Oct 18, 2011

Invoking the relativity clause

The Treaty settlement process is moving along nicely under Chris Finlayson (and was moving well under Michael Cullen too). The total value of all Treaty settlements to date exceeds $1 billion – or by my estimation at least. This is hardly a revelation, but consider this:

As part of their settlement agreements Ngai Tahu and Tainui have a relativity clause. A relativity clause is a “special top up mechanism” designed to ensure Ngai Tahu and Tainui maintain their high position relative to other Iwi. The relativity clause comes into effect when the sum total of treaty settlements exceeds $1 billion in 1994 dollars (the clause has effect from 1994 to 2044).

Unfortunately, I can’t find the text for the full Ngai Tahu and Tainui settlement agreements, but it is my understanding that Ngai Tahu and Tainui can invoke the relativity clause and that gives them the right to return to the negotiating table. I believe they can only negotiate a top up cash payment as opposed to the return of more land, management agreements or anything else.

An extra payout will have interesting political consequences. Many New Zealanders will be baffled that the already rich, and that is a subjective term, Ngai Tahu and Tainui can double dip. Non-Maori New Zealanders will ask aren’t settlements meant to be full and final. What I’m getting at is that a redneck backlash will occur. Maoris this Maoris that sort of stuff. The sort of stuff that will give the Tories, and the Labour Party too, the shivers.

No government wants to be perceived to be pandering to Maori. As a result the government has engaged in some creative accounting in an effort to avoid exceeding $1 billion and, consequently, avoid reopening a political can of worms. However, the government, no matter how they twist it, cannot avoid exceeding the very low threshold that is $1 billion – especially with the looming and large Nga Puhi and Tuhoe settlements.

I hope the Ngai Tahu and Tainui return to the negotiating table soon. Both Iwi accepted paltry sums ($170m), then again they couldn’t be expected to squeeze out much more in the circumstances. Hopefully a top up payment gives the two Iwi the financial power they need to form the buying consortium that Tuku Morgan is pushing. Tuku is looking to form a sort of Maori conglomerate in response to assets sales. The plan is that Iwi will combine their purchasing power in an effort to acquire sizable chunks of New Zealand’s strategic resources. I must admit, this is one of Tuku’s better ideas (not saying I agree with asset sales because I don’t). Ngai Tahu will also need a cash injection if they want to play a lead role as a private investor in the Christchurch rebuild.

The rise and rise of Iwi is inevitable. Tainui and Ngai Tahu are already the economic powerhouses of their regions (Waikato and the South Island respectively) it is only a matter of time before Iwi like Nga Puhi, Tuhoe and Ngati Porou become the driving forces behind their regional economies. Makes you wonder when all Maori will benefit from the strength of Iwi. 


  1. Kia ora Morgan,

    Agree and interestingly the ODT couldn't get a figure.



    I did get a nice graphic from TRONT.

  2. "What I’m getting at is that a redneck backlash will occur."

    Already happening in some quarters - quite some time ago one of the Dominion Post's columnists was complaining about the prospect of 'top-ups', with the usual feigned ignorance of "why didn't we hear about this when the deals were made".

    Far as I recall, the clause was clearly spelled out at the time, on the front page of the Dominion Post, amongst other places. But maybe columnists don't read the papers.


    Sam Buchanan

  3. Oh joy - more money for the elite. Let's be happy for them.

  4. If Tainui is clever they won't let Tuku Morgan touch that clause, or they can kiss their future goodbye. Tuku Morgan is a crook, and his personal lust for power and empire building with the people's money is gone. More than that he does not have an honest bone in his old and ugly body. Tainui should kick his sorry ass to the curb. That bloody clause belongs to Tainui's future not their past. Tuku Morgan is pig of the past.

  5. What would a future Aotearoa/NZ look like with the projected rise of iwi corporations and the increasing decline of the NZ economy?

  6. "Makes you wonder when all Maori will benefit from the strength of Iwi"

    When the iwi stop bowing to colonial govt pressure to structure themselves and act like every other nasty greedy corporation?

    As a Tuuhoe I hope we don't have to go straight from the struggle against the crown to a struggle against a capitalist takeover over the 'iwi'. 'Economic Powerhouse'in that western capitalist mode is def not my vision of Mana Motuhake o Tuuhoe.

  7. Can't get anywhere without a handout can you.
    Redneck? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
    Just a term you use for anyone who opposes you being given wealth and power on the basis of your ancestry ie. anyone who opposes maori racism.

  8. @Anonymous The settler/colonial history place rednecks on a boat and sent them to Aoteroa. They were rednecks of the lowest varieties. If these lower class colonials stayed in Britain they would've surely been exterminated during the industrial revolution. But they were saved by coming here and being given handouts of stolen land. The stolen wealth, power and privilege set whites up for generations. Be grateful.



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