- Gina Solomon (Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Kuri), Dr Charlotte Severne (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāi Tūhoe) and Henare Walker have been appointed to the Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group. The Forestry Ministerial Advisory Group will initially focus on supporting Te Uru Rākau (New Zealand Forestry Service) to deliver the One Billion Trees planting programme.
- Margaret Dixon pleaded guilty earlier this month to three charges of ‘theft by person in special relationship’ under the Crimes Act at the Auckland District Court. Mrs Dixon stole money from the Parengarenga 3G Trust. Her brother, Stephen Henare, is also facing related allegations. Mrs Dixon is scheduled to reappear in the Auckland District Court for sentencing in July.
- Shaun Keenan – former CEO of Ngāti Te Whiti Whenua Topu Trust – pleaded guilty in the New Plymouth District Court to 49 charges related to the theft of circa $630,000 from the Trust. Concerns were raised in 2016 when the Trust failed to produce the financials for an audit. Mr Keenan has also pleaded not guilty to eight other charges.
- Following reviews and comment concerning the downgrading of Vote: Māori Development in this year’s Budget (within Pānui and in the media), the responsible Minister Nanaia Mahuta has responded, indicating that she is attempting to rebuild Te Puni Kōkiri, after ‘years of neglect by the former Government’. She notes in particular a reliance on contractors. However, it is difficult to see how her comments stack up as practical actions – in dollar terms even outside of Cabinet the last Minister – Te Ururoa Flavell – was able to increase the investment in Māori Development. Given that we are unconvinced that a re-growth plan for Te Puni Kōkiri and Vote: Māori Development has been set out in the Budget, or in any other documentation. Rather, with the Office of Treaty Settlements slowly growing, and the new Office Crown/Māori Relations now in place (also located within the Ministry of Justice), it appears Te Puni Kōkiri is being moved increasingly to the fringes of policy relevance, at an even faster pace.
- One media outlet is reporting that Sir Toby Curtis and Maanu Paul have requested the Crown suspend payments to the Te Arawa River Trust (TARIT), given financial concerns. The Chief Executive of the trust, Eugene Berryman-Kamp, however, has indicated matters of concern have been investigated by an external accounting consultancy, and shared with appropriate trustees, but that the information is not available for others to review (such as Mr Curtis and Mr Paul). The matters are understood to relate to investments in New Zealand Premium Whitebait.
[By way of further background, there have been previous calls for the accounts of TARIT to be reviewed, in relation to other matters, and at present the Chair of the Trust, Roger Pikia, is listed as under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. Background information on this matter is provided in Pānui edition 1/2017.]
- In addition to the above matter, Mr Maanu Paul may also be challenging the election process of the New Zealand Māori Council. Mr Paul was the incumbent representative for the Mataatua District Māori Council, but the Council Chair, Sir Taihakurei Durie, says it has held new elections and the position is now held by Nika Rua. However, Mr Paul considers those elections invalid, and maintains that he is the representative. This situation reflects past joshing between Sir Taihakurei and Mr Paul over the chairperson of the organisation. Given their past histories, future legal proceedings on this matter would not be surprising. (Pānui 27/2017 provides further background to these matters.)
- Last weekend voting for the referendum to establish Māori Electorate Wards closed. The proposals were defeated across all five councils where such referendum were held. This will please the lobbying group, Hobson’s Choice, who ran campaigns in each region against the establishment of Māori wards. The vote results were:
- Kaikoura District Council; (80% of those who voted against)
- Manawatu District Council (70% of those who voted against);
- Western Bay of Plenty District Council; (70% of those who voted against);
- Palmerston North City Council (68% of those who voted against); and
- Whakatane District Council; (55% of those who voted against).
- As previously advised, in our assessment the current legislative framework is deficient because it disadvantages Māori by virtue of being a minority population. That is, any vote to not establish a Māori ward will be determined by a majority, which means Māori seeking a Māori ward are entirely reliant on non-Māori support for this. For these elections such support was not forthcoming. Because of this, we agree with the recommendation of the 2013 Constitutional Review Panel, that a consistent and national approach to Māori representation at local government level is required. We have provided this advice for some time, but note it is only now, with a change of Government, that Local Government New Zealand has also decided to advocate for this too. (We note their former President, Lawrence Yule, left his role in order to become a National Party MP, the political party which enacted the current arrangements.)
- On Wednesday the New Zealand Spinal Cord Injury Registry (NZSCIR) published its inaugural annual report for 2016 – 2017. The NZSCIR collects data for traumatic and non-traumatic spinal cord injuries. The report shows that Māori have a higher incidence of traumatic injuries (28% of all traumatic injuries) than non-traumatic injuries (8%).
- Te Puni Kōkiri and the Department of Internal Affairs have introduced Oranga Marae, a service and fund which replaces the former Lottery Marae Heritage and Facilities Fund (LMHF).
 Traumatic injuries are caused by an abrupt impact to the spine which results in damage to one or more vertebrae, or severing of the spinal cord, non-traumatic injuries are the result of slow internal damage to the spinal cord