Monday, 3 March 2014

We take care of our own

The first meeting of the new Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board kicked off last week and it was show-stopping fireworks from the get go.

With all of the phone calls, emails and lobbying done – the meeting started with the issue of electing a chairperson and the deputy to lead the board.

In preparation Runanga chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor said she had sought legal advice around the election of the chairman because there was no clear process.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor highlighted three sections of the organisation’s charter including 4.1, 4.2 and 5.1. She said the board could choose between two methods of voting – either by show of hands or secret ballot and that there was the option to close the meeting if it got too unruly.

“As we go through this and we are looking for guidance in this we will do it by majority.”
Even though the sections highlighted by Mrs Ratahi-Pryor did not correspond with the charter  because she was quoting from the second schedule, the board continued and elected to use the secret ballot method.

In the end, Ngati Pukeko representative Joe Mason edged out the incumbent chairman, Te Kei Merito from Ngati Rangataua, 11 votes to 10. Te Tawera representative Pouroto Ngaropo retained the deputy spot with 13 votes against 7 votes for Materoa Dodd from Ngati Wharepaia
Obviously there was a lot of interest in the vote with a large number of observers in the board room at the TRONA office in Louvain Street and a post on Facebook announcing the result before the meeting was even over.

However I was saddened that there was more emphasis placed on the vote rather than on the actual business.

A request from the Ngati Awa Training Organisation (NATO), a private training establishment, for financial support from the Runanga was almost glossed over despite the operating trust owing at least $600,000 to two parties.

The situation was raised by chief executive during her report to the board.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said she had met with NATO because it was in financial trouble and the ASB bank was threatening to foreclose on the organisation.

 “As a result of contract losses the trust as lost its capacity and capability to get out of this situation. A debt of $50,000 is outstanding with the ASB Bank. The trust is not able to clear this debt, nor is it able to trade out of debt due to expenses exceeding its income…. A cash injection to maintain a Ngati Awa training provider and its status would require $600,000 in addition to a restructure of its governance and management.”  
It is understood the ASB Bank has requested payment of $50,000 to cover the outstanding debt or it will foreclose on the organisation and more than $500,000 is owed to the Inland Revenue Department in unpaid taxes.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said the NATO trustees had all “scarpered” and that even though the Runanga did not own the organisation anymore, it was up to it to protect the Ngati Awa name.
“The reason it has come to the board is this was one of the organisations set up by the Runanga. They are seen as Ngati Awa. I had a look at their young people and their young people who go there are 80 to 90 per cent Ngati Awa. Their staff are Ngati Awa. This is a Ngati Awa entity so we have to take that into consideration.”

In her report Mrs Ratahi-Pryor recommended that management work alongside the trust close down operation, the board approve $50,000 to be paid to the bank on behalf of NATO and the Runanga to take back control of the organisation as well as its delivery status once all trustees have been removed and programmes closed.
It was also recommended that the board note that this is the second time the Runanga has assisted the trust.

The board voted to close down the organisation and approach the bank about writing off the debt even though Ngai Tamapare representative Paul Quinn had objected saying he felt as though there wasn’t enough information to make a decision.
It was not outlined how or why the debt was incurred nor was the outstanding debt with IRD discussed.

Mr Quinn and Dayle Hunia, who represents Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, were the only members that voted against the motion.

I support Mr Quinn’s stance and think the NATO situation should have been a separate report in itself and would have expected representatives to request more information before committing to a decision.                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Additionally the Hapu Report section, which is the time at the end of the meeting where the representatives  can usually discuss the issues that are affecting their hapu, had been removed from the agenda.

“The previous chairman [Te Kei Merito] requested that no hapu reports be given. I don’t know why that is,” said Mrs Ratahi-Pryor     .
I was tremendously disappointed by this.

Frustrated by a lack of control over our own destiny we, at Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, have spent the last year designing a strategic vision. Aimed at protecting and enhancing the well-being of the hapu the vision has been set and has been encapsulated by the saying: Tu Mai Ngati Hokopu. But this is only the beginning of our journey and we are keen to make a move on the next stage
However in order to do some of the work set out in the vision we need support letters from the Runanga and it was hoped that we would be able to make a presentation during Hapu Report time at  the board meeting.      
And I am sure we are not the only hapu who wanted time to discuss our take. Maanu Paul from Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu and Nga Maihi’s Gina O’brien handed in written reports, requesting they be added to the record because the Hapu Report time had been erased.                                          

So despite an overwhelming change to the board with 11 changes, I am left to think that the Runanga is still operating much how it always has.
However, while the unpopular bimonthly meeting policy still stands another meeting has been set for next month because the board did not have time to elect the committees and I am hopeful that the new members will begin to show their teeth.


Sunday, 2 February 2014

"When you blame others, you give up your power to change"

This is the first post to Tu Mai te Toki for 2014.

I have waited until the first official meeting of the new Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (Trona) board before writing any blog post.

As always my need to remain objective must outweigh the desire to share information and so I wanted to wait until I had something concrete that I could write about.
Today, I want to share with you my experience when I attended the workshop that was held by Runanga management for board members last week.

