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Maori Party and National gunning for the Council

Maori Party and National gunning for the Council

Hone Harawira, MANA leader and MP for Te Tai Tokerau

Monday 2 September 2013

“The New Zealand Maori Council continues to be a thorn in the side of the government,” said MANA Leader and MP for Tai Tokerau Hone Harawira, “so John Key has got the Minister of Maori Affairs to do a review the role of the Council with a view to killing it off once and for all.”

The government is currently reviewing the Maori Community Development Act 1962, the Act that established the New Zealand Maori Council to advocate for Maori.

“I think the problem for the government is that the Council has taken its role more seriously than was originally intended. The Council has taken a number of actions against the government in defence of Maori rights and has won major court decisions on critical issues such as land, forests, fisheries, te reo Maori, broadcasting, and the Maori electoral option.

“And as if that wasn’t enough, the Council has even more actions pending against the Crown on issues including water, spectrum, and the Maori Wardens.

“The government would dearly love to see the Council disestablished to stop them attacking the Crown - and this review of the Act is part of their strategy to achieve this.

“I’m not the greatest fan of the Council” said Harawira. “They could’ve taken a stronger line on taking control of the assets rather than simply accepting cash and quota. But the Council is the only entity with the capability and the firepower to challenge the Crown on major issues when others either wouldn’t or couldn’t.

“They definitely have a role to play in today’s world, so I’m encouraging everyone I know to go to the consultation hui to express their opposition to silencing the voice of the Council.


Consultation on the review of the


The government is reviewing the Maori Community Development Act, under which the New Zealand Maori Council was established. The review includes a national round of consultation. The Council is concerned about the review and wants Maori to know why.


The New Zealand Maori Council was set up under the Maori Community Development Act in 1962. The Council’s role is to advocate for Maori at a national level and to provide services that meet the needs of Maori communities.


The Council has been advocating for and protecting Maori interests and rights under the Treaty of Waitangi for the past 50 years.


In 1985 the Council took a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal which asserted that Te Reo Maori was a taonga that the Crown was obliged to protect. The Tribunal found in favour of the Council and recommended a number of legislative and policy remedies.

In 1987 Māori was made an official language of New Zealand under the Māori Language Act.


In 1987 the Council went to court to stop government from transferring assets, given by Maori for use by the government, to State Owned Enterprises.

Through the Waitangi Tribunal, the Council was then able to get government to stop the sale of those assets, and to set up land banks to hold those assets for return to iwi.


In 1987 the Council, along with Ngai Tahu, Muriwhenua and Tainui won a court action stopping the allocation of fishing quota until Māori commercial fishing rights had been clarified.

By 1992, the Crown and Maori had reached a full and final settlement.


In 1989 Council took the government to court to stop the sale of state forests.

From that the Council negotiated the set-up of the Crown Forestry Rental Trust through which $160 million has been transferred to claimants (a further $385 million is held in securities).


In 1993, as the direct result of legal action taken by the Council over the government’s allocation of radio frequencies, Council was able to negotiate the establishment of Te Mangai Paho to fund Maori language programming.

Today there are 21 Maori radio stations spread throughout the country. The Council also forced the Crown to honour its promise to set up Maori Television. Over the past 11 years, almost $500 million has been invested in Maori broadcasting through Te Mangai Paho.

Maori Electoral Option

Council took the Crown to the Tribunal for not upholding Maori citizenship rights under the Electoral Act 1991.

As a result funds were made available for Maori organisations to enrol Maori and let them know that the electoral option was on. The number of Maori sets increased from 4 to 7.


The Council is seriously concerned about the review for three main reasons:

1. Council has been excluded from full participation in the terms of the review.

2. The review is taking place at a time when Council is challenging the Crown on a number of issues vital to Maori rights and interests (see below).

3. Government wants to use the review to stop the Council taking court action against it.



Council is fighting for the recognition of Maori rights in water. In the first stage of the claim, the Waitangi Tribunal agreed with Council. When the Crown said it would ignore the findings, Council took the case all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled that the Crown was allowed to sell shares in Mighty River Power, but that Maori claims to freshwater had to be addressed.

Those claims have not been addressed. Council is currently engaged in Stage Two of the Tribunal hearings.

Radio Spectrum

Council wants the Crown to accept Tribunal findings that Maori have rights in the spectrum. The Crown has offered Maori $30 million for a resource estimated to be worth $4 billion.

Council rejects this and has returned to the Tribunal.

Crown Forestry Rental Trust

The CFRT Trust Deed says clearly that all CFRT funds are to be used for claimants, by claimants, and in ways determined by claimants. This is no longer the case. Funds are now being used in ways that are contrary to the Deed.

Council is seeking clarification to ensure Maori rights are not being ignored.

Maori Electoral Option

This year, Enrolment Services was awarded the contract to enrol Maori voters. The result is a significant drop in the number of Maori enrolments compared to 2001 and 2006 when enrolments were done by Maori organisations.

Council is preparing to take the Crown back to the Tribunal to review the way the Maori Electoral Option has been run this year.


Maori Wardens are the face of Maori community policing, and operate under the mandate of the Council. The Crown has intervened in the Councils ability to administer the Wardens, weakening both the Council’s mandate and the Warden’s structure.

Council is seeking clarification from the courts on whether the Crown is acting unlawfully in withholding resources set aside for the Wardens.


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