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Maori and Local Governments relationship

27 July 2004

The relationship between Maori and local government

Hon John Tamihere Speech to Local Government New Zealand Conference, Aotea Centre, Auckland, Tuesday, July 27,

I am very pleased to be here today to be a part of this conference and exploring its theme, Designing the 21st Century.

There is a very real need for us to pause and think about the future and what it holds, what factors will be shaping it and what we can set in train now.

First I want to share with you a few key facts: According to Statistics NZ projections, by 2021 the Mâori population will have grown from one in seven New Zealanders tp one in five New Zealanders. The Mâori population is youthful. Where now a large part of our population is under 20, over the next couple of decades that group will be moving into the middle-aged bracket. The Mâori population is overwhelmingly urban, with more than 80% of Mâori living in urban centres. A quarter of Mâori live in Auckland.

The Mâori population is becoming wealthier and more educated. As Minister of Statistics I see a lot of facts and figures, but I saw one the other day that was very interesting. That was the fact that in 2001 there were 12 Mâori males between 15 and 19 who earned between $70,000 and $100,000, and 48 Mâori aged 15-19 who were earning over $100,000. Perhaps some of these young men could be introduced to my 18-year-old daughter.

The fact that we have such young people who are obviously doing very well demonstrates how as Maori we are on the way up. While most in the Mâori population are still in the low income brackets, it is pleasing to see this trend changing, with growing numbers in the mid-higher income brackets over the last decade or so. There are now about as many legislators and administrators as there are agriculture and fisheries workers. These are the sort of changes that are challenging perceptions of Mâori as occupying the lower rungs of social and economic status. The "Maori economy" is a major contributor to New Zealand's economy as a whole. Mâori commercial assets were valued at $9 billion in 2001.

Of this, fishing, farming and forestry are the major industries for Mâori, with $4.5 billion invested in these primary industries. With the freeing up of new consents for the marine farming industry looking likely by the end of the year, and Maori offered a 20 per cent stake in this $285 million sunrise industry, there is potential for significant growth of Maori involvement in this area. An average of $100 million a year is being spent on treaty settlements.

We have tens of millions of dollars going into health, education and justice programmes. We have thousands of young people participating in tertiary education. Sixty per cent of Maori-owned primary industry is collectively owned. This is a significant difference from the business structures of Pâkehâ farmers.

Those are just a few of the trends and statistics that provide some very interesting challenges for Maori as we move into the new millennium. So what are the challenges? Today I would like to highlight just two that are of particular relevance to local government: The importance of Mâori participation in local government arrangements Mâori economic development and the strategic importance of local government Mâori participation in local government

Maori participation in local government, environmental and social issues is increasingly recognised as legitimate. While we do have some high-profile cases in which Maori representation and consultation has become a matter of some friction, we have come a long way.

Not that long ago “consultation” with Mâori was a feared word. Now it is accepted and expected by the majority of our local authorities. The RMA provides a process for the recognition of tangata whenua values. These values and legal rights were not recognised in the case of local government in Marlborough cutting local iwi out of the development of aquaculture – and the result was some of the most fraught divisions between Maori and Pakeha we have experienced in recent years over the foreshore and seabed debate.

The Foreshore and Seabed Bill, which is expected to be back before Parliament later this year, is, I believe, a way forward that balances protection of Maori customary right with protection of the right of all New Zealanders to have access to the foreshore and seabed.

Some people disgreed – and came down to Parliament to tell us. This issue will have a significant impact on a number of territorial local authorities. While the foreshore and seabed is undoubtedly a very important issue for both Maori and Pakeha, I believe there are other issues that Maori must urgently focus on if we are to ensure that in the next couple of decades we do move forward to fully participate in decision-making and in the economic success of our nation. For this reason we need to go back to some of those statistics.

The relative youthfulness of Mâori and the growth rates of Mâori will require us all to think very carefully across a range of issues. This could include the way in which we build our infrastructure and the way in which we think about our urban design, where we build our schools and what the form, shape and feel of these institutions is to be. The challenge for Maori is to step up our level of engagement.

The treaty is now locked into our nationhood and legislation, and we must now stop ourselves from being locked into victimhood and grievance when so much opportunity awaits us. We need to unlock the raw potential and youth of our communities, and that power must be unleashed positively.

