Maori business proves government 'help' not required

Analysis

Ward Kamo

Ward Kamo questions the role of government in Maori affairs

Someone recently asked me the question ‘what has this government done for Maori’? And I answered ‘currently nothing’. And on reflection I’m starting to think that could just be the greatest thing the government could do for Maori – nothing.

The great political satirist PJ O’Rourke has said, "The nine scariest words in the English language are I’m from the government and I’m here to help." 

Not 60 years after the British government offered to help Maori at Waitangi, if they’d just sign on the dotted line ‘here, here, and here, Mr Heke’, Maori had lost 95% of their land. Government troops had just recently finished a cracking game of ‘shoot bloody great holes in Maori trying to defend their land’. And when that was over, and the government ‘helped’ Maori by confiscating large tracts of Maori land, they then gave more ‘help’ by playing an equally scintillating game of ‘let’s use the Native Land Court to take even more Maori land.’ Our population dropped from an estimated 1840 level of 150,000 to just 43,000 by 1900. I suppose at the time Maori would have been thinking ‘imagine how much worse it could have been if the government had not helped us in 1840’.

And since the mid-20thcentury more government help has resulted in our prisons being half-full with Maori, who only make up 15% of the population, our unemployment rate stubbornly remaining twice that of general population no matter how good the economy, a huge number of our Maori households dependent on some form of government welfare, and our Maori people looking forward to an earlier death then the rest of the population. 

Thank goodness for government help.

Since that time both Labour and National have undertaken a programme of iwi-based Treaty of Waitangi settlements. One could cynically argue the government said to Maori ‘I know we took billions of dollars of your land back in the day but we were helping you at the time so don’t be so bitter – here’s 10 shillings in compensation and don’t spend it all at once. Right – where’s my knighthood’? But I won’t argue that because that would be cynical.

So the settlements are coming in, and as Tainui and Ngāi Tahu have shown, the shillings can be grown into significant dollars. These billion-dollar operations will soon be matched by other settling iwi, who will strive to grow as aggressively as these trailblazers (watch out for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei – amazing story). And it won’t be done because the government ‘helped’. One can hardly argue that giving back what you unethically took in the first place is ‘helping you’. 

Ngāi Tahu has shown that when left to their own means iwi are more than capable of growing an economic base and delivering some pretty good social initiatives. They’ve even started a savings scheme for their iwi to (as it says in the prospectus) ‘create a better future for Ngāi Tahu whānau through greater wealth and wellbeing’. I bolded the ‘wealth’ bit myself. 

With limited government interference (which it calls ‘help'), Maori will get on with doing the ‘help’ bit themselves. Indeed Maori will pursue wealth. Ngāi Tahu is not proposing a better future through greater welfare and wellbeing. They explicitly say ‘wealth

We do know when a government of any hue offers to help Maori we get very poor very quickly. Don’t believe me? Look at how wealthy Maori were before the government came and offered to help us in 1840. We owned the whole country up to then for goodness sake.

So with wisdom in hindsight – government, please carry on doing nothing for Maori.

Ward Kamo has been a longtime presenter and panellist on Maori Television. He has worked in management consulting across a broad spectrum of sectors including iwi, forestry, public, insurance, tertiary, and electricity.

This is supplied content and not commissioned or paid for by NBR.


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Great article Ward

I get the point about Maori land confiscation and the Treaty settlements are the way forward on that - don't forget the land confiscated was crap land mostly which was subsequently cleared and developed. The settlements are still probably under the value owed but not by as much value as Maori perceive their land is worth - even with the land at current values

As far as Maori prison rates, unemployment and whanau on social welfare - that is not the cause of the government or anyone else other than Maori. People make choices in life and maybe Maori have made some wrong decisions or not faced up to reality. Committing crime is not forced upon anyone and living in areas where there are no jobs is not the governments fault. Nor for that matter is family violence which you missed.

Ngai Tahu and Tainui have done well and are rightly held up as great examples of what can be done on your own - but they did it with first right of refusal property at a 20% discount from government and inheriting large tracks of land like the Wigram airbase which was like winning lotto. Ngai Tahu's direct investments like Watson and co honey, Gobus and Hilton haulage are hardly successful to date

Most KIwi's want Maori to succeed and most are out there offering to help as its good for Maori and NZ. But stop harping on about issues that Maori sat on their arses and did nothing about. Maybe the whanau should get more involved at home and at the marae to address the prison rates and employment, family violence and education. Its not the governments job in many of these issues - it's the family's

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Agree the sentiment Scribe.

