Closeup ran an interesting story on Wednesday night around the use of treaty settlement money. The show invited John Tamihere, as CEO of the Waipareira Trust, and Tuku Morgan, as Chair of Te Arataura, to discuss whether or not Iwi are using their settlement funds appropriately. The gist of John Tamihere’s argument was that more money should be directed towards the people and, as a consequence, preventing Maori entering the health system, the prison system and so on. Tamihere would rather see money directed towards social services as opposed to “buying assets”. Tuku Morgan, on the other hand, thinks Iwi do not have the economies of scale to make a major difference. Tuku also pointed to the fact that Iwi investment in, for example, the Te Awa mall in Hamilton is creating employment for Maori.
I agree with both men here. It is not the role of Iwi to stand in place of government. The provision of social services is, first and foremost, the role of government. Having said that, there are cultural obligations on the part of Iwi to help their people, think whanaungatanga. Rather than have Iwi use their own capital to invest in the provision of social services, I would like to see more Iwi pursue government contracts. This is a plausible avenue given the implementation of Whanau Ora.
The primary role of settlement money should be to level the playing field. Iwi should, and are, using settlement money to increase Maori economic power and, as a result, Maori political power. Iwi are attempting to move into a position where they cannot be ignored. Hence Tainui’s interest in strategic assets (e.g. Auckland Airport, electricity companies and Air New Zealand).
I think this is a debate that needs to occur. Are Iwi fixated with growth at the expense of ordinary Maori or is growth a means to an end?