It is important to acknowledge the various Mâori authorities who are the conduits for this dialogue with local government: marae, iwi authorities, urban Maori authorities, smaller groups at hapu and whanau level. So how well are you doing in local government in recognising and implementing your legal obligation to consult with Maori? In some cases, very well. In other cases … well, things could be better. Local authorities know that they have to consult with local business groups.

They know they have to consult environmental groups. They know they have to consult with residents groups. Yet some have been a little reticent in also acknowledging that they must consult Maori. Maori are not asking that they be treated any differently in his regard – in fact they are asking exactly the opposite: that they be treated the same as any other bona fide group with a legal right to be consulted. This expectation has nothing to do with political correctness – it has everything to do with fairness.

The launch by the Prime Minister of the research undertaken between government and LGNZ on local authorities’ engagement with Mâori shows that there are many ways of having relationships and building the processes for dialogue. Building and strengthening these mechanisms now will make considerable difference as we move into the 21st Century. In this context, looking 20 or 30 years into the future, we are seeking to build a platform such that Mâori are able to take up opportunities and be successful, whether this means ensuring that the local school is able to provide a meaningful context for education and support in finding a job, or whether it is ensuring that Mâori are able to retain and evolve their own institutions.

The way that this can be done is to ensure that the trust between Mâori and others is nurtured, that different points of view are respected, and aspirations and values are understood. Perhaps most importantly we need to make sure we are talking to each other and listening to each other.

Economic Development and Local Government’s role The second point I would like to make today is about the importance of local government in supporting economic development. We always think of New Zealand as far away from the rest of the world. Well it is about as far way as you can get from Europe. But it is not so very far way from Australia, Asia or from America; and these are our biggest export markets.

New Zealand has many small businesses – in comparison with other industrialised countries, we have a huge proportion of micro-businesses. This provides a different set of opportunities for economic development. While it means we’re probably not in the best place to undertake huge manufacturing of products that rely on bulk production, it does mean that we have good opportunities to produce niche, high value products.

The opportunity for investment looks good, particularly given our other attributes such as our educated workforce, good infrastructure and governance systems, relatively good race relations and environmental protection. Our tourism industry is a classic example: The industry has a number of larger players – for example the hotel chains – but numerous small businesses, from horse-trekking to fine restaurants.

Incidentally some of our Maori tourist operators provide some of our best, uniquely Kiwi tourism experiences. The key to this is how to make the most of our diversity, creativity and differences from the rest of the world. New Zealand – 100% Pure is the generic slogan for our overseas brand.

It boasts of the uniqueness of NZ. But how do all our small businesses attach themselves to this? Sure, not all businesses are selling to the international markets. The world will become more borderless – for finance and investments, for trade and for ideas. The movie industry is a good example, and local government has been superb in the way it has embraced the industry and opportunities it offers.

We now have relatively large numbers of New Zealanders and their companies engaged both here and overseas in all aspects of this industry. In order to grow the economic potential of New Zealand there is a need to grow the Mâori economy.

In some regions the land lies unutilised. It may be in need of some investment – skills, capital, technology – but in reality it is an opportunity. The key is to find the best ways to break the cycle of rates, unpaid rates (and write-offs) and accusations of Mâori getting a free ride or not contributing their fair share. Many of you will already know that Mâori land is plagued by factors such as large numbers of owners, having no services, being landlocked and having no access. The key is to find the strategies to begin the job of bringing it to productive use.

But this means being strategic. It needs the Mâori land owners, schools, polytechs and employers to come together to find the ways to bring the skills to the regions, it needs financial institutions and investors to know how to invest with Mâori, and it needs certainty from the regulators and local authorities to make sure that the investment can be made with as low a risk as possible from rating, planning and resource management barriers. The key once again is building the dialogue and understanding.

Globalisation is a great word. It is used to mean cooperating locally to compete globally. This can be done in many ways through clusters and business networks or through informal networks. Mentoring, strategic planning for regions, national level marketing initiatives are all important ingredients.

This is important for two main reasons. First it provides economic incentives, and brings employment. Second, it provides greater opportunity for people to exploit their own creativity, productivity and rely on their own personal attributes.

Local government is a key player in all of these business development requirements. It can bring together the main players from the business, social, education sectors and shape the future of the regions, and thus the whole country.

The challenge is to go beyond mere ‘consultation’ to bring about greater economic development.


Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak here today. I want to leave you with a final thought, looking to the future: There is a great deal of potential in New Zealand. It helps to think of this as an opportunity, rather than a challenge. And it is a great opportunity to work with Mâori to bring it to fruition and for all to be a part of it.


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