Friday, 24 October 2014

Whakamutunga


I want to sign off from Tu Mai Te Toki today.

It has been a few months since the last post but as many of you know I have taken up a position at the Whakatane Beacon.

For me there is no better time to do this. I will miss Tu Mai Te Toki. It gave me the forum to introduce myself back to Ngati Awa, in a way that was me.

You may not have always agreed with what I have written but I stand by the factual statements I have made in this blog.  And, as always, I encourage you to check it out for yourself.

Go to your marae meetings, go to the runanga meetings, go to every hui you can make because you never know where your skills might be able to be used to help make our people better. Isn’t that all any of us can ask to do?

There is a Te Runanga o Ngati Awa meeting next week and it should be a boomer. Since the last meeting we have seen the official resignation of Sir Wira Gardiner, a scandal involving Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi and the call for three new directors to be appointed to the tribe’s financial arm.

No doubt these will all be on the table for discussion. As a reporter, I have contacted Te Runanga o Ngati Awa to ask whether I can still attend. I tried to meet with the chief executive, Enid Ratahi-Pryor and I had to eventually corner runanga chairman Jo Mason.

He asked if I was Ngati Awa.

“Well then you can come to the meetings.”

That was great news, I hope I can sit in the public gallery as I have always done. I understand the need for confidentiality and would hope that if sensitive matters are going to be discussed that the board members would use the in-committee clause for that issue.

But what is theharm of having me there? What is the harm of sunlight if you are doing your job?

Ngati Awa have achievements that we should be screaming from the roof tops. I hope to be able to write about them for the newspaper but I will not turn a blind eye to the negative even if it means that I have been airing our dirty laundry.

Ngati Awa deserve to know the whole picture and clearly there has been a break-down in the traditional forms of getting iwi news.

I am a journalist who has ethics and a code. I will promise you that I will never sensationalise stories about Maori. I will promise to always present the story as factually as I can without personal opinion or bias.

I promise to be a good reporter. And I promise, always, to be Ngati Awa.
I am off to the Ngati Awa Te Toki festival to help out and celebrate but check me out at the Beacon, there is a pay-wall but I can assure you it will be worth the subscription.

Mauri ora.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Ko Ngāti Awa te toki


The meeting of the board of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) held in Whakatane this month was pegged as being the biggest show in town and it sure did deliver.

After failing to follow due process at the previous meeting the board was being asked to vote again on the removal of Graham Pryor from the tribe’s financial arm and the addition of Paul Quinn to Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd (NAGHL).

Prior to the meeting Nga Maihi representative Gina O’Brien had sent notice through the runanga’s chief executive Enid Rātahi-Pryor that her hapu wanted to attend the meeting. She conveyed that the hapu did not agree with the way the runanga had treated one of their members through the lack of process and they wanted to have their say.

Mrs O’Brien requested a speaking time for members of the hapu at the meeting.

And it was fireworks from the start.

At 9am the boardroom at Ngāti Awa house was full to capacity and Nga Maihi had turned up in force.  The room was crackling with tension.

After a slight skirmish around the agenda it was decided that the issue of Mr Pryor’s removal would be discussed at 10am.

It was then decided Mrs Rātahi-Pryor would speak to her chief executive report before the meeting discussed the issue of Mr Pryor. Mrs Rātahi-Pryoy pre-empted it with an explanation that it was an “off-reporting” month for the organisation and therefore her report was only an overview.

She then went on to outline that the board’s request for half of the Māori tax credits from NAGHL had been declined and the ramifications that had for the annual budget. She also made the recommendation that the Runanga should not appeal the commissioner’s decision from the district plan hearings into the 60 Bunyan Road and 77 Bunyan Road area.

She then spoke about the work that is happening with the carvings at Mataatua Marae and ended her report by congratulating Te Rua o Te Moko Ltd, who beat out the Runanga and Putauaki Trust to claim first spot in the Ahuwhenau awards.

The meeting then turned to the issue of Mr Pryor. TRONA chairman Joe Mason explained the previous vote had been rendered invalid because the board did not follow process and they would need to vote again.

Mrs O’Brien then requested time for discussion however Mr Mason said all of the delegates had previously had time to speak to their hapu and that they would go ahead with the vote.

He said there had also been plenty of emails shared between the board, management and others that there was no need to discuss it any further.

“No discussion, we have had enough of that and if we do we may start a war and we have had enough of that.”

Mrs O’Brien made her plea to the chairman, saying: “We have stuck to the process; we have not engaged in the emails or going to the media. We have stuck to making sure we did it the way the process says and we put our request in for our hapu to be here and speak about it.”

Her stance was supported by several members at the table and Mr Mason relented. However he said that only Mrs O’Brien could speak to the motion and no one else.

That was when the Tuteao koroua, Ngamaru Raerino, sitting behind Mrs O’Brien jumped up and addressed the chairman in te reo Māori.

I asked him afterwards to explain what he had said, to ensure that I had understood him properly, and he responded: “I said to them: You use the epigrammatic saying of Ngati Awa te Toki. However today you put a chip in it and if you don't take care I will come back and break it.”

