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Power Shifting: Making Room for Māori Voices

Keith Newman01 December 2018

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Councils and Pakeha leaders take it on the chin as BayBuzz gives the Māori perspective on what’s wrong with local co-governance in Hawke’s Bay. 

Debate over the shape of co-governance at the region’s decision-making tables is heating up as Hawke’s Bay Māori reclaim mana and over half a billion dollars in land, resources and cash in Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

As nine hapu (sub-tribal groups) flex their newfound political and financial muscle, elected representatives and council officers across the region are responding warily to the inevitability of a stronger Māori voice in shaping local government policies and plans.

There’s talk of these Post Settlement Governance Entities (PSGEs) challenging the structure of overarching iwi authority Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc (NKII), while councils’ traditional Māori committees angle to be more than simply cultural advisors. 

With more Māori on local councils than ever before, marae committees becoming more connected, and hapu talking about huge developments and investments, it’s no wonder there’s angst over how the Treaty partners plan to work together. 

Recent Crown-led initiatives, including ‘three waters’ and new Resource Management Act (RMA) co-governance tools, are placing even stronger emphasis on closer working relationships.

At the same time, the power play underway within Hawke’s Bay Māori leadership looks no different than in pakeha politics, with the same drivers of ambition, agendas and historical grievances further complicating the path to co-governance.

Different expectations

Already there’s a clash of worldviews between Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s processes and the more holistic and philosophical Te Ao Māori (Māori world) approach of its PSGE partners.

The Hawke’s Bay Regional Planning Act, insisted on by Ngati Pahauwera when it became the first Hawke’s Bay hapu to settle, created a framework to discuss, oversee and sign off RMA-related plan changes and policy statements ahead of full council agreement. 

The resulting Regional Planning Committee (RPC) comprising the nine PSGEs and nine councillors as equal voting members was supposed to improve engagement over the health of our rivers, aquifers, estuaries, wetlands, water quality, biodiversity and the environment.

However, in July, after nearly five years, RPC co-chair Toro Waaka, frustrated at HBRC’s narrow interpretation of the Act, called for the councillors to be replaced with commissioners. 

Although the Government has dismissed that challenge, it did underline the fact that both parties were operating with different expectations. 

Waaka, chair of Ngati Pahauwera PSGE, claims HBRC treated it no differently than other submitters when it raised concerns around environmental and water degradation in the Long Term Plan. “We didn’t speak to our submission because we thought we might be in conflict and would still be involved in the decision making … in the end we missed out on the whole discussion.” 

In the case of the Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu (TANK) catchments plan change, Waaka says the RPC was essentially asked to rubber stamp the recommendations of council scientists and experts.

He says the RMA and the HB RPC Act both have strong references to Māori participation and co-governance and yet “it appears that people in power don’t actually want to let go any of it”. 

Api Tapine, Napier councillor and trustee of Tatau Tatau o Te Wairoa PSGE, says the way the Act is being interpreted doesn’t contribute toward genuine partnership and he struggles to find how Māori values are given effect. While HBRC officers are “doing their damndest” it ends up constraining both parties — “it’s like a push-me, pull-you and we’re getting nowhere.”

Rex Graham, chairman of HBRC and co-chair of the RPC was shocked and disappointed at the public rebuke by the PSGEs, but agrees further discussions are needed to get things back on track. 

“Māori concerns about waterways, aquifers, river berms have been falling on deaf ears for around 30-years and even now … Māori are still seen as a problem child.”
NKII CHAIR,
NGAHIWI TOMOANA

An imperfect model

NKII chairman, Ngahiwi Tomoana says the RPC Act needs to be revisited as it’s an imperfect model with a structure that remains “subservient to HBRC”. 

The next step toward “longer term co-governance, co-management and co-operation”, he says, will take “courageous leadership in partnership modelling” rather than deferring all the hard questions back to central Government. 

Tomoana says the PSGEs have gone through “a torturous process” and are still a bit “punch drunk” after “20-years in the trenches fighting the Crown”.

They’re exercising independent authority, which they’ve not had before, and come out swinging at anyone; at times including their own neighbours, local government and iwi; “even trying to break up NKII to get some of our resources”. 

That, says Tomoana graciously, “is a natural phenomenon” he’s seen with other settlements. It’s “an evolutionary phase until they find they’re not big enough to make a dent in social, economic and environmental issues” on their own.

