Apr 11, 2012

Kawerau, Tuhoe, the relativity clause and Te Arataura

I’m back to semi-regular blogging this week. I’ve had a few things on my plate that have pushed blogging back. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few things I’ve missed.


Ths Sunday Star Times (SST) has crowned Kawerau the beneficiary capital of New Zealand. Of the 6940 residents, 1324 are on a benefit. In other words, an unhealthy 19% of the town receive a benefit. In 2010 Simon Collins christened Kawerau the DPB capital of New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the SST quoted Mayor Malcolm Campbell. Any decent Mayor would acknowledge the problems the town faces and formulate solutions, but not Mayor Malcolm Campbell. Instead, Campbell offered an excuse and then a falsehood. Firstly, he claimed that beneficiaries are “staying put” which seems to imply he thinks that numbers are artificially high. The problem has nothing to do with the inflow and outflow of beneficiaries, the problem is intergenerational unemployment and, who would think, a lack of jobs.

The Mayor continued claiming that there is “huge employment here”. This is, at best, a half-truth. The main employer is the Kawerau Mill, and the Mayor is right in saying most mill employees live outside of Kawerau. However, the number of jobs at the mill continues to fall (a trend that begun in the 80’s) and the jobs that do exist are skilled. There are few job openings as most mill workers tend to stay put, sometimes for decades. Put simply, there aren’t any jobs due. The forestry industry, probably the second largest employer in the town, is in decline as well.

The Mayor’s solution is to create an “exclusion zone”. In other words, the Mayor would like MSD to prevent beneficiaries from moving to Kawerau. I oppose this idea in principle. However, brushing aside principle, for public policy reasons it’s a sensible idea. I understand that the Mayor probably doesn’t want to increase the rate of ghettoisation of the town. Nevertheless, rather than invent ways to keep beneficiaries out, the Mayor should focus on inventing ways to get beneficiaries into jobs.


Tuhoe is Te Urewera, Te Urewera is Tuhoe: Tamiti Kruger, the tribes lead negotiator, is confident Tuhoe and the Crown can finalise a settlement package that includes the ownership, or worst case scenario management, over the Ureweras. Inclusion of the Ureweras is the only acceptable outcome for the tribe.

The point I want to make, however, is that the Urewera issue is, for want of a better term, a secondary one. Some form of self-governance, kawangatanga if you will, is the issue with the most significant consequences.

I’m in favour of transferring local government functions and powers to the iwi. Think the Urewera District Council. The Council would come under the Local Government Act. The iwi could also run their own charter schools. Over time more functions and power could be devolved.

The chances of the Crown creating an Urewera District Council, or a similar body, are moderate. Political push back from the National Party’s supporters would, I imagine, be significant (“first step on the slippery slope to separatism blah blah blah”). However, it makes sense to separate the Urewera region from the Whakatane District Council (WDC).

The Urewera region is a separate and disparate community of interest. Whakatane and the Urewera region share very little in common – not even tribal links (Whakatane is Ngati Awa and the Ureweras is Tuhoe). Whakatane and Ohope, the major centres in the district, are largely Pakeha and urban. The Ureweras are largely Maori and rural. Whakatane and Ohope are concentrated whereas the Urewera region is dispersed. Given this difference in character, most notably the fact that Whakatane is Pakeha and the Ureweras is Maori, the Council ignores the Urewera region. For example, roads and sewerage systems are not adequately maintained, there is no rubbish collection and library services and other social services are non-existent.

The case for creating a Council is, I think, strong. After all, the Urewera region is wholly disconnected in terms of location, character and need to the Whakatane region. For those of you that know the area, you only need to compare Ohope and Taneatua to get the picture.

The consequences for Maori will, I think, be minor. Tuhoe is in a unique position. There is a precedent for self-governing arrangements and, arguably, Tuhoe have enjoyed unbroken rangatiratanga over their lands.

Self-governance arrangements could not be extended to, for example, Nga Puhi without significant push-back from non-Maori New Zealanders. New Zealanders really do fear “separatism” and many naively want for us all to be “one people”.

