- Debate resumed from 29 April.
Part 1 Amendments to principal Act
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: As the Hon Nanaia Mahuta is not in the Chamber, I am more than happy to take a call in the Committee stage of this bill. Just to recap much of the earlier debate, it is important that we go over some of the issues that were canvassed, debated, and certainly thrown around the Committee at that time. I welcome to the chair the Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Pita Sharples—I welcome him back. Kia piki te ora ki tō hoa rangatira.
[May your good lady’s health be restored.]
As stated previously in the Committee stage, the bill was introduced with some very, very essential and long overdue changes. There is a strong focus on the establishment of the Māori Trustee as an independent organisation. The necessary changes to the Maori Trustee Act were put into place to legitimise much of the activities of the Māori Trustee.
This bill was introduced to the House under the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia. Our support for this bill still stands, although when people listened to the earlier debate in the Committee stage they may have wondered whether members in this Committee were really aware that this bill was introduced by the previous Minister.
Essentially, the bill was divided into the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill and the Māori Development Amendment Bill in order to address two distinct subjects. The first was to introduce changes to establish the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation. This sets up a new independent statutory corporation to further Māori economic development by using the resources available to Māori. Having considered and heard submissions on the bill, the Māori Affairs Committee concluded that the first intention
of the bill was to establish the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation, and Part 1 is essentially focused around that. But the committee expressed the view that the arrangements proposed for the statutory corporation to further Māori development were very contentious and that they naturally deserved further consideration. That is desirable, and that sentiment was expressed during the round of consultations on the bill. Although there was support for the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation, it was also made clear that Māori economic development would benefit very much through the utilisation of the Māori Trustee funds.
In terms of the main changes to the bill, we see that there are changes to the termination and appointment of the Māori Trustee. The changes to the operation of the Māori Trustee accounts make it very clear that where money held in the common fund has been invested, the investments are to come back into the fund. I suppose that this change was necessary to make that very clear, because obviously it has not been clear in the past.
It is also interesting that section 41 of the Maori Trustee Act 1953 allows the Minister of Finance to recover the amounts paid for the expenses of the Māori Trust Office before 1 July 2008. The previous Government was authorising the writing off of the accumulated debt of the Māori Trustee. The Crown wants this bill to pass through all its stages in the House. Obviously, we have seen some changes over a number of months.
This is a very, very important step forward for the Māori Trustee, as the bill clarifies a lot of the trustee’s operations and functions, as well as making it very clear that it will become a stand-alone organisation. I look forward to the next debate we have about the Māori Trustee taking another gigantic step forward by playing a major role in the acceleration of Māori economic development. In the past, we have seen organisations benefit from Māori Trustee funds, and I see no reason at all why that cannot continue into the future. I would be very, very interested to hear the views of the Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, who is now in the chair, on the way forward for Māori through the assistance of the Māori Trust Office.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: I will go back to where we were in the beginning in terms of what Part 1 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill does. But before I get to that point, I say that I suppose my colleague Mita Ririnui was saying that he wanted a bit of recognition. There was a cry for a bit of recognition that this bill was essentially the previous Labour Government’s bill. Well, I will give my colleague the recognition. After 9 long years, this bill is what Māoridom got—the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. I congratulate the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia, who did a sterling job trying to get this bill through.
But let us not forget that the bill, in its other clothes, was actually a bigger bill, and that the second part of the bill was the real humdinger. It was not particularly about independence, or about a stand-alone agency, and it did not have a lot to do with the appointment of the Māori Trustee and how to get rid of the trustee if we did not like him or her. Instead, it was about the $35-odd million that was going away from the Māori Trustee, and about the Government using it as some sort of model of Māori development.
This bill is specifically about the independence of the Māori Trustee, as per any other entity that we have in Government. The Māori Trustee is a stand-alone organisation. Prior to these provisions, it was always on the coat-tails of Te Puni Kōkiri—or, as it was called in its former life, the Ministry of Māori Affairs. It was always part of that big picture of the Ministry of Māori Affairs. In fact, the previous Māori Affairs Committee was quite happy to see the Māori Trustee come away from the apron strings of Te Puni Kōkiri. We are quite happy to see this bill go forward.
One of the issues that my colleague the Hon Nanaia Mahuta brought up in her kōrero last week was about the appointment of the Māori Trustee, and how he or she could be dismissed. New section 6(1), in clause 7, states: “The Māori Trustee is appointed by the Minister.” I have some questions to ask about the appointment of the Māori Trustee by the Minister of Māori Affairs. The bill does not really set out the process of how we get to that position. Is it that somebody hands in his or her CV, and the Minister has a look and handles the appointment process? I think it is a must that we say not only that the Maori Trustee is appointed by the Minister of Māori Affairs but also how he or she is appointed and what sort of process we use when we appoint that person and when we wish to terminate that person’s appointment, if, for some reason, the Minister feels that is necessary to do so. Overall, it is a good start in the 21st century.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Labour—Ikaroa-Rāwhiti)
: Mihi atu ki a koe e te Minita Māori, e Pita, tēnā koe.
[My acknowledgments to you, Pita, Minister of Māori Affairs, greetings.]
I will reconcile some of the matters progressed by the previous speaker about the great term that I undertook in steering the Māori Affairs portfolio. When that member was the Minister of Māori Affairs, he did nothing. When I came into Parliament, unemployment was running at 21 percent, the minimum wage had not been touched, and a whole lot of our people were in disarray. But I will recognise that member’s effort in starting the commissions that he established. I thought they were good under his tutelage.
Paul Quinn: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. Notwithstanding my great respect for the honourable member, I fail to follow his train of thought as it relates to the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, and, in particular, to the Committee stage.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): I think that is a little heads-up that probably is in order. If we are using these examples, they should be comparative to Part 1. I ask the member to continue.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I was getting there. The issue with this bill, in all of its parts, is timing. Certainly, the accountability issues that have pervaded the Māori Trustee over a long period of time need to be dealt with. I am very pleased that the Minister of Māori Affairs continues to take those provisions through.
The issues relevant to the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation, as outlined in new sections 4 and 5, are provisions that the Labour Party was committed to and is keen to follow. The issues around accountability in new subsection 6(1), in clause 7, which provides that the Māori Trustee will be appointed by the Minister of Māori Affairs, as was brought up by the previous speaker, are truly issues that need to be dealt with. The accumulated funds that the Māori Trustee manages are beneficiaries’ funds, as the previous speaker continually reminds me. The bigger part of the bill—which he suggested has started to disappear—has now become the Māori Trustee and Māori Development Amendment Bill. It is about kick-starting assets owned by Māori to help those who were short of cash flow. The beauty of the Māori Trustee system is the management of multiple layers. Multiplicity pervades the title.
There were some really unfair situations relating to the Māori Trustee that Māori people had to put up with. Evaluations of Māori properties, as discussed during the genesis of the original bill, which is now split into two bills—and this is some of the detail of that discussion—are recognised in the sense that they are considered similar to Pākeha properties, and there is the issue of saleability. The real issue is that those property owners are paying the same level of rates, yet they will never sell that property. There is a contradiction in terms. The freeing up of the Māori Trustee, ensuring that the role was more transparent, and that accountability, in some way, came back to the
people were the reasons behind the second thrust of the original bill, which now makes up the Māori Trustee and Māori Development Amendment Bill.
The Māori Trustee has stood the test of time. The services purchased from, and paid for, by the Crown are those services that had to be differentiated, because they were stuck together. The bill is quite specific that those services are differentiated. There is a whole host of things that the Māori Trustee can do in a better fashion, in my mind, but which have not yet been done. So if one takes the basic fundamentals of what comprises Māori land, one adds multiplicity, which is brought about by a succession plan whereby the title or hectarage is divided amongst all family members. That is the Māori situation. The land does not necessarily, or generally, go from one owner to the next owner. That multiplicity then makes it unmanageable, yet the premise that the land is valued as land of production, similar to Pākehā land, is something that it really has to be measured on. I cite the Mangatū case in relation to the rates that Māori pay and the value they cannot get because they do not sell. It seems quite weird.
The bill also makes changes to the way in which interest on money held in trust in the common fund is determined, because that is something we have to be very clear about—about it being banked and the interest gleaned off it, then minimised, and returned to the owners at a lesser rate. That is not fair. The bill provides that the Māori Trustee must pay the amount earned by the trustee in interest, less the management fee. The Māori Trustee will be required to review the amounts paid on a quarterly basis in light of appropriate market rates.
One point I want to make is the unfairness on Māori beneficiaries in relation to what the nation, the State, or the Government places upon them. The property is valued like anybody else’s property. It is rated like anybody else’s rates. Māori owners actually pay huge rates in areas like the Bay of Plenty, North Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, and
Tai Rāwhiti. Huge amounts of rates are paid, but Māori do not get the benefit of selling their property. This bill will make things better.
AARON GILMORE (National)
: I am honoured to stand up and talk more on the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. I spoke in the earlier part of the Committee stage of the bill. We are now talking about Part 1, and I want to focus on one particular clause, which I think a number of members have spoken about, which is clause 11. Clause 11 amends a number of sections in the original Māori Trustee Act and talks particularly about the issue around distributable income and about who is entitled to income and who is not. In the area I am from in the South Island we have talked about the $35 million fund that was going to be set up in a statutory corporation for use for Māori development. But I want to talk about some of the people whose money that would have been. Clause 11 protects that in many ways. Many people who are listed are owed money by the Māori Trustee. In particular, I want to talk about one family: the Johnson family. The Johnson family comprises six individuals on the
Te Wai Pounamu register. They are entitled to about $38,000. That is $38,000 that that family would not have received had this bill passed in its earlier form, as the former Minister of Māori Affairs proposed it. In particular, Mr Richard Johnson was entitled to $28,747.35. That is $28,747.35 that would have gone, had this bill been done in a different way.
Clause 11 is a very important clause, and I think it is important that we make a good account. It allows the ability to give back the income earned off this land, which the previous speaker spoke about, to those people like Richard Johnson and his family—his $28,747.35.
Another important part of this bill, in particular—and the previous speaker spoke about this—is clause 12 and the repeal of section 41 of the Māori Trustee Act. Clause 12, which repeals section 41, takes away an enormous debt that existed to the trustee from the Minister of Finance. Again, that means that Richard Johnson and many others
in a similar position would be entitled to make sure he and the rest of his family—including John Johnson, Mary Johnson, and Moira Johnson—got the $28,747.35. In fact, a number of families are entitled to many more funds than the Johnson family is, and one of the good things about this bill is that it will make sure that that money is protected and that mechanisms of governance are put in place to ensure that these families, who are in need and are entitled to this money, get it in time. It might be that the Māori Trustee sets up a mechanism just like the Inland Revenue Department has done for people to claim refunds, and promotes in a stronger fashion how to get this money back to their families so they can spend it on the things they think are necessarily, not that some bureaucrat in Wellington thinks are necessary.
