Consultation - not some random afterthought

19:17, Feb 24 2013

K ia ora koutou.

I don't normally like writing about the same issue twice in a row - but as someone who has been on the receiving end of media cock-ups in the past I am compelled to clarify a glaring error in my last column where I stated the Green Party was the only political party to support the Taranaki Maori stance in relation to the privatisation of the Cold Creek water scheme.

This was incorrect. The Maori Party and Mana Party both supported the Taranaki Maori position and opposed the passage of the Cold Creek legislation but were unable to voice their position in the select committee report as they do not hold seats at the committee table.

Furthermore, although the Green Party supported our position in the report back to the select committee, they ultimately voted in favour of privatisation without Taranaki Maori concerns being addressed. Thank you to the reader who corrected me on this issue. Duly chastised. And I'm no longer considering voting Green at the next election.

But as I noted a couple of weeks ago - for those that are actually interested - the bill has continued down the path to the point where Parliament will soon pass it into law despite Maori Party and Mana Party opposition.

The Maori Party has come out strongly opposed to the legislation proceeding. So today I'm going to talk about consultation.


Chester Borrows was reported as saying "the council did consult with iwi through its iwi consultation committee over several years". But the Taranaki Daily News also reported in hindsight "he acknowledged that today it would have been done differently and consultation would have been directly with the affected iwi".

I'm sorry? Can you say that again? Did consultation take place with the affected iwi or not? On the one hand Mr Borrows, who is well respected within the community, has said consultation took place with iwi over several years - but then he has also been reported as saying it should have been done directly with the affected iwi?

If consultation wasn't done directly with the affected iwi - then which iwi were consulted? Those who weren't affected? Was the Crown and South Taranaki District Council (STDC) consulting with a group of iwi from Northland? Perhaps they were consulting with Ngai Tahu in the South Island.

If the consultation wasn't done directly with the affected iwi then perhaps the consultation was done indirectly. Can anyone tell me what indirect consultation is? Perhaps it means reading about it in the paper after the deal has been signed, sealed and delivered.

I know that PKW - a Maori landowner (which admittedly is not an iwi) within the affected area certainly was not consulted - we had to go chasing after everyone to get our concerns heard and ultimately rejected.

What is interesting though is that when the STDC wanted to upgrade the Opunake water treatment system it felt compelled to come to PKW and discuss and consult on that particular matter. Why is that you might ask? Well, it's because the headworks and infrastructure for the Opunake township water supply is built on PKW land. And in order to improve and upgrade that system - which the STDC is looking to do - it requires PKW consent.

And who are the owners of PKW? Why, it's the same members of the various Taranaki iwi that Mr Borrows said in hindsight should have been directly consulted about Cold Creek. Funny that. Except that it isn't really. Its not that funny at all.

Because on the one hand while the powers that be are quite happy to ignore PKW's and Taranaki iwi views on the Cold Creek infrastructure - at the same time they are asking for our consideration and consent to extend another water supply infrastructure system on PKW land which services a much larger community - a community that our people are also a part of. Just as they are with Cold Creek.

Consultation is about due consideration and respect for your neighbour and fellow citizen. It doesn't necessarily mean you are going to get what you want - but it should mean real engagement rather than being left as an afterthought. That's if you're actually serious about it.

It's worth reflecting that if the current Taranaki Iwi Treaty negotiations are completed, Taranaki Maori will collectively control around $600 million of assets within the region - with significant scope for growth. This would put us on par with Tainui and Ngai Tahu. Many people - including some in local and central government - are aware of this and wondering how we might do business together.

Unless the Crown can demonstrate itself to be a worthy partner that can be trusted to act consistently, my advice would be for us to do business with someone else.


Taranaki Daily News