This essay traces the origins of corporate iwi from 1984. The author was personally involved in the formation of the iwi and community provider network and its struggle to attain legitimacy. Much of the information that follows is sourced from the author’s personal diary and journal entries of the time, and from commentary in Te Putatara.
The election of a Labour government in July 1984 and the appointment of Koro Wetere as Minister of Maori Affairs presaged a renewed impetus in Maori development in which were sown the seeds that grew into modern corporate iwi. It was the beginning of transfer of funding, power and responsibility from government agencies to both tribal and community providers.
Sir Apirana Ngata led an early Maori development initiative focused on land, culture, the arts and education. He advocated for the Maori Land Act 1909 under which previously established Maori land incorporations were legislated. Much of his work before and during his time in Parliament (1905-1943) including a period as Minister of Maori Affairs (1928-34) was focused on land reform and development, including the formation of Maori land incorporations.
Prior to its abolition in 1989 the Board of Maori Affairs was heavily involved in land management and development through its Maori Land Advisory committees and supported by the Department of Maori Affairs in both advisory and executive functions. The Department was also providing Maori housing loans and running a very successful trade training scheme. The Maori Trustee had long been involved primarily in land management rather than land development.
The modern drive for economic and social development began in the Department of Maori Affairs and in the Maori Trustee in the early 1980s with further programmes such as Tu Tangata under Secretary Kara Puketapu in the term of a National government. The Department was enthusiastically supported by Maori communities. In 1982 Te Kohanga Reo was established by the Department with 100 kohanga opened in the first year, growing to 800 kohanga by 1994 with 14,000 mokopuna enrolled. Both the Department and the Trustee saw themselves as the prime movers in development. That was the status quo but many in Te Ao Maori did not share that view.
For instance, when I joined the government development initiative in 1986 I was briefed by the kaumatua of my Wairarapa hapu on our mostly negative history of engagement with both agencies. They asked me to be alert to a repeat of that history. My hapu was not alone in its disquiet.
After its July 1984 election a Labour government convened an economic development conference in October that year; Hui Taumata . Hui Taumata recognized the need for Maori to move from welfare dependency, and for the government to assist Maori to participate in the economy. The conference communiqué, He Kawenata, called for a decade of development.
The Department of Maori Affairs presumption that it would take the lead role in Maori development post-1984 was a misreading of the mood of Hui Taumata. It also led directly to its ill fated and incompetent attempt to negotiate offshore development loans worth hundreds of millions in 1986 (Maori Loans Affair), and ultimately to its dis-establishment in 1989.
By 1986 Minister of Maori Affairs Koro Wetere had negotiated government funding to create a few economic initiatives.
The first was the MANA Enterprises business startup project designed to make low interest loans to fledgling Maori owned businesses. The second was a Maori version of a Labour Department training programme called ACCESS. The Maori version was dubbed MACCESS. It had been known for some time that two key requirements for development were access to capital and improved management and business capability. Both projects were funded by the Labour Department directly to the Board of Maori Affairs rather than the Department of Maori Affairs. The funds were held for the Board in the Maori Trustee account. A further economic development initiative was the Maori Development Corporation set up to act as a venture capital agency.
Wira Gardiner and Ripeka Evans were the two principal consultants who worked with the Minister and the Board to design the MANA and MACCESS projects, to negotiate the funding from government, and then to establish the MANA and MACCESS project teams. In mid 1986 Ross Himona had joined the MANA team and became team leader towards the end of 1986. Ria Earp was recruited by Wira and Ripeka to lead the MACCESS team. MANA was the more controversial of the two and there was a procession of project team leaders.
The kaupapa called for funding for both projects to be delivered through tribal and regional providers. Prior to that all grant, project and programme funding for Maori had been delivered by government agencies, primarily the Department of Maori Affairs through its district offices. There was naturally some resistance within the department and the central and district offices to the creation of a new funding channel not under the control of the department. However there were also many in the department who supported the move.