His frustration at not being able to speak was evident.

The koroua then sat down and Mr Mason called for the vote which was received as 12 votes supporting the resolution to remove Mr Pryor and nine votes in opposition.

After the vote, Mr Mason called a recess to the meeting and that was when Mrs O’Brien and Nga Maihi left the meeting.

And I couldn’t help but feel for them.

Later when the meeting reconvened Mr Mason let several other members in the public gallery stand and have their say including one koroua who stood to protect Mr Ngaropo from a letter sent on behalf of Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau from individuals that called on the runanga to reprimand the Te Tawera representative for his recent stance in the newspaper.

However Nga Maihi went away, knowing they had followed process and done all the right things, but did not get their chance to speak.

So it was no real surprise when Sir Hirini Mead got up to give his Te Whakaruruhau report. He said that his job was to advise the board and the chief executive.

He then said he had gone outside to see Nga Maihi, who had been gathered in the carpark.

“And it is the first time in my memory that a hapu has threatened to pull away from the Runanga… And I must say that we must be very careful about how we treat ourselves. Part of the threat was if they pull out they want their share of the settlement and the answer to that is that if you pull out then go but you will go with nothing.”

Then later still, when the board were asked to vote on whether to instil Mr Quinn as a director of NAGHL until the end of the year, Pahipoto representative Tuwhakairiora (Conn) O’Brien asked him about his role at Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau.

Mr Quinn replied that he was the chief executive of Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau.

Mr O’Brien asked whether that was a conflict of interest however Mr Quinn replied that he had enough sense to avoid being part of discussions when there was going to be a conflict of interest.

Now this has bearing on the whole Nga Maihi situation. Mr Pryor was not removed because he had done anything wrong but because he was the chairman of Ngati Rangitihi, an iwi opposing Ngati Awa’s claim in Matāta.

As far as I know it Tuwharetoa ki Kawerau also dispute Ngati Awa’s claim in Kawerau and perhaps that is why we do not have any interest in the geothermal area even though Putauaki is our cultural mountain.

Now, today is another day and people have had some time to digest what has happened but I ask that when you read this you take the time out to really think about it. The threat that Nga Maihi may pull out of the collective is concerning and has wide implications.

Most at the Runanga seem to think that Mr Mason will go out to Tuteao and make amends but I am concerned about affects that this situation will have on us as an iwi.

I am proud Ngati Awa and so I hope Mr Mason will be able to smooth the waters and convince Nga Maihi to stay part of the collective but the issue is bigger than that.

Now is the time for our leaders to step up because games are being played where there are no rules and the stakes are way too high.

Meanwhile, Mr Ngaropo has raised his displeasure about the existence of this blog at several meetings including yesterday’s board meeting. I haven’t been able to respond to Mr Ngaropo in these meetings however if you agree with him then please let me know by leaving a comment. But if you don’t agree with him and you appreciate the job it takes to bring you this information then please take this post and share it wide.
Tu mai te toki, hara mai te toki, haumi e, hui e, tāiki e!
 

Friday, 30 May 2014

And the knives came out


It was all on yesterday as the knives came out at the Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board meeting.

After sending an email to the chairman of the tribe’s financial arm and copying in his fellow board members, Pouroto Ngaropo was out for blood and his first move was to ask for the formal resignation of Sir Wira Gardiner.

The former civil servant had tended his resignation at the previous meeting of the TRONA board and decreed that Graham Pryor would take over from him as the chairman of Ngati Awa Group Holdings (NAGHL).

Normally, any movements on NAGHL would be done at the company’s annual general meeting at the end of the year but Mr Ngaropo said he wanted the TRONA board to pass a resolution that it “formerly accepts Sir Wira’s resignation today”.

It was then that it was raised that Sir Wira had sent an email to the TRONA chairman, Joe Mason, saying he would formerly stand down on June 30. The email also asked the TRONA board to consider appointing Ngai Tamapare representative Paul Quinn to replace him as a director.

The email had been sent the night before and Mr Ngaropo opposed the introduction of the email because it had not been included in the board papers, however Mr Mason said that it was relevant to the discussion and shared it with the board.

Mr Mason then asked them to vote on whether they would accept Mr Quinn’s appointment as an interim NAGHL director.

The move was seconded by Ngāti Hokopū ki Hokowhitū representative Maanu Paul. Ngāti Hokopū ki Wairaka delegate Dayle Hunia objected to the lack of process and suggested the director position be advertised with the outlook of an appointment being made at the next meeting.

Chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryour said the appointment would be only for the interim because the position would be up for rotation at the tribe’s annual general meeting and Mr Quinn would only be filling in for five months.

Mr Quinn has made no secret that he has wants to be a director of the financial arm and he took the position with eight board members voting in favour of him replacing Sir Wira, five against and Aubrey Kohunui from Warahoe choosing to abstain.

Mr Ngaropo then went for the jugular and called for the removal of Mr Pryor as a NAGHL director. He said he could not support Sir Wira’s assertion that Mr Pryor would take over as chair of the financial arm.