Another important aspect of this bill—as has been touched on by many other speakers—is around the setting up of the independence of the Māori Trustee. That is an important aspect that has not really been talked about in this Committee stage. One of the roles of the Māori Trustee is administering a large number of Māori scholarships—in particular, one that is in the name of Sir Apirana Ngata. He is one of the most famous former members of Parliament, who has been honoured in a special way. That scholarship is one that, I must admit, I wish I knew about when I was at university. It is something I would have applied for, but I did not know it existed. Te Puni Kōkiri has had too much oversight of the Māori Trustee. In particular, that means that a scholarship in the name of one of our greatest New Zealanders has been hidden a bit behind the skirts of that organisation. I do not think that is really wise.
The other things that have been spoken about this bill—
Hon Parekura Horomia: Te Puni Kōkiri’s a good ministry.
AARON GILMORE: Apparently so.
The other big issues that exist in this bill that have been talked about include worries around the appointment of the Māori Trustee and the removal of the Māori Trustee if issues arise. If one looks at the bill one sees there are many mechanisms, should the Māori Trustee need to be replaced for impropriety. There are many mechanisms to deal with that situation. They are very clear that the trustee can be removed, should the Minister decide to do so. The Māori Trustee is actually appointed for a period of time. It is not a job for life, in many ways. I think that is important, as well.
The other good thing about this bill is that it actually requires disclosure. Disclosure from the Māori Trustee has been a problem for some of these beneficiaries, like Mr Richard Johnson with his
$28,747.35. I am sure Mr Johnson—if he is out there listening today—will be ecstatic to know that he is entitled to $28,747.35. I think one of the problems that existed with the trustee is the ability to disclose how the money flows through, who is entitled to it, and where it actually is. One of the important things that exists here is the vision, values, and mission of the Māori Trustee—as outlined in its annual report—which are to provide a productive and sustainable framework for the development and utilisation of Māori resources that the Māori Trustee administers. That sounds pretty good. The previous speaker stood up and said that that was the idea around his statutory corporation and the use of funds for that statutory corporation. That already exists as the vision of the current Māori Trustee. We have to talk about how we use that $39 million in assets and funds for the best use of those people who are entitled to that money, including the Richard Johnsons of the world.
Previous speakers have spoken about the 111,000 hectares of land. Yes, it is problematic and, yes, this land is highly unlikely ever to be sold, which is one of the reasons why the protective provisions around Part 1 exist: to make sure that the land can be retained, returns can be earned, there are funds in terms of management fees, there is no debt issue because of the repeal of section 41, and people like Mr Richard Johnson can actually receive the funds they deserve.
Some of the other particular issues that exist here are the economies of scale and the uncertainty around some little things, particularly around the management fee. Part 1, as it has been put forward here, allows some changes around the management fee and gives more certainty and surety for the deduction of the management fee, which can be given back to the recipients, like Mr Richard Johnson and the rest of his family.
The other aspect that has some issues is around the confusion that existed between Te Puni Kōkiri and the Māori Trustee—where the roles and entitlements actually start and stop for some of these things. Whose job has it been to promote whether Mr Richard Johnson is entitled to $28,747.35, and where does Te Puni Kōkiri’s role start and finish? Part 1 outlines in a clearer fashion the vision, values, and mission of the Māori Trustee and how it will be much clearer in terms of its governance. I think that is a good step, and it is wonderful for Mr Richard Johnson and other families of the world. If we can get more of these funds, like the amounts for the Johnson family and many others, back to those families, with the Māori Trustee as it will function under this bill, then it will be a neat thing for them to be able to use.
In fact, I am actually shocked that more members of this Committee are not standing up and talking about the Mr Richard Johnsons of this world, and making sure they are aware of their entitlements. If those people are not listening, then maybe members who know them can pass on the fact that the Māori Trustee is set up to make sure these people get what they are entitled to. As the previous speaker said, some of these families may be greatly in need, particularly in these tough economic circumstances, and if we can get some of the money they are entitled to back to them, so they can use it for their own families to do what they want to do for their own homes, or whatever, then they will have the choice to spend their funds in the way they wish. I think that would be a good step, and particularly so in the economic times we have today.
I want to touch on just one more thing. One of the key things about the change in the $52 million debt is that the debt treated as a one-off, of course; it means that it can never happen again. One of the important things in relation to governance under Part 1 is to make sure that the Māori Trustee is managed in a certain way so as to ensure that the Māori Trustee does not incur such a large debt owed back to the Crown, and that $52 million does not get racked up again. To have a $52 million debt and $39 million in assets and funds means that the Māori Trustee is in negative equity, which is not good for Mr Richard Johnson and the other people who might not get their funds, given the uncertainty around the equity position of the Māori Trustee.
I think this bill is non-controversial. The only issue that has been controversial has been the $35 million statutory corporation that was originally proposed by the previous Government. The previous speaker is right: we as a new Government are happy to run with this bill, because with the removal of that proposal it is a good piece of legislation, and it will be good for Mr Richard Johnson and the other people out there who are entitled to some of the funds that exist in there. In the main, the Māori Trustee can deliver what it can do, in education, land management, and other things, in terms of getting money back to those people who deserve it the most. There is nothing wrong with that. We have heard discussion from some members on the other side about who is responsible for how good this is, and who is not. But I think we should all be focused on how we get the money held by the Māori Trustee back, in the most efficient way, to the Johnson family and to the other people who are entitled to funds that currently exist, rather than thinking about how we can best spend the $35 million. The Johnson family is entitled to its $37,000 or $38,000, and Mr Johnson himself is entitled to his $28,000. We should be focusing on how we get the Māori Trustee to operate in the best way and to maximise returns. Thank you.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chairperson.
Tēnā rā hoki koe e te Minita, e Pita.
I am happy to stand again in support of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, and in particular I want to return to new section 5, which I think is an important and essential part of the debate. New section 5, which is inserted by clause 7, states that the Māori Trustee must act independently of the Crown, “free from any direction or instruction from the Crown.” This is great news for Māori. This bill, which was introduced by the previous Labour Government, sought a way for Māori to have resources at their disposal and the authority to make decisions as Māori over those resources.
In effect, the intent of this provision is to ensure that Māori assume—and rightly so—tino rangatiratanga over the Māori Trustee. This was never going to be the case while the Māori Trustee was attached to a Government ministry. There are many ways in which tino rangatiratanga can be interpreted, and this is one of them—to have the ability and resources to make decisions for oneself. So I expect that new section 5 will be welcomed by Māori the length and breadth of the country.
The big problem with this bill, though, is that it does not go far enough. The bill was split in two, with the first part of the original bill being about establishing the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation. The second part of the original bill, which provided for the establishment of a statutory corporation to further Māori economic development, is being left to the side for now.
I spoke earlier in the Committee stage about clause 11, which substitutes sections 26 to 26B and refers to money held in a common fund being invested in the fund. New section 26(1) states: “any income derived from investment of the money forms part of the Common Fund.” If Māori were to think boldly and outside of the square, we could see the Māori Trustee becoming an integral part of Māori development, and financial gains being reinvested in the common fund so that the fund available grew and we could reinvest in more Māori initiatives. This would mean that we could see Māori entrepreneurs and business people investing and supporting yet more Māori to be successful. Success could well breed success, and we could lift each other out of the oft-quoted cycle of dependency. We would then be enabling more and more Māori to become financially independent, and when we have that sort of independence, we take a large step towards tino rangatiratanga. This would be a case of Māori helping Māori. It would mean a giant step away from dependency on other people to fund and support our initiatives.
Just this last Saturday I was talking to a person from Te Rarawa, up in Ahipara, who, along with a group of friends, has invented a device that will aid recreational fishermen while out boating. These Māori entrepreneurs have had to make contact with non-Māori investors, who have poured close to $30,000 into developing and improving the prototype of this invention. I congratulate these backyard inventors, and I believe that their product will be a success. The problem for these inventors—and for all Māori—is that the investors will expect a dividend to be returned to them, and so they should. They have taken on board a financial risk, and they expect payback somewhere and somehow. I believe that it would be a lot better for Māori if that dividend were paid back to Māori, so that Māori received all profits from a venture like this. Sure, there are risks attached, but the Māori Trustee should be someone with a nose for investment and the ability to put in place strategies to minimise those risks. If the Māori Trustee invested in that invention, then royalties could be paid back into the common fund, and the growth of that fund could be used to invest in further Māori ventures. This is progressive thinking.
We could be doing a lot to help already established Māori businesses and enterprises. Some say that this is purely a Māori bank. In response to that, I say, firstly, that there is
nothing wrong with Māori owning banks—and there is a subtle implication there that we are not actually capable of running a bank—but, secondly, and more important, this is about Māori becoming financially independent and successful. We have the basis here for Māori to develop financial success, so why do we not just go for it but put checks and balances in place to make sure those risks are minimised? But, true to Māori form, instead of having a go, we hear the knockers and pessimists spouting off, and basically, by their backward-thinking conservatism, they continue to condemn Māori to being second-rate citizens.
New section 6D(1), inserted by clause 7, explains that “The Māori Trustee may appoint the employees … to enable the Māori Trustee to exercise the powers and perform the functions and duties of office … effectively and efficiently.”
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: I am intrigued to hear my whanaunga from the north, Kelvin Davis, talk about progressiveness, the idea of a Māori bank, and the financial independence of the Māori Trustee. He talked as though the money that was in the common fund—or any fund, really—belonged to Māori. Well, let me point out that it does not belong to all Māori; it belongs to the beneficiaries whose land is under the auspices of the Māori Trustee. The dividends from that land should be paid to those beneficiaries. It is their money.
