Search This Blog

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Kia ora koutou,
On Saturday the 8th of December, 2012, I attended the Annual General Meeting of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) in Te Teko.

I went because I wanted to know the answers to several questions I had and to hear what our leaders had to say about a couple of key decisions they have made in the last year or so.

However answers were not very forthcoming and I left the meeting with a sense of disappointment, in response I decided to start this blog.
Through it I am hoping to share information and pose questions in a bid to acquire a better understanding of our tribe’s affairs.

Belonging to Ngati Awa will make being detached and unbiased difficult however I am confident the news values and ethics that I gained as a reporter will ensure that I strive for fairness and balance.
For more than four years I worked as a reporter at the Waikato Times. My speciality was Maori Affairs and for much of my tenure I was heavily involved in the tribal politics of Tainui as an outsider.

I wrote several stories where my contacts questioned the decisions of the tribe’s leadership and there were some who were angry that I chose to put the tribe’s affairs out in the public.
But here is the thing - I always believed that my job was to provide information to the people so that they were able to make informed decisions and it is this same drive that I employ when beginning this blog.

Since returning to live in my hometown of Whakatane I have been saddened by several people’s stories about their experiences within and with the runanga

In the past people from Waikato have often asked me if I would be so intrusive when it came to my own iwi and now I am finally able to answer that question with this honest answer: yes I am because I believe that to achieve collective success people must always demand accountability and transparency from their leaders.

This will only happen if the people have the information to make informed decisions.
So I will begin this blog with a post about what I believe was one of the most interesting aspects of the AGM.

TRONA chairman Te Kei Merito began the meeting by asking those gathered to highlight any issues that they would like to raise in the general business section. Several people stood up including my whanaunga William Stewart who said he wanted to talk about accountability.
It seems that this statement was to set the tone of the meeting.

Reports were given by the new chief executive Enid Rātahi-Pryor, TRONA chairman Mr Merito, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd chairman Sir Wira Gardiner but, in my opinion, the most interesting point of the meeting was when TRONA accountant Murray Haines was asked how much had the runanga had received from the sale of GoNet.

An internet service provider company, GoNet promised great things. In 2009 the runanga invested iwi money into the venture and it was hoped that they would be part of the roll-out of the cutting edge technology, InspiAir.
However the promises made by the Tanekaha Holdings Ltd, the company which first approached the runanga for investment into the internet company, were a little premature and the network required a bit more tweaking before it could offer the fast and reliable wireless internet that had been ensured.

After it was discovered that the technology did not live up to the promises the runanga sacked Tanekaha Holdings and employed another company to find gear that worked and to get the network working. It is estimated that this cost the runanga $1m taking the total investment into the venture to $1.9m.
In addition the runanga also had to absorb a trading loss of $400,000 for the 2011-2012 financial year and so a decision was made to get out.

Therefore in last year’s annual report the investment into GoNet of $1.9m was written off and a trading loss of $400,000 for the company was recorded.
When asked how much money was paid for the shares, Mr Haines had to reply that the runanga had sold the shares back to GoNet for nothing.

This sparked outrage by some in the wharenui and Mr Haines replied that the runanga had made the decision to stop the haemorrhaging of funds.
“To stop the bleeding we sold it for $0, we got rid of the haemorrhaging. Sometimes it is sensible to give away something for free,” he said.

Mr Haines went on to say from accounting point of view it was hoped they would recoup some of the $1.9m but it was generally accepted that this would probably not happen.
However this did not alleviate concerns in the crowd of about 80 people and many were left speechless.

And perhaps this would make sense if Ngati Awa was a two-bit player but we are an organisation with $110m worth of assets. We are a proud people with a history of entrepreneurship and creativity. We have a host of people within our iwi with skills and qualities that could have helped provide a better solution than simply giving away an investment of $1.9m for free.

It begs the questions of: what kind of due-diligence was done before our leaders chose to invest in this internet company? And secondly, why spend money fixing the network if we were only going to give it away for free?
It is not the only investment the runanga has made where I have been left to question the decision-making abilities of our leaders.

In the next blog post I will look at the Birnie Capital situation where our leaders chose to invest $3.3m to help build a golf-course up north. The venture failed, the runanga wrote off the investment and now they are currently involved in an on-going legal battle to get back half of what was lost but it was admitted at the AGM that there is very little likelihood of us getting back that money.



  1. What are your thoughts whanau?

    1. People the settlement will NEVER be cut up into individual cheques and those who think they are, oh please. As if. Similarly, those who pontificate about their expertise, really? Let's see your resume then. I bet it tells it's own tale. Also Godfrey if you knew what you were talking about, there was nothing lazy in what NAGHL had done about McBirnie. The Runanga saw all of the papers. As for Gone-net, well, that was the ex CEO's own little baby. He should have been held personally accountable but he wasn't and simply walked off into the sunset. More to the point all of those who raised this kaupapa at the 2012 AGM when I was there, two of the most vocal were all sucking on the iwi tit the year before at the 2011 AGM. Why didn't they raise all of this then? Could it be that like everyone else on the iwi payroll they were too scared to speak out even though THEY SAW WHAT HAD HAPPENED about McBurnie and Gone-net? Seems like self interest in retaining their own lucrative contracts made sure that they sat silent. And do you know who much they were on? Ask them to reveal it, these current critics who were in the pay of the iwi for some time before they found the voice to speak out. What they were paid would have saved four admin jobs of the "ordinary people" they now claim to be so concerned about. I wonder if some of their contracts had been renewed how different things might have been? Speaks more about their own lack of integrity don't you think?

