Iwi facing new set of challenges - Solomon
Governance structures, investment policies and business partnerships are crucial considerations as iwi in the top of the south prepare to become a major force in the region's economy, says the head of the South Island's most powerful iwi group.
The top of the south's inaugural Maori Economic Summit is being held over two days at the Rutherford Hotel in Nelson. It comes ahead of an expected $300 million to $400m cash, land and asset injection from Treaty of Waitangi settlements into the region.
Ngai Tahu chairman Mark Solomon yesterday shared what Ngai Tahu had learned since its $170m Treaty settlement with the Crown in 1998.
"For the next 12 months, we will see a watershed moment in the history of Te Wai Pounamu. All of the nine iwi of this island will have completed the process to settle our respective claims," he said.
"This hui is about a post-settlement future, where our collective responsibility is to focus on the opportunities that are before all of us.
"Believe it or not, achieving a settlement is just the beginning of a new set of challenges. There are pitfalls and plenty of mistakes to be made along the way, but there is also a great sense of satisfaction to be finally on the post-settlement journey."
Mr Solomon said the governance structure of Ngai Tahu was thought about well before its settlement arrived, with 1996 legislation establishing Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu as the statutory body and tribal representative of Ngai Tahu whanau.
Ngai Tahu's investment history also began before its settlement. The iwi's modern-day commercial activities started in the late 1950s, and the previous Ngai Tahu Maori Trust Board had an income of about $20,000 a year.
Mr Solomon said the board started reinvesting about two-thirds of its income, and the rest was distributed through education, grants and scholarships. The "aggressive reinvestment policy" took the board's asset base from approximately $3.2m in the 1980s to $33m at the time of the settlement.
Ngai Tahu continued to reinvest its annual income after its settlement with the Crown in 1998, using an investment policy framework developed alongside "some really skilled people" such as merchant bankers, he said. It also continued to conservatively distribute about 4 per cent of its net asset worth per annum.
"Attention to in-house structure and policy is critical. It sets us up to be much more considered and logical about how we choose our partners in order to achieve our mission. It doesn't prevent us from making any mistakes, but it helps us to minimise them. When we do make mistakes, these structures and rules mean the impact is kept to a minimum."
Mr Solomon said partnerships with businesses and local government, such as the Christchurch City Council (CCC), had helped Ngai Tahu to "achieve milestones more quickly than we might have done if we had gone it alone".
"Partnerships are crucial to our success. We need partnerships in business, to leverage outcomes for our people," he said.
An example was Te Hononga or the Christchurch Civic Building, a joint venture between Ngai Tahu Property and the CCC with a 94-year relationship.
Mr Solomon said Ngai Tahu's partnerships were growing "steadily" until September 2010, but the Christchurch earthquakes had allowed the iwi to establish much greater and more productive ones.
Under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Unit, both CCC and Ngai Tahu were embedded in legislation as partners in the region's recovery.
A Maori trade training project launched last year was a partnership including the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, Ngai Tahu, and eight Industry Training Organisations.
Mr Solomon said 62 students received certificates in August, and 57 of them already had jobs.
"Tragedy can force all sorts of organisations to bring down their artificial barriers. The wider community has been increasingly interested in all we have to offer. It's a different city, and I love it."
Mr Solomon said iwi, as inter-generational investors, had an obligation to be prudent with their investments.
"We are simply not interested in partnering with those who would place too much at risk in the hope of a short-term gain. I have often said that the national and local governments are logical partners for iwi, and that there is much untapped potential in the delivery of health and wellbeing services and infrastructure," he said. "We need to be sharing ideas together - what's worked and what hasn't. Together, we [iwi] are a major economic force."
- © Fairfax NZ News