Tuhoe and the Crown have given themselves until the end of the year to flesh out an agreement.


The Herald has caught up with the relativity clause story with Yvonne Tahana running two pieces.

In a sense, the relativity clause plays against New Zealander’s sense of fairness, our famed egalitarianism in other words. The relativity clause looks like double dipping, no doubt about that, but it’s merely a mechanism to ensure Tainui and Ngai Tahu maintain their position relative to other iwi. The two tribes took a gamble when they settled early and the relativity clause was a means of inducing early settlement and ensuring that, should future settlements prove more fruitful, that Tainui and Ngai Tahu are kept on equal footing.

Of the parties in Parliament, Act and New Zealand First are the only parties in a position to make hay out of the issue. National cannot attack the deal, after all the clause will be triggered under their watch and it was the previous National government that negotiated the clause. For credibility’s sake, their hands are tied. Some in Labour will be tempted to attack the clause, but the party’s Maori caucus wouldn’t stand for it. The Greens know better and would not want to be seen to be opposed to treaty settlements.


Tuku Morgan has decided against seeking re-election to Te Arataura. Although Tuku secured a co-management deal over the Waikato river and presided over Tainui's rise to the position of 'richest' iwi, he also presided over a period of internal instability, profligacy and a decrease in the distribution of benefits to tribal members. Tom Roa, former chair of Te Kauhanganui, and Hemi Rau, who Tuku fired in 2010, are the chair and deputy chair respectively. Both, I believe, bring valuable experience in tribal politics and management.


Joshua Hitchcock has floated the idea of an independent Maori Policy Unit. A sort of Maori law commission. I’m in favour and would love to contribute. Over the next week I’ll be giving the idea some thought, you can do so too. Here’s the link to Joshua’s post on the topic where he invites public discussion.


  1. Forgive my ignorance, but what is the benefit of keeping Tainui and Ngai Tahui's position relative to other iwi? Does it not sort of reinforce a hierarchy of iwi? It seems to me (who has pretty much no knowledge on the subject at all) that that could create certain problems.

  2. Hi Jared,

    The Crown's under an obligation to maintain balance between iwi i.e. the Crown cannot give an advantage to one or more iwi over others (this comes under the active protection principle).

    The thinking behind the relativity clause was that if future settlements exceeded the fiscal cap then that would give those iwi who settled in the future an unfair advantage over Tainui/Ngai Tahu.

    Tainui/Ngai Tahu wanted to maintain their position relative to other iwi. As two of the most populous iwi, Tainui/Ngai Tahu have always been traditionally more powerful than, say, Ngati Awa which is far smaller and the value of their settlement reflected that.

    I agree that an iwi hierarchy will create problems. I'm not sure the relativity clause will go very far in entrenching that hierarchy though.

  3. It really depends on whether the Iwi's relative power/prominence is based on demographics or on something else. It's pretty much inevitable that Ngai Tahu and Tainui are going to be wealthier and more powerful than Ngati Awa based purely on demographics outside of the very long term. The concern is that an iwi might enjoy a position of prominence based not on demographics but on the strength of its relationship to the government. The relativity clause is presumably intended to prevent this by keeping the relationship open and subject to scrutiny by other iwi.

    Getting to the Urawera thing, Morgan, I'm not quite sure what you're proposing / speculating on. As you say there's a strong argument for the existence of an Urawera District Council, but are you suggesting that that Council should be governed by the Tuhoe Iwi?

    Obviously if the Council was created Tuhoe would work very closely with it and Tuhoe members would probably be predominant in both its elected and non-elected arms. But it seems to me that giving the Iwi direct control of the Council would be potentially very problematic, if only because it would disenfranchise non-Tuhoe people living under the Council.

  4. In the case of Tainui/Ngai Tahu, their power is based primarily on demographics. However, both suffered grievances on a large scale and this was reflected in their settlement too. Te Arawa, who in comparison suffered less but are similar in terms of population, will not enjoy an equally large settlement given their grievances are smaller in comparison to most other iwi.