“I believe that Graham Pryor has a conflict of interest. I have strong opposition to Graham Pryor standing a chairman (of NAGHL) or any committee for that matter.”

Cast you minds back to March when it was outlined that Mr Pryor had approved a $3.8 million contract with a carbon management company that he was a member of without gaining the NAGHL board’s approval first.

The report revealed that, crucially, Mr Pryor had not passed on legal advice to the other NAGHL directors that warned against the contract despite it being addressed to the board of the financial arm.

Sir Wira posthumously rubberstamped it and so the deal was pushed through. That was when a long-serving member of the Ngati Awa Farm committee, Jim Davies, approached The Whakatane Beacon about his concerns.

Eventually Mr Davies was forced to resign and Sir Wira attended a TRONA board meeting to smooth the situation with the previous board submitting to his aggressive assertions that neither he nor Mr Pryor had done anything wrong.

Now apply to that to Mr Pryor’s removal yesterday and consider this: Mr Pryor was not removed because he had failed to pass on crucial advice or because he had personally benefitted from a deal between NAGHL and a company that he had been a director of but because he is also the chairman of Ngati Rangitihi, a group that is opposing Ngati Awa’s claim to a Matata urupa and other tribal boundaries.

A resolution was made by Mr Ngaropo and seconded by Mr Paul to remove Mr Pryor as a director of NAGHL.

The vote was undertaken by secret ballot with two independent people counting the ballots. Mr Mason refused to announce the numbers in favour and against because he believed that was part of the method of a secret ballot vote and simply said that the resolution to remove Mr Pryor from NAGHL had been successful.

While there is some sense in removing Mr Pryor because it could be difficult for him to remain objective while he was also the chairman of Ngati Rangitihi, there is a question of creating an unfair precedent and also the lack of due process.

Mate Heitia, who was standing in for Te Kei Merito to represent Ngāti Rangataua, raised her concerns about the precendent it would set by excluding a whanau because of their ties to another iwi.

Mrs Hunia, again, warned about the lack of due process and highlighted a section of the NAGHL constitution that required the TRONA board to advise that they intended to vote on the future of a director at the meeting before it took place.

Māori Land Court judge Layne Harvey, who happened to be in the gallery, stood and claimed that the NAGHL constitution allowed for a director to be removed at any stage. He had to reclaim his assertion when Mrs Hunia presented him with the constitution.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said she had sought legal advice about removing a director. She said the runanga’s lawyer believed TRONA could vote remove Mr Pryor and that two members of the board had to sign the notification.

While, personally, I do not oppose the removal of Mr Pryor the fact that the board are still not following process concerns me. There is a thin line between believing you are doing the right thing and, then, just making up the rules.

Yesterday, there was robust debate around important areas but it will be tarnished if the board cannot follow the rules that have been laid out.

It is obvious that there has been a call for change from the people but what is the point of making the changes if everything just stays the same? The key is acting in a way that shows integrity and respect – there is nothing respectful in not respecting the rules that have been set.

It has been awhile since my last post to Tu Mai Te Toki as I have not attended the previous two meetings. I have considered writing other posts before now however I have been reluctant because without observing firsthand I am left to rely on other people for information.

This always poses two problems: firstly, I must ask people for the information. Often this proves difficult because even though I am an uri of Ngāti Awa and therefore, I believe, entitled to it there is always the concern that those people will be held responsible if they give me the information.

And the threat has already been made by the management of TRONA if this happens.

This obviously places the representatives of my own hāpu in precarious situations so I choose not to put them in uncomfortable positions by not asking. Also, I do not want to make my own hāpu feel as though they cannot talk openly at our marae meetings and I have chosen not to use information that is discussed in this forum.

Secondly, I am reliant on those people giving me a fair and balanced view of what happened and this is not always the case. We all have our interpretations and beliefs and these can often colour our recall.

I have asked management on several occassions for information and more often than not I have been ignored. The chief executive of TRONA has also taken the extraordinary step of not allowing those sitting in the public gallery to have a copy of the agenda.

She has used my absence in previous meetings to villify myself and this blog. It is not the first time that criticisms have been made but I am still resolute in my belief that, in the interest of accountability and transparency, the people of Ngāti Awa deserve to know what is going on with our Runanga.

And so I will keep writing this blog in my way and therefore I have made the choice to write about things when I either witness them myself or I have documentation that can back up what I am saying.

Yesterday’s meeting was a full one and so as I leave you to digest the news that Mr Pryor has been removed from NAGHL, I will pen another post about the review of TRONA’s commitees that has been conducted over the past couple of months.

Ma te wa.

Monday, 3 March 2014

We take care of our own

The first meeting of the new Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board kicked off last week and it was show-stopping fireworks from the get go.

With all of the phone calls, emails and lobbying done – the meeting started with the issue of electing a chairperson and the deputy to lead the board.

In preparation Runanga chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor said she had sought legal advice around the election of the chairman because there was no clear process.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor highlighted three sections of the organisation’s charter including 4.1, 4.2 and 5.1. She said the board could choose between two methods of voting – either by show of hands or secret ballot and that there was the option to close the meeting if it got too unruly.

