Search This Blog

Sunday 9 December 2018

Ngāti Awa, let's recap

This Saturday is the Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa’s annual general meeting and so I thought I would write a recap for this blog post.

Reading back through the earlier posts on Tū Mai Te Toki, I am reminded of the reasons behind starting this blog, which was to gain a better understanding and facilitate greater transparency.

So let’s turn our minds back to a meeting of the rūnanga that was held on June 27, 2014. I remember being at that meeting and the tension that crackled in the room.

The removal of Graham Pryor from the tribe’s financial arm, Ngāti Awa Group Holdings, was back on the table after the board had failed to follow the correct process at a previous meeting.

Mr Pryor’s presence on the board was in question because of his role as chairman of Ngāti Rangitihi was considered to be in direct conflict with his position on the rūnanga. His whanaunga from Nga
Maihi were at the meeting to challenge the decision.

They did not believe his removal was right because it was centered on the fact that Mr Pryor had whakapapa to a group whose tribal rohe and interests overlapped Ngāti Awa’s.

Despite their passionate protests, Mr Pryor was removed from the NAGHL board and replaced by rūnanga member Paul Quinn.

At the time, Mr Quinn was also the chief executive of Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau but assured his fellow rūnanga members that he understood there would be times when he would have to declare a conflict of interest and step out of the conversation. Mr Quinn is no longer the chief executive of Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau but has since become the chairman of NAGHL after the previous one, Sir Wira Gardiner, stood down.

But, this brings me to the point of this blog. I want to recap and talk about a matter that for now seemed to go unmentioned.

Who remembers Birnie Capital and the plan to build a luxury golf course up north?

If you don’t then you may want to read the luxury golf courses, housing developments and four letter words post.

But to summarise, Ngāti Awa invested $3.3 million in the company owned by Bill Birnie. The company was described in the National Business Review as “an investment vehicle for several large-scale property developments in Northland”.

More specifically, it was a company set up to build a large-scale golf course. Ngāti Awa was joined in the investment by other interests including Auckland businessman Allen Peters for a total of $17.25m while Mr Birnie borrowed a further $6.5m from BNZ. The plan was to buy land on Kawau Island – in the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland - to develop the luxury golf course and a housing development.

Obviously, it did not eventuate and in 2010 Ngāti Awa with Mr Peters went before the High Court seeking to invoke the right to “put back” the assets purchased by subsidiaries of Birnie Capital.

The two parties claimed Mr Birnie and his associate Stephen Norrie breached fiduciary duty by voting against the exercise of a put option that would force the return of $19m.

However before the hearing was heard in the High Court an offer of settlement was made by Mr Birnie to pay NAGHL and Mr Peters $3.55m in three instalments over four years.

Ngāti Awa accepted the deal but in 2013 the then-rūnanga accountant Murray Haines admitted that no money had been received from Mr Birnie. Today, Ngāti Awa’s $3.3m remains a failed investment and no money was received from Mr Birnie or any of the associated parties.

Now, you might be wondering what this has to do with the present day.

Surely, Ngāti Awa have a new rūnanga chief executive as well as a new head for the NAGHL company. There are several new faces on the NAGHL board and perhaps it is time to draw a line under the investment and move on?

I don’t disagree, I have learned to become a pragmatist.  But here is the thing, Mr Quinn – the man who was voted on to NAGHL by the rūnanga board and has since becomes its chairman – was the man who introduced Mr Birnie to Ngāti Awa and got the investment proposal on the table in the first place.

He is now leading NAGHL, which has in recent times purchased White Island Tours, shares in a kiwifruit orchard in Te Puke and is looking to develop the old army site.

As already said, Saturday is the tribe’s annual meeting and I encourage you to attend, if for nothing else but to hear how NAGHL’s investments are tracking because surely we owe it to our next generations to keep a better eye on things that we have done it the past?

And, I can tell you that NAGHL purchased White Island Tours, Whakatāne’s premier tourism product, without a plan or a strategy. So much so that when the purchase was made, NAGHL required its former owners – Peter and Jenny Tait – to stay on for a bit. They also kept hold of key staff to ensure consistency in business.

But go down a grab some breakfast or a cup of coffee and tell me how many brown faces you see behind the counters, boats and products.

The annual meeting will be held at Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū Marae in Whakatāne, formalities kick off at 9am. See you there.

Friday 23 November 2018

Te Hokinga Mai

Kia ora,

When I started Tū Mai Te Toki in 2013 - the loss of $5.3 million by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa, through its financial company, in at least three failed investments had just been confirmed at the tribe's annual general meeting. Before then I had thought stories about a luxury golf course in Northland, commercial property in Wellington and a wireless internet network that used technology from Israel sounded like outrageous gossip, but turns out it was all true. And, more.

So, I started Tū Mai Te Toki in a bid to gain a better understanding of what was happening in the rūnanga and to encourage greater transparency within Ngāti Awa. Through the blog, I explored the tribal politics of Ngāti Awa and tried not to shy away from asking the uncomfortable questions.

