Mar 25, 2011

Stop the drilling

This is reassuring. From Waatea News:

Te Whanau a Apanui has put out the call for a water-borne protest against Brazilian oil giant Petrobras's plans to prospect in the Raukumara basin.

Spokesperson Dayle Takitimu says vessels with links to the Nuclear Free Flotilla, Greenpeace, Forest and Bird, and Coromandel Watchdog are expected to be part of a flotilla leaving Auckland for Cape Runaway on Sunday in the hope of encountering Petrobras survey boats.

She says unlike some other iwi, Te Whanau a Apanui isn't interested in deals with miners.

“It's not about the money or greater ability to invest or joint venture with these companies. Whanau a Apanui just don’t want this activity occurring on our back doorstep when there is so much risk involved,” Ms Takitimu says.

Unlike some other iwi, Te Whanau a Apanui appears to be in touch with what the people want. This, in my opinion, comes down to the fact that Te Whanau a Apanui does not operate under the imposed Runanga model. Te Whanau a Apanui’s governance model shares more in common with traditional approaches rather than the typical western approach that the contemporary Runanga framework emulates. Maori customary practice, I hesitate to call it law, tends to place greater value on absolute consensus. Whereas under the contemporary Runanga framework decisions can be given effect at the whim of the majority. In some cases, I’m thinking of you Tuku Morgan, decisions can be simply imposed. Of course this is not to say that the traditional Maori approach is superior, I actually feel that the opposite is true, it is more accurate to say that the Runanga framework is flawed and some corrupt and misguided individuals are, for want of a better term, working the system.   

Some iwi, Tainui and Ngai Tahu in particular, blindly adhere to notions of economic growth. Cultural considerations are paid lip service while consultation is, for the most part, nonexistent. It appears Te Whanau a Apanui is considering cultural imperatives, e.g. kaitiakitanga, as well as the broader consideration of risk. This is a sensible, and indeed very Maori, approach that I wish other iwi would follow. Sadly, the self proclaimed iwi leaders are captured by a corporate agenda and see nothing beyond power and return.

I am very familiar with the East Coast and I feel personally connected to this issue. I feel that it is entirely understandable that the locals do not want to shoulder the considerable risk. Yes, returns will probably be substantial. But in the case of a disaster, the loss will be significantly greater than any alleged returns. Consider this from Gordon Campbell:

New Zealand has almost no capacity to cope with the impact of a major oil spill, or any adequate and enforceable means of compensation. Given the degree of uncertainty, do we have any way of telling whether the returns will justify the risk.

Putting aside local opposition, the government should be looking at implementing mechanisms to cope with a worst case scenario, as opposed to diving in head first.  
As far as I am aware the government has not consulted local iwi with regard to the exact nature and extent of activities occurring off their coast, the possible returns they may receive and the risks oil exploration, and consequently extraction of course, would pose. This isn’t good enough, but what we have come to expect from National.  

As usual the Maori Party is nowhere to be seen on this issue. Why? Because there is a clash between the flaxroot and the good little indigenous corporates. The Maori Party cannot be seen to be taking sides. Hone is siding with the flaxroot. If the Maori Party were to follow suit then that is an acknowledgment that Hone is right. Furthermore, the self proclaimed iwi leaders, as I have pointed out numerous times, exercise an enormous amount of control over the policy development and the day to day direction the party takes.

I will try and keep on top of this issue and I will blog if there are any developments. This is a big issue and as such it requires a big discussion. Pity we didn’t get one though.  


  1. Kia ora Morgan,
    I am in full agreement with your views on the oil prospecting in the Raukumara basin. Your views on corporate iwi and so-called self-styled iwi leaders are on the money too.
    Recommend taking a look at the Bruce Jesson Foundation website - download a copy of Annette Sykes address last year on the issue of "iwi leaders" and corporate iwi etc.
    It was good to see you on the hikoi.
    Ka mau te wehi!

  2. Kia ora Iri,

    I've actually blogged on Annettes speech here:

    If you're interested, I've done a few other posts on the self proclaimed iwi leaders here too:

  3. Flaxroot considerations of kaitiakitanga notwithstanding, where is the sense of ridiculing some iwi for engaging in capitalist ventures of one sort or another when we are - for better or for worse - a capitalist nation?

    But the thing that pisses me off with comments like yours is that it creates this false impression that indigenous peoples are this placid, docile lot whose purpose is to live out some kind of Last of the Mohican's life on the edges of society but who should not participate equally in the economic development of that society.

