Sunday, February 16, 2014
Mike Butler: Ngapuhi -- who gets the money?
The Government has recognised the mandate of the entity known as Tuhoronuku to negotiate the settlement of the Ngapuhi treaty claim, but more than 70 percent of tribal elders refused to attend a meeting on the issue on Saturday. What this most likely means is that all Ngapuhi heavy-hitters are getting themselves in the best position to receive the most money.
According to Radio New Zealand, the Ngapuhi tribal council, or runanga, which set up the Tuhoronuku board in 2011, claims majority support for negotiations but has run into strong opposition from an alliance known as Te Kotahitanga.(1)
For those unfamiliar with the arcane world of the grievance industry, to receive a settlement, the government requires the claimant group to establish a representative, accountable and transparent governance entity. That body must obtain through a vote a mandate to represent claimants.
The Ngapuhi website says that in a vote in 2011, Ngapuhi “overwhelmingly gave their mandate to Te Ropu o Tuhoronuku”, giving a figure of 76.4 percent support. But read into the finer print and the website says that the 76.4 percent was of the 23 percent who voted, giving a claimed majority of only 21,850 members of the 125,000-member tribe. That’s hardly a majority.
The lack of support for the group that the government has recognized is of extreme importance to Ngapuhi claimants other than those with links to the recognized body because it is the recognised entity that gets the money, which Ngapuhi hopes will total $600-million.
Tuhoronuku has its roots in Ngapuhi's tribal council. To give a greater appearance of transparency, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples said "Tuhoronuku will become a separate legal entity from Te Runanga a Iwi o Ngapuhi, and new elections will be held for its governance board." (2)
If dissident claimants are already wary of Sonny Tau and the tribal council he dominates, do you think this bit of window-dressing will be wildly popular?
Prime Minister John Key’s offer on Waitangi Day to put money on the table to get the Ngapuhi settlement rolling shows that the National-led government is pushing for a result. The National Party has a policy goal of settling all historical claims by 2014, that’s this year. This policy functions as a kind of code for the notion that once all claims are settled the self-serving grievance industry will disappear.
But claimants do not necessarily see that treaty settlements should at any time be finalised. This is because history shows that so long as there is a claim there will always be a settlement.
As the area first inhabited by all comers to New Zealand, generations of Maori in the far north have had the experience of selling land and getting the money, disputing the sale and getting more money, and claiming the government failed in the whole process, thus getting even more money.
Moreover, in the settlements since 1985, the Waitangi Tribunal created a new rationale that can allege breach of treaty principles for any outcome, even failures by tribal leaders. It is quite possible that future Ngapuhi claimants could use this rationale to claim further compensation on the grounds that today’s government railroaded them, thereby failing to protect them as the treaty required.
As for Ngapuhi runanga chairman Sonny Tau’s magic number of $600-million to make Ngapuhi grievances disappear, where did that come from? It is not widely known that the Office of Treaty Settlements routinely explains to claimant groups that the settlement quantum is arrived at using a calculation based on area of land “lost” (actually sold), and current tribal membership.
Another method would be the “going rate” approach of dividing the financial redress amounts of tribes that have settled recently by their tribal populations, or by dividing total expected financial redress, of let’s say $3.5-billion, by the total Maori population, of 598,605 in 2013, and come up with a per-person amount, of $5846, and multiply that by Ngapuhi membership.
One way to resolve the current Ngapuhi row over who’s going to get the money is to give the settlement spoils to individual members based on tribal identification as stated in the census.
But then another buried problem in the cash-for-grievance process will surface – double or multiple dipping by claimants. Because every claimant is affiliated with multiple groups, every claimant could conceivably receive multiple payments.
For instance, one Ngapuhi politician has tribal affiliations that include Ngati Hau, Ngati Wai and Ngati Hine, as well as Te Aupouri, Ngapuhi, and Ngati Whatua. Therefore, if the going settlement rate is $5846 per claimant, affiliation with six claimant groups could net this individual $35,076.
The spotlight is on the Ngapuhi chairman, the Treaty Negotiations Minister, and on dissident Ngapuhi elders, as well as on the tribe’s ridiculous claims that it did not cede sovereignty, and allegations that it faced “outstandingly bad or shocking” acts and omissions by the government, as the Crown’s grovelling apology will say.
As this claim unfolds we will see claimants and the Crown agree on “outstandingly bad or shocking” acts and omissions before the Waitangi Tribunal completes its inquiry. The usual process is to conduct an inquiry first then make a recommendation based on the findings. Indeed, Prime Minister John Key showed on Waitangi Day that he is ready to give away money on account on the basis of uninvestigated claims.
While every imagined accountability will be expected of the government, will any accountability be sought for Hone Heke’s so-called Flagstaff War of 1845? I would have thought fighting against the government would be a treaty breach.
One thing for sure is that any Ngapuhi settlement will involve substantial financial redress, although not necessarily the amount that Mr Tau has floated.
There will also be cultural redress that aims to safeguard the claimant group’s rights and access to customary food-gathering sources, provide co-management of sites on Crown-owned land in which the claimant group has associations, and develop future relationships with government departments.
And the government will create in its image yet another tribal corporation that will demand a 50 percent share of resources in its tribal area, as well as 50 percent co-governance role in local government.
Twenty two Tuhoronuku representatives will handle the settlement, whatever it is, with the assumption that all socio-economic problems in the area that is noted for “poverty beyond belief” will disappear.
Obviously no thought has been given to the question of how giving half a billion to 22 tribal representatives is going to solve problems that result from generations relying on government handouts. The evidence shows that Maori negative social indicators have worsened as treaty settlements have increased.
It appears that most Ngapuhi believe that the settlement will have little benefit for them because fewer than one in four Ngapuhi members were interested enough to vote in the mandate election in 2011 -- a turnout of less than half that of local body elections.
With Ngapuhi tribal elders split over who should represent them, with most Ngapuhi not interested, and with the Prime Minister offering cash inducements to get something happening, there has not been a pretty start to this tribe’s treaty settlement negotiations. Watch this space!
1. Mandate for Ngapuhi deal recognised, Radio NZ, February 14, 2014. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/236230/mandate-for-ngapuhi-deal-recognised
2. NZ's largest treaty settlement takes step closer, NZ Herald, February 15, 2014. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11202976
at 9:56 AM