The workshop was held on Friday at the TRONA building on Louvain Street in Whakatane.
Chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor had previously extended an open invitation for all Ngati Awa uri to attend the workshop at last year’s Annual General Meeting and I so decided to take up the offer.

On my way through the runanga, I stopped at the desk to make sure that I could attend the workshop. Two staff members assured me that it was fine and left me to find my way to the board room.
When I entered the room Te Tawera representative Pouroto Ngaropo was talking about the signing of the settlement deed that happened in 1994 at Wairaka Marae.

He said one of key focuses in signing the deed was to ensure unity among Ngati Awa.
After Mr Ngaropo finished his speech, Mrs Ratahi-Pryor stood to continue with the presentation.

However Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu representative Maanu Paul said he wanted to address Mr Ngaropo’s statement.
Mr Paul said the perception of unity among the tribe depended on where you stood.

“From my point of view there cannot be unity until the return of the Ngati Awa block has been recognised.”
The Ngati Awa block referred to by Mr Paul is the Ngati Awa Historical Estate which is a sheep and beef farm situated in the hills behind the Ohope settlement (it was formerly known as the Ngati Awa Farm).

In the days before Government confiscation, the land in the “Ngati Awa farm” was populated by Ngati Hokopu, Ngati Wharepaia and Ngati Pukeko.
The land was included in the Ngati Awa settlement because the leadership at the time said that it was important to get the land back first and returning it to the hapu would be addressed after that. It was also seen as an asset that would allow the tribal organisation to continue operating until it received payment from the Government.

Mr Paul said his hapu (a sub-group of Ngati Hokopu) had commended him to seek the return of the “Ngati Awa farm” to the rightful hapu as it was no longer needed to prop up the runanga.
“The longer this goes unaddressed, the larger the bitterness of this nawe grows… You need to address it.

“However I’m not saying that it will happen in this year but it could happen in five years. And I think that we have the capacity on this new board to make the changes.”
However Pahipoto representative Tuwhakairiora (Conn) O’Brien said many of the hapu had “nawe” but he was unsure whether the board was the right place to address these issues or whether they could make a change.

Aubree Kohunui, who represents Warahoe, said he believed the new board had the capacity to make a real difference.
“However if it is moemoea stuff then I am not really interested in that. I want to make a difference where it is possible.”

Mr Ngaropo repeated his message of the importance of unity but said he agreed that a forum needed to be provided so that the issues could be addressed.
He said this was the first time that Ngati Hokopu had raised the issue of the Ngati Awa farm in the 20 years that he had been part of the runanga.

“The power of the Runanga rests with the marae… There will be an opportunity for the hapu to represent.”
Ngati Wharepaia representative Materoa Dodd stood up to disagree with Mr Ngaropo’s statement.

She said it was not the first time the issue had been raised.
“In fact I have raised it many times on behalf of Ngati Wharepaia… It has always been on the table, it has never been off the table.”

Stan Ratahi, who represents Ngati Hikakino, said issues among the tribe could not be dealt with until matter of the land lost by Taiwhakaea had been rectified.
“How are we ever going to address that? A lot of the land was taken away from the hapu, I am talking about Taiwhakaea here. Land was given away to other hapu and they sold it.

“We cannot do anything about it, it is too late. I get sick when this topic comes up. You cannot address Taiwhakaea, you cannot fix the rest of them.”
Mr Ratahi did not seem to accept that the Ngati Awa settlement had adequately compensated the Taiwhakaea hapu for the loss of their lands.

It was at this point that Mrs Ratahi-Pryor, who is the sister of Mr Ratahi, stood up and said the workshop was a closed session. She then directly addressed me and said I had to leave because she wanted the board members to feel as though they could speak freely without fear of their comments appearing in a public forum.
And while I can appreciate the need for board members to feel as though they can speak freely I write about this experience for two reasons.

Firstly, it was Mrs Ratahi-Pryor that invited people to attend the workshop in the first place. At the AGM, held at Wairaka Marae in November, she had said encouraged people to attend so that they could observe what was expected of board members.
She had not left instructions with her staff that the workshop was a closed session.

Rules are rules and I would have respected any decision from the board for the session to be closed however it seems as though the direction came from Mrs Ratahi-Pryor alone and the only reason she seems to have made it a closed session was to prevent the information ending up on this blog.
As a member of the tribe I am a beneficiary of the Runanga and shouldn’t the Ngati Awa uri have the right to hear information about the organisation that is meant to be responsible for administrating our tribal assets?

My intention is not to be a trouble-maker but to present the information that I have collected so that you can take from it what you will and make your own decisions about it. My hope is that many more people will be inspired to become engaged members of our iwi and therefore help boost our tribe.
Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to take the time to remind people about the job of a TRONA board member.

While the TRONA board is ultimately responsible for the whole organisation it is not responsible for making money, that is the area of the financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings (NAGHL). It is, however, responsible for the governance of the tribal entity.
And board members must remember that governance relates to processes and decisions that seek to define actions, grant power, and verify performance.

Therefore the TRONA board must define actions through a clear strategy, select people to oversee its interests in other subsidiaries such as NAGHL and verify that key members such as the chief executive are performing in their jobs.
One of their first jobs this year will be to select members to sub-committees including the executive, audit, and investment sub-groups. They will also need to select a chairperson and a deputy.