I am not sure whether Labour members can understand that this money is not for all Māori; this is about the beneficiaries. This is about the shareholders and their property right. So when people talk and wax lyrical about the ideas of a Māori bank, I say that they should first and foremost think about whose property right they are taking away in order to establish this so-called brilliant idea of a Māori development fund or bank. I also want to say that this issue has absolutely nothing to do with Part 1; Part 1 is about the independence of the Māori Trustee. It is about the stand-alone nature of the trustee. Part 1 is about how the Māori Trustee is appointed, and also about how the Māori Trustee is removed from office—and a few other things I have not got to yet. All in all, yes, it is great to see the Māori Trustee break away from that influence of Te Puni Kōkiri and strike out on his or her own. But let us not forget that the purpose of the Māori Trustee is to look after the assets of owners of land, and of shareholders of land. The position was not set up to do anything else. When we want to change that then we should spell it out, as the previous Minister did last year when he wanted to use beneficiary money. There is still an argument about whether that was beneficiary money or whether it was the interest on beneficiary money, and I still contend that even the interest belonged to the beneficiaries. If we are to go down that path, then let us have a bigger discussion and a bigger consultation around the issue than there has been in the past.
Nobody disses the idea of Māori development. Nobody disagrees with a fund for Māori development. The argument was always about where it came from. If it came from a property right that was owned by beneficiaries, then that was the sticking point. Nobody wanted to pooh-pooh the idea that the former Minister had; it was all about the propriety of taking the money out of a fund that was essentially a shareholders’ fund. I make those points with all due respect to my colleague and my whanaunga from the north.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I thank the speaker who has just resumed his seat for that valuable contribution to the Committee stage of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill and for reminding us that we are, in fact, discussing Part 1 of the bill. Having said that, in the next breath he wandered off on to other matters totally unrelated to Part 1 of the bill, but I will come back to him in a minute.
My colleague the Hon Parekura Horomia, the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, who introduced this bill to the House, raised some interesting matters about the
difficulties the Māori Trustee has in terms of identifying beneficiaries of funds held within the Māori Trustee Office. One of the previous speakers from National, Aaron Gilmore, also made reference to that particular matter and to the difficulties around it. He mentioned a particular person—a Mr Richard Johnson—and quite a substantial amount of money being held in the Māori Trustee. There are many similar instances where the Māori Trustee has held funds on behalf of beneficiaries who have not stepped forward to claim those moneys, and there are legitimate reasons for that. Apart from the fact that many beneficiaries are not aware that they have these funds sitting there, waiting to be uplifted, many of those beneficiaries no longer exist, and it is difficult to deal with that particular matter—
Paul Quinn: They are not with us.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I thank my whanaunga from Ngāti Awa for that elocution lesson. Many of those beneficiaries have passed on, as we might say, and no succession orders have been lodged on their behalf. As the previous Minister of Māori Affairs mentioned, it is a major task to attempt to locate potential beneficiaries, particularly as many of them no longer even take an interest in their family business or their family estates. Some of them, like the member from Whakatāne said, are no longer with us, and that itself is a reason why the Māori Trustee has accumulated such a high level of funds that are being held in certain accounts.
We have certainly debated a lot around what Part 1 of the bill essentially means in establishing a stand-alone Māori Trustee, and the necessary legislative amendments to ensure that the responsibility of the Māori Trustee is clear and that strong and robust financial management systems are in place. There has been a lot of debate around clause 11 of Part 1 on when the funds are held in the common fund and invested. Any returns on that investment must come back into the common fund and not, as has been the case in the past, transferred into the general fund. I always find it an unusual practice when Peter pays the bill and Paul receives the benefits. It is certainly very unusual—
Paul Quinn: Not me. I wish they would.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Yes, something like that. I really found the contribution from my colleague Kelvin Davis to be very, very valuable, and I did not appreciate the attack on the quality of his contribution. I am reminded of a speaker who was previously on his feet. Before his return to Parliament he worked for an organisation that was established using funds from the Māori Trust Office. That is not the only case where that has happened in the past—where organisations have been set up using funds from either the general fund or the common fund of the Māori Trust Office. I do not know why people get so uptight at any suggestion that the funds held by the Māori Trustee should be directed to Māori economic development. It is a bold step, but it is also a step that I believe will be taken responsibly. I could not say with my hand on my heart that it has been done so in the past. I am sure the Minister of Māori Affairs will have some views about that.
CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Tēnā koe, te Minita. I wanted to take a call on Part 1 of the bill just to clarify a few figures for the benefit of members of the New Zealand public who may be diligently listening to this debate, so that they can put into context exactly what we are talking about with regard to this Te Pire Whakatikatika Kaitiaki Māori—the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. We are dealing with an organisation that manages a considerable number of parcels of multiple-owned land. In fact, I have just been speaking to the officials, who told me that 111,000 hectares of land are managed by this organisation. That is close to 250,000 acres of land that is managed by this organisation, and I put it to members of the Committee that in some parts this land is being well utilised and has been well developed, but in many instances it is possibly well located but is considerably underdeveloped. When I look at
my own rohe back in Heretaunga in Hawke’s Bay—and I know the Minister who is sitting in the chair today, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, can speak fondly of that part of Aotearoa—I see there is a considerable amount of land managed by the Māori Trustee in Hawke’s Bay. Some of it is returning real value; a lot of it is underdeveloped and could be better utilised. That is essentially what the organisation exists to manage.
But over the course of time a common fund has also been developed. I asked the officials to put some numbers around that common fund, and I was told that at 31 March 2007, which I must admit is somewhat out of date, it stood at $39,496,263. So we are talking about a serious amount of capital in that fund. But I must add to what my colleague Tau Henare said today: that money has been accrued over time from rents and from interest for the beneficiaries of the land that is managed in many small parcels by the Māori Trustee. It is their money. I am informed—and it is an interesting debating point raised by my colleague from the north—that the money is currently not invested in small entrepreneurial businesses or Māori business. It is actually invested in a range of portfolio investments at quite low risk at this point in time, and that money is returned to the common fund. In effect, it is not being returned to the beneficiaries of the fund.
There is a dilemma in regard to this. When the legislation was first put up, it was proposed that the money be utilised specifically for wider Māori development, rather than being for just the beneficiaries, and that is where the issue arose in regard to this side of the House opposing that part of the legislation. What we now have is the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. Two bills have come out as a result of the original bill that was put up, which proposed establishing a stand-alone Māori Trustee, and also proposed establishing an economic development arm under it. We have now divided that bill into two bills, and Part 1 of this bill gives effect to the independent establishment of the Māori Trustee role.
If we look at the various clauses of the bill, we see that new section 3, “Māori Trustee established”, which is inserted by clause 7, provides the legislative means to separate the Māori Trustee from Te Puni Kōkiri; new section 4 deals with the capacity and powers of the Māori Trustee; and new section 5 deals with the independence of the Māori Trustee. Many speakers in the Committee have spoken this evening about how important it is that the Māori Trustee is independent—particularly for the sake of the beneficiaries of the small parcels of land throughout New Zealand, so that sensible decisions can be made about the rents that accrue from that land, and so that, ultimately, the best use or purpose of that land is fostered.
New section 6, also inserted by clause 7, talks about the appointment of the Māori Trustee, and, interestingly, states that the Māori Trustee is appointed by the Minister. So there is a strong involvement by the Minister of Māori Affairs, who will play a key part in taking this legislation forward.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour)
: As I listen to the debate going on, I keep coming back to the feeling that this bill has missed a number of opportunities. I hear what my whanaunga over there is saying about money being held in the common fund. I am not talking about taking, taking, taking, and depleting that common fund; it is about investing—it is about Māori investing in Māori, and returning funds for Māori.
Hon Tau Henare: It’s the Government’s job.
KELVIN DAVIS: I come back to what I said. It is a missed opportunity—and I just heard my whanaunga say it is the Government’s job—but what I am talking about here is that this is an opportunity for Māori to invest in Māori and return to Māori. It is about aspiration. What I am hearing is just dull conservatism that is missing a huge opportunity to actually do something for Māori. I hear about underdeveloped land, I hear about significant sums of money just sitting there doing very little, and I hear the
member Mr Tremain saying the money is already invested in low-risk opportunities and then invested back. What is wrong with investing in Māori initiatives? It does come under Part 1 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, in that the Māori Trustee, acting independently from Te Puni Kōkiri, should have the ability to do something significant so that Māori get a greater return.
I will now touch on new section 6D, inserted by clause 7, in Part 1, which allows for the Māori Trustee to employ staff. Here is another perfect opportunity for us to actually do something. Instead of just employing people to do administrative things, we could employ those people, make sure they have financial skills and acumen, and get around to helping our whanaunga who are trying to develop businesses and enterprises and trying to be entrepreneurial. We could use this opportunity to get those employees of the Māori Trustee out amongst the whānau, and help them to work with the investment that has been made in them, so they can make more money and then return a dividend to the common fund.
It is not about just taking money; as I said earlier, it is about Māori having tino rangatiratanga—having the resources and the independence to make decisions for the betterment of themselves, and then making returns to the fund. The beneficiaries would not miss out. Mr Gilmore spoke about a Mr Johnson being owed thousands of dollars—that would not change. That money, if it were invested back into the common fund, could still be accessed by Mr Johnson, if and when he is found, and his family—and Mr Gilmore named them all.
As I say, I believe this is a missed opportunity. We, as Māori, need to be aspirational and see how we can develop ideas further so that we do not stagnate and do not continue to have our hands out and be dependent on other people’s help to invest in and develop our businesses. I take this short call to reiterate that I think this bill does not go far enough, and I would really like, when Part 2 is discussed and debated, for us to open our eyes and think outside the square, so that Māori do develop and become financially successful and independent. Kia ora.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: I acknowledge the previous speakers for giving their general support to the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. A lot of people speaking on this bill today have been major architects in its development and in getting it to this stage, and I congratulate them on their efforts, particularly the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, who introduced the bill and sent it off to the Māori Affairs Committee, where it went through the select committee process.
As everyone knows, the bill is one part of a two-part bill—the Māori Trustee and Māori Development Amendment Bill—that was divided by the select committee. This division took away the economic development part of the original bill, and left the Māori Trustee part, which is what we are considering today. The bill gives the Māori Trustee stand-alone status; at the present time the Māori Trustee is an employee of Te Puni Kōkiri—a staff member.
Under the bill, the Māori Trustee is appointed to that role by the Minister of Māori Affairs. Appointment by the Minister gives the position the mana that it deserves. Many would see flaws in the Minister’s having the appointment process in his or her hands. However, there are some benefits, as well. It guarantees that there will be transparency in the appointment and that there will be a selection process by which the Minister will seek the acumen and experience required to carry out the role, so that it is not left to chance. In some ways there is support for the idea that the Minister does this. That support came through in the consideration of this bill, and that provision is in the bill now. The appointment is an administrative process, and—as I said in my second reading speech—I, having the role of Minister at the moment, have committed to consulting and to ensuring that this process is definitely open.
