Airport at Napier is in for a name change – there has been a quiet change of share ownership too

Mike Butler, a feller who contributes to the Breaking Views blog, alerted Alf to some fascinating goings-on an hour or so up the road from the bubbling electorate of Eketahuna North.

It seems there are moves afoot – if it is not a fait accompli – to change the name of Hawke’s Bay Airport.

This is not necessarily a popular move. According to Mike Butler, Hawke’s Bay residents are hostile about this development.

The airport will be known as the Ahuriri Airport Hawke’s Bay, he says, to satisfy a request from treaty settlement claimants Mana Ahuriri.

But hey.

That’s what obeisance to the Treaty of Waitangi is all about.

If indigenous persons ask for a name change, it is considered very impolite – and racist, too – not to comply.

Mind you, those of us who are not indigenous might smart at the consequences.

Mike Butler observes:

The name-change (the latest in a series that includes Whanganui, Te Wai Pounamu, Te Ika a Maui, Aoraki Mount Cook and Taranaki Mount Egmont) prompted comments on the Hawke’s Bay Today newspaper website like “why change the name? If it aint broke, don’t fix it” and “Again, NZ panders to a minority group of radicals.

Twenty six of the 28 texts on the subject in Saturday’s paper vehemently opposed the move as did six substantial letters to the editor over the preceding days.

In one of those letters, Hastings councillor Simon Nixon described discussions with Mana Ahuriri as informal and “amounted to an ambush with insufficient warning given to consider the ramifications”.

He said he remembered claimants putting the case for including Ahuriri in the airport’s name but could not recall the meeting the presentation was tagged on to or whether there was a vote.

Cr Nixon, it seems, has put considerable effort into pushing to upgrade the airport to handle international flights.

He has drawn attention to some of the implications of making a change.

He wrote

…“most airports have aligned their names and IATA codes with city names. Mangere was changed to Auckland (AKL) . . . Adding the word Ahuriri to Hawke’s Bay Airport will be confusing and costly”.

The good councillor obviously needs a lesson or two in the servile art of buckling to the demands of indigenous persons.

We are supposed to put cultural sensitivity ahead of mundane matters like money.

For that reason his health may be seriously compromised, should he be taken to his local hospital with a stroke, heart attack, or whatever, but his cultural care will be in good hands.

One thing that puzzled Alf was why the airport bosses should buckle to the request of the Mana Ahuriri leaders, besides being culturally sensitive citizens with a high regard for the Treaty.

Mike Butler (who probably wondered the same thing) has come up with the answer.

It’s because Mana Ahuriri now own half the bloody shares.

Today Butler has posted this explanation for what is happening.

Questions raised by Mana Ahuriri’s bid to get their name included in that of the Hawke’s Bay Airport led to the revelation that the government had quietly offered that group a 50 percent shareholding of the airport.

Mana Ahuriri signed an agreement in principle on December 19, 2013, that includes financial redress of $19.5-million. The Hawke’s Bay Airport posted a net worth of $16.6-million and annual revenue of $4.01-million in its 2014 annual report. (1)

A 50 percent shareholding presumably would be worth $8.3-million on current valuation with an annual 50 percent share of profit in a near-enough-to risk-free investment in which Mana Ahuriri would not have to do anything other than pocket the cash.

Well, bugger me, Alf muttered to himself.

When did Chris tell the public about this?

He was thinking, of course, about the role obviously played by Chris Finlayson, our splendid Minister of Treaty Beneficence.

Chris is fond of banging out media statements to trumpet his latest settlement.

He did it (for example) here and here.

Alf can’t find a similar Mana Ahuriri announcement, but this may well be a consequence of his own shortcomings in the googling department.

He did find a reference to an offer of shares in the airport company but no mention that this would result in the new shareholders changing the airport’s name.

Oh – and let’s pick up on this fascinating point raised by Mike Butler:

Claimant Heitia Hiha told the Hawke’s Bay Today last year that Maori engaging European settlers and the Crown in settlement of their land in the mid-19th century believed they were entering agreements of shared development, and implied that the area where the airport is located was “taken away”. (2)

But that area was part of Te Whanganui a Orotu lagoon that became land during the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake.

Neither was the area “taken away”. Three hundred Maori signed the deed that transferred the 107,242ha Ahuriri block to the colonial government for £1500 in 1851.

Now that we have made this settlement do we get back the 1500 quid?

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