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Concern is growing within Taranaki Whanui (Wellington Atiawa Maori) at the performance of the Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust (PNBST), the entity set up to receive and manage our Treaty settlement package just two years ago.
Many Taranaki Whanui were alarmed to read in the recent PNBST annual report for the year ended 31 March 2011, that:
- PNBST’s net cash reserves reduced by more than $4m in the last year
- From a $24.7m initial cash settlement, the PNBST’s cash holdings have now reduced to $6.9m, along with the trust having bank borrowings of $5m
- PNBST recorded a $3m after tax loss for the past year (should this rate of loss continue, the trust’s entire settlement asset will be depleted in 9 years)
- During the past year it had to borrow a further $3.7m to fund operations, yet total investments only increased by $0.7m
- Gross rental income equated to a yield of 2.3% on investment property
- The annual report states that since 31 March 2011 the trust has guaranteed a $3m bank loan taken out by the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust.
The Crown transferred a settlement package that included cultural redress, property and $24.7 million cash to the Trust on settlement day, 2 September 2009.
The PNBST’s executive Chair is Sir Ngatata Love, who is also the chair of the two Taranaki W
hanui land trusts, Wellington Tenths Trust and Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust.
Many Taranaki Whanui are concerned at the structure of the Trust, which does not separate the political from commercial operations, as do successful post-settlement models, particularly Ngai Tahu and Tainui.
In our view, it is imperative that the PNBST’s structure is changed, to provide separation between the delivery of social and cultural programmes and the management of our commercial assets.
This lack of separation is not best practice. It opens up the risk of internal political interference in the running of the commercial operation, and the two require completely different cultural approaches and skill sets.
Fortunately there is the opportunity to make this separation, before it is too late and our settlement asset loses more value.
The settlement Trust deed provides for a review of the terms and operation of the Trust deed (and, in particular, arrangements relating to the election of Trustees and all other aspects of Taranaki Whanui representation within the Trust) to be initiated within two years of the settlement date. That review must “have regard to the tikanga of Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika”.
This review is of critical importance to our people and the future representation on the PNBST.
For while we are deeply concerned about the management of the settlement property, of greater concern is the representation of Marae Manawhenua (the people with the Mana of the land) on the PNBST.
The original representative structure does not reflect the cultural significance of Te Upoko o Te Ika (the head of the fish – the Wellington and Hutt Valley region) or the role of the three Wellington Atiawa-based Marae: Te Arohanui ki Te Tangata Marae in Waiwhetu, Te Tatau o Te Po Marae in Petone and Pipitea Marae in Thorndon.
The Marae have been carrying on the day-to-day business and cultural matters of our people for generations. We can’t ignore this. It is our Maoritanga.
Yet to date the PNBST has ignored our Marae. This must change.
This issue of representation must be the most important focus of the review. Because currently, the Government, local bodies and others are recognising the PNBST as the mandated representative of the Atiawa people for all purposes – and it is not!
An example was the $7m allocated by the Government for the building of the Wharewaka on Wellington’s waterfront. This money was aligned to the settlement, came from Vote Maori, and was signed off by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, after mandate letters from PNBST, the Wellington Tenths Trust and Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust, were produced confirming mandate from “Taranaki Whanui”. They did not.
The keepers of Taranaki Whanui ahi kaa (the keepers of the home fires – the three Marae) had no say nor gave mandate for this money to be put into a building which provides no benefit or cultural connection for our people. We would have expected to own the Wharewaka.
Instead, the Wellington waterfront Wharewaka is owned by a charitable trust (chaired by Sir Ngatata Love) for the benefit of all the peoples of New Zealand.
The Wharewaka example demonstrates the issue facing Taranaki Whanui in terms of representation. When Government, government agencies or councils want to liaise with Taranaki Whanui, they head to the PNBST. Yet in doing so, they are neglecting the three Marae who represent the heart of our people.
That is why the current review is a critical moment in the history of our people. (The review is being facilitated by Craig Ellison, Deputy Chair at NIWA, trustee of Poutama Trust and Chair of the New Zealand Seafood Standards Council.)
Originally, the review identified six non-Marae venues (at the Wharewaka, and mostly at hotels) to hold hui during October to December.
We objected strenuously to this. Eventually Mr Ellison agreed to hold review hui at Te Tatau o Te Po Marae in Petone on Saturday 17 December and Waiwhetu Marae on Monday 16 January. Not only are these venues culturally appropriate, but most of our people live in the greater Hutt Valley – Te Awakairangi region, so it is easier for them to attend.
At these hui, we will be proposing a political and commercial separation within the PNBST, and a new representation structure that has proper regard for the tikanga of our people.
If we fail, based on the loss recorded in the past year, the settlement we fought for so hard could be frittered away within a decade, and our people’s chance of cultural and social advancement will not be realised.
The stakes are high. For our people today, our mokopuna tomorrow and the cultural fabric of the greater Wellington region into the future.
A statement by Kura Moeahu, Chair of Te Arohanui ki Te Tangata Marae in Waiwhetu