In answer to the question about the removal of the part of the original bill about the economic development of the Māori people, and the suggestion that it would be good to see an economic development arm of the bill, I say that the opportunity to establish some sort of pūtea, or bank, to help Māori economic development—say, for small-business enterprises—is still a possibility, and there are Māori moneys around that could be called upon to support such a venture. However, I am also really happy to say that the promotion of Māori economic and business development is currently in action, and a lot of that action results from the Māori economic summit conference, which we held about the end of last year. It also results from the Prime Minister’s Job Summit, which followed the Māori economic summit conference, and the proposals that came out of that summit. There is quite a bit of activity in that particular area.
I acknowledge an earlier speaker’s comment that a Mr Johnson’s $28,000 would have gone down the tubes if the bill had not been changed, but I say that that would not have happened, because the common fund moneys are not, and never were, to be touched in that operation. The economic side of the bill, which was to be called Māori Business Aotearoa New Zealand, was to be funded through the general purpose funds and not the common fund moneys. So Mr Johnson’s money would have been quite safe and used appropriately.
I am happy to take the call and to acknowledge the contribution of members, especially those who served on the Māori Affairs Committee last year. Kia ora.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Chair. Tēnā koe, te Minita. I start by saying I am pleased that the Hon Nanaia Mahuta has not been left to battle on the Opposition benches, as she was last week, as the only speaker who was put up by the Opposition. Up until about a minute ago we at least had the waka triangle present to provide some robust debate, although how robust it was I am not very sure. I wondered in bewilderment when my cousin Mita Ririnui, who opened the proceedings today, said this bill had been introduced by the previous Labour Government, and told us what a great job that that Government had done. I again quote from the Māori Affairs Committee’s commentary on the bill, because there is this interesting statement in it: “Because it is desirable that changes to establish the Māori Trustee as a stand-alone organisation be passed into legislation before the close of this Parliament, we resolved that splitting the bill along these lines was prudent.”
If we look at the bill, we see it was originally intended to be passed into law in July 2008. So I ask what the previous Government had been doing. If it was so good at its work, what had it been doing with regard to this bill? That speaks for itself, and once again it has been left to this National Government to carry out the role of cleaning up legislation to clear the decks. It is interesting to refer to an independent report in the latest version of the
Trans Tasman that espouses the great and dedicated work this Government is doing. So this Government is again cleaning up a matter that the previous Government failed to address. This Government is committed to passing this bill into law by July 2009, and that will be achieved.
The other issue that my cousin Mita Ririnui waxed eloquent on and that Kelvin Davis talked about was Māori economic development, and, although I agree with the sentiment that was expressed, the fact is that the Minister has now clarified the purpose of the bill. The purpose, as reported back by the select committee, is to deal with a number of operational matters in respect of the Māori Trustee and how he operates now. It is not about expanding those activities, vision, mission, and all those sorts of things. The purpose is about dealing with a number of operational matters. Those issues are all fundamentally about independence and being able to make the Māori Trustee more independent, more accountable, and in a greater position to progress the issues that confront him in the normal administration of his job.
I sympathise with the thoughts expressed by Mr Davis about aspiration, but that is why the National Party came into Government. People do want to have aspiration, and that is why this Government is clearing the decks, getting rid of all this administration stuff, and moving forward. The previous administration, with my friend the Hon Parekura Horomia as Minister of Māori Affairs, had 9 years to do that. It started with closing the gaps, and what happened? We are still waiting. Members opposite still stand and talk about aspiration and Māori economic development, but nothing happened about that when they were in Government. Although I agree that “that must happen” and “this will happen”, fundamentally this bill is about independence.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): Before I call the next speaker, I just remind members that we are debating Part 1.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Labour—Ikaroa-Rāwhiti)
: Part 1 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill is expansive and can bring into play a whole lot of discussions, like those about activity. Yes, Labour was in Government for 9 years, and we shared 6 wonderful years with Minister Turia, who was there too at that time. I am very pleased that the Minister of Māori Affairs has the courage to go forward and to really spend some time reading about the second part of this activity, so we can get to the space that Kelvin Davis was talking about.
I want to assure members, as certain aspects of Part 1 point out, that the Māori Trustee has held, over a long period of time, certain independence. Staff members of Te Puni Kōkiri and the Māori Trustee are to have a clear delineation and differentiation between them, because the profit margin, or the accumulated fund, was becoming the Māori Trustee’s in isolation. Part 1 is about ensuring the independence of those staff—between Te Puni Kōkiri and the Māori Trustee. They have done a damn good job.
Part 1 gasses it up a bit. I like Kelvin Davis’ paraphrasing, in relation to Part 1, that we had better put a bit more speed on this, so people can utilise the accumulated funds. We did that when we started the Poutama Māori Business Trust, we did it when we started the Māori Education Trust, and we did it when we started te kōhanga reo. We saw that those would bear benefits for most of the beneficiaries of this fund. We saw fit to do that at that time, and we can still be bold and courageous enough to do things like that now.
Part 1 is about restructuring. I remind the previous speaker that it is about reconfiguring the role of the Māori Trustee, and that just a short period back the Ngāti Awa Trust Board was reconfigured—and he led the restructuring of it—because it was becoming antiquated and had old-fashioned practices. It has been gassed up in order to modernise it and bring it forward. That is what this bill is about. It is about trying to ensure we can get some clarity. Part 1 is about exposing relevant issues so that there is a template that people can understand in relation to the assets held by, and the practices of, the Māori Trustee. Those staff have done a good job. I am encouraged that the Minister of Māori Affairs will continue to appoint the Māori Trustee, and I say that so he should. That is no different from what Nick Smith did with regard to the chair of the Accident Compensation Corporation. He did not take cognisance of—
David Bennett: Come on!
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: He did not take cognisance of what the participants wanted. He appointed the board members. He knocked some over, and he put some back. I can assure the Committee that knowing the Minister of Māori Affairs as I do, he will do a better job in ensuring that the Māori Trustee continues to ensure that Māori beneficiaries get the benefit out of this change. Additionally, a lot of our people are in Australia.
I was going to wax lyrical about our previous Labour Government taking 200,000 children out of poverty and ensuring that our people’s minimum wage went up nine
times. We never bought into the rubbish that the previous speaker was talking about. We should have this discussion this time next year and see how many Māori have been put on to the unemployment heap, but members opposite do not care about that. They sip their lattes, they sit in their pastel confines, and they put our people into despair and despondency. This bill is imaginative. It is a forward-thinking bill. Part 1 ensures that National can have a crack at everything that is going. What is wrong with Māori getting a hand up? This is not a handout. This bill talks about Māori funds; it talks about putting them over there. [Interruption] Yes, Mr Quinn, let us have this discussion this time next year. Let us see where we are at.
Paul Quinn: I am looking forward to it.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I am looking forward to the Minister of Māori Affairs continuing to use his courage in order to get this issue sorted out. I want to make sure he refocuses on Part 2 of the original bill, which ensures that Māori beneficiaries can have a say in lifting up our people in the future. I certainly applaud the Māori Affairs Committee for standing by this bill.
I want to go back to the Ngāti Awa reconstruction, because that trust board was reconfigured. Why? It was stepped up and modernised to ensure that beneficiaries would get the best out of it. [Interruption] That is right. I signed it off as the Minister at that time, and that member led it and made sure it was OK then. So why is it that when we come to this bill, National is trying to pooh-pooh it and make believe that it ain’t a good idea for Māoridom?
Paul Quinn: No. We support it.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: It is an excellent idea for Māoridom. I am glad the member supports it.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: For anyone who does not know, that was the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, a Labour member, who was speaking. He has talked about this bill as being imaginative and something that is good for Māori. When we compare that comment with a Labour member who spoke before him who said it was dull conservatism, we see that the Labour Party does not actually know what it thinks about this bill. On the one hand, it looks at this bill and sees it as being imaginative and something it wants to support. On the other hand, it cannot say it supports the bill, because it cannot support the National Party doing the right thing by Māori. That is the reality behind the Labour Party.
When we look at the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill we see there are two parts that were originally considered. Part 1, which I do not think anyone has any problem with, establishes a stand-alone Māori Trustee organisation. People see the benefit in that. Recognising that reflects the maturity of Parliament and a maturity in the way we deal with issues of land ownership. The second area of this bill, which is more contentious, is related, basically, to the siphoning off—as the great Tau Henare described it—of money into a fund that Labour would use to invest in what it thought was right at any particular time. That was more contentious, because it did not relate to any aspect of land ownership.
There is an increasing maturity in how we deal with the issues that need to be dealt with by Parliament. The National Party has supported the legislation coming forward, but only in the sense of Part 1, which deals constructively with the issue of trying to find a solution that represents more modern thinking around land ownership. It gives Māoridom the ability to have control over that ownership through the Māori Trustee being a stand-alone organisation rather than just an employee of Te Puni Kōkiri. That is part of the process that will go on. It still enables the unique aspects of Māori ownership to be part of what the Māori Trustee will deal with, but in an increasing role of independence from the State, and independence from a Government department that is
in control of Māori land. I think that is a good starting point, and it will probably lead to more development over time in this area in the future.
If we go back to what Labour was looking to do when it originally introduced this bill, it wanted to have control over another slush fund to dictate where that money would go. That is basic Labour theory: that it knows best how to spend somebody else’s money. It does not trust other people to be able to deal with their own assets. It certainly does not trust Māori to be able to deal with their own assets. Labour says that it knows best. That was the whole decision-making process behind the Labour Party. At the select committee and at the last election the good people of New Zealand decided that they did not want to be told any more that the Labour Party knows best. They want to have the ability to make those decisions for themselves. They want independence.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Like the ACC board! When was that?
DAVID BENNETT: The previous Minister of Māori Affairs is going on about things that do not even relate to this bill. If he actually stayed on the point and talked about what was in the best interests of the Māori Trustee it would be more appropriate for this debate. That is what we are doing; we are concentrating on the issues at hand, we are looking at what is in the best interest of Māori and the Māori Trustee role, and we are coming to constructive solutions that are in the best interests of New Zealand and the Māori Trustee, going forward.