These decisions will be made at the first board meeting to be held in February and I urge all of the representatives to become very familiar with the TRONA charter and to think very seriously about who they will support in the key positions. I would hope that most will take the decisions back to their hapu and ask you what you think.
And finally, I want to sign off this post with a new rule: I will no longer allow the publication of comments without a name. If you would like to comment then you must do so using your real name, all other statements will be deleted.

Ma te wa.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Get up, stand up

This weekend is the Annual General Meeting of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa and I want to encourage you all to go.

It is our only chance to hear first-hand what TRONA has to say and be able to ask our own questions. Well at least this is what I’ve been taught to believe.
Last year’s meeting was my first TRONA AGM.

I went with a group from Wairaka determined to ask questions. We knew answers would be limited and, at some stage, we would be label radicals, activists, haters, wreckers, negative or nuances. But here’s the thing, we knew we had to go and do what we did.
We had all heard the stories about failing internet companies, luxury golf courses up north only that had crumbled at the first hurdles, castles being built in the name of men and a dysfunctional culture.

Some of our questions were answered, many were not.
It was this event that inspired this blog.

And as I look over the past 12 months I realise nothing much has really changed. I don’t expect to get too many answers out of this weekend and people are still labelling this blog as a part of a group of “negative nuances”.
But ten new faces on the TRONA board is a sign of what can be done by the people and I urge you to stand up and demand a change.

As always I begin with the warning that this is the information that I have collected, take from it what you will and make your own decisions about it. But always remember you can always go to this year’s AGM at Wairaka on Sunday if you want to ask our management and governors for yourself.
This week I picked up a TRONA annual report. After attending most of the board meetings this year I wasn’t expecting the bottom to have fallen out, but I still wanted to take a read before this weekend and on the first look things seemed good.

The document is sleek-looking with glossy pages and sharp images. It pumps up the Runanga and notches achievements from the past year including cutting costs “to bring the Runanga back into near positive cash neutral” and the restructuring of Development Ngati Awa.
But upon reading it again there are some glaring mistakes and concerning themes.

However rather than concentrating on spelling errors and minor details I wanted to start this post by reminding you of Jim Davies and the $3.8 million contract with the CO2 New Zealand Management company.
Mr Davies is a good, honest man who has worked in the area of forestry and farming for more than four decades. Up until July he was the chairman of the Ngati Awa Farm Committee.

However he was forced to resign after he received a letter from runanga chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor explaining the financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd, had voted to remove him because he spoke to the media about concerns around the tribe’s carbon credit investment.

Since then NAGHL chairman Wira Gardiner has made himself Ngati Awa Farm committee chairman and Wilhelm Studer has been selected for the remaining spot.
And perhaps you agree that Mr Davies shouldn’t have spoken to the media but his forced resignation was quick, so quick he that he did not have time to give his last report.
But I wanted to share what Mr Davies had written in his report.

In it he said the report’s purpose was to state the “Farm Committee’s” position on the “CO2 Ngati Awa Farm Land Management Agreement”.
“Subsequent investigation by the Farm Committee revealed that a conflict in fact did arise because Graham Pryor was a NAGHL director as well as being General Manager at the Ngati Awa office. He was also an Iwi director at Tukia , plus having a vested interest and directorship at CO2 New Zealand Ltd, an Australian carbon trading company.”

As already outlined in previous posts Graham Pryor is one of five people on the board of Ngati Awa Group Holdings Limited (NAGHL).  The other members are Waaka Vercoe, Joe Mason, Brian Tunui and Sir Gardiner.
“In 2010, Mr Pryor, with NAGHL chairman Wira Gardiner, executed a $3.8 million contract with the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.

At the time Mr Pryor was a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.
Sir Gardiner says Pryor did not become a director of NAGHL until after the contract with CO2 New Zealand Management Company was instigated. However a report from the NAGHL Audit committee says Mr Pryor was the one who received crucial legal advice about the deal before it had been signed on behalf of the tribal company.

Also identified in the audit committee report was that Mr Pryor had failed to disclose the potential conflict of interest and, more seriously, there was no policy to demand it.
Mr Pryor and Sir Gardiner had also executed the contract without prior approval from the rest of the NAGHL board.

At a meeting earlier this year Sir Gardiner said he had required Mr Pryor to resign as a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company when he became aware of the potential conflict of interest”.
Mr Pryor did so but he still remains within a stone’s throw of the deal as a director of a company called Tukia Group.

Set up by the six iwi involved in the Central North Island (CNI) forestry settlement, Tukia Group included Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Whare, Ngati Rangitihi and Ngati Whakaue.
In his report Mr Davies says Tukia Group is also tied up with two other companies, CO2 New Zealand Ltd and Carbon Energy.

 “This arrangement effectively places CO2 New Zealand and Carbon Enery in control of the group. In other words, a collection shell companies comprising a mere handful of principals. All names are readily available on the register, with one in particularly featuring throughout.
“CO2 New Zealand was designed to benefit from carbon opportunities that may arise from the Treelords deal, or any other Iwi management opportunities that may occur.”

