'Same old colonial approach' - Iwi leader on collective plans

9:30 pm on 10 July 2021

A Whanganui iwi leader has fired shots at a fledgling collective of local entities and Crown agencies set up to drive a co-ordinated approach to social, environmental and economic issues in the Whanganui, Ruapehu, South Taranaki and Rangitīkei regions.

Ken Mair: “Where does it stop with these Crown agencies deciding what’s best for us?”

Ken Mair: “Where does it stop with these Crown agencies deciding what’s best for us?” Photo: Moana Ellis

The group, known as the Impact Collective, is in the process of forming a charitable trust to focus on "building a regenerative economy".

It includes the Ministry of Social Development, Te Puni Kōkiri, the police, district councils and the Whanganui District Health Board, and is asking iwi in the region to commit to the initiative.

But Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust chairperson Ken Mair criticised the model as colonial and out of date, and said hapū, iwi and the community must make their own decisions.

"We've got serious concerns. It appears to us to be the same old colonial approach of Crown entities thinking that they know what's best for us in our hapū, iwi and community domain, and making the same old mistakes.

"This is an old model of about 30 or 40 years ago, where you have these groupings of Crown entities and then they want two or three Māori on this grouping, and then when there are real decisions to be made they go away and make the decisions themselves.

"I believe firmly that iwi, hapū and our community need to be at the centre of decision-making because we know what's best in regard to our needs and aspirations - no one else.

"What we're seeing here is this model that ensures that the Crown entities drive and believe that they know what's best for us.

"They also state that they've shifted from being hauora to social, environmental and economic elements.

"Where does it stop with these Crown agencies deciding what's best for us?"

 Members of the Impact Collective following a workshop session on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals framework in June.

Members of the Impact Collective following a workshop session on the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals framework in June. Photo: Supplied

Mair said the Trust has been working with Whanganui District Council on a model to build social wellbeing in the Whanganui community, and is developing a statutory entity through its settlement process to deliver the model.

"We're developing a model that is made up of hapū, iwi and our community as a whole, where these Crown agencies are accountable to our hapū, iwi and community.

"It's not a model where we all get at the same table and try to work through our needs and aspirations. Our model is a different approach where they (government and agencies) are held accountable."

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall distanced his Council from the Impact Collective, saying it had made no commitment to the new group and was pursuing a different approach alongside the Whanganui Land Settlement Negotiation Trust.

"I understand what the Impact Collective's objective is but we're backing something that could have an even bigger impact, and we have been working on this model for six months," McDouall said.

"It has the potential to alter the way Government services are delivered and we're extremely excited about it."

The Rangitīkei, South Taranaki and Ruapehu District Councils confirmed their involvement in the collective.

Meanwhile, the Impact Collective is continuing to talk with individual iwi about participating.

Whanganui District Health Board chief executive Russell Simpson said the collective is open to all iwi across the wider rohe, and some individual iwi chairs had written to advise of their support.

"Given the Impact Collective is still in its infancy, not all iwi have made a commitment and discussions are ongoing. The opportunity will be open to all iwi.

"We maintain that each individual iwi have tino rangatiratanga over their participation and that the involvement by members of the collective is around community wellbeing."

Pahia Turia, chair of the iwi collective Te Ranga Tupua and iwi entity Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, said it was clear some time ago that not all members of the iwi collective were in support of the Impact Collective and therefore Te Ranga Tupua could not sign up.

However, he was upbeat about the initiative and said it was not off the table for individual iwi to continue discussions independently.

As an example, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa was supportive in principle, he said, and could see the potential value of baseline data and reports commissioned by the Impact Collective to gain insights into how and where resource coming into the region is spent.

"It's a positive thing. Not to negate the opportunity of other iwi to pursue similar opportunities but we see the value of being able to see some clear metrics and a line of sight into the impact of the funding that comes into our communities," Turia said.

"It's a new initiative. It's not the avenue - it's an avenue. We're trying to encourage our local agencies to work more collaboratively together to reduce duplication and get better impact from the resources going into our community.

"We see value in the data that can be gained from this process because it will inform what our strategic direction needs to be. It's an opportunity to reshape how things are being done.

"We just want to ensure that we get better outcomes for our whānau and are doing what's right for our population," Turia said.

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