café and commercial kitchen with some Maori artistic style.

And then there are questions about how much this building cost, who paid for it and who owns it.

Warren or one of his helpers had been delving through documents released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act by the Wellington City Council, and the annual reports of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust , the Wellington Tenths Trust and Palmerston North Reserve Trust.

According to Warren, as at 31 March 2011 the wharewaka has received funding of $13.7m, as follows:

• $7m from the Crown, as a payment outside of the 2009 Port Nicholson Block settlement, but referred to in the settlement’s ratification process

• $1m from the Wellington City Council

• $1m loan from the PNBST

• $850k loan from the Wellington Tenths Trust

• $850k loan from the Palmerston North Reserve Trust

• $3m bank loan to the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust on 21 April 2011, for which the PNBST has acted as a guarantor and is therefore potentially exposed to financial liability.

Further, based on the unaudited financial statements of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust for the year ended 31 March 2011, the cost of constructing the Wharewaka building was $11.6m.

Warren said the PNBST loan and guarantee were questionable use of Treaty settlement money

… and are being investigated by our people. Especially as the PNBST posted an after tax loss of $3m for the year ended 31 March 2011 and its cash holdings have been significantly reduced ($6.9m as at 31 March 2011, with external bank debt of $5m).

Warren highlighted a dispute about the $7m aligned to the Port Nicholson Block settlement.

Te Puni Kokiri executives have said that this money was not settlement money.

But the reality is the $7m came from Vote Maori – this is Maori money.

Warren then drew on correspondence from Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples to Te Runanganui o Te Upoko o Te Ika chief executive Dr Kara Puketapu on 27 April 2009 saying:

“…Te Puni Kokiri is awaiting receipt of the evidence it requires before any funds can be released to Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust. One of the required pieces of evidence is confirmation from the relevant parties confirming that the Trust has the mandate to undertake the development. This would include a letter from Taranaki whanui.”

The PNBST, Wellington Tenths and Palmerston North Reserve Trusts might be on-side with the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust.

But Warren is adamant those trusts had no mandate to make decisions for all Taranaki whanui, because two of the Wellington region’s three Atiawa-based marae – Te Arohanui ki Te Tangata Marae in Waiwhetu and Te Tatau o Te Po Marae in Petone – were not consulted.

Yep. Things have become complicated.

Warren went on to say the Wharewaka Trust has set up Wharewaka o Poneke Enterprises Limited (the four directors include Matene Love, Sir Ngatata’s son) whose tenants include PKR Catering and the Karaka Café.

This is a commercial operation, with no direct financial benefit for the PNBST, Wellington Tenths Trust, Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust or Maori.

Then Warren complained that, for some Taranaki whanui, the wharewaka has been a deep disappointment.

• Culturally, it has no connection with our people in terms of tikanga.

• It was named “Te Raukura” for the historic Wellington waka it was planned to house. Yet the Wellington City Council’s unwillingness to allow the waka Te Raukura to be under the kaitiaki (guardianship) of all the people of the harbour, meant Te Raukura remains at Waiwhetu.

• We have no commercial interest in the wharewaka (other than we have lent several million dollars for it to be built) and do not have any property rights. Its trust deed says it is for “the benefit of the people of New Zealand”. And if it is wound up, any remaining assets will go to Wellington charities.

• We were shocked to see the final design – it is not a “waka house” but a commercial conference centre and cafe, with a small glassed area tacked on the back for small waka.

Dunno if this strikes the right tone for securing a quick resolution. But it strikes Alf as being a matter calling for more public concern than it has been given.

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