And then there was also story in this week’s Beacon focussing on Mr Pryor and the Tukia Group.
For details sake the Companies Office lists CO2 New Zealand as having a 45 per cent shareholding in CO2 New Zealand Management Ltd company. The two companies have the same two Australian-based directors, Andrew William Thorold Grant and Harley Ronald Whitcombe but Mr Pryor is not listed as a director.

The story in the Beacon goes on to describe Mr Pryor as being the Tukia Group chairman and says the company continued to trade until June 30 2013, at which time shareholders agreed to cease operations and hand some assets back to the CNI iwi holdings.
It explains the settlement with the six central north Island iwi was worth $418 million and the story explains that Tukia Group was meant to be a joint venture that invested in natural resources. Each tribe advanced $550,000 to develop a geothermal opportunity at Tauhara. It does not mention the CO2 New Zealand Management company or its owner CO2 New Zealand Ltd.

But it does describe the failure of the Tukia Group and concerns from the other Iwi about its performance.
“Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatura chairman Tamati Kruger said Tuhoe advised other directors last year Tuhoe was no longer supportive of Tukia and advocated its early wind up,” the Beacon reports.

The story points to the company’s financial collapse as the reason for the concerns.
“Ngati Rangitihi is recorded as having a paid a further $85,000 according to its annual reports, but it is not clear why.

“Tuwharetoa paid an additional $1.25 million to bail out Tukia in 2011. Today Tukia still exists, but it is hard to determine in what form… Auckland firm Johnstone Associates is Tukia’s accountant but staff member Rupit Kshatriya will not comment on the state of the company, referring the Beacon to chairman Graham Pryor.
“Mr Pryor, also chairman of CNI signatory Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi Trust, has not responded to questions from the Beacon.”

 A side bar said that according to an annual report that Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi trust, which is part of the CNI deal and the organisation that Mr Pryor leads, Tukia had sold its 45 per cent in CO2 New Zealand Management Ltd.

Now, let’s not forget Mr Pryor was the man who facilitated the $3.8m deal between NAGHL and the CO2 New Zealand Management company. Described as “re-afforestation project" in the TRONA annual report, the contract was negotiated by Mr Pryor while he was still a director of CO2 New Zealand New Zealand Management and at least involved with the NAGHL board.
The TRONA annual report outlines that an agreement with “CO2 New Zealand Limited Partnership” was entered into on 20 October 2011.

“As part of this agreement along with the subsequent Carbon Sequestration Management services agreement entered into in July 2012 and variation agreement in January 2013, the group committed capital expenditure of establishment fees of $3, 186,177 through to 2017 and ongoing annual mangment fees of $164,749 per year for 2018-2020, $198,835 per year for 2021, $87,360 per year for 2022-2031 and $70,980 per year for 2032-2062.”
In other words, Ngati Awa will pay $6.6m ($6,630,150) to CO2 New Zealand Limited Partnership over the 50-year life of the project.  As at 30 June 2013 a payment of $1,912,527 has been made, despite a memo on 17 October, 2012, from NAGHL and Trona chief executive Mrs Ratahi-Pryor to Sir Gardiner that warned of conflict of interest concerning Mr Pryor.

The memo from Mrs Ratahi-Pryor also said that there was a “get-out-jail” clause because of the conflict of interest that could be enacted before December 2012.
Obviously the TRONA board did not remove Mr Pryor nor was he reprimanded for holding back crucial information at the time of the deal. In fact he was made chairman of the Investments Committee and Mr Vercoe, who wrote the first report to signal concerns in this area, was replaced as Audit Committee chairman by Brian Tunui.

So what I really want to know in this entire murky saga is: What exactly does Ngati Awa get from the $6.6 million contract with CO2 New Zealand Ltd?
Other questions on my mind are also:

- Why did the Runanga decide to write-off $181,000 owed by Ngati Awa Development Trust and $188,000 owed by Ngati Awa Research and Archives?
- Was the decision to pay the members of the new Ngati Awa Development Trust, that now includes members from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Ngati Awa Social and Health Services (NASH), Te Reo Irirangi o Te Manuka Tutahi and Ngat Awa Tertiary Training Organisation, to attend meetings included in the budgets?

- What do amounts do the NAGHL board members receive in fees or honorarium including the chairman and deputy chairman?
- Ngati Awa have committeed to a $6m ($6,281,000) mortgage from ANZ to pay for the Tumurau farm, which was bought last year - have any other partners been found for the 49 per cent, that NAGHL has identified that it does not want to own, apart from Rotoehu Forest Trust and Kiwinui?

- What services do Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Ltd provide Ngat Awa?
However, do you reckon I will get to ask all of these questions at the AGM? And even if I do, do you reckon I will get any answers?

I don’t hold out much hope, so this weekend I am going determined to get an answer for one question: How is Te Runanga o Ngati Awa going to help with the fight against the proposed marina and protecting Opihi Whanaunga-Kore?
Ma te wa

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Why have a dog and bark too?

Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne is the only civic leader in the Bay of Plenty region not to publically support the full removal of the Rena from Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef near Motiti.
He is also a heavy proponent of the proposed marina in the Whakatane (Ohinemataroa) River.

