Jun 25, 2012

Merging the Maori Council

It’s commonly accepted that the New Zealand Maori Council is redundant. With the rise of the Maori Party, the Mana Party and the Iwi Leaders Group, the Maori Council find their position threatened.

For consultation purposes, the government prefers to deal with the Iwi Leaders Group. The government prefers to deal with an organisation that’s ideologically sympathetic. I think it's fair to describe the iwi leaders as neoliberal. For example, they support asset sales, PPPs and so on. However, what cements the Iwi Leaders Group as the advocacy and consultation group of choice is money.

The Iwi Leaders Group are a multi-billion dollar collective. The Maori Council, however, is anchored by an Act of Parliament and an act that is due to be reformed or, quite possibly, wiped off the statute books. The Iwi leaders are secure. On the other hand, the Maori Council is subject to the whims of the government of the day.

In my opinion, the Maori Council still have an important role. The Iwi Leaders Group largely represents the commercial interests of iwi, with some notable exceptions, whereas the Maori Council’s focus is more broad. It is, after all, the Maori Council who are lodging the water claim. In contrast the iwi leaders are engaging in backroom dealing in an attempt to secure a political solution. The iwi leaders are taking a pragmatic approach, arguably the best approach, but I prefer the Maori Council’s approach. Before engaging in deals, I’d prefer to know the legal position. Then again, an adverse finding undermines your bargaining power. The threat of legal action is persuasive, but neutralised when the Court has or will find against you.

Perhaps the water claim issue illustrates the need for the Maori Council and the Iwi Leaders Group to merge. Both sides are taking opposite approaches and, in the process, undermining each other. The Iwi leaders already perform many of the Maori Council’s functions, only with economic leverage and political connections that an Act of Parliament can’t give. Surely the only option, or the most sensible option at least, is to merge.

On a slightly different note, there are claims that the revival of the Maori Council is merely a power play on behalf of Donna Hall and Sir Eddie Durie, the co-chair and Hall’s partner, and a useful vehicle for other Maori power players, for example Rahui Katene. I don’t put much stock in this. I rate the integrity of Sir Eddie Durie too highly.

Ultimately, I think a merger has to be on the cards. The Maori Party, Mana Party and the Iwi leaders perform what the Maori Council once did, only more effectively. There isn’t any space for the Maori Council.


  1. Aside from the statutory basis of the MC, is there a parallel with the recent merger of the Business Roundtable and the NZ Institute? After the BRT's Labour years doldrums the change of government in 2008 didn't bring an upswing in influence despite a theoretically more favourable political environment, so they changed tack.

  2. Well, the Maori Council has always been a favourite of previous National governments. With that in mind it must gall them to see the Iwi Leaders Group become the vehicle of choice for this National government.

    At the moment the MC and ILG are taking a competitive approach rather than collaborative one. I think a merger at this point is unlikely, but maybe inevitable in the long run.

  3. Merger is not likely nor really desirable. The 2 groups have very different drivers. ILF is run by a group of leaders looking to take on leadership in the new era. The Maori Council is Sir Eddie's comfort zone (law focus) so he will maximise it. He is, I think, surrounded by others with more self-interest than his own honourable intent; and the Council is not really the voice of Maori. They have been so ineffectual in a number of ways that their ineffectiveness over-shadows their successes. The ILF is likely to be the emerging vehicle of the voice of pan-Maori interests. The AFFCO strike shows promise on the horizon of how the ILF are maturing in leadership.

  4. does the Maori Council select itself, or does it have elections? what role do you see for the Maori Council playing, starting litigation on high-profile issues?

  5. The Maori Council consists of regional branches and each branch votes for members to sit on the New Zealand Maori Council. Or at least that was how I was told it works. Their website gives no info so I'd have to look at the legislation to be sure.

    I tend to think the Maori Council is becoming increasingly irrelevant on political issues. However, with the election of Eddie Durie I think the Council might come to play an important legal role.

  6. Both the ILF and MC are soooo redundant. Hapu are the only Treaty Partners.

  7. imagine if all of the maori factions merged...

  8. No merge is necessary perhaps a coming together of the Maori groups is, Iwi Chairs (ahem NOT leaders) dont always represent their people openly enough, this is the dilemma, some of them are deemed to be untrustworthy, should you ask the collectives they say they represent then back door deals is not what alot of them registered for, not when the water issue is of importance to the heritage of this country and to Maori whakapapa. The ability for govt to liase with an iwi representation and deem that surfice is concious ignorance. Maori self autonomy and governance is the first step to the coming together of these groups, once they are together and only then will we see traction for Maori.

  9. The NZMC can be a highly effective body, especially for Maori and maori community organisations not currently well represented by the ILG. I can vouch that the hui and level of information shared at our hui at a committe, District Council and National level is significant and higly relevant ie Community Law Centres, Maori Housing Issues, Tertiary Education and the Spectrum. There are many examples of significant issues that will impact all Maori that the ILG may not be able to canvas or even respond to as it maybe beyond their tribal boundaries. We must also consider the massive tracts of our people who are urbanised and again do not have ready access to advocates and supports beyond Maori Health And Social Service Providers. There is a significant revival of Maori committees and they are becoming more involved in supporting the growth and development of Maori wardens and supporting our marae at the ground level. They in no way supercede the mana and rangatiratanga of whanau, hapu and iwi merely can act as an information and support conduit to these structures. On a practical note, yes there are well known personalitiesn inside of NZMC but it is the kuia and kaumatua and community kaimahi on the ground that actually makes the NZMC tick and I have found it a huge relief that we can access a powerhouse of advocates to request that
    the Govt upholds and resources the NZMC most
    importantly the Councils and District Councils to do the
    work of Maori Community Devt. And we need an
    independed Maori voice with a particular focus on Maori
    Policy in this country. Truth is Iwi cannot do it on their own and neither can the NZMC but if you were to merge the voices it can be hugely powerful. You also have to
    consider the many disparate maori organisations out there, national maori students associations, national
    maori housing organisations such as Te Matapihi, National maori nurses and maori doctors, education and
    union groups, all whom could easily fit under the umbrella of the NZMC and then feed their information to
    the iLGs who can then feed this through to whanau, hapu and marae.

    There is a groundswell of developments taking place and it would be in our best interests not to write off this organisatuon and what they are doing as I am excited and enthused about what is taking place.



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