I learned not to take the criticism personally, because Ngāti Awa deserved to know what was going on with our collective asset and there seemed to be enough people who appreciated the information. I mean, yes, I earned a few enemies, even some powerful ones, and it was a bit of work to gather and present the details but I never regretted starting and writing for Tū Mai Te Toki.

However, it finally came to an end when I agreed to join the Whakatane Beacon as a reporter. After agreeing to take on the Māori affairs role, among several other responsibilities, my then-editor was concerned the blog could call into question my objectivity and required me to give it up as part of my employment.

Last month, after almost five years’ service, I left the Beacon. It was a big decision because I loved working as a reporter in my home town, even with the drama and criticism that often popped up. I wrote for the readers and my job was to provide the community with information. But I wanted to expand my skill-base and my new job as a content and communications specialist at Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology is allowing me to do that.

During my time with the Beacon, I had plenty of highlights including meeting great people, winning a couple of awards and writing stories that provoked conversations. But one of the best highlights, for me, was developing the new Focus section, which is published in eight pages of the Tuesday paper.

As always my focus was on the readers and the goal was to provide a section that centered on the Eastern Bay community. The first Focus section was published on October 9 and I was so proud. Every week it is held -up by an issue important to our Eastern Bay community and inside are letters-to-the-editor, vox-pops and columns in the areas of youth, political and Māori affairs

It seems to be enjoyed the community and was meant to be my final goodbye to the Beacon readers and, perhaps even, journalism.

However, it seems I cannot stay out of the Beacon. This week, my first Māori affairs column will be published in the Focus section and from then I will get to write one every four weeks.

That got me thinking about this blog and perhaps being able to espouse my views on here. Over the past few months, there have been some things that have made me wish the blog was still around and from time-to-time I would think about reviving it.

But I was always concerned about content and whether I would be able to generate enough, or would write myself into a hole where the copy would become monotonous, boring, repetitive and limited in attack.

However, after writing my first column for the Beacon's Focus section, I realised I could use it to anchor Tū Mai Te Toki and then off-set it with a second piece on an issue of choice to balance it out. And so, here we are.

Tū Mai Te Toki will obviously change, it's scope will widen and while i'll still, at times, talk about what is going on at the Ngāti Awa rūnanga, I'll also write about Te Ao Māori in general.

The fundamental foundation of endeavouring to keep it accurate, labelling my opinion every time and ensuring to check out statements of fact before I publish will remain, but I hope to recapture that fierce determination and brutal honesty that people connected with in the first version of Tū Mai Te Toki.

And if you're keen to contribute then I am always looking for new voices, who have something to say. I will only ask that we publish under your name.

So that is it - Te hokinga mai - come back regularly to check out new content on a fortnightly basis. Until then, here is a reproduction of my first Māori affairs column to be published in this Tuesday's Beacon to kick things off with:

The benefits of the Maori World View

Maori world view.

Yes, I see you roll your eyes when you hear the words. But this is nothing new. For years,  you have minimised us, ridiculed us and diminished our way of life - we have seen it for generations.

You have relegated us to stereotypes, to tiny boxes and you have tried to make us like you, except more inferior.

This is not because your way is superior or better. You do it because you do not understand. It is ignorance and we are told to be polite and gracious – to maintain decorum.

This is the way we have always tried to be with you - the way our old people were – but you do not see the beauty.

You see the empty beer bottles, cigarettes burning in overfilled ashtrays, drug-induced rage, children with no shoes and no education. You see no job, no house, no food, no pride. You see the poor, the dysfunctional and the broken bones, minds and homes.

You see the chance to judge us, to feel superior and to make us inferior, to hold us there in that pit of loathing so that you can feel comfortable about things.

And when we dare speak up, when we tell you that it is your ignorance why you cannot understand us - that you cannot see our world view - you call us racist because you do not want to acknowledge the past.

You say it wasn’t you, that it happened so many generations before and that we must move forward as one people.

But you do not mean one people, you mean your people.

Because, you do not see that your place in this society was handed down to you by thieves, rapists, murderers, liars and tricksters.

You do not see from this place you were able to rise, while we were further pushed below, because we were the oppressed and you were our new masters. You do not see the privilege.

And, you do not see that, in fact, it is your way that is inferior. Look around, see what your way has created, what your greed has brought. Homeless, jobless, soulless – a country teetering on the edge because you only want to be one people when we are talking about race, never when we are talking about each other.

But here is where the Maori world view is superior. For we have a beauty, if only you know where to look.

We have notions, beliefs, ideas, protocols and ways that stretch back to the old people, who knew how to live with nature and did not feel the need to bend it to our will.

We have connections, relationships and pathways – we have whakapapa – that lead to each other and to the resources that have sustained us since before the time of Toi.

And, we take care of each other, of our world, and of the future.

So roll your eyes, take your shots, and remain ignorant – but also know that we know and we are rising up.