In a disappointing episode last night the new Auckland council voted to slash funding for the Maori Statutory Board (MSB) from $3.4m to $1.9m. This may have serious repercussions in terms of the boards’ ability to operate effectively and fulfil its statutory obligations. Surprisingly, for the first time ever, I found myself agreeing with something said over at roarprawn;
Maori acted in good faith with the Council administration to decide on a budget that they believed fitted their needs.
That they managed to secure themselves the equivalent of a Rolls Royce, when all they needed was a Toyota Camry, says quite a bit about their financial and negotiation skills.
This is true. It really is a kick in the face for the MSB after having negotiated skilfully and in good conscience. Understandably David Taipari, the head of the MSB, is seeking a declaratory judgement to determine whether council has the power to refuse a reasonable funding request. He believes;
“If our proposed costs are reasonable, the council has no discretion about meeting those costs, so tonight's council decision is probably in breach of the law”.
Apparently Taipari engaged an independent consultant and worked alongside council officers in an attempt to formulate a reasonable budget. The $3.4m figure was the result of that collaboration. For the council to then turn around and slash that figure, a figure which came about with the help of council officials and was subsequently approved by the finance committee, seems utterly unjust and smacks of political point scoring. Hopefully the judge finds that the council is obliged to meet the reasonable funding request of the MSB. This issue is not going to go away unless the boards requests are met.