Last week Mr Bonne attended the consultation hui at Wairaka with Whakatane District Council chief executive Marty Greenfell, council business services manager and Whakamax cinemas owner Aaron Milne and a three-member support team.
The meeting was a chance for tangata whenua to hear, “kanohi ki te kanohi”, about the council’s intentions for land at Piripai and a submission from the council’s development arm to draft district plan that includes a request to rezone 60 Bunyan Road to a deferred marina area.

In a move that some believed was sneaky and underhanded, the council had delivered its submission to itself in the last week of the time allowed without seeking any consultation from any interested party except through Te Runanga o Ngati Awa.
So the hui was to explain the move.  

And the admission that Mr Bonne did not support the full removal of the Rena was a sign that conversations weren’t going to be easy.
Mr Bonne said the council had come as the “landowner” of 60 Bunyan Road and the neighbouring 77 Bunyan Road.

The two sites have been publically identified by Mr Bonne and sections of the council as a potential marina precinct.
Mr Bonne said a retirement village with a marina and retail area attached at the two sites was the only way to grow Whakatane.

“We have never been misrepresented about what council envisions on that type of land. It is really only as half way step in terms of 60 Bunyan Road and in terms of what we put in the submission and that is a deferred marina zone.”
In support of the mayor Mr Greenfell said a sale and purchase agreement made with the Whakatane Marina Society in 2008 allowed for a memorandum of understanding that would enable “marina-type activity” if the conditions allowed for it.

He said the entire proposed development was projected to net the council $14 million.
“If we don’t sell we are going to have to make some changes in the longe term plan and there will be some rate increases. I was the one who has been pushing for a retirement village and there is interest out there for a retirement village.”

The signal was clear: they want their “marine precinct” and they want it there.
Requests to create a new “deferred marina zone” as outlined in the council’s submission, which can be viewed here may mean that in the future developers may not need a resource consent to build their marina.

Now, here is the reason why Ngati Hokopu with other Ngati Awa hapu including Ngati Pukeko and Taiwhakaea agreed to this meeting.
That site, 60 Bunyan Road, is a stone’s throw from one of the Ngati Awa’s most significant sites, Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa. The site of the proposed retirement village, at 77 Bunyan Road, is on land that many still believe is part of the ancient urupa and many Ngati Awa members actively oppose any development in these areas.

One of the many tools people are using to continue the defence of our wahi tapu, has been through the district plan process.
Submissions to the draft district plan closed on 13 September and the council received more than 200 from Maori. Many opposed the development of a marina and also the residential development at 77 Bunyan Road.

The submissions can be reviewed here and the Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka submission here.
On Thursday Mr Milne came to Wairaka marae again to meet with the Opihiwhanaungakore Trust.

The trust is the legal owner of Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa, and in the trustees’ eyes they are the kaitiaki, guardians, of that place.
Mr Milne had attended the previous meeting with Ngati Hokopu but this time he had only bought a legal advisor for support.

Again, though, his message was clear – the proposed marina was a priority for the Whakatane District Council.
Reiterating the mayor’s words Mr Milne said he spoke from the council as a landowner.

However he acknowledged the council had an obligation under the district plan process to consult including with tangata whenua.
“In order to give transparency and accountability to messages that the council divorces itself from being a statutory body.

“If the deferred marina zone as provided for any for development from there that requires the developer to go through a full resource consent consultation.”
He agreed the council had not been entirely open with tangata whenua and other related parties

“The council hasn’t been very good at this, in any type of move like this, and what the council should do, and usually does do, is get cultural impact reports.”
But Mr Milne had to admit that no cultural impact assessment had been done for 60 Bunyan Road. He could not answer who were the Ngati Awa representatives who had attended a field trip in 2006 with the Whakatane Marina Society and other parties, despite using it as an example of consultation.

Nor could he say what those representatives had said during that trip because there was no binding agreement from it.
Opihiwhanaungakore trustee Rapata Kopae was staunch in his position.

He said as a direct neighbour to the proposed marina site, the trust was the most affected party and should be considered.
“I would like to stand in front of you and tell you people that we will never go away… And that place is so tapu that you are never going to see a development over there,” he said.

So, here we are.
The answer is still no, not there, and their argument is, predictably, the economic benefits that may be derived from the development.

Therefore, while the war has been raging for more than 20 years it is not over and, again, it is going to be a long and arduous battle.
And, if we are to win and protect our ancient urupa and ancestors then we must have resources.

Now is the time for those in Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board to stand up and be counted. We are going to need legal, planning and financial support.
My challenge to the new TRONA board is: how are you going to help us?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Things do not change, we do

It’s official – there are ten new faces on the Te Runanga o Ngati Awa board including a stalwart of Maori politics and a former staff member.
Results for the TRONA board elections were released last week however chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor ruled the results to be confidential until published in the Beacon today.

I can, now, confirm that the results are as follows:
Hakahaka Hona beat incumbent Hone Stipich by ten votes for the Tamaki Makaurau. At Ngati Hokopu ki Te Hokowhitua A Tu Te Rahui Maanu Paul took the seat held by Tani Wharewera by 25 votes.  Dayle Hunia (nee Fenton) won over Charles Bluett at Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka by 49 votes. Keld Hunia beat off stiff competition from Cheryl Wilson, Tamaku Paul and incumbent Patrick Salmon for the Ngai Tamaoki seat, with a total of 119 votes lodged. And at Taiwhakaea Manu Tarau beat Jo Harawira and Georgina Maxwell.