    I mean, at one time Maori were the largest contributors of tax revenues; we controlled much of the local shipping; had export ventures in timber and local produce; supplied fresh produce to local markets; we had the first dairy farm in NZ and were instrumental in NZ's first postal service.

    It's not like Maori were adverse to a little economic growth. And why not?

    I think we could probably agree that the historical downstream effects of colonisation in NZ resulted in Maori being denied the economic basis to participate in NZ's economy.

    Imperialism has always sought to deny indigenous peoples a secure economic base because with economic self sufficiency comes political influence.

    But even with the numeric advantage Pakeha established over Maori during the late 1850's, Maori could still have weilded some political influence if Maori had been able to retain and develop Maori business, a Maori farming sector.

    Maori need a corporate presence.

  4. You have misinterpreted and misrepresented my position. What I am trying to convey is the notion that profit motive SHOULD NOT be the singular driver of Maori business. Of course, that it is not to say Maori should not strive to profit. Quite the opposite in fact. Rather Maori organisations should consider the wider context in which their actions take place. Maori should approach economic growth taking into account Te Ao Maori. For example when it becomes a question of kaitiakitanga or exploitation of the whenua our Maori values should inform our decision.

    Of course Maori need an economic base. But Maori do not need to act like filthy corporate scum to get one. It is not a choice between growth and culture. We can have both. Most Maori corporates seem to want the former though.

    Maori can participate equally. But we do can do so on our own terms. We do not need to adopt the toxic neoliberal agaenda that pervades the pathetic business class in this country.

  5. Actually, I'm not intentionally trying to misrepresent your position. I think my comments are more generic with regard to the Pakeha interpretation of kaitiakitanga than with the specifics of your post.

    My general issue with the notion of kaitiakitanga as it may be understood in main street is that it creates an unrealistic expectation that it is natural and normal for Pakeha to engage commercial activity whereas Maori are expected to play this passive caretaker role that Pakeha do not respect or take seriously.

    You say that this doesn't have to be a mutually exclusive choice between growth and culture. I agree - but I didn't get that so much from your initial post.

    I'm not sure I'm convinced that Ngai Tahu "...blindly adhere to notions of economic growth..."

    The similarities to the Native American situation here in the US is quite striking. For example, those Indian nations who were forced onto unproductive and uneconomic lands sought to use what capital they had at their disposal to venture into the gambling industry were also subject to similar claims of chasing the dollar at the expense of their people and culture.

    A similarity I can think of when compared to Ngai Tahu is the fact that Ngai Tahu were left virtually landless. In the absence of a sufficient land base from which to derive revenue streams Ngai Tahu - it could be argued - have been forced to exploit alternative forms of capital acquired as a result of Treaty settlements.

    To say that iwi are acting " filthy corporate scum..." is not fair. Treaty settlements amount to mere cents on the dollar, and so if iwi are going to survive and be able to provide for our people in the absence of sufficient alternative resources then we need to reconsider this passive post-card friendly cliche of Maori "caretakers" and be prepared to put our capital to work.

    I'm saying this means we should drill or that Te Whanau a Apanui are wrong, but I do not accept that iwi should be vilified as "corporate scum" either.

  6. You raise interesting points.

    I do not think kaitiakitanga creates unrealistic expectations. Maori operate and, for the most part, engage entirely within a Pakeha system. However, the way Maori operate within that system is informed by our cultural notions e.g. kaitiakitanga. There is not an expectation that Maori will withhold from commercial activity, rather in the case of conflict cultural imperatives will inform our decisions. For instance, many iwi have the option of mining their land. However, mining is anathema to Maori values. Yet on the other hand mining may provide economic stimulus. The choice then becomes growth (a western concept) or papatuanuku (a Maori concept). This is an oversimplification, but I think it illustrates the point I am trying to make.

    The Ngai Tahu Holdings slavishly adheres to the notion of economic growth. They even sold their ancestral land to some foreigner for a quick buck. Btw Ngai Tahu is now the most significant land owner in the South Island with a fairly diverse portfolio.

    I am aware of the fact that treaty settlements were pathetic and represented a mere fraction of what was lost. With the capital we do have, we do not need to utilise it in environmentally and socially damaging industries. A bit of imagination and forward thinking would go a long way. Iwi are operating as if it is the 1980’s. The world has changed and the global economy is moving in a different direction.



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