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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.