According to Returning Officer Warwick Lampp the voter return was 27.49%, being 641 votes cast from 2,332 eligible electors of which 16.22% voted by internet and 83.78% voted by post.
Previously five seats had already changed with Serenah Nicholson now representing Ngati Awa ki Poneke, Tuwhakairiora (Conn) O’Brien at Te Pahipoto, Marcia Wahopango at Te Patuwai, Paul Quinn at Ngai Tamapare and Alfred Morrison at Ngai Tamawera.

So that makes ten changes to the 22-person board. The only unknown factor at the moment is whether Steffan Haua will be able to reclaim his seat for Maumoana.
Mr Haua failed to get his registration form in on time and legal advice is being sought about the situation. It is understood that a precedent has been set in the past when John Simpson failed to submit his registration papers on time and was not able to reclaim his seat.

Meanwhile, the new board will meet after it is ratified at the annual general meeting later this year and there are some who are eager to get to work.
Mr Quinn, who was the only person to stand at Ngai Tamapare , said he believed he had the necessary business experience.

“My main reason for standing was because the whanua wanted me to – the view was that given my extensive business and governance background coupled with the institutional knowledge I have on the establishment of the current Runanga and its various associated organisations, including Ngati Awa Group Holdings Limited and Ngati Awa Asset Holdings Limited, I had the necessary skills to contribute to the proper role the Runanga board should play.
“Given the fact that I am now spending more time in Whakatane I am available to contribute. I look forward to contributing to advancing the mana of Ngati Awa.”

Last year, Mr Quinn was set to take a position on the tribe’s financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Limited (NAGHL). Directors on NAGHL are required to stand down every three years and a rotating system is employed.

Two positions were advertised and Mr Quinn applied for one. At a TRONA board meeting last year, Mr Quinn’s application was deemed successful however at the Annual General Meeting held less than a month later it was announced that Joe Mason and Brian Tunui were the new directors.
Mr Quinn’s presence is likely to cause a bit of stir when the new board meets as is Maori Council chairman Maanu Paul.

I had organised to talk to Mr Paul about why he stood and what he hopes to achieve over the next year, however he has had to attend a tangi and has been unavailable.
And then there is my own hapu, Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka.

I asked new member Dayle Fenton why she stood.
“I stood for the position because I believe that a collective, rather than individual leadership approach is key to the successful governance of the Runanga.  This collective approach is based on the principle that the primary role of the Rūnanga is to support the aspirations of our hapū. I see my delegate role as being a Kaitiaki of those aspirations.”

And she was very clear, when asked what she hoped to achieve in the next year.
“The Board must be able to clearly articulate the strategic direction so that management can follow.   As the Ngati Hokopu delegate, I intend to focus on exploring and capturing opportunities while maintaining alignment with the key areas of strategy, finance and risk.

“I think that the Board needs to review our structures - are they working for us or against us?”

And the most interestingly was when I asked her about voter turn-out.
“The voter turn-out was, and has always been, disappointing but I think that voter apathy is only part of the picture. I suspect that the majority of our people are disengaged from the Runanga and so better communication strategies are required including the use of IT (website and facebook) especially for those that live outside of the rohe.

“One way of ensuring better engagement would be to host alternative Runanga hui between Whakatane and Rangitaiki marae – this is not a new idea and is worthy of consideration by the Board.  I think that the Board needs to provide the platform for “korero that matters”.  Our marae are central to hapū well-being and should be utilised at every possible opportunity by the Runanga.”
I think she has got a point and that is why I will continue to write this blog.

There are plenty of naysayers out there but I think ten changes to the board and more than 25,000 hits since the inception of Tu Mai Te Toki are indications that people are reading this blog.  
I have always said it – my role is not to make decisions but to provide the information that I acquire so that you are able to form your own opinions, what you choose to do with it is up to you.

Incidentally, a position on NAGHL is up for grabs this year. Waaka Vercoe will reapply for it but if you think you have got the skills then get your application in because we need you.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Asking the hard questions

The man who forced Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) to develop a policy to deal with conflicts of interest could stand to personally benefit from another contract between the tribal organisation and a private company.

Despite his role in the carbon credit contract debacle, Graham Pryor remains a director of the tribe’s financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd (NAGHL).

In 2010, Mr Pryor, with NAGHL chairman Wira Gardiner, executed a $3.8 million contract with the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.
At the time Mr Pryor was a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.

Sir Gardiner says Pryor did not become a director of NAGHL until after the contract with CO2 New Zealand Management Company was instigated. However a report from the NAGHL Audit committee says Mr Pryor was the one who received crucial legal advice on behalf of the tribal company.
Also identified in the audit committee report was that Mr Pryor had failed to disclose the potential conflict of interest and, more seriously, there was no policy to demand it.

