Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mike Butler: Ngai Tahu, charity, and the land

Owen McShane’s report last week that included details of Ngai Tahu businesses registered as charities prompted a closer look at that tribe’s deals with successive governments. In his blog "Who Really Governs”, McShane noted that the Ngai Tahu Charities Group covers more than 30 separate registered charities including companies such as Ngai Tahu Capital Ltd, Ngai Tahu Finance Ltd, Ngai Tahu Fisheries Ltd, Ngai Tahu Property Investments Ltd, Ngai Tahu Joint Ventures Ltd, Wigram Aerodrome Ltd, South Island Landbase Ltgd, Ngai Tahu Forest Estates Ltd, Helijet Ltd, Shotover Jet Ltd (which was once listed on the stock exchange), Huka Falls Jet Ltd, Rainbow Springs Ltd, Westland Tourism Ltd, and Dart River Safaris Ltd.

He said that “these all appear to be business enterprises that have managed to be registered as charities and hence gain tax exempt status”, and asked “can this really be so? Do none of these companies pay tax? If so they have a considerable competitive advantage and it must be difficult for other fishing and tourism companies to compete.”

Ngai Tahu were awarded $170-million in 1997 to settle the tribe’s Treaty of Waitangi claim over 19th century land purchases.

From 1844 to 1863 Ngai Tahu sold their lands to the Crown in a series of nine purchases. The largest of these was the Canterbury purchase of 1848, negotiated by Henry Tacy Kemp, which saw 20 million acres (about 8 million hectares) sold for £2000. The other principal transaction was the Otago purchase of 1844: 400,000 acres (about 162,000 hectares) sold for £2400.

The Tribunal noted that it “cannot avoid the conclusion that in acquiring from Ngai Tahu 34.5 million acres, more than half the land mass of New Zealand, for £14,750, and leaving them with only 35,757 acres, the Crown acted unconscionably and in repeated breach of the Treaty of Waitangi".

Ngai Tahu have argued that the purchase price not as a properly assessed market value consideration in the European concept but rather as a deposit; a token, a gratuity.

Nowhere in the Ngai Tahu Report 1991 summary, nor in the tribe’s claim history, is there any mention that in 1944 that the first Labour government passed the Ngai Tahu Claim Settlement Act, which awarded Ngai Tahu £300,000, payable at a rate of £10,000 a year for 30 years. This was less than the recommended £354,000 of the royal commission, whose findings had always been contested by Ngai Tahu. Nevertheless, the act was passed with the intention of making £300,000 a full and final settlement of the Ngai Tahu claim.

Mention of a full and final settlement would have made selling the 1997 deal more difficult, although analysis of the figures shows the total comes close to the price the government sold land for 170 years ago.

The passage of time, that changeover to decimal currency, and inflation render the stated amounts meaningless. Therefore, I have created a conversion to put it into 2010 dollars. A court interpreter was paid ₤91-5s a year in 1845, the minimum wage sought in 1945 was £5-10 a week or £265 a year, while the minimum wage in 2010 amounted to $510 a week or $26,520 a year.

Therefore £14,750 in the mid 19th century was equivalent to 162 wages at the time which when multiplied by $26,520 in 2010 dollars, gives a total of $4.29-million. The full and final settlement of £300,000 in 1944 was roughly equivalent to 1132 minimum wages of $26,520 in 2010, giving a total of $30.02-million.

What would be the fair market value of 34.5 million acres in the mid-19th century? Fair market value is an estimate of the market value of a property, based on what a knowledgeable, willing, and unpressured buyer would probably pay to a knowledgeable, willing, and unpressured seller in a real estate market. But with the government the only legal buyer pressing semi-willing uneducated Maori to sell, there was hardly a fair market.

In 1840, the New Zealand Company sold land for £1 an acre until the fledgeling colonial government sold it to settlers for five shillings, or one quarter of £1, an acre. Harassment from disgruntled Maori inhabitants in some areas meant that often the land could not be developed, rendering much of it worthless at the time.

And the price paid for 34.5 million acres of the South Island? More than worthless but much less that five shillings an acre – £0.0004 an acre, or less than one penny an acre.

And what was the total compensation in mid-nineteenth century pounds? The 1997 payout of $170-million, plus $30.02-million in 1944, plus $4.29-million (£14,750) totals $204-million, or 7703 annual wages of £91 which equals £701,063, divided by 34.5-million (acres) equals £0.02, or about four shillings an acre – not far from the five shillings an acre used by the colonial government as the price to sell land to settlers in 1840.


Anonymous said...
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Not mentioned is the fact that according to the Maori law of ahi kaa [the land is theirs until the fire goes out] Maoris only owned where they actually lived. As there were few survivors of the Maori Musket Wars, the land Ngai Tahu actually lived on was negligable. With this in mind the sums paid above are totally extravagant.

Anonymous said...
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Prior to the arrival of the European the land had no value at all. There was no one to sell it to. If a tribe wanted to acquire land it simply attacked and in some cases ate the owner/occupiers. The arrival of the European created a market.Land which had no value suddenly had a value. A modern parallel is when a farmer on the outskirts of a city has his land rezoned from agricultural to residential with an greatly increased value.

Anonymous said...
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Hi I like the quote re ''ahi kaa'' How many fires are still burning on the foreshore for Maori to lay claim to? We should also be asking how many land deals is this government making with Maori listing them as charities so they dont pay tax. No wonder this country is in a mess. The 30 companies listed with Ngai Tahu as charities is a Joke. Jonesey

Anonymous said...
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Edward Shortland's 1845 census found approximately 2, 500 Ngai Tahu living in a handful of coastal settlements around the mid- and lower-South Island.

To suggest that 2, 500 people [a] lived on; [b] cultivate; or [c] hunted and gathered over the 33 million acre South Island is arrant nonsense.

Ngai Tahu received payment for vast tracts of land they neither used nor occupied. "Money for jam" as one commentator has described it.

By 1878, when the Crown made its final "land purchases" in the lower South Island, Ngai Tahu numbers had declined to around 1, 600, of whom one third were already half-caste.

The Crown was obliged to make separate reserve provisions for half-castes, who were no regarded at that time by full-bloods as tribal members.

Today, upwards of 900, 000 New Zealanders reside in the South Island. This means any fraction of Maori blood in those claiming to be Ngai Tahu is negligible in determining that person's ethnic make-up.

To illustrate, Tipene [christened "Stephen"] O'Regan and Sandra Lee are about as "Maori" as a "Ngai Tahu gets -- one-eighth.

To suggest that someone sporting more of the blood of the colonisers than of the colonised should be entitled to special privileges at the expense of their fellow New Zealanders is again arrant nonsense.

Anonymous said...
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You are all missing the point of all this, there is way more to this than what you are hearing or seeing, look behind what is going on. You all know that the crown would never conceed anything unless they have an alternative motive! ask the right questions only then you will get the right answers,so long as you are bickering and fighting you will never get the answers you are looking for.

Anonymous said...
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The article here started talking about Ngai Tahu charities but then never really answered the question i.e. are Ngai tahue ripping off the NZ public by claiming charity organisation status. Put our minds at rest please.

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