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Sharples: Auckland Maori Accountants Network

Address to Auckland Maori Accountants Network

Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader Maori Party
Member of Parliament for Tamaki Makaurau

Friday 31 March 2006

Just under fifty years ago in 1957 a young man, thought to be only the second Maori person to graduate with a Bachelor of Commerce, and perhaps the youngest public accountant in New Zealand at that time, was awarded a Rotary Fellowship to take him to the School of Business Administration at the University of Michigan.

In addition to the Rotary Fellowship, he was awarded a Ngarimu VC Post-graduate scholarship, became elected President of the Wellington Accountant Students Society (a society with some 600 members), Auditor for the Maori Women's Welfare League's Dominion Executive, and in his spare time, assistant marker in cost accounting for the Bachelor of Commerce degree exams.

As well as that he was the President of Victoria University's Maori Club, and indeed, as the editor of Te Ao Hou described him,

"It is well-known among his friends and associates that he is proud of his Maori ancestry and is always ready to acknowledge it. Whatarangi Winiata will be an ambassador of the Maori people and of New Zealand of whom any fellow-citizen can feel proud".

Kei te rangatira, Whatarangi, nahau ra i whangai enei momo matauranga i to iwi. Kia tu rangatira ai ratou i roto tonu i nga waihotanga o nga koroua me nga kuia. Kei te rangatira tena koe.

Meanwhile, another chartered accountant by profession, was also being honoured for his role as the chair of the committees that organised national Maori receptions for three major royal tours.

Sir Henare Ngata holds the awe and respect for many Maori who see in him, the standards of excellence which characterised his father, the late Sir Apirana Ngata.

Sir Henare was the Chairperson of the Mangatu Incorporation. At that time shareholders were want to beat a trail to the office, hit the desk with their tokotoko, and demand their dividends. Sir Henare responded with fairness, with professionalism, and always with cultural finesse.

Indeed, his cultural expertise ensured his distinctive accountancy practice. As chair of the Incorporation, if he was asked to run a meeting in Gisborne, he would always call on the people from Rongowhakaata or Te Aitanga a Mahaki to whakatau. Best practice for Sir Henare meant never forgetting whose territory he was in, and how to recognise the mana whenua.

His wealth of knowledge of whakapapa was a constant strength to the practice, understanding and respecting the importance of maintaining respectful relationships. Indeed, one could say he was an early pioneer of what the Maori Party has taken up as a policy commitment - the Genuine Progress Index.

The Genuine Progress Index, GPI, distinguishes between positive contributions to progress (the building of schools) and negative activity (the building of prisons). It recognises voluntary and other activities that contribute to the expression of positive social and cultural values.

Whereas GDP is purely a measure of output at market value for a nation whatever the purpose of the output, GPI is a measure of comprehensive, sustainable and inclusive advancement.

Sir Henare practiced in a way in which the financial progress of the books had to equate with a statement of health for the people. According to those who attended his hui, he would tell it as it is, present the ups and downs, with a clarity and sensitivity that meant people would listen and inevitably concur with his conclusions.

He would present annual reports at AGM in te reo Maori, the kaumatua nodding their approval, (yet also eagerly waiting the dividend).

I wonder, how many of you ever heard of the professional accounting endeavours accompanied by a Maori worldview of Sir Henare Ngata and Professor Whatarangi Winiata while you were training?

Traversing the years and the miles back from Tai Rawhiti to Poneke again, I want to make mention of Parearau, a group of Maori women accountants who commissioned Tawhiri Indigenous Architects to design and construct their new office on the Terrace.

Tawhiri created a reception desk, shaped like a waka - symbolic of the journey of financial management - and Parearau - a navigational star, frosted into the glass behind the waka. Fiona Wilson, director of Parearau Group stated that:

"we wanted to have a place that was significant to us as Maori, but also an environment where people felt comfortable and safe".

I was so pleased to be invited to your hui today, and wanted just to touch on those three examples, as providing me with that source of confidence we seek in our Maori accountants. When I think of Matua Whatarangi and Sir Henare I am always conscious of the humility of those two men - their humble and quiet manner - which underlies their brilliance. When I think of the more contemporary example of Parearau I am comforted that the importance we place on who we are as Maori is being maintained in all aspects of our work, whether it be the corporate world or the iwi incorporations.

And what's more - I am hoping that this afternoon you will provide me with even more evidence of the startling success of our accountants from Ngapuhi, Ngati Whatua, Tainui, Ngati Kahungunu - indeed testimony to our Tangata whenua talents.

It should be a matter of great pride for the Auckland Maori Accountants Network that you see the promotion of te reo Maori me nga tikanga Maori of equal importance to the professional development of your membership.

Our people must have the very best service available to them - where knowledge of break-even analysis; accrual accounting vs cash accounting; bank reconciliation; ratio analysis, variance analysis slip from your lips quicker than one can say profit and loss.

The success of our international Maori entrepreneurs; the sustainability of our Treaty settlements; the flourishing of the Maori economy depends on your excellence.

You must maintain your professional integrity, be honest, be straight up - as Sir Henare inspired us to do.

And in doing so, I urge you all to take up every opportunity to ensure that you are as well-trained and ably qualified to lead our economy and our community into the future as any other accountant.

We want to be heading towards excellence, and in my view, the role of our Maori accountants is to keep us firmly focused on that path.

But our people also deserve to have the very best of cultural excellence. We deserve to have accepted accountability practice working alongside tikanga-based practice.

The question that you must all grapple with is - at what point is compromise necessary? At what point are you prepared to push the boundaries, to recognise that using the company car for your kuia to attend a tangi - may create difficulties in the reconciliation of FBT- but failure to do so, may be more offensive and compromise your cultural integrity to a degree that is not able to be justified? These are the issues that your profession must resolve.

I did not come here to discuss the benefits of management accounting. But I did come here to discuss the benefits of profit and loss being owned and understood amongst our people.

What are the financial management tools required for our rangatahi to be equipped to a future of prosperity?

What are the capital expenditure decisions necessary to ensure governance entities are equipped to manage treaty settlements responsibly?

How can your business acumen, your professional integrity and your tikanga-based standards of excellence, inspire a new generation of hope?

How can the Auckland Maori Accountants Network lead us to genuine progress as a nation?


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