Until that time the Department of Maori Affairs exerted widespread control over Te Ao Maori. It was the gateway to access to government. Because of its ownership of that gateway it controlled information flow to Te Ao Maori, augmented by its own in-house magazines and its network of community officers. When you control information flows you control everything. Te Putatara was later started in part to defeat that control of information.
Government required all providers in this proposed new funding channel to be incorporated bodies, preferably legislated organisations, to ensure transparency and accountability. At the time almost the only organisations that met the criteria were the existing Maori Trust Boards. An ad hoc delivery mechanism was established consisting of 17 tribal and regional authorities later expanded to 21. They were mostly trust boards, with a few incorporated societies including five urban organisations. The five urban organisations were at Tamaki, Waipareira, Manukau, Whanganui and Wellington. The Waipareira and Manukau organisations still operate in that role.
The Whanganui Regional Employment Board was headed by Tariana Turia. At the time, long before her conversion to the whanau-hapu-iwi construct, she was ardently opposed to tribal delivery. Pita Sharples was the inaugural chairman of Te Runanganui O Ngati Kahungunu, which has since transformed itself via insolvency into Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc.
From mid 1986 seed funding of about $150,000 was distributed to each of the tribal and regional authorities to pilot the MANA Enterprises programme. Between then and the end of 1986 the project was fine tuned ready for the first major distribution of funding. After the pilot the first $9 million was granted and was ready for distribution at the end of 1986.
The Department of Maori Affairs was still trying to gain control of the project to deliver the funding through its district offices. The Board of Maori Affairs project teams who answered directly to two committees of the Board were widely supported in their intention to bypass the department altogether. That was the beginning of a long struggle to remove the department from programme delivery. The department managed to delay distribution of the first $9 million for some weeks towards the end of 1986.
There was another group of very influential players, some of them members of the Board of Maori Affairs and close to Koro Wetere, who were trying to have the funding delivered through non-tribal regional boards to be established under the Board of Maori Affairs itself. They too had no love for the department but equally did not want a tribal system put in place. They persisted into 1987 but gained no traction.
In December 1986 the so-called Maori Loans Affair erupted in Parliament and in the media, fuelled by questions by Winston Peters. The upshot of that was that the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Maori Affairs, Tamati Reedy and Neville Baker, were sent on indefinite leave on Christmas Eve. I was at the hui at Maori Affairs late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve when the State Services Commissioner Don Hunn announced that decision to the department. That took the two main departmental opponents of the tribal and regional delivery channel out of play for a few weeks.
I immediately sought out one of the remaining senior officials who supported the new funding mechanism. Within the hour the $9 million had been moved out of the Maori Trustee account and was on its way to the 17 new providers, to reach their bank accounts ready for them to begin operating the MANA programme in the new year. Until that moment it was likely that the department would prevail.
From early to mid 1987 MACCESS funding followed through the same mechanism. There was much more funding delivered through MACCESS than through MANA and between the two of them they established what eventually became the present system of funding delivery to Maori through tribal and community providers.
A further threat to the new system was Winston Peters who attacked both projects, and of course their sponsor in government, Koro Wetere. Early in 1987 I rang Winston and did a deal with him. He agreed to give me 6 months grace to get MANA Enterprises established and to ensure that accountability and transparency were in place. At the end of that period of grace he resumed his political attacks on both MANA and MACCESS.
The department persisted in its attempts to regain control and did manage to move the MANA and MACCESS teams out of the Board of Maori Affairs into its own direct control.
It mounted attacks on a few of the providers including Tamaki Maori Development Authority, Te Arawa Trust Board and Tainui Trust Board. A few of the providers, including Tamaki and Te Arawa, had tried to establish trade ties in the Pacific. Their private trade missions were monitored by diplomatic and intelligence staff in the Pacific and they were defunded by the Department of Maori Affairs.
I was working closely with Tamaki Maori Development Authority at the time of the Department’s attack which was led by Neville Baker. Like most of the new tribal and regional providers Tamaki was a bit rough around the edges as it developed expertise but was not guilty of the allegations against it. John Tamihere was working for the Department in Auckland at that time. John has since of course carved out a career with Waipareira and is now facing his own real problems. Tamaki won the support of the courts in their case against the Department but were never compensated for the personal and organisation losses caused by the Department.