“As we go through this and we are looking for guidance in this we will do it by majority.”
Even though the sections highlighted by Mrs Ratahi-Pryor did not correspond with the charter  because she was quoting from the second schedule, the board continued and elected to use the secret ballot method.

In the end, Ngati Pukeko representative Joe Mason edged out the incumbent chairman, Te Kei Merito from Ngati Rangataua, 11 votes to 10. Te Tawera representative Pouroto Ngaropo retained the deputy spot with 13 votes against 7 votes for Materoa Dodd from Ngati Wharepaia
Obviously there was a lot of interest in the vote with a large number of observers in the board room at the TRONA office in Louvain Street and a post on Facebook announcing the result before the meeting was even over.

However I was saddened that there was more emphasis placed on the vote rather than on the actual business.

A request from the Ngati Awa Training Organisation (NATO), a private training establishment, for financial support from the Runanga was almost glossed over despite the operating trust owing at least $600,000 to two parties.

The situation was raised by chief executive during her report to the board.
Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said she had met with NATO because it was in financial trouble and the ASB bank was threatening to foreclose on the organisation.

 “As a result of contract losses the trust as lost its capacity and capability to get out of this situation. A debt of $50,000 is outstanding with the ASB Bank. The trust is not able to clear this debt, nor is it able to trade out of debt due to expenses exceeding its income…. A cash injection to maintain a Ngati Awa training provider and its status would require $600,000 in addition to a restructure of its governance and management.”  
It is understood the ASB Bank has requested payment of $50,000 to cover the outstanding debt or it will foreclose on the organisation and more than $500,000 is owed to the Inland Revenue Department in unpaid taxes.

Mrs Ratahi-Pryor said the NATO trustees had all “scarpered” and that even though the Runanga did not own the organisation anymore, it was up to it to protect the Ngati Awa name.
“The reason it has come to the board is this was one of the organisations set up by the Runanga. They are seen as Ngati Awa. I had a look at their young people and their young people who go there are 80 to 90 per cent Ngati Awa. Their staff are Ngati Awa. This is a Ngati Awa entity so we have to take that into consideration.”

In her report Mrs Ratahi-Pryor recommended that management work alongside the trust close down operation, the board approve $50,000 to be paid to the bank on behalf of NATO and the Runanga to take back control of the organisation as well as its delivery status once all trustees have been removed and programmes closed.
It was also recommended that the board note that this is the second time the Runanga has assisted the trust.

The board voted to close down the organisation and approach the bank about writing off the debt even though Ngai Tamapare representative Paul Quinn had objected saying he felt as though there wasn’t enough information to make a decision.
It was not outlined how or why the debt was incurred nor was the outstanding debt with IRD discussed.

Mr Quinn and Dayle Hunia, who represents Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, were the only members that voted against the motion.

I support Mr Quinn’s stance and think the NATO situation should have been a separate report in itself and would have expected representatives to request more information before committing to a decision.                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Additionally the Hapu Report section, which is the time at the end of the meeting where the representatives  can usually discuss the issues that are affecting their hapu, had been removed from the agenda.

“The previous chairman [Te Kei Merito] requested that no hapu reports be given. I don’t know why that is,” said Mrs Ratahi-Pryor     .
I was tremendously disappointed by this.

Frustrated by a lack of control over our own destiny we, at Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka, have spent the last year designing a strategic vision. Aimed at protecting and enhancing the well-being of the hapu the vision has been set and has been encapsulated by the saying: Tu Mai Ngati Hokopu. But this is only the beginning of our journey and we are keen to make a move on the next stage
However in order to do some of the work set out in the vision we need support letters from the Runanga and it was hoped that we would be able to make a presentation during Hapu Report time at  the board meeting.      
And I am sure we are not the only hapu who wanted time to discuss our take. Maanu Paul from Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu and Nga Maihi’s Gina O’brien handed in written reports, requesting they be added to the record because the Hapu Report time had been erased.                                          

So despite an overwhelming change to the board with 11 changes, I am left to think that the Runanga is still operating much how it always has.
However, while the unpopular bimonthly meeting policy still stands another meeting has been set for next month because the board did not have time to elect the committees and I am hopeful that the new members will begin to show their teeth.

 

Sunday, 2 February 2014

"When you blame others, you give up your power to change"

This is the first post to Tu Mai te Toki for 2014.

I have waited until the first official meeting of the new Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (Trona) board before writing any blog post.

As always my need to remain objective must outweigh the desire to share information and so I wanted to wait until I had something concrete that I could write about.
Today, I want to share with you my experience when I attended the workshop that was held by Runanga management for board members last week.

The workshop was held on Friday at the TRONA building on Louvain Street in Whakatane.
Chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor had previously extended an open invitation for all Ngati Awa uri to attend the workshop at last year’s Annual General Meeting and I so decided to take up the offer.

On my way through the runanga, I stopped at the desk to make sure that I could attend the workshop. Two staff members assured me that it was fine and left me to find my way to the board room.
When I entered the room Te Tawera representative Pouroto Ngaropo was talking about the signing of the settlement deed that happened in 1994 at Wairaka Marae.