He says the local Māori economy won’t go ahead without strategic alliances with the private sector and local and central government. “As big as we think we are in terms of our settlements, there are private family trusts in Hawke’s Bay that have even more money, so we need to be collaborating with each other.” 

Tomoana says hapu claims were always part of a wider iwi strategy, that’s why NKII is keeping out of the way while they’re developing their own “institutional capacity”. 

He’s encouraged that claimant groups already tipped the scale for greater involvement in the Matariki Hawke’s Bay Regional Economic Development Strategy (HBREDS) at an October review meeting. 

During a vote on who should lead the way, the PSGEs voted for Wairoa and Central Hawke’s Bay “because both felt they were being neglected throughout the process”.

This “is the new reality” says Tomoana, where the old power bases can be outvoted by new groups “who have assets and capital to contribute to the equation where previously they were largely silent”.

Who speaks for whom? 

Treaty settlement groups in other regions have had up to 25 years to build capacity, but the reality is only just dawning for Hawke’s Bay PSGEs, who represent around 26% of the population.

With increasing pressure for all public bodies to consult across all issues, the question keeps coming up, who has the mandate to speak for Māori?

Iwi authority status is held by NKII and Kahungunu Asset Holding Company, which manages the fisheries settlement and other iwi investments. NKII represents six taiwhenua; Wairoa, Whanganui a Orotu (Napier/Ahuriri), Heretaunga (Hastings area), Tamatea, Tamakinui a Rua (Southern Hawke’s Bay/ Dannevirke) and Wairarapa. 

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga is the most resourced, with around 200 staff dealing with health, welfare, social, environmental and cultural development. 

Marae put forward candidates for the governance bodies in the lead up to iwi elections in April 2019, including the role of chairman, currently held by Tomoana, the longest serving tribal leader in the country. He’s been on the NKII board for 30 years and chair for 22 with no plans to walk away. 

In regional Māori politics there’s a three-year term which suffers the same obstacles as mainstream electoral cycles; low voter engagement, with Māori communities not always connecting to their local marae. 

However, Taiwhenua o Heretaunga kaihautu Marei Apatu, is hopeful the recent “marae aspiration hui to help define dreams and visions” will see accountability and transparent processes “to manage asset portfolios so they can each create wealth.”

No single voice

Just as there’s no single voice for the five Hawke’s Bay councils, there’s no single answer for who represents Māori. “While everyone wants one voice from Māori, when we want to speak to Government we get sent to 36 different departments that reside in Hawke’s Bay,” says Tomoana.

NKII must relate to three regional and eight local authorities and decision making is about getting the right people around the right table at the right time.

“Traditionally power has always rested with the hapu, but we all come together in times of high strategic value … but at a leadership level NKII needs to be there as well.”

Tomoana says NKII was set up to handle all government contracts that were to be devolved to Māori. “Our constitution still says that … We have to provide a social return to all Māori.”

Toro Waaka, a former CEO of NKII who resigned when it backed off from representing his Ngati Pahauwera tribal area, says NKII “makes assumptions about certain things that we don’t buy into; while they say they’re a mandated iwi authority that might be the case for fish.” 

He says Taiwhenua o Heretaunga “does an excellent job of community development and services”, but every taiwhenua has its own constitution which can be problematic. A good word to describe Māori representation, he says, is “fluid”. 

Des Ratima, the chair of Nga Marae o Heretaunga, representing that district’s 18 marae, muses; “You can’t say let’s have an election for the mayor of the Māoris. It just doesn’t go that way.”

He says whakapapa (genealogy) will have an input as will mana (prestige and respect). Māori leadership can be “demanding and parochial; one day they’ll be for you and the next against you”.

Korero mai marae

Api Tapine. Photo: Florence Charvin

Ratima, says Nga Pou o Heretaunga, erected in Hastings Civic Square in 2013, representing an ancestor from each marae in Heretaunga-Takitimu, was a symbolic “galvanising” of an agreement to work together. 

Previously he says marae provided numbers for health, education and other research, but were rarely beneficiaries. 

“The idea was to collectivise our marae and get them to speak with their own voices and interact a lot more.” 