  2. Aue!!! That's absolutely shocking! Sounds like our leaders don't have much experience in finance and investment, maybe they need to look at what Ngai Tahu has done. Thank you for posting this, if I was at the meeting, I would have left disappointed too.

  3. I am of the same opinion as you ,were was the due diligence before all this money was invested ,and what about accountability those millions could have gone a long way in supporting educating our Iwi .Why are these people still looking after our money ?????

  4. Ka aroha... Firstly... is it is all OPM (other peoples money) and the sense of responsibility is diminished because its like monopoly money... just big numbers on a peice of paper... hard for many to followor understand(especially the lay person). Secondly those in positions of power are not always equiped to manage such big numbers and tend to seek advice... thus iwi trust is invested in consultants and often people with a conflict of interests... and they are focussed on their business and not yours. It is happening every... with many iwi... and our people are being shafted by their own.

  5. this is sad.. firstly we cud all have done a bit better with this 'piece of the pie'.. and not condoning the mistakes our whanau have made.. but also realising that to start with ngati awa had 43 mil worth of assets and cash.. round 20mil cash if i remember rightly.. our asset n cash base has increased since 2005 to over 100mil.. which this report fails to mention.. thats pretty gud going dont u think? sumtimes we have to take the gud with the bad... BUT i do have a funny niggly 'feeling'and not everyone works off those.. that 'tanekaha holdings ltd.. certain naghl directors (possibly not all of them) and murray haines' are major players in this kohua. just saying

  6. Really appreciate your commitment to informing our people Karla, so thank you for your posts, and I certainly look forward to many more.

  7. I think they were right to sell for nothing - better than carrying the extra cost of shutting the business down. Th real issue is the performance PRIOR to the decision to get out.

  8. Morgan you don't know what you're talking about. When was the last time you were involved directly in iwi and hapu affairs including the drudgery of attending monthly hui, fundraising, working bees and the like? Too many armchair whakaputa mohio happy to criticise from the sidelines but when it's time to contribute your skills and expertise, aue ra, kei hea koe e hika? Too busy? Well we're all busy e hoa. Put your money where your mouth is and work with hapu. Change your delegate and put people in who can do the job. It is also a fantasy to believe Treaty settlements will help or solve Maori unemployment. They are structurally incapable of so doing and it's not their function. Please, they are a joke in themselves the value. Do you think the great Ngai Tahu will all of their wealth have made the slightest measurable difference to Ngai Tahu unemployed? You must be joking? They are a pittance the settlements. Nor can they and nor should they.

    And what jobs would they be? For the favoured few in the know at the top? Or some hair-brained work scheme like WINZ and the old NZES and ETSA used to fund that led to nowhere? Ngati Awa Runanga was totally overstaffed and they were totally overpaid from the top down. I know because I used to go there all the time and see them and attend iwi and hapu hui, do you? But that's what happens when the idiot Runanga employs people who have NEVER been CEOs of ANYTHING. They went from 6 staff under Joe Mason to 18+ under Jeremy. The wages bill - not counting consultants - was well over $1 million. Then consultants took out another $500-900K depending on the year. People THAT's where our money was going each year. This was each year EVERY YEAR. At least the dopey McBurnie and Gone net were one off disasters, most of the detail of which the Runanga members were kept in the dark, especially Gone-net. And yes I think other comments are quite right. Our assets have gone from about $60 to $110 million, not too bad in the post GFC world when you think of how many others fell over during this period. Don't get me wrong I think the losses were outrageous and the directors should have offered their resignations. I understand Wira has and more than once. But getting back to the wages rort in our annual accounts paying a lot of people we did not need was pretty stupid. Look I am sure they enjoyed the money but we didn't need so many staff and we still don't. Most of them did very little to add value to the hapu. Our hapu told him to give the money out to the hapu and close the Runanga down to a core of 6 or less. I hope Enid does.

    1. I agree. Hapu should have the assets. Look after our marae. 19,000 beneficiaries? Whatever. Most of them have nothing to do with their marae. Or all they do is put a hand out.

  9. There seems to be a lot of good things the iwi has been doing and a few seriously bad things. How come with all the assets and top people we have with skills an talent that we don't have a team at Matatini? Whakatohea doesn't have much as in assets etc but they are in Matatini same with Apanui. How come?

    1. We at Matatini now, gee its mean as. Sad that we have no Ngati Awa teams. So I have to tautoko my Tuhoe side! Yay Tuhoe.

  10. I agree. Too much focus on money. Forget about the settlement for a minute. What's the state of our pae and kaikaranga? Our waiata and haka? Our reo and tikanga? Who is learning our karakia tawhito? Our whakapapa and history? Give funding to fix this stuff. THat's our job not the government.