Yes, we have a clear understanding of the pounamu business – and by the way, isn’t it a monopoly?

Alf observes with wry amusement the way certain indigenous persons credit the rest of us being so bloody understanding.

The latest one to do this is the leader of a Ngai Tahu hapu who is pleased the greenstone industry and public are finally starting to understand the hapu’s role as kaitiaki (guardians) of pounamu.

Alf is not so sure this is necessarily so.

But if the hapu leader likes to think it is so, then fair enough. Alf, for one, is a very understanding person.

The hapu is Ngati Waewae, from the South Island’s West Coast, which was nominated for the Leading Light West Coast Business Excellence Awards. Its business, Waewae Pounamu, reached the finals.

Radio NZ puts us in the picture about some of the background and the consequences of certain parties being given a great deal by a beneficent government:

The hapu and Ngai Tahu have pushed for decades to assert their kaitiakitanga rights over pounamu, and in 1997 legislation was passed stipulating that Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu owns all South Island greenstone.

In other words, the indigenous persons who live in that part of the world laid claim to a mineral resource and the Government didn’t dispute the claim.

To the contrary, it generously passed a law that says: It’s all yours and nobody else’s.

Ngati Waewae chair Francois Tumahai said people now had more appreciation of why the iwi was the main supplier to the greenstone industry.

“I think they’re starting to understand just how significant that is,” Mr Tumahai said.

“And the fact that it’s [pounamu/greenstone] getting harder to find.

“They’re [the greenstone industry is] getting to know us a lot better and that’s just due to relationships that we’ve been building. Their whole thought patterns [have] shifted. They now can see that we are supplying the industry and there’s a whole lot of good coming out of it.”

Hmm. It seems he is really saying he is chuffed to have been given a monopoly and other interested parties have come to recognise the irrevocable realities.

Whether they  understand why the monopoly was granted or whether they appreciate it is not so clear.

But Alf is delighted that Ngati Waewae were announced runners-up at the ceremony on Friday and Francois Tumahai said iwi members were delighted to make it that far.

“For me in particular it wasn’t so much that we’d been nominated for these awards, it was just to see the looks on the whanau’s faces who have never been in that environment… and to see how proud they were and to realise how far they have come.”

Then he said something about the mining industry and its recognition of the important role that Ngai Tahu and Ngati Waewae play in protecting the pounamu resource for future generations.

This perhaps means the mining industry knows when they have no choice but to like it or lump it.

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