That independence is actually very important, because the title of this bill identifies an entity that we commonly consider has an independent role—a trustee. When we talk about legislation related to a trustee, we normally expect the person to be independent and making the right decisions in relation to looking after somebody else’s funds. That is what we are doing here. We are setting up a stand-alone organisation that is free from political pressure, which I know Labour members find very difficult to stomach. They want to have organisations that they can control so they can dictate their terms, but the National Government does not want that. We want something that is free from that political pressure.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: Once again, I take a call on Part 1 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. I am not sure whether I am amused or bemused by the statements of the previous speaker, David Bennett, but I recall that earlier in the Committee stage of this bill he took a call also. His speech was so hilarious—for want of other words—that the member for Hauraki-Waikato, the Hon Nanaia Mahuta, had to stand up in the Chamber and ask if he had been drinking water out of the Waikato River, because he was well off track. I find that his contribution to this particular debate is no different. Although the member espouses considerable understanding of various clauses within Part 1, he has no understanding at all of the dynamics of Māori land ownership. If he had been listening to the debate so far he would have understood—as has been commented by a number of people who have stood in the Chamber to speak to Part 1—that it is not as straightforward as he seems to think. He thinks that he can walk into the Chamber, get to his feet, take a glimpse of the bill, and have a complete understanding of Māori land issues. Mate, I have never seen so much arrogance in my life. That was the most paternalistic speech I have heard in the time that I have been in this Chamber.
David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Chair. I require the speaker to withdraw and apologise for that last comment.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Mr Chair, which comment in particular does the member want me to withdraw?
David Bennett: I do not have to repeat the comment. You know.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: He said that “You know.”, Mr Chair, so I am asking you whether you know.
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): I was talking to the Clerk at the time, so I am a little bit at sea here. Offence has been taken. I take it that Mr Bennett is serious about this, and that it is a genuine point of order. If that is the case I accept his word. I ask the member to withdraw.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I withdraw in the interests of time, but it would have been interesting to hear his clarification—
Chris Tremain: I raise a point of order, Mr Chair. The member was asked to withdraw and apologise. He did not need to add on the words: “in the interests of time,”. Can the member just do what he was asked to do?
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The point of order is well made. The member will simply withdraw and continue with the speech, and will not refer to the matter again.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: Thank you, Mr Chair. I said that I found much of the previous speaker’s comments and the comments of a number of speakers in the Chamber this afternoon quite paternalistic.
There is no dispute around the need for the Māori Trustee to become a stand-alone organisation. There is no dispute that the legislation needs to reflect very clearly the roles and responsibilities of the Māori Trustee, including the Māori Trustee’s appointment and—if it ever comes about—dismissal. There is no dispute that the legislation needs to include robust financial management systems, and clarification around the investment of funds from out of the common fund and where the return on those investments must go. The change in that particular area is, of course, that returns will not go into the general purpose funds but back into the common fund. As mentioned in the Chamber many times through this debate, there is support for that particular approach.
As I said earlier, there seems to be a total lack of understanding of the complexities around Māori land ownership and Māori land tenure, and the difficulties the Māori Trustee will face in identifying beneficiaries. I believe that a previous speaker referred to a particular case in Te Tai Tonga—in Te Wai Pounamu—of a particular family that has a sizable amount of money already accumulated in the Māori Trust Office. Kelvin Davis, Parekura Horomia, and I—and, I am sure, many other Māori members around the House—either are beneficiaries of lands held by the Māori Trustee or know someone who is. There are reasons why many do not come forward, as I said previously. Those reasons are that they are no longer with us—
Paul Quinn: They don’t know it exists!
Hon MITA RIRINUI:—they do not know it exists, or they are basically just not interested enough in their family’s affairs to inquire into the possibility of funds being held on their behalf.
The Māori Trustee has made some tremendous steps forward over a number of years. I am familiar with cases where the Māori Trustee has actually held shares in particular blocks around the country, and those shares have been handed back to the governing authority of those estates. I can recall very recently the encouragement of the then Minister of Māori Affairs, Parekura Horomia, in interests in Tuhua Island—or Mayor Island, as it is commonly known—in the Bay of Plenty, just off the coast of Tauranga. It is a very, very popular spot. In years gone by it was frequented by a lot of recreational fishers. Those shares were handed back to the Tuhua Trust Board. Now the board holds those shares on behalf of all the beneficiaries with interest in Tuhua Island. So although we might be making changes to the role of the Māori Trustee, I hope that that particular important function carried out by the Māori Trustee remains in place for a long period to come.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 14 in the name of the Hon Dr Pita Sharples to Part 1 be agreed to.
- Amendments agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 16 in the name of the Hon Dr Pita Sharples to Part 1 be agreed to.
- Amendments agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 17 in the name of the Hon Dr Pita Sharples to Part 1 be agreed to.
- Part 1 as amended agreed to.
Part 2 Transitional provisions and consequential amendments
The CHAIRPERSON (Hon Rick Barker): The debate covers clauses 17 to 30, and includes schedule 2.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I am delighted to support the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. It appears that there is general support for the bill from throughout the Committee, and that is rightly so. When one looks at Part 2, one sees that it is largely procedural. It is about the procedural matters to do with the Māori Trustee and with the Māori Trust Office. I looked up the current legislation regarding the Māori Trust Office, because I was interested to know what the situation was. Essentially, it is an office of the Public Service and that will continue. One of the aspects that I particularly like is that there is some oversight in regard to the Māori Trustee. I think that is actually quite important.
I will digress slightly, with the indulgence of the Committee, and talk about an actual trust, because I think this bill is a really good example of doing things right—a really good example. We do not always get things right. I would like to talk about a particular trust, the Earthwise Living Foundation New Zealand. The same person from this trust also happens to be involved with Kiwi internships and provides activities under the auspices of being a trust. This can be very misleading. One of the things about this bill is that there is some oversight here for the activities of a trust. In the case of the trust I have just mentioned—the Earthwise Living Foundation New Zealand—the main individual involved with it, one Jon Traylen, provides the activities, gets donations and funding, and is paid considerable sums of money for what he says he will provide but does not deliver. Often the young people who come from overseas looking for Kiwi internships, or who provide voluntary labour for the Earthwise Living Foundation New Zealand, do not get the sorts of care, support, education, activities, or services that have been promised.
I will tell members about one girl who was assigned to go and feed the chooks—this is an environmental trust. She was assigned the job of feeding the chooks. Everyone had been working very hard day after day doing all Jon Traylen’s dirty work, and she actually refused in this instance. Mr Traylen said that if she did not feed the chooks, he would kill them all. She still refused to feed the chooks, because she did not believe him, but that is exactly what he did. He killed the chooks, and then he made her bury them. This is seriously unconscionable behaviour. This is not the sort of behaviour for somebody to engage in who purports to be a representative of a trust, and who offers these sorts of opportunities to young people from overseas—and not necessarily just young people. Earthwise Living Foundation New Zealand purports to be an
environmental trust, but it is not offering the sorts of things that the trust purports to offer.
That is why I applaud this bill. There is some oversight here. Yes, I have digressed, but it is very difficult to try to bring the Earthwise Living Foundation New Zealand to account. This is one of the real issues that
Fair Go is exploring tomorrow night on television. That is why I applaud this bill—and what I have said is a long stretch from the bill we are discussing, but there are some things that one can say here that one cannot say elsewhere, and I am taking full advantage of that opportunity. It is very important that trusts have integrity and are accountable. This is why this bill is particularly important in terms of the Māori Trustee and the Māori Trust Office.
As I said previously, Part 2 is about fiduciary rights and liabilities. It is about the new Māori Trustee succeeding to existing undertakings, and about the dissolution of the Māori Trust Office. It is about contracts and other instruments, the status of existing securities, the effect of the Act, registers, the registrar of deeds, and the Registrar-General of Land. It is also about the transfer of employees, the protection of employment conditions, and continuity of employment. One certainly could not say that with regard to Jon Traylen, because when he did employ the services of young people, they were volunteering, and they were paying money for services they did not receive. In actual fact, Mr Traylen would claim any moneys that were left unspent as a non-refundable donation. I have never heard of a donation being able to be enforced, but in this instance that was the case.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I thank the member who has just resumed her seat for her contribution. During the course of this debate in the Committee stage on the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, we have been reminded many times that we are speaking to particular parts of it, so I will do my best to stay in line—[Interruption] It is hard not to laugh, but I will try to stay in line, lest, as my colleague the previous Minister of Māori Affairs says, I be scolded like a headless chook. I think he was referring to the previous contribution.
Nevertheless, this is a very important part of the bill. I would like to talk about the necessity of change, and the necessity that the Māori Trustee become a stand-alone organisation. I would like to talk about the necessity of very clear roles and responsibilities, and the necessity of robust financial internal systems to guide prudent financial management. We still have to get there. This part of the bill explains to us how we should get there. We are debating the transitional provisions, and they are showing us how we will get there. The consequential amendments are required, to ensure that everything we have voted in favour of this evening meets certain standards. There is reference to the existing undertakings in relation to “all property and estates administered, held, managed, or controlled by the Māori Trustee or the Māori Trust Office before the commencement of this Act”.
I mentioned earlier that much of the work done over a number of years by the Māori Trustee has been viewed by Māori as favourable and quite necessary. This part refers to shares held by the Māori Trustee, certain land blocks and estates where it has been thought that the Māori Trustee should not in any way be a beneficiary or a shareholder in these estates, and where the Māori Trustee has, through a transparent process, transferred the assets back to their rightful owners.
Having said that, the Māori Trustee still holds a lot of interest in lands. I mentioned earlier one particular area that I am familiar with, but I am also familiar with several others where the Māori Trust Office holds shares. I recall some time ago in 2001 where the Māori Affairs Committee, when speaking with the Māori Trustee, inquired into the interests of the Māori Trustee in terms of certain estates. We were pleased to hear that the Māori Trustee had, over a period of time, been transferring those assets back. Some
of it was very difficult, because the Māori Trustee just could not locate the rightful beneficiaries of the estates.
In Part 2, I highlight the fiduciary rights and liabilities. It includes “all rights, capacities, authorities, discretions, duties, and liabilities of the Māori Trustee”. We expect that the Māori Trustee would perform his or her particular role to an extremely high degree, because that is the expectation of this Parliament and it is certainly the expectation of those who have interests held on behalf of their families within the Māori Trustee. To be fair, the Māori Trustee has managed many of those interests, if not all of them. That is the prudent way. But it has still been subject to criticism. Naturally, there are those who think they know better and have better ideas about accountability, reporting, and a whole lot of other things. But when we want them to front up to a particular meeting, we cannot find them. They never turn up. We do not see them about. Nevertheless, the Māori Trustee has taken a lot of this criticism on the chin. In my view, over a number of years the Māori Trustee has boldly tackled a lot of the difficult issues.
