Friday, October 5, 2012
Mike Butler: Try discussing Maori privilege
In 2003, in a report commissioned by Te Puni Kokiri (the Government’s Maori affairs department), the Institute of Economic Research said that Maori were paying slightly more in tax than they received in transfers --if they paid $2.404 in tax they received $2.312 in social benefits.
In 2004, ACT Party members were howled down for releasing a study that showed Maori received $7-billion in government benefits every year while contributing only $2-billion in tax. That report took into account all social spending found that taxpayer spending on people who identified as Maori. That figure is likely to have increased, not diminished.
And in 2011, Te Puni Kokiri advised Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples that yes indeed welfare payments to Maori exceed the tax contribution that Maori make to the economy.
For NZIER, economist Alex Sundakov said that his conclusion, in 2003, that Maori paid they $2.404 in tax and received $2.312 in social benefits, “challenges the view that Maori are a burden on New Zealand’s taxpayers”. But the fact remained that tax paid by the 71 percent of working age Maori not receiving a benefit in 2003 more or less supported the 29 percent working age Maori on welfare, and goes no further. Roads, schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure are paid for out of tax coming from elsewhere. If Te Puni Kokiri assertions of welfare received is greater than tax paid are correct, the situation has deteriorated since then.
How could that be, especially since treaty settlements have created a whole raft of tribal corporations not shy about proclaiming how well they are doing? One reason is that the new tribal corporations operate as charities and pay no or greatly reduced tax.
The Inland Revenue page on Maori organisations says that from April 1, 2003, any organisation that administers a marae situated on a Maori reservation has been able to qualify for an income tax exemption as a charity, as long as it uses its funds to administer and maintain the marae's physical structure and land, or for charitable purposes. The tax exemption is further detailed in Part 1, Section 5 of the Charities Act 2005. Moreover, Maori authorities have had a special tax status for a long time. The rate was 19.5 percent, reduced to 17.5 percent from the 2012 income year.
The New Zealand Maori Council’s strident claim for water rights, and for a special “shares-plus” consideration should government power companies be part-privatised, demonstrated that Maori organisations had the power to delay and possibly overturn government policy. Where does this power come from?
There are four nation-wide networks pushing a separate, preferential deal for Maori. There are the Maori electorates and their MPs, there is Te Puni Kokiri, there is the four-tier bureaucracy with the Maori Council at the top, and there is the growing network of neo-tribal elites created through the treaty settlement process that has been going on since 1989.
In the oldest network, the separate Maori roll, the Maori Party captured four out of seven Maori seats in 2005, and held them in 2008, entering into a confidence and supply agreement with the John Key-led National-led government. With just 2.39 percent share of the party vote in 2008, Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples got Key to fly the Maori nationalist flag, sign up to the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 with legislation that enables tribes to claim coastal areas, and now push for a treaty-based constitution.
The government’s Maori affairs department is the second network. Political appointees and employees working in Te Puni Kokiri control policy that affects Crown-Maori relationships, the protection and promotion of Maori rights, interests and development opportunities in cultural, natural and other resources. This is possibly the single biggest reason that the government-driven Maori privilege behemoth continues irrespective of any political administration and would seem unstoppable.
The third network is topped by the Maori Council, which established a pattern for extracting lucrative concessions from the government first by seeking an injunction in the High Court, in 1987, citing section 9 of the State-Owned Enterprises Act, which said: “Nothing in the Act shall permit the Crown to act in a manner that is inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi”. The injunction succeeded, so the pattern was repeated for commercial fisheries, radio spectrum, and is currently being used for water rights and soon for the 700MHz spectrum radio spectrum that the government wants to sell for between $500-million and $1-billion.
The process of treaty settlements since 1989 has created tribal elites, the fourth network. These new elites claim an ancestral connection to groups that existed in 1840 but are new creations that have appeared since 1989. Members of each one of these groups have established personal relationships with people in the Waitangi Tribunal, the Office of Treaty Settlements, as well as with an array of government ministers and politicians.
Many of the 77 such governance entities and claimant groups, listed on the Office of Treaty Settlements website in 2012, have coalesced into the Iwi Leadership Group which expect on-going special deals from the government, as became apparent in demands for rights over the foreshore and seabed, water, and air.
The spending itemised in this paragraph shows that race-based funding in 2011 cost at least $1.324-billion. This comprises $280-million a year to settle historical grievances since $1.4-billion has been set aside over five years from 2011 for this purpose. Budget 2011 showed that $79-million was set aside for treaty negotiations, and $10.519-million kept the Waitangi Tribunal running. Co-governance of the Waikato River alone costs $16-million a year. The budget for Te Puni Kokiri was $208.54-million which included $43-million for Whanau Ora. Devolved social services may cost $730.8-million a year.
Not included are welfare, health, education, superannuation, as well as community development, business assistance, resource management, local governance,and so on, so the total figure would be much higher.
Statistics New Zealand in 2005 defined ethnicity as the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to, and noted that people can belong to more than one ethnic group. But to be on the Maori electoral roll and gain access to education scholarships, evidence of Maori descent is required.
If Statistics New Zealand adopted the electoral roll or Maori scholarship criteria for “Maoriness”, the Maori population would immediately shrink and the woeful welfare, education, and crime rates would merge with the socio-economic data of the rest of the population.
Successive governments have naively handed over power and wealth to a few handfuls of people who remain determined to retain privilege by asserting separateness. As they say at NASA – Houston, we have a problem.
at 11:52 AM