Search This Blog

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Information is power

Once again I am a little bit late with this post but I wanted to take my time so that my approach is measured and considered.
As you are aware I was meant to talk about the Ngati Hokopu hapu meeting after it was announced  that the chief executive of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) would attend and answer questions.

Enid Ratahi-Pryor had said she would like to attend the meeting to “decipher” and “demystify”    information coming out of the runanga.
However because it was the first meeting of the year it was felt there was too much business to get through so Ngati Hokopu requested Mrs Ratahi-Pryor attend another meeting at a later date.

That meeting is to be held at Wairaka Marae on March 6 at 6pm.
Therefore this week’s post will not be about what was discussed at the Ngati Hokopu hapu meeting; rather I would like to take some time to talk about the TRONA board meeting held at Te Manuka Tutahi last week.

It is the first board meeting that I have attended and I left feeling even more despondent.
I have a number of concerns but today I will highlight one area and that is: Ngati Awa’s financial arm will not be able to give the full annual grant to the runanga this year after heavy losses by its carbon credit investment.

Every year Ngati Awa Group Holdings (NAGHL) gives TRONA $1.5 million to fund the tribal operations.
However the group’s accountant, Murray Haines, told the TRONA board that NAGHL would only be able to give $400,000 from operating cash flows this year.

“An estimated $1.1m of the obligation funding will need to come from reserves due to the Carbon impact.”
Mr Haines said the tribe’s investment in carbon credits had recorded a year-to-date loss of $809,000.

“It is expected that the total for this financial year will be $1.9m. In the review by PriceWaterhouseCoopers it was concluded that an inflation adjusted carbon price of $25 per term was required. The current price is $2.35.”
The investment has already cost the tribe $2.2m in previous years and now the Runanga is considering whether to write the asset off.

“Writing off 100 per cent is the worst-case scenario. When I say write off it means that instead of keeping it as an asset we make it a cost,” Mr Haines said.
The report also highlighted that a net loss of $939,000 is being predicted with an expectation that the return on investments of 1.2 per cent instead of the budgeted 3.5 per cent.

On a positive note Mr Haines was able to say that an agreement with GoNet had been reached where the internet service provider would pay for the shares acquired from the tribe.
Mr Haines had claimed at last year’s AGM that the tribe had sold the shares for nothing but last week he outlined a plan for GoNet directors to pay $300,000 for the shares. The first instalment is due in April.

In addition Mrs Ratahi-Pryor had declared earlier in the meeting that the organisation had achieved a cash-neutral position. In other words the amount of money coming into the organisation was the same as what would be going out for this year.

The board gave Mrs Ratahi-Pryor a round of applause when she announced the achievement however only one member raised concerns about having to take money from the reserves to fund the runanga’s operations when it was outlined by Mr Haines.
When Mr Haines started his financial report four members left the table but as he went along hapu representative Regina O’Brien made it clear that she disapproved of having to take money from the tribe’s reserves.

She said she was deeply concerned that TRONA would have to use money from the reserves for operations.
Her point was noted but board chairman Te Kei Merito decided to move the meeting on and the situation wasn't discussed any further.

Meanwhile during the meeting Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said a reporter from the New Zealand Herald had obtained a copy of an audit report that had been commissioned from the international accounting firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers .
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor suggested the board pass a motion to embargo the meeting report until the next hui. The board voted and passed a resolution for all of those in the public gallery to hand the meeting report back before they left.

During Mr Haines presentation Mrs Ratahi-Pryor approached me and asked me to return the report immediately. There were four other people in the public gallery but I was the only person approached.
I declined and said I would return the report before I left the meeting.

The move to restrict information deeply concerns me. As an uri of Ngati Awa I believe it is my right to receive information about the runanga and its subsidiaries.
Add to that there is no legal requirement of embargo. It is a request not to publish the information before a certain date, that is all, and in this case the date is two months away at the board next meeting on April 26.

After much consideration I have obviously decided to ignore the request not to publish information from the report and have chosen to share it with you.
My reasons are simple.

In the past three years the runanga have lost $5.2m in failed investments and from what I can tell from attending the board meeting is that we stand to potentially write-off another asset. In addition we are also losing money despite the chief executive’s assertion that the runanga is cash-neutral.
And even though it maybe the hapu representatives’ responsibilities to report back to the people this is too important to leave up to chance that you might attend your own hapu meeting and then hear a fair report of the goings-on at the runanga. The internet has the ability to reach so many more people and I am determined to share whatever information I find out.

What you choose to do with that information is up to you.


  1. Gina sits on the audit committee. Her and Charlie did nothing about Gonet McBurnie or the recent conflict of interest of Graham Pryor. Most of the board are clueless. Go to their hui and watch them. They spend ages on the minutes and trivia and let millions go down the drain. The ones who do have clues are ignored. The chairman needs to resign. He lets the meetings get out of hand. Gina is one of those penny wise pound silly types. If they were so good how come they are not personally successful? It's cause they aint. Oh well, hapu have got to work with what they've got I guess.

    Tama Paul

    1. it's like the patients in the asylum. no one in charge and everyone in charge

  2. ur a know it all oright, if most of the board are clueless, whos got all the brains on there? Sounds like u got a few buddies on there 2 me

    Gina is a strong rep for us at Na maihi and she is not scared to ask questions. just read ^^ up there. Go on, tell us who youre mates on the board are....

  3. problem is she asks all the wrong questions. like most people who think they know they only want to look like they are on to it when they are not. lack of self awareness whanau, it's a killer. how did the old ceo make losses so big while the audit committee was in place? how did he spend all that money on gonet without the boards approval? these were all unbudgeted losses of hundred of thousands. how come graham pryor is in a conflict of interest and gina and the audit committee have done nothing about it? how come the audit committee did nothing about all of the unbudgeted cost blow outs paying consultants? what were the audit committee and exec doing? problem is the hapu keeping voting on people unskilled in governance. now i hear one exec member has used the $50K hapu grant to pay her partner instead of using it for the hapu which is why a special hui has been called. lack of skill and no integrity = failure and loss. until the hapu wise up and make their delegates report and be accountable and learn what they are talking about nothing will change. we get what we deserve.


  4. Economic literacy lacking here. News flash! It's not a crime to lose money. Trustees lose money on investments all of the time. Directors do too. It's called investment risk. Question is whether they took advice, acted prudently and followed advice. If they did, and the investment was not speculative then try and sue the directors and the Runanga to make good the losses. See how far you get. Good luck. Those who attended the 2009 and 2010 AGM will know that our assets outperformed the NZ Super Fund and other key bench markers in the midst of the GFC. That's a fact. The best business brains around the globe made losses. Some went under completely. Others needed massive bailouts by taxpayers. It's good that we're not in that position or like Waikato was and Ngati Tama is at the moment. Another settlement iwi Ngati Ruanui have lost millions. Look at the three trusts who lost $12 million in mussel farming not so long ago. So losing money while not good is not a sacking offence for the Runanga or NAGHL. Any it's how you lost it that is important. Just like how you make it is important. I see all of the criticisms of the losses but what about all of the gains that have been made since 2005?