Councillors question $3m Maori board

KELSEY FLETCHER
Last updated 05:00 29/06/2012
Cameron Brewer
QUESTIONS: Councillor Cameron Brewer said some councillors believe the structure of the board is not working.

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Auckland councillors are questioning whether the council funded Independent Maori Statutory Board can continue to justify its multi-million dollar budget and status in local government.

This comes after the council yesterday approved $3.1 million of funding for the board next year.

The amount includes more than $1 million in salaries for an 11 person secretariat to assist the board and $632,000 for the eight people on it.

Costs for engagement and reporting to Maori have been set at just $10,000.

The board was established under the Local Government Act 2009 to ensure the council meets Treaty of Waitangi obligations and promote issues of significance for Maori in Auckland.

Councillor Cameron Brewer questiones the need for the board and said members know there is a growing criticism of the way it is run.

"They are there to continually audit us in our performance and are doing a great job. But it's not delivering better outcomes for every day Maori," he said.

"No one perceived that this part-time committee would cost ratepayers so much."

He said the board was hamstrung by the way it had been set up.

Brewer said a particular concern he had was with the Maori impact statements which were required for every report.

"The board insists impact statements be written on every project we do and that's fine, but some of the projects are pretty small and non-consequential to whether it's Maori or Pakeha,'' he said.

"It just ties staff up in knots having to write the statements on every report."

Brewer said the board then often questioned the accuracy of the statements in committee meetings, further slowing down the process.

Councillor Calum Penrose said he would like to know how the board contributes to their own communities.

"All it does is divide and put segregations in our communities," he said.

In a statement Board chairman David Taipari said he was pleased with the new funding agreement, particularly as it would allow for more staff on the secretariat to address the board's increasing workload.

He said the board had established a solid programme in its first 18 months.

That included developing an Issues of Significance document and advocacy for the inclusion of Maori outcomes in the council's Auckland Plan, Long-term Plan and Unitary Plan processes.

"The agreement is an acknowledgement by the council that the staff increase is appropriate to ensure that board members get the assistance they need to be more efficient and deliver to the requirements of their committees and forums,'' he said.

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"The board has a statutory requirement to advance the interests of Maori and what we have agreed to for this coming financial year will give the board confidence to carry on the work it is doing and building a solid foundation going forward."

- Auckland Now

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