I’m back to semi-regular blogging this week. I’ve had a few things on my plate that have pushed blogging back. Anyway, here are my thoughts on a few things I’ve missed.
Ths Sunday Star Times (SST) has crowned Kawerau the beneficiary capital of New Zealand. Of the 6940 residents, 1324 are on a benefit. In other words, an unhealthy 19% of the town receive a benefit. In 2010 Simon Collins christened Kawerau the DPB capital of New Zealand.
Unfortunately, the SST quoted Mayor Malcolm Campbell. Any decent Mayor would acknowledge the problems the town faces and formulate solutions, but not Mayor Malcolm Campbell. Instead, Campbell offered an excuse and then a falsehood. Firstly, he claimed that beneficiaries are “staying put” which seems to imply he thinks that numbers are artificially high. The problem has nothing to do with the inflow and outflow of beneficiaries, the problem is intergenerational unemployment and, who would think, a lack of jobs.
The Mayor continued claiming that there is “huge employment here”. This is, at best, a half-truth. The main employer is the Kawerau Mill, and the Mayor is right in saying most mill employees live outside of Kawerau. However, the number of jobs at the mill continues to fall (a trend that begun in the 80’s) and the jobs that do exist are skilled. There are few job openings as most mill workers tend to stay put, sometimes for decades. Put simply, there aren’t any jobs due. The forestry industry, probably the second largest employer in the town, is in decline as well.
The Mayor’s solution is to create an “exclusion zone”. In other words, the Mayor would like MSD to prevent beneficiaries from moving to Kawerau. I oppose this idea in principle. However, brushing aside principle, for public policy reasons it’s a sensible idea. I understand that the Mayor probably doesn’t want to increase the rate of ghettoisation of the town. Nevertheless, rather than invent ways to keep beneficiaries out, the Mayor should focus on inventing ways to get beneficiaries into jobs.
Tuhoe is Te Urewera, Te Urewera is Tuhoe: Tamiti Kruger, the tribes lead negotiator, is confident Tuhoe and the Crown can finalise a settlement package that includes the ownership, or worst case scenario management, over the Ureweras. Inclusion of the Ureweras is the only acceptable outcome for the tribe.
The point I want to make, however, is that the Urewera issue is, for want of a better term, a secondary one. Some form of self-governance, kawangatanga if you will, is the issue with the most significant consequences.
I’m in favour of transferring local government functions and powers to the iwi. Think the Urewera District Council. The Council would come under the Local Government Act. The iwi could also run their own charter schools. Over time more functions and power could be devolved.
The chances of the Crown creating an Urewera District Council, or a similar body, are moderate. Political push back from the National Party’s supporters would, I imagine, be significant (“first step on the slippery slope to separatism blah blah blah”). However, it makes sense to separate the Urewera region from the Whakatane District Council (WDC).
The Urewera region is a separate and disparate community of interest. Whakatane and the Urewera region share very little in common – not even tribal links (Whakatane is Ngati Awa and the Ureweras is Tuhoe). Whakatane and Ohope, the major centres in the district, are largely Pakeha and urban. The Ureweras are largely Maori and rural. Whakatane and Ohope are concentrated whereas the Urewera region is dispersed. Given this difference in character, most notably the fact that Whakatane is Pakeha and the Ureweras is Maori, the Council ignores the Urewera region. For example, roads and sewerage systems are not adequately maintained, there is no rubbish collection and library services and other social services are non-existent.
The case for creating a Council is, I think, strong. After all, the Urewera region is wholly disconnected in terms of location, character and need to the Whakatane region. For those of you that know the area, you only need to compare Ohope and Taneatua to get the picture.
The consequences for Maori will, I think, be minor. Tuhoe is in a unique position. There is a precedent for self-governing arrangements and, arguably, Tuhoe have enjoyed unbroken rangatiratanga over their lands.
Self-governance arrangements could not be extended to, for example, Nga Puhi without significant push-back from non-Maori New Zealanders. New Zealanders really do fear “separatism” and many naively want for us all to be “one people”.
Tuhoe and the Crown have given themselves until the end of the year to flesh out an agreement.
The Herald has caught up with the relativity clause story with Yvonne Tahana running two pieces.
In a sense, the relativity clause plays against New Zealander’s sense of fairness, our famed egalitarianism in other words. The relativity clause looks like double dipping, no doubt about that, but it’s merely a mechanism to ensure Tainui and Ngai Tahu maintain their position relative to other iwi. The two tribes took a gamble when they settled early and the relativity clause was a means of inducing early settlement and ensuring that, should future settlements prove more fruitful, that Tainui and Ngai Tahu are kept on equal footing.
Of the parties in Parliament, Act and New Zealand First are the only parties in a position to make hay out of the issue. National cannot attack the deal, after all the clause will be triggered under their watch and it was the previous National government that negotiated the clause. For credibility’s sake, their hands are tied. Some in Labour will be tempted to attack the clause, but the party’s Maori caucus wouldn’t stand for it. The Greens know better and would not want to be seen to be opposed to treaty settlements.
Tuku Morgan has decided against seeking re-election to Te Arataura. Although Tuku secured a co-management deal over the Waikato river and presided over Tainui's rise to the position of 'richest' iwi, he also presided over a period of internal instability, profligacy and a decrease in the distribution of benefits to tribal members. Tom Roa, former chair of Te Kauhanganui, and Hemi Rau, who Tuku fired in 2010, are the chair and deputy chair respectively. Both, I believe, bring valuable experience in tribal politics and management.
Joshua Hitchcock has floated the idea of an independent Maori Policy Unit. A sort of Maori law commission. I’m in favour and would love to contribute. Over the next week I’ll be giving the idea some thought, you can do so too. Here’s the link to Joshua’s post on the topic where he invites public discussion.