He said one of key focuses in signing the deed was to ensure unity among Ngati Awa.
After Mr Ngaropo finished his speech, Mrs Ratahi-Pryor stood to continue with the presentation.

However Ngati Hokopu ki Hokowhitu representative Maanu Paul said he wanted to address Mr Ngaropo’s statement.
Mr Paul said the perception of unity among the tribe depended on where you stood.

“From my point of view there cannot be unity until the return of the Ngati Awa block has been recognised.”
The Ngati Awa block referred to by Mr Paul is the Ngati Awa Historical Estate which is a sheep and beef farm situated in the hills behind the Ohope settlement (it was formerly known as the Ngati Awa Farm).

In the days before Government confiscation, the land in the “Ngati Awa farm” was populated by Ngati Hokopu, Ngati Wharepaia and Ngati Pukeko.
The land was included in the Ngati Awa settlement because the leadership at the time said that it was important to get the land back first and returning it to the hapu would be addressed after that. It was also seen as an asset that would allow the tribal organisation to continue operating until it received payment from the Government.

Mr Paul said his hapu (a sub-group of Ngati Hokopu) had commended him to seek the return of the “Ngati Awa farm” to the rightful hapu as it was no longer needed to prop up the runanga.
“The longer this goes unaddressed, the larger the bitterness of this nawe grows… You need to address it.

“However I’m not saying that it will happen in this year but it could happen in five years. And I think that we have the capacity on this new board to make the changes.”
However Pahipoto representative Tuwhakairiora (Conn) O’Brien said many of the hapu had “nawe” but he was unsure whether the board was the right place to address these issues or whether they could make a change.

Aubree Kohunui, who represents Warahoe, said he believed the new board had the capacity to make a real difference.
“However if it is moemoea stuff then I am not really interested in that. I want to make a difference where it is possible.”

Mr Ngaropo repeated his message of the importance of unity but said he agreed that a forum needed to be provided so that the issues could be addressed.
He said this was the first time that Ngati Hokopu had raised the issue of the Ngati Awa farm in the 20 years that he had been part of the runanga.

“The power of the Runanga rests with the marae… There will be an opportunity for the hapu to represent.”
Ngati Wharepaia representative Materoa Dodd stood up to disagree with Mr Ngaropo’s statement.

She said it was not the first time the issue had been raised.
“In fact I have raised it many times on behalf of Ngati Wharepaia… It has always been on the table, it has never been off the table.”

Stan Ratahi, who represents Ngati Hikakino, said issues among the tribe could not be dealt with until matter of the land lost by Taiwhakaea had been rectified.
“How are we ever going to address that? A lot of the land was taken away from the hapu, I am talking about Taiwhakaea here. Land was given away to other hapu and they sold it.

“We cannot do anything about it, it is too late. I get sick when this topic comes up. You cannot address Taiwhakaea, you cannot fix the rest of them.”
Mr Ratahi did not seem to accept that the Ngati Awa settlement had adequately compensated the Taiwhakaea hapu for the loss of their lands.

It was at this point that Mrs Ratahi-Pryor, who is the sister of Mr Ratahi, stood up and said the workshop was a closed session. She then directly addressed me and said I had to leave because she wanted the board members to feel as though they could speak freely without fear of their comments appearing in a public forum.
And while I can appreciate the need for board members to feel as though they can speak freely I write about this experience for two reasons.

Firstly, it was Mrs Ratahi-Pryor that invited people to attend the workshop in the first place. At the AGM, held at Wairaka Marae in November, she had said encouraged people to attend so that they could observe what was expected of board members.
She had not left instructions with her staff that the workshop was a closed session.

Rules are rules and I would have respected any decision from the board for the session to be closed however it seems as though the direction came from Mrs Ratahi-Pryor alone and the only reason she seems to have made it a closed session was to prevent the information ending up on this blog.
As a member of the tribe I am a beneficiary of the Runanga and shouldn’t the Ngati Awa uri have the right to hear information about the organisation that is meant to be responsible for administrating our tribal assets?

My intention is not to be a trouble-maker but to present the information that I have collected so that you can take from it what you will and make your own decisions about it. My hope is that many more people will be inspired to become engaged members of our iwi and therefore help boost our tribe.
Secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to take the time to remind people about the job of a TRONA board member.

While the TRONA board is ultimately responsible for the whole organisation it is not responsible for making money, that is the area of the financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings (NAGHL). It is, however, responsible for the governance of the tribal entity.
And board members must remember that governance relates to processes and decisions that seek to define actions, grant power, and verify performance.

Therefore the TRONA board must define actions through a clear strategy, select people to oversee its interests in other subsidiaries such as NAGHL and verify that key members such as the chief executive are performing in their jobs.
One of their first jobs this year will be to select members to sub-committees including the executive, audit, and investment sub-groups. They will also need to select a chairperson and a deputy.