The new form of the Māori Trustee would, naturally, succeed to the existing undertakings of the current Māori Trustee, even though we are talking about the same person. As I say, these transitional provisions are necessary for this to be enacted.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: I will continue along the lines of previous speakers by explaining exactly the provisions in Part 2 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, “Transitional provisions and consequential amendments”. Part 2—clauses 17 to 30—provides continuity for the Māori Trustee, for the staff of the Māori Trust Office, for clients, and for others who deal with the Māori Trustee in the transition to being a stand-alone organisation. It is a very important part.
As the previous speaker, Mita Ririnui, said, the “New Māori Trustee succeeds to existing undertaking”—that is clause 18. This clause provides that “the new Māori Trustee succeeds to—(a) the existing undertaking,” as defined in clause 17, and to the Māori Trustee’s “fiduciary rights and liabilities,”. I think clause 18 is a very important clause. It is one of a number of clauses that provide continuity for the Māori Trustee clients and others who deal with the Māori Trustee.
Why does the office need to be dissolved? It needs to be dissolved to allow for the transfer of staff and of the Māori Trustee. The Maori Trustee Act 1953 currently provides for an office of the Public Service called the Māori Trust Office. At present, all employees of the Māori Trust Office are employees of Te Puni Kōkiri. As the Māori Trustee will be a stand-alone organisation separate from Te Puni Kōkiri, the current Māori Trust Office needs to be formally dissolved. Staff who are employed in the Māori Trust Office at the time of the bill’s enactment will be transferred to the new Māori Trustee organisation. These clauses provide for the continuation of their contracts, and of other instruments and proceedings involving the Māori Trustee. Any proceeding against or in favour of the Māori Trustee or the Māori Trust Office may be continued. This is covered in clause 22, which provides continuity for “An action, arbitration, proceeding, or cause of action …”. So this whole part is important; it is concerned with continuity during the transition from the Māori Trustee’s current status to its new status.
Clauses 25 to 29 provide for the transfer of staff employed in the Māori Trust Office to the employment of the Māori Trustee: continuity of service, and continuity for the staff of the Māori Trust Office. As well, staff employed in the Māori Trust Office immediately before the commencement of these amendments will become employees of the new, stand-alone Māori Trustee organisation. The only exception is the incumbent Māori Trustee, who is currently the general manager of the Māori Trust Office as well as being the Māori Trustee. This person will be appointed as the new Māori Trustee under new section 6A, which is inserted by clause 7, ensuring continuity for both staff
and clients, and helping to ensure a smooth transition. The transferred staff will be employed on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than those applying before the commencement of this Act.
Clause 30 provides that “every reference in any enactment or document” to the Māori Trustee must be read as applying to the new, stand-alone Māori Trustee established by this bill. I just thought I would take a call to clarify the importance of the transition stage set out in Part 2.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: Part 2, clauses 17 to 30, ranges from the dissolution of the Māori Trust Office to taxation issues. All of the clauses in Part 2 are procedural, and without them we would not have the new Māori Trustee.
Let us cut to the chase and talk about the real issues. I reiterate the point that some beneficiaries may like the idea of sharing their largesse or their dividends. That is cool; no one has a problem with that. The problem is when Big Brother, the nanny State, or the grandpa State—call him or her what you will—determines for everybody an outcome from a pool of people who hardly see anything out the Māori Trustee. I will give members a couple of examples. Why is it so easy for Bay Collection Agency and the Inland Revenue Department to find us, but not for the Māori Trustee to do so? Why is it that people who have no known address, and who have been missing for 8, 9, or 10 years from the planet, all of a sudden are found by Bay Collection Agency and the Inland Revenue Department because they want their 500 bucks? Why is it that we have a situation like that, yet the Māori Trustee cannot find anybody? I do not want to personalise the issue in any way, shape, or form, but why would we not contract the Inland Revenue Department and Bay Collection Agency to go and find these fullas?
Hon Member: Pay them a commission. Get it sorted.
Hon TAU HENARE: We could then hand over what is rightfully theirs.
On another tack, in the past 25 to 30 years assets have been handed back to the owners, and the owners have got on and looked after their assets. Nobody could argue against that. One of the greatest things the Māori Trustee has been able to do is to hand back the assets, so that the beneficiaries and the whānau can get on with making a living. What I have not liked over the past 25 to 30 years is the handing back of not only an asset but also a huge debt. That debt has got out of hand. There is no point in handing back something with a massive debt that takes the owners years and years to get over.
All in all, without the 13 or so clauses in Part 2, we would not be able to move forward. I take my hat off to the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, Parekura Horomia. Let us not be disparaging. We would not have this bill if it had not been for the previous Minister sitting down with the officials and saying this was what he wanted to do. OK, we can argue the toss about splitting the bill and about what was in the other part of the bill, but the fact of the matter is that there is no other part of this bill. Only one bill is in front of us. It tidies matters up, as the Minister has said, and it parks the Māori Trustee in the position of being there for the benefit of beneficiaries in the future. Who can argue against some of the clauses that we have discussed in the Committee stage?
I will make a small reference to clause 28, “No compensation for redundancy”. Let me read it out: “A transferred employee is not entitled to compensation for redundancy by reason only of the person ceasing to be an employee in the Maori Trust Office.” Am I to take it that if a person who is employed at the Māori Trust Office becomes superfluous to the needs of the Māori Trust Office, he or she is not entitled by virtue of this clause to redundancy? It is an interesting little question. [Interruption] Well, to some it would be bad; to some it would be good. I say it is bad. I say there must be some sort of protection there, notwithstanding the side of the Chamber that I am on at the moment. It is an interesting juxtaposition.
The fact of the matter is that that little clause, clause 28, has been there forever and a day. Ever since the bill was promulgated by the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, who just so happens to represent a party—
Hon Tariana Turia: Do the unions know that?
Hon Parekura Horomia: It was there, the same, when you were there.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, no! Just to correct things, I say that I was never put in Parliament to represent the unions. I did not scab money off the unions to run my campaign. But we all know that Parekura Horomia—
Moana Mackey: You were the worst union organiser ever in the history of New Zealand—sold them out.
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh dear, I am hurt. How sad! Let us move on. It is those members’ party that represents—or is supposed to represent—the workers.
But here is the little clause, and I will read it out again. It says there will be no compensation for redundancy. What a shocking state of affairs! [Interruption] Absolutely! But who put it in there? I do not blame the Māori Party or even the National Party for this clause, because this bill was promulgated by the previous Minister of Māori Affairs, the Hon Parekura Horomia. All night we have been thrashed about what a good job the previous Minister of Māori Affairs did. If clause 28 was such a good idea, then maybe the previous Minister can take a call and just tell us where he got the little doozy of an idea of no compensation for redundancy from.
What about those fullas up on the coast who work in the Gisborne office? I ask what will happen if they are made superfluous to the needs of the Māori Trust Office. Does this clause mean that they will not get any redundancy? I am just asking. It is not a question of whether I believe they should. Does the clause mean that they will get redundancy? It is a simple question, which I would like the previous Minister of Māori Affairs to answer, because I know that in his heart the present Minister of Māori Affairs would not wear that.
Hon Tariana Turia: Must need an SOP from you.
Hon TAU HENARE: Yeah, maybe; let us not push things along too fast.
But it is interesting to see what can come out of the procedural parts of a bill if we look hard enough. I do not know whether I am barking up the wrong tree. I am sure that somebody will be able to help me out in my understanding of clause 28. I would really like the previous Minister to help me out on that clause, which relates to there being no redundancy for workers.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: That was yet another very interesting contribution from Mr Tau Henare, on clause 28. Is it not funny to hear National MPs get up and talk about how much they care about workers and redundancies, what with the slash-and-burn job they are doing across the public sector at the moment? For Tau Henare to get up in this Chamber and claim to care about workers, after being largely regarded as one of New Zealand’s worst union organisers, and then to have him supporting a Government that has slashed and burnt the public sector and has told public servants that they are not allowed to be part of the 9-day fortnight plan as only the private sector qualifies—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): We are on Part 2.
MOANA MACKEY: Mr Chair, I am responding to the points made on clause 28 by the member who spoke before me. Tau Henare claimed to care about workers, and he has asked the Minister in the chair, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, to respond to what he said about this clause. My understanding of this clause—and I am sure the Minister will correct me if I am wrong—is that this provision is to ensure that any workers who are transferred over to a new job do not get redundancy pay and the new job at the same time. It is just to make it clear that even though they technically lose their job in one
place, it is a technical redundancy, as they are picking up a job somewhere else. This clause is just to make it clear that they do not get the redundancy pay and the job. I look forward to having the Minister clarify this point, and I think it is fair to say that I look forward to hearing his contribution far more than I looked forward to hearing the contribution of the member who spoke before me.
This part of the bill deals with transitional provisions, and my colleagues have spoken earlier about the need to get on with this legislation. We are very pleased that National has come on board with this legislation. We were not quite sure where it would be on it. There was a long period of time when we were not sure how it felt about Māori development, and I wonder whether the clauses in this legislation outline National’s transition from not caring about Māori development, to its suddenly wanting to embrace it wholeheartedly. In considering this part of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill, I was reminded of the Local Government Act, and the discussions we had around Māori development in that context, which are very relevant to the issues raised here. In particular, when it was clear that we wanted Māori input on issues of land and waterways, the Hon Dr Nick Smith said it was “apartheid” to suggest that Māori should have to be considered, and that Māori rating should be dealt with separately under the Local Government Act. In
Hansard it shows that he even attacked the then Minister, Tariana Turia, along those lines. I think it is interesting to hear National debating and wholeheartedly endorsing the transitional provisions of this bill in the Chamber today, considering that when we looked at similar provisions in the Local Government Act, Dr Nick Smith said: “This damn law that we are being required to pass is nothing less than apartheid. It offends National’s principle of one standard of citizenship, and I say to Tariana Turia that she should take a call and explain to me and to the people of New Zealand why one sort of people have a rates remission policy and others do not.” Well, of course, here we are with an entire bill that deals with Māori development.
Chris Hipkins: How things have changed.
MOANA MACKEY: How things have changed. I wonder whether the Minister in the chair can point to the clauses in this part of the bill that deal with National’s enormous transition on issues of Māori development, and how we can be assured that in the next term of Government this will not be completely changed around, and that we will not go back to the “one standard of citizenship” type of rhetoric that we enjoyed for a long time.
Hon Tariana Turia: You had 9 years. You had 9 long years.