    There is ambiguity in the Tuhoe section, sorry. I'd advocate for an elected council, anything less would be repugnant to New Zealand values and arguably Maori values. Of course, in practice the council would, more likely than not, be exclusively Tuhoe and the council apparatus would be too.

  5. Right, I thought that was probably what you meant and what Tuhoe are asking for, but it's nice to have clarification. I agree that it sounds like a good idea. Usually I'm agnostic about the precise setting of council boundaries, there's rarely an arrangement which pleases anybody and it's always possible to claim that boundaries don't reflect geography unless we have lots of tiny micro-councils. But to resolve such a long-running dispute it seems like a pretty reasonable concession.

    My understanding is that the major stumbling block is the Urewera National Park, and that the Tuhoe feel that it has to be part of any settlement but that current laws require National Parks to be managed by the Department of Conservation, not local government bodies. So wouldn't this still be an issue? Or have Tuhoe changed their minds on this?

  6. Apparently the return of the Urewera National Park is the "big" issue, but I don't think it has much relevance beyond Tuhoe and a small number of hunters, trampers, campers and so on. Some form of self-governance, however, would have significant consequences. Having said that, I don't know if self government is still on the table. TV3 alluded to the fact that it was in 2010 I think it was, but things have been quiet since then. But yes, the Ureweras were the major stumbling block. John Key took it off the table, but now negotiations have resumed which seems to imply it's back on the table (return of the Ureweras was a bottom line remembering).

  7. It will be very interesting to see what happens with the Urewera Park. While the Park itself may not be of much significance to those who generally use it, I think this has the potential to set a precedent for the general government philosophy towards National Parks. They were created based on the presumption that they were too critical and special to be handled by anybody other than a dedicated central government agency of professional bureaucrats, rather than local government bodies lacking specialised knowlege.

    Apart from anything else, if Tuhoe are given some kind of effectual control (as opposed to symbolic ownership) of the Ureweras I could see many other iwi who have already concluded settlements to ask for the same thing. I remember way back in the 1990s the Ngai Tahu settlement involved their being given Aoraki and then immediately giving it back to the government. If Tuhoe are not happy with this, I could see Ngai Tahu wanting to reopen the issue. And I'm sure they wouldn't be the only issue with a similar claim.

  8. Yeah, I imagine the government would shut the door on any iwi who have already settled citing the "full and final" aspect of treaty settlements (relativity clause aside as that was part of the original deal). However, a return could set a precedent for iwi who will settle after Tuhoe. For example, a return of the Egmont National Park could be demanded by Taranaki iwi.

    I suspect a deal would involve the Crown returning the park, Tuhoe then gifting the park back and in return the Crown would give Tuhoe management rights. This seems too weak, though. I imagine Tuhoe would demand more given their strong belief in their rangatiratanga. From the government's perspective, however, this could be the only acceptable outcome.

  9. I am pretty sure that back in 2010 Tuhoe specifically rejected the ceremonial re-gifting idea, so it's kind of hard to imagine them accepting it now without some major trade-off.

    And, well, isn't the relativity clause designed for exactly this situation? I am very, very far from an expert in treaty law but to me it seems like Ngai Tahu re-opening the Aoraki issue on that basis if Tuhoe were given some level of control of Urewera Park would be fair enough.

    (Apologies for my former mispellings of Urewera, btw)

  10. I wasn't aware of Tuhoe rejecting that idea. I suppose it didn't go far enough.

    I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at in the second p?

  11. What I'm saying is there seems to be a conflict between the full and final aspect of treaty settlements and the relativity clause. I'm sure Ngai Tahu would like to have some control over the Aoraki National Park but conceded to the government's claim that central control of National Parks was something they couldn't compromise on. The question is, if Tuhoe got some control over Urewera, and it turned out that control of National Parks was something the government would compromise on, would the relativity clause allow Ngai Tahu to re-open the issue, or would the full and final dimension prevent it?



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