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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

Friday 12 July 2013

A time for change

Kia ora koutou,
Firstly sorry that it has been awhile since my last post but sometimes life just gets in the way, particularly in the middle of winter.

Hei aha, I have finally found some space and I wanted to use this post to discuss the role of the Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board representative.

I believe, with the upcoming election, it is important that we all understand the responsibilities of the board. After all, we are the power behind them.

To start I would like to discuss the most recent TRONA board meeting, which  was held two weeks ago, to highlight a particular issue.

The point I would like to concentrate on was the passing of a resolution to increase the dividend paid to the runanga by the tribe’s financial arm.
Since its inception Ngati Awa Group Holdings has paid the runanga $1.5 million each year so that social initiatives can be provided to tribal members.

Chief financial officer Murray Haines said NAGHL was set to record a net cash surplus of $2.2m this year.
He noted key performers were Ngati Awa Asset Holdings with $6 million in shares, Ngati Awa Forest Ltd with $1.1m and Tumurau’s year-end profit of $630,000.

“That provides plenty of room to pay the $1.5 million to the runanga,” he said.
Following the financial report Ngati Wharepaia representative Materoa Dodd suggested the board could ask the financial arm to increase the dividend paid to the runanga  from $1.5m to $1.8m.

She said the board could discuss whether runanga chairman Te Kei Merito should ask NAGHL chair Wira Gardiner to increase the dividend.
“Or even $2m, given that some of investments are doing so well. It doesn’t hurt to ask.”

The suggestion was discussed and a resolution was put forward to increase the dividend to $1.8m. It was supported by 11 members with Nga Maihi not participating because Rihi Vercoe was standing in for the absent Regina O’Brien and four representatives voted against.
Those who did not support the motion were Joe Mason, Tani Wharewera, Stephen Haua and Manu Glen.

However, according to the tribe’s charter, the board does not have the right to increase the dividend.
“For the avoidance of doubt, and except as expressly provided by this Charter, all companies (including The Company) and other entities within the Ngati Awa Group shall be governed by their respective boards and the role of the runanga in respect of those companies and other entities shall be limited to the exercise of the rights conferred on the Runanga as shareholder, or (as applicable) appointor, and beneficiary of the relevant entity.”

In other words the runanga’s board is responsible for the governance of the organisation. Governance is the act of governing and relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance.
Therefore the board only has the rights to set performance measures and elect members to NAGHL or stand a director down, it cannot make operational decisions.

Except for Stanley Ratahi, who replaced his sister Enid Ratahi-Pryor as the Ngati Hikakino representative when she became chief executive, the board has been in place for three years.

By now they should understand what their role is however the point that this situation raises is most of them don’t.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor, in her role as chief executive, has organised for several members of the current board to participate in governance training through the business coaching organisation, Icehouse.

However this did not offer me much reassurance and I am left to wonder why it has taken so long to look at the board’s skill.
The board’s term is almost complete and later this year each Ngati Awa hapu will elect a representative to the board.

There is every chance that the current stock could change and it is my firm belief that every hapu should at least discuss the options.
Let us remember that under this current board the organisation has lost at least $5.2 million in failed investments, ensured several redundancies, forced good contributors to leave because they didn’t toe the party line, scaled back the social initiatives offered to tribal members, overspent to the point where cost-cutting has had to become a way of life and developed a culture that can only be described as toxic.

The board may not have made the poor decisions directly but many of them have failed to ensure accountability and transparency. As a board they have not been clear about their expectations, they have had been told who has the power and when performance should have been verified they put their head in the sand instead.
There are those who have done a good job, they will know who they are and will be backed by their people. However there are others who no longer deserve to be there.

Our tribe is in a crisis.
What we need are strong leaders with proven skills who have fresh ideas. Leaders that will hold those who make bad decisions to account and ensure those who are making positive contributions have the support to continue doing so.

If you believe, as I do, that now is the time for change make sure you are registered to vote by going to this webpage and have your say at the elections later this year.

Even better, make a stand for your people and put your hat in the ring to be a hapu representative.
Ma te wa

Saturday 1 June 2013

How many more?

Another head has rolled at Te Runanga o Ngati Awa.
After more than 27 years Jim Davies has ended his tenure with the Ngati Awa Farm committee following a request for him to resign.

Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor requested Mr Davies resign in a letter dated May 22.
“I am writing to advise you that the board of Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd (NAGHL), in its capacity as shareholder of Ngati Awa Farms Limited, has passed a resolution to remove you as a director of Ngati Awa Farms Ltd…

“I have been asked to seek your resignation as a director of Ngati Awa Farms (Rangitaiki) Ltd and as a member of the Board of the NGati Awa Farms (RangiTaiki) Joint venture. It would be much appreciated if you could let me have those resignations by return.”
When asked whether Mr Davies was forced to resign from his post, Mrs Ratahi-Pryor replied: “A resignation is exactly that a resignation.”

She refused to answer why Mr Davies had been asked to resign. However Mr Davies said the request was made following a phone conversation in which he was scolded for his role in a story that had appeared in the Whakatane Beacon.
Mr Davies had provided the Beacon with a copy of an internal document that was written by Mrs Ratahi-Pryor for the NAGHL chairman, Wira Gardiner.

The document outlined an option in the Companies act that would allow NAGHL to request that CO2 New Zealand Management Company to demonstrate fair value for a $3.8 million contract.

“Under that section if a company enters a transaction in which a director is interested, the transaction may be avoided at any time before the expiration of three months after the transaction is disclosed to all the shareholders.”
The document when on to outline the conflict of intereste issue involving NAGHL board member Graham Pryor where he was also a director of CO2 New Zealand Management Company at the time that the deal was instigated.

“Consequently, if Graham Pryor was an interested director at the time and the transaction has not yet been disclosed to the Runanga as the shareholder in (NAGHL), it may be possible to avoid the transaction unless CO2 New Zealand can establish that the company has received fair value,” Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said in the document.
Despite the price of carbon credits dropping from $27 to less than $3, the option was not taken up by NAGHL.

Mr Davies said he felt compelled to make a public stand because of the responsibility he felt to the iwi.
He outlined his concerns in a report that he had hoped to give at the next farm committee meeting to be held on June 4.

In it Mr Davies says the farm committee concerns were taken to a NAGHL meeting on August 16, 2012, however the report was ruled out of order by Mr Gardiner.
The report was then emailed to TRONA chairman Te Kei Merito, who acknowledged receipt of it a week later and gave an assurance it would go back to NAGHL. Mr Davies was set to give his report next week.

However Mr Davies handed in his resignation last week.
“After 27 enjoyable, interesting and rewarding years at Ngati Awa farm, I formally hand in my resignation from the boards of Ngati Awa, Ngakauroa and Tumurau farms as requested," he wrote.

“No doubt this action may take care of some of your immediate problems. However the questions on truth, transparency and accountability in the CO2 Ngati Awa still remain unanswered.”
Now this raises the question of: why was Mr Davies forced to stand down and yet Mr Pryor is still a director on NAGHL and the chairman of the investments committee?

Saturday 18 May 2013

Something wicked this way comes

Waaka Vercoe did not resign as the chairman of Ngati Awa’s audit committee, he was pushed.

Mr Vercoe was replaced on the committee by new board member Brian Tunui. The committee is also comprised of board members Regina O’Brien (Gina) and Charlie Elliott, two representatives from accountant firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers and independent member Peter Taylor.

Speaking at the board meeting in April, Te Pahipoto representative Mr Elliott was adamant that Mr Vercoe was forced to stand down at the end of last year.

Mr Elliott said he and Mrs O’Brien had gone to see Mr Vercoe after hearing through the grape-vine that the long-serving governor had been removed from the committee.

“Gina and I spoke to Waaka about this issue and Waaka didn’t resign, he was made to,” he said.

Mrs O’Brien verified Mr Elliott’s account of the conversation with Mr Vercoe, however there was no further discussion this issue by the board.

The issue of Mr Vercoe’s absence was first raised by Te Runanga o Ngati Awa chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor at the meeting with Ngati Hokopu at Wairaka in March.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said Mr Vercoe stood down voluntarily because he was getting old and tired.

“He decided it is time for a change. It is time for new blood.”

After that meeting I decided to check out Mrs Ratahi-Pryor’s statements and I came away with the same story as Mr Elliott and Mrs O'Brien. 

I sat with him for four hours in the kitchen of his Wairaka home and I was entertained with a series of stories and anecdotes.

But also during that conversation he confirmed that he had been pushed out of his seat at the head of the audit committee by chairman of the tribe’s commercial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd (NAGHL).

Mr Vercoe said Wira Gardiner had forced him off the committee after he refused to allow Omataroa Trust, which he also chairs, to back a honey venture that Mr Gardiner was promoting.