MOANA MACKEY: I say to Tariana Turia that I think she did a very good job on the Local Government Act. She was a Minister for 6 years in previous Labour Governments, and she did some very good work while she was with us. We very much want to work with the Minister to ensure that we can further that work. But, again, I raise the point that this sudden “road to Damascus” situation that we are being faced with from the National Government is slightly hard to believe, given the comments National members have made in the past, relating to legislation that is specifically to do with Māori. I restate my point on clause 28. I think it is an important issue. I am sorry that the member Tau Henare just got up to make fun of the situation.
Hon Tau Henare: No, I got up to make fun of you.
MOANA MACKEY: Oh, he is over there now. I am sorry, I did not see that he was there. I ask him to reconsider his position on this bill in light of the cuts that his own Government is making in the public sector. I say that if he cares about workers as much as that, he might need to go a little bit beyond a very political speech made in jest. I would be very interested to see a Supplementary Order Paper put up by that member if the Minister in the chair stands and confirms what Tau Henare has said, which is that this provision will mean redundancies across the board, with no payout. Tau Henare has
indicated that he might be interested in putting up a Supplementary Order Paper. We would always be prepared to consider that. But I think we do need clarification, because that certainly was not my understanding of clause 28.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: I will take another call on this point of redundancy. Clause 28 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill states that employees are not entitled to redundancy compensation by reason only of their ceasing to be employed by the Māori Trust Office. I think that is the key point—for only that reason. The bill’s provisions are intended to provide continuity for all clients and staff. All staff are transferred to the Māori Trustee. Following that, normal employment law applies. What clause 28 really means is that an employee of the Māori Trust Office does not get redundancy just because he or she is no longer employed by the Māori Trust Office. If the employee is surplus to the needs of the Māori Trustee, which is a different situation, redundancy is not necessarily ruled out by clause 28.
PAUL QUINN (National)
: It is a pleasure to take a short call. I want to focus on and address Part 2 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. As the Minister of Māori Affairs rightly pointed out in his brief overview of this part, it is about the transitioning arrangements between the old organisation and the new organisation. It is appropriate that we reflect for a bit of time on transitioning, because that is something that this Government has done extraordinarily well. It has transitioned from the previous Government to the new Government. In fact, we have done outstandingly well in terms of, for instance, getting through our 100 day programme. That is particularly important in terms of transitioning to ensure that the right things are in place and life can go on. That is what we are particularly good at.
Part of that process is to clean up the mess that was left behind. That is evidenced in this part, which originally made reference to 1 July 2008, when this bill was supposed to have become an Act. Of course, the previous Government was totally unable to do that, so we have had to take on the responsibility. We have changed that date to 1 July 2009, which is mentioned in this bill. We have been able to push it through with determination because we care about the Māori people. We care about economic development. We do not stand there and just talk about it. We do something about it. That is why the transitional arrangements in this bill will come into force in July 2009.
Hon Phil Heatley: Talk, talk, talk.
PAUL QUINN: We are sick of talking. Unfortunately, my colleague and friend Kelvin left the Chamber when I last spoke about economic development. That is not part of this debate, so I will not talk about it, but I am happy to talk to him about economic development, because that is exactly what we are on about—aspiration for Māori iwi and hapū. We do not talk about it; we are getting on.
This is exactly the Government to push through the transitional arrangements in this bill. As I said in an earlier call, it is about making sure that, prior to the enactment of this bill in July 2009—and members should remember that date, July 2009, because we will stick to that; we will not put it in the bill and sort of think about it—the new corporate sole, as it is described in the bill, will take over all of the legal requirements of the existing organisation. Simplistically, the existing organisation will go out of existence. It will have in place, for instance, contracts with employees or contracts to deliver, and, if we do not have these transitional arrangements, no one will be able to pick them up. An employee will have a contract with the old Māori Trust Office, and if he or she is not covered by these transitional arrangements, he or she will not have a contract for employment. We want to make sure that these people are cared for, because we are a caring Government. We care about making sure that these transitional arrangements go into place.
Once we have the Act in place in July 2009, as we have timetabled, we will then be able to move on and meet the needs of Kelvin, who really should be on this side of the Chamber—
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. I know the member is a new member, and I did not pull him up on the first occasion, but I will on the second. On both occasions he has used a member’s first name. Under the Speakers’ rulings, members must use a member’s full name, his or her portfolio, or his or her title.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): That is correct. I ask the member in future to refer to the member by his or her full name.
PAUL QUINN: Thank you, Mr Chairperson, for that guidance, and I apologise to the member. I hope the member, Mr Kelvin Davis, does not take offence. If he has taken offence, I ask him to please accept my apology. We will have to have a beer in the pub later. Anyway, I get back to the business at hand, and focus specifically on these transitional arrangements. It is important that these are put in place so that we can have a seamless transition.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: I congratulate the previous speaker, Paul Quinn, on a very robust contribution to this debate. It was something like 120 decibels. We have been reminded on a number of occasions throughout the afternoon that we are referring to particular parts of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. As Tau Henare said earlier, there seems to be a strong desire for people to be acknowledged for their contribution, but I will steal a bit of the limelight away from the previous speaker and remind him that this bill was introduced to the House by the former Minister of Māori Affairs. All the provisions within the bill are the provisions that the previous Minister of Māori Affairs insisted be included in the bill, and all of the what we call transitional provisions and consequential amendments—from clauses 24 to 28—were introduced to the House by the former Minister of Māori Affairs.
It is very interesting that one of the previous speakers, Tau Henare, made mention of clause 28. I could see by the reaction of a lot of the members on the opposite side of the Chamber that there was considerable concern, and a reaction to the misunderstanding of that particular clause. I thank the Minister for clarifying the matter, because had he not clarified it then one of us on this side of the Chamber would have had the obligation to do that. We are talking about transitional provisions, mainly about roles and responsibilities and making sure that assets are not only accounted for but protected, and that the Māori Trustee is aware of his roles and responsibilities, including accountability, as the Māori Trustee under the new legislation.
We should spend quite a bit of time talking about the issues that relate to employees. I congratulate Tau Henare on the fact that he raised an employment issue, and it is probably incumbent on members to spend some time talking about employment conditions. My understanding of the bill is that the previous undertakings are transferred across. The employees will continue to be employed under the same conditions and protections as they had as employees of the Māori Trustee, and all of those conditions are highlighted. There is considerable comfort to employees of the Māori Trust Office that they will not be disadvantaged in any way, shape, or form whatsoever with the new arrangements—particularly as the new legislation takes effect. Changes in employment arrangements are of concern to anyone when there is restructuring—in this case a restructuring of the legislation—and the transferring of employees to a new organisation. I congratulate the Minister in the chair on clarifying that situation, and I am sure that those staff employed by the Māori Trustee will find the transition, transfer, and arrangements to be smooth and without too much difficulty.
When we talk about transitional provisions and consequential amendments we must keep in mind that we are talking about the well-being and continual employment of staff
members. They themselves should be kept informed as to what the changes may mean, if anything, to them as employees. That is a very, very important matter that we need to discuss at the Committee stage for Part 2 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill. It is not just a transfer of responsibilities but also a transfer of employment rights of staff members to the new Māori Trustee office and the new regime. That is my contribution on this particular part of the bill. I congratulate the former Minister of Māori Affairs on his foresight in ensuring that these provisions are in place.
SANDRA GOUDIE (National—Coromandel)
: I thank the Hon Pita Sharples for his excellent contribution, for being such a magnificent Minister of Māori Affairs, and for seeing the passage of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill through the House. His explanation of Part 2 was exemplary and was much appreciated by all those listening in, so I thank him for that. I certainly appreciated his contribution just to expand my own understanding of the bill. Part 2 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill is largely procedural, as previous members who have spoken on it have said. I recall the comments from the Hon Tau Henare about beneficiaries and about actually finding beneficiaries, because there are multiple beneficiaries. That is problematic enough, but I have to say that judging from the recent attempt to find Jon Traylen, who is one of just two trustees of a trust, and who would appear to be its sole beneficiary, it is very difficult to find just one beneficiary, let alone a whole lot of beneficiaries. It was extremely difficult. I think that, because of the investigation by
Fair Go, he is probably trying—so far, successfully—to evade its attempts to find him and make him accountable for the lack of services he is providing.
When looking at the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill I am mindful of clause 29A, which is about taxes and duties. The clause “applies for the purposes of the Inland Revenue Acts and any other enactments…”. I will pause here because the one thing we have not really done much of in the Chamber today is speak slowly for the benefit of the interpreters. I wonder how many people are aware of the fact that it is really important to speak slowly and clearly for those people who are signing for others who cannot hear what we are saying. I acknowledge Sign Language Week and the fact that the interpreters have been working all day to interpret what is being said in the Chamber. That is why it is so important to speak slowly. I do not know how many members understand sign language; I do not understand anything very much at all. But it is relevant because whatever we say about the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill—and, in particular, I am looking at clause 29A, “Taxes and other duties”—is being interpreted. That is why it is so important. It is as important for those people who cannot hear as it is for those who can.
I will go through what clause 29A, “Taxes and duties”, actually states. It states: “This section applies for the purposes of the Inland Revenue Acts and any other enactment that imposes or provides for the collection of any tax, duty, levy, rate, or other charge.” When reading that particular portion I am very mindful once again of Jon Traylen, a particular trustee of a particular trust, who uses donations in what appears to be a coercive manner. Donations are contributions that are given willingly. Donations are something a person gives freely. People choose to give a donation. I do not know whether donations have any relevance to this clause, but they certainly had relevance for those people who provided money to Jon Traylen. Whatever was left over from the services he provided to them he claimed as a donation. He would state on the registration form that a donation was a non-refundable part of the fee. But I do not see anything in this particular clause that relates to donations. It is quite extraordinary how some people can use that particular aspect of a trust.
Clause 29A goes on to talk about the commencement of this bill. I will refer to what the Minister said before: the bill is about disbanding the Māori Trust Office and
establishing more comprehensively the Māori Trustee as a separate entity. I think that is really commendable. I think it is fantastic what the speakers have had to say in the Chamber tonight. I do not know whether the enactments that will be amended by clause 30 have been covered to any great extent.
KELVIN DAVIS (Labour)
: Part 2 of the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill is really about the transition from the old Māori Trustee regime to the new regime. But first of all I will touch on the generalisation that my whanaunga, the Hon Tau Henare, made about collection agencies, and about how easy it appears to be for the likes of the collection agency Baycorp to collect money. That really is just a generalisation, and it is a bit of a fallacy. I know, from talking to constituents up in the far north, that they are having trouble getting money owed to them by other members of the community. They have had collection agencies going around, and bailiffs trying to find the people who owe them, but they are finding it quite difficult to get that money.