These decisions will be made at the first board meeting to be held in February and I urge all of the representatives to become very familiar with the TRONA charter and to think very seriously about who they will support in the key positions. I would hope that most will take the decisions back to their hapu and ask you what you think.
And finally, I want to sign off this post with a new rule: I will no longer allow the publication of comments without a name. If you would like to comment then you must do so using your real name, all other statements will be deleted.

Ma te wa.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Get up, stand up

This weekend is the Annual General Meeting of Te Runanga o Ngati Awa and I want to encourage you all to go.

It is our only chance to hear first-hand what TRONA has to say and be able to ask our own questions. Well at least this is what I’ve been taught to believe.
Last year’s meeting was my first TRONA AGM.

I went with a group from Wairaka determined to ask questions. We knew answers would be limited and, at some stage, we would be label radicals, activists, haters, wreckers, negative or nuances. But here’s the thing, we knew we had to go and do what we did.
We had all heard the stories about failing internet companies, luxury golf courses up north only that had crumbled at the first hurdles, castles being built in the name of men and a dysfunctional culture.

Some of our questions were answered, many were not.
It was this event that inspired this blog.

And as I look over the past 12 months I realise nothing much has really changed. I don’t expect to get too many answers out of this weekend and people are still labelling this blog as a part of a group of “negative nuances”.
But ten new faces on the TRONA board is a sign of what can be done by the people and I urge you to stand up and demand a change.

As always I begin with the warning that this is the information that I have collected, take from it what you will and make your own decisions about it. But always remember you can always go to this year’s AGM at Wairaka on Sunday if you want to ask our management and governors for yourself.
This week I picked up a TRONA annual report. After attending most of the board meetings this year I wasn’t expecting the bottom to have fallen out, but I still wanted to take a read before this weekend and on the first look things seemed good.

The document is sleek-looking with glossy pages and sharp images. It pumps up the Runanga and notches achievements from the past year including cutting costs “to bring the Runanga back into near positive cash neutral” and the restructuring of Development Ngati Awa.
But upon reading it again there are some glaring mistakes and concerning themes.

However rather than concentrating on spelling errors and minor details I wanted to start this post by reminding you of Jim Davies and the $3.8 million contract with the CO2 New Zealand Management company.
Mr Davies is a good, honest man who has worked in the area of forestry and farming for more than four decades. Up until July he was the chairman of the Ngati Awa Farm Committee.

However he was forced to resign after he received a letter from runanga chief executive Enid Ratahi-Pryor explaining the financial arm, Ngati Awa Group Holdings Ltd, had voted to remove him because he spoke to the media about concerns around the tribe’s carbon credit investment.

Since then NAGHL chairman Wira Gardiner has made himself Ngati Awa Farm committee chairman and Wilhelm Studer has been selected for the remaining spot.
And perhaps you agree that Mr Davies shouldn’t have spoken to the media but his forced resignation was quick, so quick he that he did not have time to give his last report.
But I wanted to share what Mr Davies had written in his report.

In it he said the report’s purpose was to state the “Farm Committee’s” position on the “CO2 Ngati Awa Farm Land Management Agreement”.
“Subsequent investigation by the Farm Committee revealed that a conflict in fact did arise because Graham Pryor was a NAGHL director as well as being General Manager at the Ngati Awa office. He was also an Iwi director at Tukia , plus having a vested interest and directorship at CO2 New Zealand Ltd, an Australian carbon trading company.”

As already outlined in previous posts Graham Pryor is one of five people on the board of Ngati Awa Group Holdings Limited (NAGHL).  The other members are Waaka Vercoe, Joe Mason, Brian Tunui and Sir Gardiner.
“In 2010, Mr Pryor, with NAGHL chairman Wira Gardiner, executed a $3.8 million contract with the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.

At the time Mr Pryor was a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company.
Sir Gardiner says Pryor did not become a director of NAGHL until after the contract with CO2 New Zealand Management Company was instigated. However a report from the NAGHL Audit committee says Mr Pryor was the one who received crucial legal advice about the deal before it had been signed on behalf of the tribal company.

Also identified in the audit committee report was that Mr Pryor had failed to disclose the potential conflict of interest and, more seriously, there was no policy to demand it.
Mr Pryor and Sir Gardiner had also executed the contract without prior approval from the rest of the NAGHL board.

At a meeting earlier this year Sir Gardiner said he had required Mr Pryor to resign as a director of the CO2 New Zealand Management Company when he became aware of the potential conflict of interest”.
Mr Pryor did so but he still remains within a stone’s throw of the deal as a director of a company called Tukia Group.

Set up by the six iwi involved in the Central North Island (CNI) forestry settlement, Tukia Group included Ngai Tuhoe, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Raukawa, Ngati Whare, Ngati Rangitihi and Ngati Whakaue.
In his report Mr Davies says Tukia Group is also tied up with two other companies, CO2 New Zealand Ltd and Carbon Energy.

 “This arrangement effectively places CO2 New Zealand and Carbon Enery in control of the group. In other words, a collection shell companies comprising a mere handful of principals. All names are readily available on the register, with one in particularly featuring throughout.
“CO2 New Zealand was designed to benefit from carbon opportunities that may arise from the Treelords deal, or any other Iwi management opportunities that may occur.”