He was obviously disappointed.

And yes, Mr Vercoe is getting old and perhaps his advanced years mean that his mind is not as sharp as it was but he still has experience and knowledge.

And he feels he still has something to give the tribe.

Coincidentally, however, Mr Vercoe was the person who signed off the controversial audit committee that highlighted Mr Gardiner’s role in the conflict of interest surrounding NAGHL board member Graham Pryor.

Mr Gardiner could not be reached for comment.

Obviously this is a he says/she says situation but I would like to know how people are selected for the sub-committees of the TRONA and NAGHL boards and who decides when the members should stand down.

The committees are important tools in the operations of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa and at the end of the day the organisation was created to manage our assets. Therefore I would like to know that the responsibility has been entrusted to the people who have the right skills and motivations to do the jobs.

Meanwhile, speaking of jobs I wanted to share some news. On the back of this blog I am currently in talks with the editor of the Whakatane Beacon, Mark Longley, about becoming a regular contributor to the newspaper.

My proposal was that I could be a weekly contributor who writes about local issues as a trained journalist and from a Maori point of view.

Mr Longley has been reading this blog and said he would be very interested in a regular column.

We spoke of broadening the focus of Tu Mai Te Toki.

And while Ngati Awa politics will at times be the subject of the column, neither of us want it be contained to such a narrow purpose. Nor do I want the column, and the blog, to always be negative.

He has gone away to crunch the numbers and asked to see a draft column so he could see how I write.

Therefore, I wanted to show Mr Longley, and you, that I could write about another issue.

This is what I submitted:

A group of Whakatane residents have fiercely opposed a scientific trial to clean up the poisoned Kopeopeo canal.

Submissions on the Regional Council's application for resource consent to remove and clean up sediment contaminated with dioxins from the canal closed this week. A decision will be announced after a hearing but given the level of interest in this situation I decided to write about the debate.

The Kopeopeo canal was identified as a contaminated area after surface run-off and storm-water containing Pentachlorophenol (PCP) from the NZ Forest Products Ltd sawmill was discharged into it between 1950 and 1989.

Used by the mill to treat timber, PCP has been found to contain dioxins that can cause diabetes, pancreatic cancer, leukemia, auto-immune diseases and other disorders.

The group of residents who are fiercely opposing the consent attended the consultation meetings held by the Whakatane District Council and many of its members were strongly vocal at the final meeting held at Wairaka Marae this week.

They believe the dioxins could be spread if the resource consent is granted and they want to leave the clean-up until further research has been done.

Listening to their points it seems there is an element of "not in my back-yard" and I reckon they have missed the point.

The canal is not the only contaminated site in the area. 

There are at least 36 sites in Whakatane, more across the country, and the Regional Council is using the project to trial the process with the hope that it could be used to clean up the other spots.

It is something my Dad believes in.

He was five-years-old when he used to swim in the Kopeopeo Canal every day. By the time he turned six, his family had moved to Muriwai Drive and the house across road from the mudflats that were beginning to be filled with waste from the mill.

Then when he was 18-years old, he started working at the mill.

My Dad knows about PCP and has the scars to prove it.

Buckled by the debilitating disease that has turned his body against itself, my Dad has lived with it for almost every day of his life. It is a legacy he has passed on to me and perhaps to my son.

As a result he is passionate about finding a way to clean it up and that is why he joined the watchdog group, Sawmill Workers Against Poisons (SWAP).

Now he is the chairman and a facilitator for the group. He has read the research, talked with the people and heard the arguments.

It is not going to be easy but he says he has faith in the science.

Under the trial, the Regional Council is working with the community on the project to clean up the canal to remove, store and clean up the contaminated sediment using bioremediation. The method looks to break down contaminants using trees and mushrooms.

And it has its results.

The next stage of the trial requires a section of the canal to be drained, the sediment removed and trucked to three separate pits that will be lined with Geonet mat to stop the contaminants leeching out. The pits are then inoculated and planted with mushrooms and trees

It is hoped that the levels of dioxin in the soil will be reach acceptable levels within 15 years.

The process was designed by scientists from Massy and Waikato Universities and the operations have been planned by experts who have been careful and meticulous.

Risks are minimal, my Dad says to me, and the results could be immense.

The time for sitting on our hands is over.