Mr Pryor and Sir Gardiner had also executed the contract without prior approval from the rest of the NAGHL board.
At a meeting earlier this year Sir Gardiner said he had required Mr Pryor to resign as a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company when he became aware of the potential conflict of interest.
The TRONA board accepted Sir Gardiner’s explanation and no disciplinary action was taken but a conflict of interest policy was implemented.
Now a strategic document presented by NAGHL at the TRONA board meeting in August shows that once again Mr Pryor is a director of a company that has a contract with Ngati Awa through NAGHL.

The Strategic Documents 2013-2018 states: “The Mataatua Fisheries Collective is an unincorporated joint venture between iwi in the Mataatua to lease fish quota to maximise returns. The collective pays Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Limited a commission to undertake the leasing on its behalf.”
Mr Pryor is listed as a director of Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Limited on the Companies Office website.
According to the website Ngati Awa, Ngai Tai, Ngati Whare, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngati Manawa and Whakatohea have a 16 per cent share each in Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Limited. The remaining shareholding of 4 per cent belongs to an Opotiki accountants, in a trust account.

Mr Pryor declares his interest in Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings in the NAGHL Strategic Documents 2013-2018 as is dictated by the TRONA conflict of interest policy.
But I cannot help but feel a little uneasy because while the interest has been declared, on the face of things, it still looks as though Mr Pryor is able to gain contracts for his other companies because he of his position on the NAGHL board. 

So I sent an email to Sir Gardiner and NAGHL chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor.

The email reads:

Tena korua,

I am writing a post for the Tu Mai Te Toki blog around the Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd Strategic Documents 2013-2018 and I have a few questions that I am seeking the answers to. I intend to publish the blog post on Saturday morning and would really appreciate a response so that I am able to present a fair outline.

The questions are as follow:

-          You say in NAGHL’s strategic documents 2013-2018: “Whilst some under-performed the majority did very well, contributing to the growth in the value of Ngati Awa commercial base by 43 per cent.” Could you please explain how the value of Ngati Awa’s commercial base has risen by 43 per cent?

-          You also in NAGHL’s strategic documents 2013-2018: “The strategic direction requires a commercial infrastructure with the capacity and capability to deliver the goals and objectives outlined within this document. The Board is reviewing its current infrastructure and has already made changes to ensure that Ngati Awa Group Holdings is fit for purpose and capable of meeting shareholder expectations over the next five to 10 years.” Could you please outline the changes that have already been made?

-          Are there any concerns that Graham Pryor is a director of NAGHL and also Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Limited?

Nga mihi

Unfortunately, I did not get a response and I am left feeling a little bit disheartened by this.

Coincidentally, advertisements were placed in the Whakatane Beacon this week calling for registrations of interest for one director position to NAGHL.
Previously, and according to the Strategic Documents 2013-2018, the NAGHL board was made up of Sir Gardiner, Mr Pryor, Joe Mason, Brian Tunui and Waaka Vercoe.

I do not know who is standing down but here is the thing - Ngati Awa is in the hole and, now more than ever, we need strong leaders.
We need leaders with vision and tenacity who are not afraid to speak up. We need leaders who are going to do their best for all of their people and make good decisions. We need leaders who are dynamic and are going to grow the tribe so that we can achieve the big picture – the vision we all shared in Ko Ngati Te Toki.

We need leaders who are going to lead us.

And as you are all aware the election process is underway.
So far there have been five changes to the board with Serenah Nicholson representing Ngati Awa ki Poneke, Tuwhakairiora (Conn) O’Brien at Te Pahipoto, Marcia Wahopango at Te Patuwai, Paul Quinn at Ngai Tamapare and Alfred Morrison at Ngai Tamawera.

As well, there are elections within Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu, Ngati Awa ki Tamaki Makaurau, Ngai Taiwhakaea and Ngai Tamaoki.

It is great there have been discussions in many of the whanau about who could be and should be their hapu representative on the TRONA board. Equally it is fantastic that there are so many people who feel they have something to give the iwi and we should be proud that we have plenty of aspiring leaders.

But we must always remember that it is not simply good enough to assume the position without taking responsibility.

You are there to represent the people and your responsibility is to them.

Next time I want to explore the Strategic Documents 2013-2018 a little more. I will try and not leave the next post for too long this time.

Ma te wa.

Friday, 2 August 2013

E oho

The Whakatane Marina Society wants to build a seafront development near one of Ngati Awa’s most culturally significant sites.
Outlined in the Whakatane Beacon earlier this month, the plan includes a marina with a retirement village and residential development.

The front story painted a foregone conclusion with a large developer fronting the project and sympathetic supporters illustrating the benefits of such a development.
However what was missed is the opposition to the proposal and the understanding that there will be many battles fought before any war is won.

And that is why I went to the meeting and workshop held by Te Runanga o Ngati Awa last week.
The two-part meeting was held to help the tribe’s hapu create a submissions to Whakatane council’s proposed District Plan.

On my mind was one issue: the marina.
It is not that I object to a marina on the Ohinemataroa (Whakatane) River. I know that its development would help stimulate the Whakatane economy, perhaps create jobs and definitely attract money.

It is just that I will never accept a marina at that site.
Driven by the Whakatane Marina Society, responsibility for developing the marina proposal has now been given to Whakatane Marina Developments Limited (WMDL).