And then there was also story in this week’s Beacon focussing on Mr Pryor and the Tukia Group.
For details sake the Companies Office lists CO2 New Zealand as having a 45 per cent shareholding in CO2 New Zealand Management Ltd company. The two companies have the same two Australian-based directors, Andrew William Thorold Grant and Harley Ronald Whitcombe but Mr Pryor is not listed as a director.

The story in the Beacon goes on to describe Mr Pryor as being the Tukia Group chairman and says the company continued to trade until June 30 2013, at which time shareholders agreed to cease operations and hand some assets back to the CNI iwi holdings.
It explains the settlement with the six central north Island iwi was worth $418 million and the story explains that Tukia Group was meant to be a joint venture that invested in natural resources. Each tribe advanced $550,000 to develop a geothermal opportunity at Tauhara. It does not mention the CO2 New Zealand Management company or its owner CO2 New Zealand Ltd.

But it does describe the failure of the Tukia Group and concerns from the other Iwi about its performance.
“Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatura chairman Tamati Kruger said Tuhoe advised other directors last year Tuhoe was no longer supportive of Tukia and advocated its early wind up,” the Beacon reports.

The story points to the company’s financial collapse as the reason for the concerns.
“Ngati Rangitihi is recorded as having a paid a further $85,000 according to its annual reports, but it is not clear why.

“Tuwharetoa paid an additional $1.25 million to bail out Tukia in 2011. Today Tukia still exists, but it is hard to determine in what form… Auckland firm Johnstone Associates is Tukia’s accountant but staff member Rupit Kshatriya will not comment on the state of the company, referring the Beacon to chairman Graham Pryor.
“Mr Pryor, also chairman of CNI signatory Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi Trust, has not responded to questions from the Beacon.”

 A side bar said that according to an annual report that Te Mana o Ngati Rangitihi trust, which is part of the CNI deal and the organisation that Mr Pryor leads, Tukia had sold its 45 per cent in CO2 New Zealand Management Ltd.

Now, let’s not forget Mr Pryor was the man who facilitated the $3.8m deal between NAGHL and the CO2 New Zealand Management company. Described as “re-afforestation project" in the TRONA annual report, the contract was negotiated by Mr Pryor while he was still a director of CO2 New Zealand New Zealand Management and at least involved with the NAGHL board.
The TRONA annual report outlines that an agreement with “CO2 New Zealand Limited Partnership” was entered into on 20 October 2011.

“As part of this agreement along with the subsequent Carbon Sequestration Management services agreement entered into in July 2012 and variation agreement in January 2013, the group committed capital expenditure of establishment fees of $3, 186,177 through to 2017 and ongoing annual mangment fees of $164,749 per year for 2018-2020, $198,835 per year for 2021, $87,360 per year for 2022-2031 and $70,980 per year for 2032-2062.”
In other words, Ngati Awa will pay $6.6m ($6,630,150) to CO2 New Zealand Limited Partnership over the 50-year life of the project.  As at 30 June 2013 a payment of $1,912,527 has been made, despite a memo on 17 October, 2012, from NAGHL and Trona chief executive Mrs Ratahi-Pryor to Sir Gardiner that warned of conflict of interest concerning Mr Pryor.

The memo from Mrs Ratahi-Pryor also said that there was a “get-out-jail” clause because of the conflict of interest that could be enacted before December 2012.
Obviously the TRONA board did not remove Mr Pryor nor was he reprimanded for holding back crucial information at the time of the deal. In fact he was made chairman of the Investments Committee and Mr Vercoe, who wrote the first report to signal concerns in this area, was replaced as Audit Committee chairman by Brian Tunui.

So what I really want to know in this entire murky saga is: What exactly does Ngati Awa get from the $6.6 million contract with CO2 New Zealand Ltd?
Other questions on my mind are also:

- Why did the Runanga decide to write-off $181,000 owed by Ngati Awa Development Trust and $188,000 owed by Ngati Awa Research and Archives?
- Was the decision to pay the members of the new Ngati Awa Development Trust, that now includes members from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, Ngati Awa Social and Health Services (NASH), Te Reo Irirangi o Te Manuka Tutahi and Ngat Awa Tertiary Training Organisation, to attend meetings included in the budgets?

- What do amounts do the NAGHL board members receive in fees or honorarium including the chairman and deputy chairman?
- Ngati Awa have committeed to a $6m ($6,281,000) mortgage from ANZ to pay for the Tumurau farm, which was bought last year - have any other partners been found for the 49 per cent, that NAGHL has identified that it does not want to own, apart from Rotoehu Forest Trust and Kiwinui?

- What services do Mataatua Quota ACE Holdings Ltd provide Ngat Awa?
However, do you reckon I will get to ask all of these questions at the AGM? And even if I do, do you reckon I will get any answers?

I don’t hold out much hope, so this weekend I am going determined to get an answer for one question: How is Te Runanga o Ngati Awa going to help with the fight against the proposed marina and protecting Opihi Whanaunga-Kore?
Ma te wa

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Why have a dog and bark too?