The attack on Te Arawa was under the guise of allegations of a “2nd Maori Loans Affair”. I was also working closely with Te Arawa at the time and the alleged offshore loan was news to us on the economic development project team. There were also groundless allegations of improper MANA loans being made.
The Tainui Maori Trust Board under the guidance of Robert Mahuta was resolutely heading in its own direction and making its own decisions, tending to ignore the Department.
The 1987 parliamentary maiden speech of Ross Meurant (Hansard, Tuesday October 6th, 1987), who until then had served twenty years in the NZ Police rising to the commissioned rank of Inspector, laid out in great detail the paranoia and fears of Maori terrorism in the police at that time. He named names and organisations, and described how they were funded. He also alleged that Maori had terrorist links with Libya, the PLO, Vanuatu and Fiji. This information and its paranoid interpretation was sourced entirely in police intelligence gathering . To his great credit Meurant, having educated himself and broadened his mind at university and in the real world outside the police and parliament, has since recanted and explained that the allegations arose out of a police culture of paranoia that he called “Deep in the Forest” in which he had been immersed for twenty years.
There were also rumours circulating in the community, notably in the more fundamentalist churches, that MANA and MACCESS funding was being used to fund criminal and terrorist activity. At about that time a renegade officer from the NZ Security Intelligence Service, who was a member of one of those fundamentalist churches, illegally tried to recruit an informant within the MANA and MACCESS teams. The attempt was made despite his having being ordered by Director SIS to cease his surveillance of Maori. His attempt to infiltrate the teams was thwarted.
As well as fears of criminal and even terrorist infiltration of the funding network many believed that Te Ao Maori was being manipulated by the CIA to destabilise the Labour government. For instance it was reported in the media and believed by some in government that a large US defence industry corporation that was partnering with Te Arawa Trust Board to install IT systems was really a CIA front. There were fears, expressed in the media, that the foreign principals involved in the so-called Maori Loans Affair of 1986 had been CIA operatives.
Throughout 1987 and 1988 there were tensions in the Pacific that added to the overall paranoia in New Zealand. There were two coup d’etat in Fiji, bloodshed in New Caledonia, and there were fears that Maori were linking up with separatist movements in the Pacific. The US and New Zealand governments were also monitoring the activities of the Soviets and the Libyans in the Pacific, fearful that they might support separatist movements. There was also a suspicion that Maori were linking with South Africa and Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress (ANC).
Security threats were conceived out of thin air and believed, no matter how remote or ridiculous they might have been, and Maori were invariably woven into the narrative . The tribal and regional authority network was established in that climate, one of intense racism and paranoia.
The Department of Maori Affairs itself, or at least a few at the top, also became increasingly paranoid. As well as operating within the external climate of paranoia it was losing respect and authority and power. Te Putatara did its bit to refine their paranoia.
Tribal and community delivery of funding to Maori somehow managed to survive, and eventually to flourish. As the late Sir Robert Mahuta said at the time, “the genie had been let out of the bottle”. It all seems quite surreal, twenty five years on.
To retain its grip on Maori development the department tried to make all providers agents of the Crown, directly answerable to the department, rather than independent contractors, and for a time they prevailed. In the end they failed and the department was disestablished in 1989 when the Iwi Transition Agency headed by Wira Gardiner (now Sir Wira) was established.
Te Putatara was accused by some department officials of being responsible for their downfall, through a long running campaign in the newsletter. They were far too generous in their praise. Their own “Maori Loans Affair” was a big factor in their demise.
Both the MANA and MACCESS projects eventually went the way of all programmes to Programme Heaven (Whanau Ora has a priority reservation). However the principle was established and funding delivery had been torn from the grasp of the department.
Probably the next major and long lasting initiative was the establishment of the network of Maori health providers by the new and short lived Ministry of Maori Policy. The officials who set up that network had been involved in MACCESS. By that time MACCESS was on its way out or had already gone. The core Maori health network was built around those providers who had operated MACCESS. In the beginning many of them were short on health knowledge and expertise but they were intent on mission transformation and funding capture. To give them their due over time they and many new providers did transform themselves into professional primary health providers. The ropey ones fell by the wayside.
