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Sharples: NZ Guardian Trust Company Amendment Bill

New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Amendment Bill 2007

Second and Third readings

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

Wednesday 20 February 2008

The concept of guardianship is well known in Maoridom.

We live by the values of kaitiakitanga, the spiritual and cultural guardianship of Te Ao Maori.

The responsibility to take care of the growth and development of people is a responsibility derived from one’s whakapapa. It brings with it the duty and the obligation to look after others.

We refer also to our taniwha tipu who act as protectors over water and land, and other things.

In our carvings one may see the manaia –the guardians of our spiritual energy.

It was with these thoughts in mind that we in the Maori Party came to consider this New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Amendment Bill.

The Bill amends the New Zealand Guardian Trust Company Act (1982) to enable the New Zealand Guardian Trust Company to establish business with its present parent company, Suncorp-Metway limited.

The Guardian Trust is our largest, independent investment funds manager, and has been in existence since 1859.

Twenty-three years later it merged with the South British Guardian Trust and then later in 1916, with NZI Trust Department. So you could say that mergers are fairly common in this line of business.

Suncorp Metway is an Australian banking, insurance and financial services company. The company boasts over seven million customers, with approximately 223,000 shareholders.

Well numbers are all well and good, but the central issue concerning the Maori Party is, what do these groups do – and what relevance is this work to tangata whenua, to Maori? Does the notion of guardian as understood in this Bill bear any relationship to the concepts and philosophies in te Ao Marama?

The work of the Guardian Trust is pretty much as expected – wills, trust, mortgages, estate administration, enduring power of attorney, property finance, financial planning and so it goes on.

But there are a few interesting features. Guardian Trust is a major supporter of the Cancer Society and they’ve recently been funding research with the Canterbury Respiratory Research Group into the key causes of asthma and allergies in young children.

And that’s a good start, given the disproportionately high statistics for Maori in all these areas.

It has never been clear to me why Maori are 18% more likely to be diagnosed with cancer than non-Maori but nearly twice as likely as non-Maori to die from cancer. One would hope that the Guardian Trust, in supporting key advocacy groups, will advance our knowledge in unpacking such inequities.

Similarly, I must ask why it is that although the prevalence for paediatric asthma in New Zealand is similar for Maori and non-Maori; Maori children have more severe symptoms when they present to the health provider; require hospitalisation twice as often as non-Maori; and are less likely to receive adequate asthma education or be prescribed preventive medication?

All these questions of the day, may of course now be answered through the support of the Guardian Trust.

There was a third area of support and I think is important to refer to, when thinking about the Guardian Trust.

This is in relation to their trusteeship role, of the Palmerston North Maori Reserve, as a trust under Te Ture Whenua Maori Land Act.

The Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust owners are the descendents of the Taranaki people who settled in Wellington in the early 1800s. The Guardian Trust and the ten managing trustees appointed by beneficial owners are motivated by the primary objective of retaining and growing the core asset, as well as being risk averse in terms of its decision making.

All these examples of the role of the Guardian Trust are by way of background to our support for this Bill.

We believe there are some potential gains through lower costs, and increased financial stability, through the merger of Guardian Trust with Promina Group Limited and Suncorp-Metway.

If these changes are able to assist the work programme of the Guardian Trust in protecting the ongoing welfare of the people, then clearly, nothing should stand in their way.

Finally, a brief comment on Clause 4 of the Bill, as it relates to the conclusions of the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee.

This clause authorises the Governor-General, by Order in Council, to amend the principal Act without the need for legislative amendment, whenever they have a new parent company.

The issues of the day that this House could be debating include:

- another series of police raids on Tuhoe;

- the revelation that district health boards have committed 182 serious mistakes involving patients;

- the current situation in which so many New Zealanders are caught in the midst of severe housing unaffordability crisis,

- or even the fact that the vital mechanism for maintaining our electricity supply, the Cook Strait Cable, is old, unreliable and in need of major repair.

Instead the House has been debating whether a trustee company can change its parent company. It just defies reason.

We do, however, support this Bill in its final readings, and welcome the initiative taken, to move the responsibility for parliamentary scrutiny of the amendments included here, to the approval of the Regulations Review Committee.

And as a member of that committee I can assure you we will ensure due and proper scrutiny of this – as with every item that comes before them on the table.


ENDS

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