Moving back to Part 2, the whole transition side of things is just to ensure that the transition from the old regime of the Māori Trustee to the new regime is smooth, and that it ensures that work conditions and other parts of people’s employment move smoothly into the new regime. In particular, in relation to the transfer of employment rights, the legislation makes sure that just because an employee has worked for the old Maori Trustee and then moves to work for the new Maori Trustee, there is no degradation of his or her work conditions—things just tick over and make that transition nice and smooth.
There is also the part in clause 28 about compensation and redundancy issues, which the Minister clarified for us. The clause basically states that if somebody is transferred over, just because he or she finished working for the old Māori Trustee and moved over to work for the new Māori Trustee, his or her work does not actually cease there. Employees should not receive redundancy from shifting from the old regime to the new regime, but if their work in the old regime finishes then they might be entitled to redundancy.
Clause 26, “Protection of employment conditions”, states that if “a transferred employee … is employed on an individual employment agreement, the transferred employee must be employed by the new Māori Trustee on terms and conditions no less favourable than those applying to that employee immediately before …” the transfer. It is really important that people have that security in their employment and know that, although there will be changes, their work conditions will remain the same.
The effect of the Act, as outlined in clause 23, is that “(1) Nothing done or authorised by this Act—(a) places the old Maori Trustee, the Maori Trust Office, the new Māori Trustee, or any other person in breach of contract or confidence, or makes any of them liable for a civil wrong;”.
Hon Tau Henare: Take your time, bro!
KELVIN DAVIS: I thank the Hon Tau Henare. As I said, it is important that the transition goes smoothly and that under people’s conditions of employment they are not liable for things that occurred before they moved into a new regime or for any acts or omissions from it. It is important that people have the security of knowing that the transition will be smooth for them. It is important that employees know that their employment conditions will ensure that they will be looked after. So with that I say that this is a short call. I thank the Committee. Kia ora.
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: Finally! I congratulate the Minister Pita Sharples again on his understanding of clause 28, and, with the help of his officials, of course, on giving us that definition. That puts my mind at ease: no worker from the Māori Trust Office will go away without any redundancy compensation if he or she is out of a job. So I am happy.
The previous Labour speaker—
Hon Member: Who was that?
Hon TAU HENARE: Mr Kelvin Davis from Kāretu—
Hon Mita Ririnui: Great speaker.
Hon TAU HENARE: He is a great speaker, although he traversed one of the issues I brought up before, which was the finding of beneficiaries—the hunting of beneficiaries. I make no bones about the fact that if it is easy for agencies like the Bay Collection Agency and the Inland Revenue Department to find all these fellas quick-smart, then somebody is doing the job properly.
But I want to take this a bit further. Currently, the Māori Trustee produces a book full of names. It is a list of names, and next to the names are the amounts owed by the Māori Trustee to the individuals. It is no good just putting that book in the library or the rūnanga office and expecting a Mr Harry Walker to jump out of the ether and say “Wow! I am owed $500; I think I will go down to the rūnanga or the Māori Trustee’s office and get my money.” A concerted effort has to be made by the office of the Māori Trustee to find these people. Maybe our Government and our Minister of Māori Affairs should be looking to the future and saying “OK. Maybe we bring in a time period whereby we really go and look for these people who have gone and left no address. And if we can’t find them after a period of time, then the money can be used for another purpose, in terms of Māori development.”
We have to protect the initial property right. We cannot just flick it off because we have bleeding hearts or believe we have a good idea. We cannot do it, and this is where I think the biggest issue will take us in the next couple of years—the issue of the property right that belongs to the beneficiary, that belongs to the shareholder. What if we make all the attempts to find these people and they still fail? Do we have the right, then, to be able to use that money for another purpose? That is a discussion, no doubt, that we will have in the future.
Other than that, I want to say again that it was a sterling effort by our Minister of Māori Affairs on the explanation of clause 28. It was very succinct. I do not think there is too much else wrong with Part 2—in fact, there is nothing wrong with this part. As I said, it is very procedural and very straightforward.
Chris Hipkins: Is the Government filibustering this bill?
Hon TAU HENARE: Oh, well, “Opie” asks the question—
Hon Member: It’s “Richie Cunningham”.
Hon TAU HENARE: It’s “Richie Cunningham”—I am sorry.
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): Can I just say before the member speaks that we are moving, in some parts, away from relevancy. We want to bring this back to be relevant to Part 2 of the debate.
Hon MITA RIRINUI (Labour)
: Thank you for that reminder, Mr Chair; quite often we have a tendency to wander off and use some of our life experiences to support what we are about to say. I was hoping the previous speaker was going to hang around but—
The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch): You cannot refer to a member who is not here.
Hon MITA RIRINUI: I apologise, Mr Chair, but I think that in his contribution he actually meant that he was putting a challenge to the current Minister of Māori Affairs to basically go out and find those beneficiaries—those who need to succeed to these unclaimed moneys. He also made reference to the Bay Collection Agency and to how well it does its job, and to the Inland Revenue Department and to how well it does its job. He said that they do not seem to have any problem locating people, and asked why the Māori Trustee has a problem. But the problem with the Bay Collection Agency—I am told; I am not 100 percent sure of this—is just that it employs heavies to do its
bidding. The Accident Compensation Corporation does not need to do that; it is accustomed to locating people that it needs to speak to. But the Māori Trustee is dealing with an intergenerational problem, a problem that has been around for a very, very long time, and we have to give some credit for the attempts that the Māori Trustee has made over the past years—over decades—to locate the beneficiaries of unclaimed interest.
I took from the Hon Tau Henare’s contribution to this part of the debate that he was issuing a challenge to the current Minister of Māori Affairs. I want to pick up on that particular point, because it is a real issue—an issue around whether the Māori Trustee can continue to accumulate funds on behalf of unknown beneficiaries without making serious attempts to locate those people, wherever they may be, and whether they are still with us. I do not think that it is such a huge undertaking for the Minister of Māori Affairs to take on that responsibility, but I will say to him that it is a bold move because, from my experiences over a number of years, the Māori Trustee has done everything possible to locate those beneficiaries. But who knows? There may be a much simpler way of doing it. I do not think that all of the ideas have been discussed, or all of the attempts have been made, to locate those people. Some ideas that may sound absolutely ridiculous sometimes seem to be the most effective. So as the Hon Tau Henare has issued a challenge to the Minister now sitting in the chair, the Hon Pita Sharples, I hope the Minister will take a call on this particular matter, because it is one that would resolve a lot of concerns, not only in this Chamber but also around the country, when we look at the size of the fund that has been accumulated through the Māori Trust Office.
As Tau Henare said, I think, in another challenge to the Minister, once all these attempts have been exhausted and we are quite happy that we are not going to find those people, then we spend their money. Essentially, he is saying “Let us use the money”—I am sure he means in a transparent and prudent way—“to promote Māori economic development.” We are getting close to the dinner break and I am sure the Minister in the chair has a response for us, because this issue, as I said earlier on, is a very, very important issue. I say to the Minister that we on this side of the Chamber are very, very interested in his response, and we are more than happy to sit down and work with him around this particular matter, because, as I said earlier on, many of us in this Chamber know certain families—we know everybody; let us be honest about it—from every whānau, from every iwi, and from every hapū in the country. Just mention a name and I am sure there is a Māori member in this Chamber who can tell us who that person is—not necessarily the person involved, but who his or her family is. Thank you.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: I would like to respond to the kind of challenge that has been waving around the room. I agree with the last speaker that the Māori Trust Office has gone to great pains to seek out owners, in a variety of activities. One of the core duties of this Government is to provide extra funding towards the location of beneficial owners, but the Māori Trustee has always sought to locate those owners—for example, through actively seeking them out by writing to them, and by circulating ownership lists at meetings. The Māori Trustee also publishes and distributes an annual unclaimed moneys book. This is available at the Māori Trust Office, at Te Puni Kōkiri, and at Māori Land Court offices. It is distributed to over 150 Māori organisations and libraries, and to Māori MPs, and it is also now available online. Māori Trust Office staff check electoral rolls, and directly contact other whānau members to try to obtain current addresses. As part of the Māori Land Court succession orders process, the Māori Trustee routinely checks and updates client addresses, where they are available.
Everyone knows how important it is to let people know about the funds to which they are entitled, but I would like to make the point emphatically that this is the Māori
Trustee’s responsibility. That is why we are setting up the Māori Trustee to be totally independent; it is certainly not for me as Minister to interfere in that. The Māori Trustee is quite independent and should pursue that with vigour, not the Minister of Māori Affairs. I ask members to remember that beneficial owners’ money always belongs to beneficiaries. Kia ora.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 14 in the name of the Hon Dr Pita Sharples to Part 2 be agreed to.
- Part 2 as amended agreed to.
- The question was put that the amendments set out on Supplementary Order Paper 14 in the name of the Hon Dr Pita Sharples to schedule 2 be agreed to.
- Schedule 2 as amended agreed to.
Clauses 1 to 3
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East)
: Clauses 1, 2, and 3 are quite simple, and relate to the title, the commencement, and the amendment of the principal Act. Clause 1 states that the title of this legislation is the “Māori Trustee Amendment Act 2008”. If members look at this clause, they will see that it says “2008”—
Paul Quinn: That was last year!
DAVID BENNETT: Yes, that was last year. Paul Quinn raised a very good point earlier when he asked why Labour did not pass this legislation last year if it was so good and Labour was able to do it. Well, Labour had a slight problem that Mr Quinn might not have been aware of because he was not in the House at that time. Labour had a problem with numbers, and it had the problem of an election coming up. Labour was not doing so well at the time, and it needed support from within the Māori community because there were some seats that it wanted to win.
When we look at the title clause, we see that the reference to 2008 is probably incorrect—it should be 2009. So we may have to amend the legislation to take into account the inability of Labour to gain votes last year. That point is at the heart of why there is this inconsistency in the legislation. The title clause clearly refers to 2008. I say to those who are reading the legislation now that the date is typed in bold print. It will be 2009 when the bill is passed, so maybe that is an issue that needs to be dealt with by the officials. I do not know whether an amendment has to be made to that provision in order to make sure we pass legislation that is correct. The title says “2008”, when in fact the real date in the title will have to be “2009”, according to my understanding of calendar years. There is also the fact that we had an election where the Labour Party lost more Māori seats, which reflects that Labour had not been recognising what Māori actually wanted.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.