Whakatane mayor Tony Bonne is the only civic leader in the Bay of Plenty region not to publically support the full removal of the Rena from Otaiti (Astrolabe) Reef near Motiti.
He is also a heavy proponent of the proposed marina in the Whakatane (Ohinemataroa) River.

Last week Mr Bonne attended the consultation hui at Wairaka with Whakatane District Council chief executive Marty Greenfell, council business services manager and Whakamax cinemas owner Aaron Milne and a three-member support team.
The meeting was a chance for tangata whenua to hear, “kanohi ki te kanohi”, about the council’s intentions for land at Piripai and a submission from the council’s development arm to draft district plan that includes a request to rezone 60 Bunyan Road to a deferred marina area.

In a move that some believed was sneaky and underhanded, the council had delivered its submission to itself in the last week of the time allowed without seeking any consultation from any interested party except through Te Runanga o Ngati Awa.
So the hui was to explain the move.  

And the admission that Mr Bonne did not support the full removal of the Rena was a sign that conversations weren’t going to be easy.
Mr Bonne said the council had come as the “landowner” of 60 Bunyan Road and the neighbouring 77 Bunyan Road.

The two sites have been publically identified by Mr Bonne and sections of the council as a potential marina precinct.
Mr Bonne said a retirement village with a marina and retail area attached at the two sites was the only way to grow Whakatane.

“We have never been misrepresented about what council envisions on that type of land. It is really only as half way step in terms of 60 Bunyan Road and in terms of what we put in the submission and that is a deferred marina zone.”
In support of the mayor Mr Greenfell said a sale and purchase agreement made with the Whakatane Marina Society in 2008 allowed for a memorandum of understanding that would enable “marina-type activity” if the conditions allowed for it.

He said the entire proposed development was projected to net the council $14 million.
“If we don’t sell we are going to have to make some changes in the longe term plan and there will be some rate increases. I was the one who has been pushing for a retirement village and there is interest out there for a retirement village.”

The signal was clear: they want their “marine precinct” and they want it there.
Requests to create a new “deferred marina zone” as outlined in the council’s submission, which can be viewed here may mean that in the future developers may not need a resource consent to build their marina.

Now, here is the reason why Ngati Hokopu with other Ngati Awa hapu including Ngati Pukeko and Taiwhakaea agreed to this meeting.
That site, 60 Bunyan Road, is a stone’s throw from one of the Ngati Awa’s most significant sites, Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa. The site of the proposed retirement village, at 77 Bunyan Road, is on land that many still believe is part of the ancient urupa and many Ngati Awa members actively oppose any development in these areas.

One of the many tools people are using to continue the defence of our wahi tapu, has been through the district plan process.
Submissions to the draft district plan closed on 13 September and the council received more than 200 from Maori. Many opposed the development of a marina and also the residential development at 77 Bunyan Road.

The submissions can be reviewed here and the Ngati Hokopu ki Wairaka submission here.
On Thursday Mr Milne came to Wairaka marae again to meet with the Opihiwhanaungakore Trust.

The trust is the legal owner of Opihi Whanaungakore Urupa, and in the trustees’ eyes they are the kaitiaki, guardians, of that place.
Mr Milne had attended the previous meeting with Ngati Hokopu but this time he had only bought a legal advisor for support.

Again, though, his message was clear – the proposed marina was a priority for the Whakatane District Council.
Reiterating the mayor’s words Mr Milne said he spoke from the council as a landowner.

However he acknowledged the council had an obligation under the district plan process to consult including with tangata whenua.
“In order to give transparency and accountability to messages that the council divorces itself from being a statutory body.

“If the deferred marina zone as provided for any for development from there that requires the developer to go through a full resource consent consultation.”
He agreed the council had not been entirely open with tangata whenua and other related parties

“The council hasn’t been very good at this, in any type of move like this, and what the council should do, and usually does do, is get cultural impact reports.”
But Mr Milne had to admit that no cultural impact assessment had been done for 60 Bunyan Road. He could not answer who were the Ngati Awa representatives who had attended a field trip in 2006 with the Whakatane Marina Society and other parties, despite using it as an example of consultation.

Nor could he say what those representatives had said during that trip because there was no binding agreement from it.
Opihiwhanaungakore trustee Rapata Kopae was staunch in his position.

He said as a direct neighbour to the proposed marina site, the trust was the most affected party and should be considered.
“I would like to stand in front of you and tell you people that we will never go away… And that place is so tapu that you are never going to see a development over there,” he said.

So, here we are.
The answer is still no, not there, and their argument is, predictably, the economic benefits that may be derived from the development.

Therefore, while the war has been raging for more than 20 years it is not over and, again, it is going to be a long and arduous battle.
And, if we are to win and protect our ancient urupa and ancestors then we must have resources.

Now is the time for those in Te Runanga o Ngati Awa (TRONA) board to stand up and be counted. We are going to need legal, planning and financial support.
My challenge to the new TRONA board is: how are you going to help us?