He agrees there’s often a disconnect between how councils operate and how Māori want to operate. A good example is the controversy around the zig zag track cut into Te Mata Peak. “It never started properly and it wasn’t followed through properly.”

Ratima says, the first question should have been, is this a hapu or an iwi issue? “If it is a hapu issue then both Waimarama and Pakipaki will have a position and neither of them is wrong. If it’s an iwi issue then NKII might … take the lead, then ask the others what they think.”

Through a process led by Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and her council, the landowner and Māori “we’re getting to see each other’s point of view”.

Ratima, colloquially known as ‘the mayor of Whakatu’, says representative leadership is an important debate that needs to be had. “I don’t care whose leading that as long as the beneficiaries are part of that pathway.”

Long game afoot 

Only the Wairoa Council has Māori wards. Hastings District Council narrowly avoided a referendum on Māori wards during the last electoral cycle, conceding its current representation was adequate, although its Māori Joint Committee (MJC) is under review ahead of the 2019 elections. 

Chairman, Robin Hape, says there’s a long game afoot around co-governance “to see what appetite there is for more effective Māori representation”.

The review is considering a broader role for the marae-based MJC, which also includes six councillors and the mayor, and whether PSGEs and NKII should have more of a voice. “Māori don’t have anywhere else to go…how we come to grips with the system and work with it is not just up to us.” 

Hape would like to see improved capacity among Māori to engage with local authorities. “Local government is not something that is well understood by our people and there’s an apathy about getting out and voting.”

Hastings has four elected Māori councillors: Henare O’Keefe, Jacoby Poulain, Bayden Barber and Ann Redstone; Wairoa District has three: Hine Flood, Denise Eaglesome-Karekare and Charles Lambert; Central Hawke’s Bay has Shelley Burne-Field; Api Tapine is the solitary Māori on Napier City Council; none were elected to HBRC.

Api Tapine was pleasantly surprised when “around 47” Māori looked to play a role in regional politics last election. “We are slowly being found at the decision-making table so we don’t have to litigate to inject our perspective, we can participate.”

He says the PSGE structures are the first opportunity to form relationships with government and business. “Once it’s more settled and appreciated how those structures can be used to build sustainable relationships we will get a more balanced airing of viewpoints.”

Back to the people

Hastings councillor, Henare O’Keefe, believes much of the interaction between Māori and councils is too clinical. “I think we need to take this country back from the bureaucrats. Just look at health and safety, it’s become draconian.” 

What’s needed, he suggests, is to get back to basics. “You can laugh, love and forgive within that infrastructure. Humanise it, humble it, focus on the soft infrastructure … take it back to the people.”

On the marae, he says, it’s often hard to tell who’s in charge. “You collaborate…you are cleaning the toilets one minute, then giving a speech, then in the kitchen…it happens seamlessly.”

Marei Apatu. Photo: Tim Whittaker tim.co.nz

The paramount thing before councils get around the table with Māori is, “Have you got a relationship?” Having a hongi and a welcome onto the marae doesn’t mean you have a relationship. “It’s a lot more personal and it needs to be continuous. Interact on the marae, at the rugby … over a cup of tea.” 

And Māori need to have that relationship with councils as well, “it works both ways,” says O’Keefe. 

While the current NKII and the Taiwhenua structure “can be seen as disjointed”, he says “we have to make it work through collaborating and sharing resources and ideas and being open and transparent with one another.”

Ideally, he would like to see marae, hapu and iwi more united with stronger leaders so it’s obvious who should sit at the table. “I don’t grieve over it … I just get on with it.” 

Respecting values

All the leaders spoken to by BayBuzz agree that meaningful engagement can only be achieved by a concerted effort to understand and respect each other’s values. Currently Māori feel they’re up against entrenched systems, processes and interpretations of “power sharing” which frustrate the relationship.

Robin Hape, chairman of Kahuranaki Marae and CEO of Pahauwera Development Trust says Treaty principles of partnership are often left to individuals to interpret but “usually the power is in someone else’s hands … We have to find that accord to see how decision-making can be shared.” 

Ngahiwi Tomoana says Māori concerns about “waterways, aquifers, river berms… have been falling on deaf ears” for around 30 years and even now, when hapu and iwi are “solutions focussed”, Māori are still seen as a problem child.

“We have some institutional capacity now, we have our own scientists and legislators who read everything that’s going on and are able to contribute.” 

