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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.