WMDL has a memorandum of understanding with the Whakatane District Council for the purchase of a site at 60 Bunyan Road.
Another Council−owned parcel of land near the mouth of the Orini Canal is also included in the memorandum of understanding.

The council is keen to see the development because it means they will be able to sell that land for $11 million. It is interesting to note that the sale of that parcel of land is a priority for the council’s chief executive.
However before any commitment can be made developers must ensure the rules (including the Whakatane Council’s District Plan and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s Regional Coastal Management Policy) will allow for a marina at that site.

The Bunyan Rd site, to be used in the development, is separated from the Whakatane River by the Orini Canal and a narrow strip of land that runs between the two waterways. This strip of land is part of the Coastal Protection Zone.
A Coastal Protection Zone is a strip of land adjacent to the coastal marine area along the coastline, according to the Whakatane District Council.

“This zone is intended to define the area in which the plan will manage those adverse effects of development or use which are likely to have a direct effect on the visual amenity and/or ecology of the coast, harbour and river margins, and may provide a level of protection against coastal hazard events. This zone will predominantly be an open space zone, not generally intended for development. "
WMDL have made a submission to the council’s draft District Plan requesting the site be rezoned to rural. This will make developing a marina easier.

“Most of the marina site is fiat land that is used seasonally for cropping. Towards the eastern end of the site Council has constructed a series of ponds which have been used occasionally as settlement ponds for material dredged from the Whakatane River,” says Tim Fergusson in the submission.
“Council currently holds resource consents enabling the use of the dredging settlement ponds and deposition of up to 250,000m3 of dredged material on the site. A small area of land at the far eastern end of the site adjoins the tidal estuary section of the river.”

The submission goes on to say the physical characteristics of the site, its land use and environmental values are very similar to the adjacent property to the west and are rural in nature.
“The marina site does not exhibit high natural character or amenity values and although the site adjoins the Orini Canal, it is not located on the river margin. It is therefore considered to be appropriate to rezone the site from Coastal Protection Zone to Rural Zone, with the exception of a small area at the eastern tip of the property.”

WMDL also state that the Coastal Protection Zone is intended to apply to sites where land use activities are likely to have a direct effect on the "visual amenity and/or ecology of the coast, harbour and river margins".
“In this case, the strip of land between the Orini Canal and the Whakatane River provides visual separation and an effective buffer between activities on the marina site and the river margins.

“Activities on the marina site are no more likely to affect the visual amenity values of the river than activities undertaken on the residential zoned land to the north or rural zoned land to the west of the site.
“The potential for direct effects on the ecology of the river is also avoided by the physical separation from the Whakatane River. Although the marina site directly adjoins the Orini Canal (which flows into the Whakatane River), a Regional Council floodgate controls flows in this waterway.

“The marina site's proximity to the Orini Canal does not increase its potential to affect the ecology of the river any more than any rural properties adjoining either the Kope Canal or Orini Canal further upstream. Even then, this is an indirect effect.”
The submission closes with a statement that the designation in the Operative District Plan is outdated and should be changed in the revised version.

“This is a historical designation which originated from a proposal to develop 60 Bunyan Road for use as playing fields. As is evident by Council's intention to divest the land, this designation is no longer necessary.”
But the WMDL misses two crucial points.

The “marina site” is within a stone’s throw of the Ngati Awa urupa, Opihi Whanaungakore.
Under WMDL’s proposal there is a “buffer zone” between the site and the urupa however the water entrance to the site will be right next to the ancient cemetery.

The final resting place for some of Ngati Awa’s most notable leaders, Opihi Whanaungakore is considered a wahi tapu and a culturally significant site.
Opposition from the iwi is, therefore, likely to be strong.

Secondly the site that WMDL propose to dig up and develop is a known contaminated site.
One of 36 known contaminated sites in Whakatane, that land was used in the 1960s to dump toxic waste from the Whakatane Board Mill. It has been proven that the chemical which has leeched into the soil at those sites can lead to diabetes, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, auto-immune diseases and other disorders.

It is certain that the watchdog group Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP) will continue to oppose any development of contaminated land.
The runanga will also have a responsibility to ensure that the tribe’s concerns are voiced in the appropriate channels and our taonga is protected.

But it is necessary that we, the people, ensure our opinions are heard.

I am in the process of writing a submission to the council’s proposed District Plan on behalf of my hapu, Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka.
Stopping the development of a marina at a site near Opihi Whanaungakore is important to Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka because it is not the appropriate location for that sort of development.

We intend to oppose WMDL previous submission to the draft District Plan and support the retention of the Coastal Protection Zone for the land needed for proposed “marina site”.
I am sure we are not the only hapu who hold this belief.

However I was disappointed that when I went to the meeting and workshop held by the runanga, there were only three hapu represented.

It is important that we all have our say because we do not want to have to tell our children and their children that: one day we woke up and there was a marina in our backyard keeping our tipuna company.
The runanga is holding another meeting on August 13 and then a workshop on August 15. I encourage others to attend or to start putting together submissions for their hapu because this is important.

Submissions to the council’s proposed District Plan close on September 13 and we must engage if we are to be navigators of our own destiny.
Ma te wa