In the March BayBuzz Digest I am quoted in the Maori Health Underspend and Stinkin’ Pipes articles.

I have since spoken to a number of people I respect to test my thoughts against their views. I am not surprised to find that they share the same concerns about the underspend and the use of the name of “Paptuanuku” for a channel that is carrying the water residue from the East Clive Treatment Station to the ocean … as some sort of Maori poo filter.

Among Maori, there is concern that Maori health funding has not been spent on the issues for which the funding was destined. I have reached this conclusion without any research or hard statistical facts … just good old common sense. How can you have an underspend if you are delivering? So where is the cause for the underspend, which I believe now tops $1m? What will happen to the funds? More importantly, how can Maori communities access this underspend to address the health needs they know exist and already have solutions for?

Regarding the East Clive treatment plant, the use of Maori cosmology and philosophy to provide a inclusive Maori feel about this entire process is insulting. And this is not just my view anymore. There is a need to review the use of Maori values and Atua when describing the work of the “poo factory.” Those responsible need to reflect on the way in which names are to be used and the consultation necessary before they can be used.

Having just gone through the process of changing the street name of Hapuka to Hapuku through the Hastings District Council, it was a matter of changing one letter to correct. Yet it required the efforts of researchers, consultation with community, and debate in Council before the agreement to change the letter was approved. All of which was duly complied with. The outcome was a small naming ceremony with descendants of Hapuku present alongside residents of the street and members from HDC.

With the treatment plant, the use of significant and spiritual names from Maori ancestry did not reach the Maori community for consultation. Would it have passed the legislative test? Was there community buy in? I call for the names to be changed! Maybe I could propose some names of my own to replace them … like Queen Elizabeth Outfall, or Prince Phillip Pipes! Nah, maybe a bit too radical. Hopefully, however, I have made my point.

Amalgamation has been spoken about recently, with the announcement that Mayor Lawrence is prepared to use the opportunity of the upcoming local body elections to advocate the amalgamation of local councils. It certainly is the right time to make this viewpoint available for debate and I am sure this will occur.

What might amalgamation mean for Maori? Often there is confusion as to who, or which local body, is responsible for what. A one-stop shop will certainly address this matter. One set of rates must also be advantageous, from the perspective of less administration and therefore lower rates. Infrastructure, administration, finances, staff rationalisation must also be of benefit to the communities of Napier, Hastings and other Districts.

Although the idea of amalgamation is not new and has certainly been tested in the region before, unsuccessfully I might add, times have changed and so too have governments and perspectives. So from the viewpoint that amalgamation is very likely to proceed (if you remain unconvinced, look to the super city for inspiration), Maori have to determine their place in the new governance model following reorganization.

From the beginning of Maori and Pakeha associations, Maori wanted a partnership. If you need reassurance, look to the Treaty of Waitangi for inspiration. That aspiration has not changed. As someone once said “relationships are everything.” There has been a proposal in the rhetoric of local amalgamation that Maori could have seats in the new council, and therefore Maori aspirations will be met. I personally do not think that one necessary follows the other.

In the settlements of Treaty claims by Iwi throughout the country there has not been a demand for inclusion in council by way of Maori seats. At one time I thought that this was the best way of representation, that Maori-only seats would benefit everyone. Today I am of the view that Maori-only seats are not only inappropriate, but also not the best solution for Maori participation.

Relationships are the model and solution of the future. Maori would benefit by using their achievements at Treaty negotiations to better equip themselves for life in the post settlement era. This includes how Maori will engage with local councils. The interests of Maori and the community might be better served by having co-governance and co-management models developed and implemented as opposed to seats.

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