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Sludge #62: Tino-Rangitiratanga = Maori Rates

NOTE: Authors of this report will be anonymous and wide ranging, and occasionally finely balanced. Indeed you are invited to contribute: The format is as a reporters notebook. It will be published as and when material is available. C.D. Sludge can be contacted at sludge@scoop.co.nz. The Sludge Report is available as a free email service..Click HERE - http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/myscoop/ to subscribe...

Sludge Report #62

Tino-Rangitiratanga = Maori Rates

Sludge has long been a critic of the Treaty Settlement programme. Not because it is “separatist” or “racist” as critics from the right currently damning moves in the Bay of Plenty to establish Maori council seats would assert, but because it is fundamentally mean spirited, and because ultimately it will fail.

Why? Because it does not address the true spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi. And because it is not a process based in the spirit of partnership embodied in the Treaty – though the Ngai Tahu agreement, with its statutory adoption of Maori mythology, arguably comes close to achieving something of what is needed.

Rather the Treaty Settlement process in its current configuration is derived directly from the Pakeha legal system. It hails from the idea that monetary compensation can somehow redress a century and a half of theft. As if the real issue is money.

So what should be done instead? I can hear the naysayers ask.

Sludge reckons that Maori council seats as envisaged for the Bay of Plenty are a step in the right direction. But only a first step.

What is really needed to bring the Treaty of Waitangi to life in Sludge’s opinion, is Maori rates.

Maori rates could be levied – as ordinary rates are – on all land.

Within each local authority area there would also be a Maori local authority responsible for levying and administering these rates. These “Maori authorities” would be elected by those living in the area on the Maori roll.

The details of how this would work need a considerable amount of work, but Sludge will have a crack to start the ball rolling.

In Sludge’s formulation Maori Authorities would be responsible within their rohe for a percentage of the ordinary business of local authorities, i.e. roads etc. Afterall Maori use roads and sewers too.

Maori Authorities would also have statutory responsibilities in areas such as planning and resource management, and their role in these areas would be financed out of their rates.

There would no doubt have to be some rules on how much income could be rated by the Maori Authority, but that could be dealt with too, perhaps based around the size of the Maori roll in the given authority area as compared to the general roll.

Maori rates would also be used to fund the upkeep of Marae’s etc, which would, under such a formulation, become in effect part of the establishment. In the process the partnership role of Iwi in the governance of New Zealand would be clearly recognised.

For the avoidance of doubt Maori rates would not be used to line the pockets personally of the local Iwi, just as ordinary rates cannot be used for that purpose at present. But just as local authorities can set up business assistance schemes, so could the Maori Authorities.

Most probably in general areas, Maori Rates would be combined with ordinary rates to provide services such as libraries, rubbish collection etc. It is true that this would require lots of goodwill and consensus politics, but surely that would be a good thing anyway, and isn’t that what “partnership” as envisaged in the Treaty is all about.

The main difference between present consultation based systems which try to follow the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi in these matters, is that it would no longer be a matter of lip service being paid to the Treaty. Real authority and power would be wielded by the Maori Authority by virtue of its power to tax and make law, albeit only bylaw.

While this may seem to some a rather drastic solution to the Treaty Settlement issue, Sludge thinks the great virtue of such a plan is that it would achieve what was negotiated in the Treaty of Waitangi, that is a genuine partnership, with genuine power sharing. With Mana restored to the Tangata Whenua we might then be able to finally get on with building the nation.

This is not to say that what has been achieved so far has not been a huge advance. It has, and Sir Robert Mahuta, Sir Tipene O’Regan and Sir Douglas Graham, deserve a great deal of credit they have received.

However what has come before is not, in Sludge’s view anyway, the way forward. And the next part of this column explains why.

In parts of the country, thanks to considerable skill of those involved, the Treaty Settlement Process has worked in part.

In the Waikato a strong tribal organisation, centered on Kingitanga, was capable of receiving the mantle that Sir Robert Mahuta passed on. Meanwhile in the South Island Sir Tipene O’Regan negotiated a hard bargain, and has achieved at least partial “tinorangitiratanga” within his rohe in the form of a role in resource planning issues.

But even in the Waikato and in Te Wai Pounamu there remain some very serious problems. For a start not everyone is included. Maori who live outside their traditional tribal areas, but within the settlement areas – e.g. urban authorities - remain essentially out in the cold.

Meanwhile commercial tribal structures in the Tainui have recently learned some lessons the hard way.

And in the process it has become far clearer how far the $170 million settlement funds are capable of being spread – and that is, it seems, not that far. In addition the future of aspects of the settlement process, the Waikato River for example, remain up in the air. Like so many parts of the existing settlement arrangements, there are loose ends everywhere.

According to the Tainui Deed of Settlement, river related issues were put aside for negotiation in the future. How will these issues ultimately be settled? The truth is noone really knows, ultimately some sort of power sharing relationship seems likely – perhaps not unlike that proposed above, perhaps with river usage fees being paid to a Maori river management authority.

However the real shortcomings of the current Treaty Settlement process are found not where settlements have been achieved – but where they haven’t.

Taranaki perhaps best illustrates the problem.

Unlike the Waikato, where there was a fairly large chunk of ex-military and crown forest land, and where there was a coherent unified tribal structure to receive a settlement, in the Taranaki there is almost no crown land suitable for use in a settlement, and no unified tribal structure.

There is the mountain itself, but according to Doug Graham’s policy guidelines, DOC land cannot be used for settlements. And in any event the mountain is more a commercial liability than an asset.

Then there are leased lands where the lessor’s interest is held by the “tribal” PKW trust. But thanks to a long history of injustice these are not owned by anywhere near all the people with whom a settlement must be reached.

In addition these interests are mainly owned by people whose tribes come from areas outside the areas where the land is located.

Not surprisingly, as a result of all these obstacles, the settlement process in the Taranaki is turning into a legal minefield for the government. Just who has a mandate for where and for whom are not questions easily answered.

Nevertheless the Office Of Treaty Settlements is battling on and has been making some progress. Ultimately, however whatever is achieved will not be satisfactory. And even if substantial cash settlements with tribal authorities claiming a mandate manage to keep the peace for a decade or two, the sense of grievance and the long term problems will remain.

Anti©opyright Sludge 2001

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