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Salient Māori News Items for the Week to 1 March 2019

Salient Māori News Items for the Week to 1 March 2019

  • Last week the biennial Te Matatini competition was held in Te Whānganui-a-Tara (Wellington). The winners were Ngā Tūmanako.  Te Pikikōtuku o Ngāti Rongomai gained second place, and Te Kapa Haka o Te Whānau a Apanui gained third place.
  • This week Te Puni Kōkiri belatedly released the Cabinet paper associated with the new Government Māori Language Strategy (Pānui 5/2019 refers). In the main the paper confirms Cabinet commitment to the strategy, and we note a couple of points of interest:
    • An implementation plan is being developed: it is linked to a Budget bid this year, with a goal being to get Cabinet support for the operational activities in August. This is good, as the strategy needs resourcing to have any real impact, as per our earlier review comments.
    • The Minister notes there was a campaign against the strategy via the online consultation: ultimately 45% of the 2,000- odd submissions were negative. In our view this reinforces our observation that online consultation alone is an inappropriate means to gather Māori (and other) input – hui should have been held.  We note the same operational error is now occurring for the Māori media review, which has no public hui scheduled. (Pānui 4/2019 refers).
  • On Monday the Wellington District Court imposed fines totalling circa $1.1 million on the Directors of Hawkes Bay Seafoods, the company itself, plus a related company and key staff. The directors were Antonino “Nino” Giovanni D’Esposito, Giancarlo “Joe” Harold D’Esposito and manager Marcus Giuseppe D’Esposito. In addition, the company must pay more than $400,000 for the return of its forfeited vessels.
    By way of background the offending was identified in 2014, and after years of defensive wrangling, the grouping finally pleaded guilty in 2018 to 131 charges for selling unreported catch.   We further advise that the key proprietor of Hawkes Bay Seafoods, Antonio D’Esposito, already had at least 98 fishing convictions – which shows a history of ongoing offending in this sector.  (In 1997, he/his company was also required to pay nearly a million dollars in fines for fishing offences.)
    This present case matters for Māori because Hawkes Bay Seafoods is the inshore fishing quota leasee for Ngāti Kahungunu – i.e. it catches the inshore settlement quota of the iwi (and for some other iwi).   That is, its business is based on a significant Crown / Māori Treaty of Waitangi settlement; and in our view its misuse tarnishes the Treaty settlement process.  Put simply, why should/would the Crown provide ongoing settlement redress via quota if fishing rights allocated to iwi are going to be misused and put fish stocks at risk?
    Further, although the proceedings against this group commenced in 2014,  there were other investigations involving Hawkes Bay Seafoods in 2015 relating to people (staff) involved in a paua and crayfish black market.  However, Ngāti Kahungunu has stoically continued its partnership with this company and never openly condemned Hawkes Bay Seafoods for its illegal fishing practices.  Rather, in 2017 Ngāti Kahungunu extended the partnership with a joint venture in purchasing an off-shore fishing boat in a 50:50 arrangement with Hawkes Bay Seafoods (again to fish the iwi Treaty settlement quota).   In our assessment, despite the seriousness of the fishing offending by Hawkes Bay Seafoods, Ngāti Kahungunu presents as having been undeterred in its business dealings with the company.
    However, following the outcome of this most recent case, Ngāti Kahungunu has now expressed a desire to purchase outright Hawkes Bay Seafoods, and is actively taking steps to achieve that.  That may be a positive outcome for the iwi – and if successful it may mean that Ngāti Kahungunu is fishing its own quota, and then also processing and selling those fish itself (plus employing iwi members along each link in the chain).  However, there is some suggestion in the media that Antonino D’Esposito desires to continue on as a consulting advisor.  If so it is difficult to see the value in that; as given the convictions it is possible further association with him would tarnish the fishing brand (‘Takitimu’) that Ngāti Kahungunu is seeking to establish to recover the situation.
    Note for absolutely clarity there is no suggestion that Ngāti Kahungunu has ever been involved in any type of illegal fishing practices.   The convicted offending discussed herein relates to a company that the iwi has a partnership relationship with.