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Brilliant article and brilliant response.

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I agree that Ngai Tahu and Tainui have done well for themselves. But may I point out that the last time I looked at their prospectus. Many of those making the decisions were pakeha. That’s hardly embracing Maori providing jobs for Maori and helping Maori succeed. Don’t harp on about unemployment rates when you’re own iwi based initiatives are employing outside of not only their own iwi but Maori as well.
On a brighter note - I think initiatives like Ngāi Tahu have for new babies with a kit to help new parents with their babies are amazing and will go a long to way to help setting them up for life!

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As Deng Xiaoping said, it doesn't matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.

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I guess re 'non govt help', there should/could have been more discussion in the article about the role of 'charitable business tax exemptions' creating an uneven playing field for some of Ngai Tahus businesses, and who works the system better eg say Sanitarium or Ngai Tahu

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The whole tax exemption for charities is a bit of a beatup. ANY company can have the same benefit by donating their profits to a charity. The reality is that to meet the requirements all profits are permanently locked up to serve charitable purposes only, those companies still pay GST and all their staff are taxed as normal employees. Effectively the only tax advantage is timing for any funds retained in the business.
Whether you believe the advancement of religion is a charitable purpose or not (as per Sanitarium) is a a different matter all together.

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Your comments would be valid except for the fact that Maori have spent a lot of time, effort and money lobbying the government (which under normal circumstances would be consider political activity which voids their charity tax status...see the recent Greenpeace decision as an example) for favourable treatment. It’s not just about using profit for charitable purposes, it’s also about not using political influence to push your message. Maori elders and their councils are constantly pushing to have privilege for Maori enshrined in legislation over others. It’s this that should threaten the current tax status of Iwi, not where or how they spend their money.

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You are grouping together separate entities for your argument. Maori are not a registered charity, some Maori entities are charities and use their funds for such purposes.
Ngai Tahu for example cannot use funds from one of its charities to push a political message, it can however push a political message using other funding sources. Same as Greenpeace can separate it's advocacy from its environmental work, one would be charitable and the other not.

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Really? So Maori pushing for water rights is all about political interpretation not financial gain? Give me a break, who would benefit directly from water rights being granted under the Treatty of Waitangi, that would be the entities who are only charitable according to you. Greenpeace was deemed a political organisation exactly because the court did not allow them the distinction you describe.

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It would be interesting if someone could run the tax paid numbers if they didn't receive tax exemptions. Compound growth is generally a lot easier over large amounts of time without taxation (and rates)
.

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Greenpeace as a single legal entity could not be charitable, if it split its charitable and non charitable purposes it could retain charitable status for any environmental projects. Every cent that a charity earns is locked up for only charitable purposes.

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It is concerning that such distorted, inaccurate and uninformed version of New Zealand history is perpetrated by a member of the media. It stands in danger of reinforcing a sense of victimhood and resentment commonly seen among some Maori. Such statements of "fake history" usually go unchallenged and become accepted as fact to the benefit of no-one.
Furthermore, the next time that someone asks him what has the Government done for Maori, he might reflect upon John F Kennedy's quote of "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country".

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So what's the true version of NZ history?

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In the words of that great yachtsman Dennis Conner '" we won, you lost."

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Trouble is, you didn't "win". If you did, we wouldn't have Pakeha dominated parliaments and governments of every hue providing Maori Television, Maori universities, Maori early childcare, Maori Education Foundation, Maori seats in local government (EBOP), 22 Maori radio stations, Maori consultation requirements under the RMA, Maori seats in Parliament, the Ministry of Maori Development, Maori trust boards, Maori Fisheries Commission, Maori Language Commission, NZ Maori Council- you get the picture. Doesn't really seem like a victory for you, does it?