Marei Apatu, whose role at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga is to manage relationships with central and local government on matters including the RMA and development planning, says there’s not been a proper open discussion about how the Regional Council and Māori can work together. 

He says a process was set up in 2003 for facilitating and supporting marae and hapu as they prepared for Treaty settlements. Today, his staff of thirteen, including a hydrologist, ecologist, scientists and specialists, who were involved in the TANK process, are there to advise the PSGEs. 

He believes the Bay of Plenty District Council has got the model right. It’s fully supportive of its seven iwi representatives and has twelve Māori staff – “they had the right conversation at the right time …ten years ago.”

Apatu says Hawke’s Bay Māori have been trying to establish that kind of relationship with HBRC “since Adam was a baby”, but it’s not a great track record. “They’re still demonstrating the bad characteristics of behaviour and attitude that my tipuna have had to put up with for generations.” He is encouraged that Pieri Munro has been appointed to manage Māori partnerships, but says he needs a support team around him. 

New song sheet needed

Apatu says Māori groups need to be “singing off the same page” if they’re going to try and deal with big issues that affect plans and policies such as the quality and quantity of water. “You need a political arm and strength and capacity … and they’re now starting to call on us for that help.”

Api Tapine suggests the size and complexity of territorial local authorities means they ‘compartmentalise’ while Māori want to deal with things holistically. “We like to look at the effect of one thing on another, rather than dealing in isolation.”

For example, he says, recognising river water levels have as much to do with irrigation and the economy as they do with life sustaining habitats is currently “a challenge”. 

Tapine agrees both parties need to listen more, conceding Māori are sometimes in a hurry to achieve balance and “can mis-hear or only hear through our lens”. He’s hopeful efforts to better understand each other’s values will avert the need for Māori seats. 

Tomoana says the national Iwi Chairs Forum has been talking to Cabinet ministers for fifteen years on how relationships can be improved. 

One of the tools to emerge is the Mana Whakahono ā Rohe: Iwi Participation Arrangements, designed to assist tangata whenua and local authorities discuss, agree and record how they will work together under the RMA. 

“It clearly stipulates each council must join with iwi or hapu partners to determine new planning systems and strategies … they can get a smack on the hand from the Crown if they don’t.” 

Adding complication is the formation of the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti (the bridge) which further side-lines the iwi leaders. It has the goal of “making the Crown a better Treaty partner” by advising the public sector, including councils, on how to engage with iwi groups and which ones to deal with. How all of this plays out in the regions is yet to be seen. 

Toro Waaka wonders how HBRC will respond to all the shifts and changes, including the new Māori Crown relationship agency, but his cynical side suggests this is an all too familiar tactic. “That’s what they (the Crown) do … moving furniture around, slick marketing, giving people false hope … but let’s see what happens.” 

Fit for the future 

The changing central Government landscape in relation to managing Treaty relationships comes at a critical time for Hawke’s Bay Māori, who are embroiled in their own power play of conflicting boundaries, personalities, agendas and end goals. 

One undercurrent to the debate is whether NKII, the taiwhenua and the PSGEs should be rolled into one, to prevent duplication and provide a more inclusive structure. 

There’s a caution about a large entity created for one purpose (NKII) crossing into other responsibilities and perhaps usurping the authority of newly asset rich settlement groups. “Māori need to sit down with Māori … to see if these are the best mechanisms to achieve our aspirations,” says Tapine. 

Toro Waaka remains concerned that NKII’s resources are centred around Hastings. Once the settlements are sorted, he says the PSGEs will be looking to advance the conversation about restructuring NKII as “a more transparent and representative organisation”. 

For those wanting another iwi authority to arise from the settlement groups, Apatu quips, “been there done that”. After many hui with the best kaumatua, he says it’s clear there’s a lack of connectivity in the region. 

NKII’s longstanding chairperson Ngahiwi Tomoana says there’s a lot of “political envy” and “mischievous korero” from those who have amnesia about where the iwi organisation came from. He insists there’s room for everyone. 

“It’s not one or the other, it’s hapu and iwi and whānau”. For now, he says NKII is the “default mechanism” and the structure is sound while Treaty claimant groups build up their capacity. 

Editor Note: Watch for the ‘right of reply’ in a future edition. 

 

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Keith Newman01 December 2018

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