  • The Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group has now reportedly submitted their advice to Government.  We note the terms of reference for this group (set last June) was somewhat vague, with its role being to ‘provide advice to the Government on options that could best give effect to its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system’.  Notwithstanding, the Minister for Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, has referred to this work as an ‘overhaul of the welfare system’.  Accordingly, we expect the report to have significant implications for Māori, particularly for the 109,000 tangata Māori – and their whānau members – who are reliant on one of the three main benefits.[1]  Minister Sepuloni has indicated the report will be released publicly later this month, or in early April.   We will advise further at that time.
  • Statistics NZ has released its working document on how to measure child poverty; Measuring child poverty: Concepts and definitions’. By way of background, the Government’s Child Poverty Reduction Act was in introduced in 2018 to help reduce child poverty in New Zealand – Pānui 8/2018 outlines this policy shift. The new Act now requires Government to set three-year and ten-year targets on four primary measures, and for the Government Statistician to report annually on ten measures of child poverty.  The working paper sets out the technical approaches to be used.  In addition, three further supporting papers explaining the rationales for statistical and data choices have been released.  We have undertaken a summary review of these papers and found nothing untoward: i.e. the measures being used are appropriate, and present as thoughtfully designed.  Māori child poverty information is expected to be presented through this work as well – which in part is a result of submissions made by Māori for this to be included.  We will advise further once the first data sets are released.  The working documentation is available here:  https://www.stats.govt.nz/methods/measuring-child-poverty-concepts-and-definitions
  • The Labour Party has declined an application from John Tamihere to re-join the party. Mr Tamihere is a former Cabinet Minister, and amongst other portfolios was an Associate Minister of Māori Affairs (2002-2004).  Mr Tamihere advises the Party’s council gave no reason for the decline, and indicates that the process presents as unfair, because there was no discussion on why he was declined, nor is there any right of appeal.  Mr Tamihere has noted that this action is likely to be because he has announced his intention to seek the role of Auckland Mayor in upcoming elections, although previously the Labour Party endorsed the current Mayor, Phil Goff.   (Mr Goff will announce shortly whether he intends to stand for re-election.)   The Labour Party’s constitution allows the Party to only endorse one candidate for the mayoralty – meaning if Mr Tamihere had been accepted as a member he could have sought that endorsement ahead of Mr Goff.
  • Last Friday the Minister of Agriculture, Damien O´Connor, announced the 2019 Ahuwhenua Trophy finalists for Māori sheep and beef farming. The finalists are: Whangara Farms (Gisborne); Te Awahohonu Forest Trust / Gwavas Station (Hawkes Bay); and Kiriroa Station (Gisborne).  The winner will be announced on 24 May at the 2019 Ahuwhenua Awards ceremony, to be held in Gisborne.
  • Last Friday the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, announced the Crown’s response to the voting results for the Whakatōhea Settlement Process. In our view the response is essentially to proceed slowly with caution, and to check with officials whether any negotiations can carry on safely and or appropriately now; possibly concurrently with a Waitangi Tribunal hearing.
    By way of background, the mandate of Whakatōhea Pre-settlement Claims Trust to settle historic claims was tested via urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing claims in 2017.  The Tribunal’s primary finding was that the Crown prioritised its objective of concluding Treaty settlements over a process that was fair to Whakatōhea. The Tribunal found the decision to recognise the Pre-settlement Trust mandate was therefore not fair, reasonable, or made in good faith, and breaches the Treaty principle of partnership.
    To resolve this, in October 2018 Whakatōhea iwi members were asked to vote on the following: 1) continuing with the Whakatōhea Pre-Settlement Claim Trust as their treaty settlement entity; 2a) stop current Treaty negotiations in order that a mandate process be re-run from the start?  And 2b) stop current Treaty negotiations in order that the Waitangi Tribunal can carry out an inquiry into the historical grievances of Whakatōhea?
    The results that came out in November 2018 show a small majority (56%) of iwi voted to continue negotiations with the Crown via the existing entity, but conversely a large majority (73%) voted to also stop negotiations until the Waitangi Tribunal can carry out an inquiry.  It is this somewhat contradictory outcome that Minister Little is seeking to address i.e. carrying on working with the current settlement entity, but not getting ahead / or out of step with Tribunal processes that iwi members have stated they desire to occur first.

 

[1] Namely, jobseeker support (i.e. unemployment), sole parent support, and supported living.

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