Friday 3 May 2013

Revelations of a chairman

The man in charge of growing Ngati Awa’s $110 million assets was adamant that he has done nothing wrong despite rubberstamping a deal with his mate's company worth $3.8 million.
“I am not prepared to stand down from NAGHL (Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd) because firstly I am here to protect the commerciality of NAGHL,” he said.

Called to report to the Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board after revelations that NAGHL had paid $3.8 million to a carbon credit company without prior necessary approvals, Ta Wira Gardiner’s argument was persuasive.
He said that Graham Pryor was not a director of NAGHL at the time the contract with CO2 New Zealand Management Company was instigated. In fact, according to Sir Gardiner in the interest of succession planning, Mr Pryor had only been invited to join the tribe’s investment committee.

“And if there is an area that I should be accountable and disciplined then it is as we got into period of uncertainty I should have been a lot stronger and apologise for that.”
But Sir Gardiner backed his skills as a chairman of a corporate organisation.

“I’m prepared to stack my reputation against anyone in the country except for maybe Fonterra.”
In regards to the latest revelations around the carbon credit investment, Sir Gardiner said there had been no wrong-doing.

Sir Gardiner said Mr Pryor had been part of the Central North Island (CNI) settlement representing Tuwharetoa and was made a director of CO2 New Zealand Management Company as a result.

He said when he became aware of the potential conflict of interest he required Mr Pryor to resign as a director of the company.
It was a compelling argument and rather than facing any further questions Sir Gardiner was commended by board chairman Te Kei Merito.

But let’s recap.
A report to the audit committee outlined the incident. In the report it was stated that Mr Pryor had received legal advice which was addressed to the NAGHL board.

The legal advice raised serious issues concerning the suitability of the investment and contract for Ngati Awa. Mr Pryor did not pass on the advice.
In addition the report also stated that based on advice from Mr Pryor, Sir Gardiner approved the $3.8 million deal with C02 New Zealand Management Company without gaining approval from the NAGHL board or the TRONA one.

“The director (Mr Pryor) advised the chairman that the board had some time approved the contract. There is no documentary evidence (minutes or other record) to evidence apart from a “heads of agreement” with CO2 that had been signed much earlier and pror to due diligence and legal review,” the report noted
It was also discussed that there has been poor documentation in regard to services provided in lieu of repayment of a loan balance. The loan was not disclosed in the report.

Furthermore, it seems attention from this blog and certain media outlets have got the former civil servant a little hot under the collar.
In full swing of his statement to the board Sir Gardiner said he was concerned that information was being leaked because of posts on this blog, stories in the beacon and a news report on Maori Television’s Te Kaea.

Sir Gardiner said the information was coming from the TRONA board and that if the leaks continued he would have to implement restrictions.
“We are legally required to provide you with quarterly reports but if it is going to result in danger then we may not to be so open.”

Sir Gardiner also issued a challenge at the TRONA board meeting, which was held last Friday at Te Manuka Tutahi marae in Whakatane, that he would be willing to sit down and talk with anyone who had the manners to put their inquiries to him.
Additionally, to combat the “negative” media Sir Gardiner said he would like place half page advertisements in the newspapers explaining the failed investments to the “shareholders”- that is the tribal members.

“But not with the Beacon. I do not like the Beacon. I do not want to support any newspaper which always focuses on the negative.”
So here are my problems with Sir Gardiner’s statements at the TRONA board meeting last week.

Firstly if Mr Pryor was not part of NAGHL when the decision to invest $3.8 million with C02 New Zealand Management Company then why did he receive the legal advice? And why has Mr Pryor not been reprimanded for not passing on that crucial advice?
Rather Mr Pryor was made a director of NAGHL and also the chairman of the investment’s committee following the investment.

Secondly, why did Sir Gardiner not check that there had been the necessary approvals before committing the $3.8 million? I mean that is a lot of money, particularly on the back of losing $5.2 million through the failed golf course with Birnie Capital and the internet service provider company, Go Net.

Thirdly, what did the Beacon get wrong? And more interestingly does Sir Gardiner dispute the latest story to feature in the Beacon about there being an out-clause for the carbon investment?
And lastly, I would like to take Sir Gardiner up on his offer to sit down and explain things. I stand by every factual statement that I have made on this blog and I would like to know if Sir Gardiner can do the same for the assertions he made to the board at last week’s meeting. If anyone can give me a contact number, I would be happy to give him a call and set up a time.

Next time I will return to the subject that I had already said I would discuss in this post and that is the change in directors on the audit committee.
Ma te wa.