One of the little understood but important initiatives was the delivery of health funding by contract to independent and autonomous providers instead of by funding agreement to agencies of the Crown. That moved more control and independence to the providers.
The rest is history as that ad hoc network of iwi providers evolved quite rapidly into autonomous and independent entities.
On the back of those initial steps in 1986 and 1987 towards tribal and community programme delivery the legislative course of that evolution started with a discussion paper “He Tirohanga Rangapu” in April 1988, followed by the government response to that consultation “Te Urupare Rangapu” in November 1988. That outlined the proposal to establish a new Ministry of Maori Policy and an Iwi Transition Agency. The Runanga-A-Iwi Bill was introduced in December 1989, and the National Government’s policy was published as “Ka Awatea” in 1991.
Policy development and implementation during that period has been documented by Cherryl Waerea-I-Te-Rangi Smith in her University of Auckland masters thesis “Kimihia Te Maramatanga”. Chapter 5 is downloadable here.
The fisheries settlements followed by Treaty settlements required that tribal organisations transform themselves into mandated iwi. Today they are tribal businesses or corporate iwi. Together with a plethora of non-tribal providers, Maori fisheries entities, Maori broadcasters, and with the Maori land incorporations that were in place long before, they form a fast growing Maori employment and career sector that did not exist 25 years ago.
In retrospect I often think that given the present state of Maori development characterized by resource capture by the elites, and doubtful benefit to the majority of Maori, I would not again help in the process of establishing iwi providers. Given the choice I would instead focus on hapu, closer to the people. By hapu I mean both traditional hapu in the tribal homelands and new hapu in the cities where most Maori live. The ideology behind the reinvention of iwi lay in the whanau-hapu-iwi post-colonial construct. However at the time there was barely enough expertise available to establish iwi providers let alone hapu providers.
And at the time the main thing was to wrest control of Te Ao Maori from the Department of Maori Affairs. Its demise in 1989 was a welcome bonus.
Te Kohanga Reo was and is a project aimed exclusively at whanau rather than hapu or iwi, controlled and coodinated by Te Kohanga Reo National Trust. The Trust has been through its challenges but remains committed to that kaupapa. There have been attempts from time to time by the some of the new corporate iwi to wrest ownership of kohanga from the Trust.
Ironically the organisation that was displaced by corporate iwi (and the Iwi Chairs Forum and Iwi Leaders Groups) as the political voice of Maori actually was representative of hapu rather than iwi, and also represented urban Maori. The NZ Maori Council with it’s Maori Committees in sixteen District Maori Councils was more representative than the corporate iwi network. The rural Maori Committees were mostly marae based (traditional hapu) and the urban Maori Committees represented the new urban hapu. Delegates from the Commiittees sat at the District Maori Councils and delegates from there sat at the NZ Maori Council.
If their language and focus had been on rural and urban hapu instead of committees they may well have flourished in the new development environment.
The NZ Maori Council did take the leading role in obtaining recognition of Treaty rights in the courts and in gaining national pan-Maori settlements.
The problem with the NZ Maori Council was that at the national level it was perceived as being prone to cronyism and controlled by the old generation Brown Table. It did not renew itself from 1984 onwards to bring into the fold the activists who were creating the new paradigm in Maori politics. It did not reach out to the rising new generation of Maori leadership. The exception was the Auckland District Maori Council under Professor Ranginui Walker which did reach out and include the new generation. Like the Department of Maori Affairs the NZ Maori Council assumed that it would continue as the representive voice of Te Ao Maori. They both seriously misread the mood of the times.
In the long run however nothing much changes. The new Brown Table is made up of corporate iwi represented by the Iwi Chairs Forum and its Iwi Leaders Groups. The difference is that it is much less representative at its flaxroots than the old Brown Table. A new more elitist elite has replaced the old elite. Ka hao te rangatahi.