Jul 16, 2012

The rise of the Iwi Leaders Group

With discussion centring around the Iwi Leaders Group versus the Maori Council, many commentators have lost sight of FOMA, the Fedaration of Maori Authorities. Although comparisons between the ILG and the MC are valid, any comparison must include FOMA.

The ILG perform a commercial and policy functions. The Group’s policy functions overlap with the MC, but the Group’s commercial functions overlap with FOMA. After all, the MC is a policy and lobbying group. Similar in function to, for example, the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group – a kind of subsidiary of the ILG proper.

To make things clearer, let me try and explain the ILG through analogy. The ILG is similar in form to the Cabinet. There is the Cabinet proper, or the ILG proper, this is where the decisions take place. The Cabinet is then divided into Cabinet Committees that provide detailed consideration and discussion of issues. The Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group is similar to a Cabinet Committee. This is where the ILG do their heavy lifting. The ILG also undertake lobbying and government relations work through, as one example, the Land and Water Forum and through, most significantly, the Maori Party. Mark Solomon revealed in an interview with RNZ last year that he was given access to lobby the Prime Minister over asset sales.

The work described above sounds a lot like what the MC does, or did. Well, that's because it is. In the Maori Community Development Act 1962, the act that establishes the MC, one of the functions is to:

Consider and discuss such matters as appear relevant to the social and economic advancement of the Maori race

So, in other words, one of their functions has been usurped by the ILG.

FOMA, I believe, find themselves in a similar situation to the MC. The ILG is usurping their functions. FOMA represent the commercial interests of Maori authorities (among other things it should be added). However, the ILG is increasingly coming to represent Maori commercial interests. They are the lobby and consultation group of choice for the government. If there is a commercial issue that affects Maori or the government wants to involve Maori in, the ILG will be approached. FOMA are not given a look in. The government prefers, naturally of course, to deal with an ideologically sympathetic group. 

The ILG are often accused of representing the commercial interests of iwi and Maori and they’re often labelled the brown face of neoliberalism. That label is a little overblown, although the ILG have voiced support for asset sales and PPPs in the past.

The most important question for Maori is: does the rise of the ILG benefit us? I have my doubts. The ILG is not representative of Maori. It cannot be said that most Maori share the ILGs economic ideology. Nor is the ILG elected. Can we really call them ‘representatives’ of Maori? And who represents urban Maori?

On the other hand, the ILG provide an opportunity for Maori to leverage the government in a way we haven’t had the ability to in the past. The ILG have economic and political leverage. FOMA represents Maori economic interests, but they don’t control those economic interests in the way the ILG do.

When discussing the rise of the ILG, we cannot lose sight of the Maori Party’s role too. One of the Maori Party’s goals has been to empower a political establishment that can engage and persuade the government of the day. With the ILG, they’ve achieved that. The ILG have are also positioning themselves to aquire strategic assets. Shares in electricity generators, an inland port at Ruakura, Tainui wants to muscle in on Auckland Airport, negotiating for rights to airspace – the list goes on. Keep in mind that Maori already control huge tracts of forestry land, some important national resources such as geothermal steam, lake beds and some of NZ’s most profitable tourism ventures. This sort of power, coupled with the personal networks the ILG have fostered, give the ILG institutionalised access.

Having control, or a degree of control, over strategic assets plays into the ILG’s end game – they want power for Maori and they want to exercise that power. Whether or not these powerplays are a good thing is a moot point. I’m comfortable with the ILG for now. After all, they brought the AFFCO lock out to an end and they do, at the end of the day, have Maori interests at heart. The question, I guess, is will it last?


  1. mmm, the missing salient point is that ILG are elected by noone and hei, when can i go to their meeting? where are the minuites? transparency and ILG do not seem to be linked

  2. agree what mandate do the ILG have none so stop saying they speak for maori

  3. He doesn't say they speak for Maori. Quote "The ILG is not representative of Maori".
    The government of the day has always cherry-picked which Maori interest group it wants to deal with - the Maori Council used to be it, and it was also criticized back in the day for not representing Maori adequately, especially urban Maori.

  4. One of the points of the Maori Party was that it was intended to authentically speak for Maori, since it was directly accountable to all of them via the electoral system.

  5. Who elects/appoints the Maori Council? Do all Maori get a say in its policies? And if, as a result of the Maori Council's actions in the Waitangi Tribunal/High Court, the government determines (for example) that Maori should be compensated for use of water by power companies, then does that mean all Maori will be compensated directly in some way, or will the cash simply go to the iwi corporations? Are the Maori Council's aims really all that different from the ILG's? This is all very unclear to me, I'd be grateful if anyone can shed some light on these questions. Thanks.



1. Anonymous comments will be rejected. Please use your real name or a pseudonym/moniker/etc...
2. No personal abuse. Defamatory comments will be rejected.
3. I'll reject any comment that isn't in good taste.