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Okay guys and gals. This argument has been going on for ages. It is never ending as the two sides see it totally differently. It's what happens in life.
The key to it today is to forgive. I know, it's hard, but both sides have to learn to forgive one another.
Neither side was perfect nor are they today, but we have to figure out a way to get on... together. For all our benefits.
The Waitangi Tribunal process has been long and hard, but also necessary. There was too much bad blood spilled not to have to reconcile somehow.
Both sides are still angry. That's to be expected I think, but we have to both grow up a bit and learn how to see the others point of view.
Neither Maori nor European can claim to be squeaky clean. Some nasty stuff happened, and indeed is still happening, and we need solutions. And the sooner the better in my book.
I'm encouraged by what I see with Maori in business. I believe in time they may turn out to be one of the rocks of this nation's business community. Us white fellas keep on selling ours.
There is much we both still need to understand about each other, including how we can get an essentially tribal system up to speed in the new millennium, if indeed, they choose to want that. They may not. That is their choice, and we need to respect that, if it is the case.
To be fair, lots of European NZérs are struggling with the new millennium as well, so we're all (not both) in this together, whether we like it or not.
Solutions are our only hope. Better together is our only hope. If what we've read above is the start of something that can help lift Maori out of their own great depression, then great.
However, as a European NZér I'm not going to keep apologising for the 'damage' we've done. We were struggling settlers trying hard to make a go of it ourselves and if you're interested, our own story is pretty gruesome in places as well.
It took us 1,000 years to get to this point (some would say 2,000) to get to the point of having such a great society, that the rest of the world wanted to join it as well. True isn't it?
My last comment is this: We've worked hard to get where we are today. We've all worked hard to get to this point today. As a nation we are still struggling to keep up with the big fish in the global pond, but what we've created is as good as it gets. If you don't believe me go to Fiji. Go to Jakarta. Go to Manila. Go to Tonga.
What I'm saying is that we are all very lucky to be Kiwi's. We are all very lucky to be able to live in a country that has so many freedoms that we take most of them for granted. We breathe fresh air every day, we go fishing in clean seas every day, we can still get a free feed every low tide.
Everyone (and that means everyone) who calls this place home, is a very lucky human being indeed. Period.

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Yes we are all blessed to call NZ home. I am a kiwi of Maori descent & currently live in Melbourne, AUS. I have been fortunate to expand my current business back into NZ in recent years & I am excited by what is happening in the greater Maori community. Maori can share in a more prosperous future & yes it is up to us. Maori are natural entrepreneurs, you have only to look at where we have come from & the adventurous spirit that got us here.
Maori are on the front foot. We are a force for good in our community & for that matter in the lives of all indigenous communities around the world. Yes it is up to Maori to create opportunity & to find better solutions & as a member of that community I look forward to contributing to a brighter future for all kiwi's, Pakeha, Pacific Islander's & Maori. Te hei mauri ora!

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This is shot through with inaccuracies. The lack of any understanding of Maori 19th century population is one; it is said that the 1840 population was 150,000. This is way out, nonsense. A careful, analysis of the measured population provides an estimate of half that, 71,600, down from 137,500 in 1800 as a result of the murderous inter-tribal warfare. A further decline from 1840 was inevitable, given the shortage of women and children, particularly young girls. The recovery of the following 50 years was a success, preventing the disappearance of any Maori ancestry.

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You have to be careful carrying over old assumptions on Maori population without references. As a comparison the Hawai'ian population was estimated at 300k c.1700 which has recently been raised to 683k in 1778 when Capt. Cook arrived. Safe to say it ranged between 280k - 700k in the 18th century and it declined by 87% by 1840 according to David Swanson. You also need to consider European narratives that prevailed under a 'mission civilisatrice' (civilising mission) or the parochial self-consciousness of European expansion eg. Australia was declared 'Terra nullius' post "discovery" so what does this say about the European estimate of the total aboriginal population at the time. The Musket Wars is an example you used, Te Ara states it may have cost more than 18,000 lives comparing it to NZ losses in WWII which is quite far off your 75k estimate. The spreading of the false idea that European intervention saved Maori from themselves cannot be blamed on you but, you should be aware where and why the narrative was created in the first place.

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Can someone tell me how todays Maori is so different to Europeans given the mix of the races that continues. I suggest the past had faults on both sides and ToW settlements have rightly sort to correct some of them.
Frankly I want to see the Gumint get out of the way of ALL business and let those who know get on with it. Maori business people dont need to pandering paternalistic nonsense of the past 4 plus decades. They need to be treated with the same respect as European Chinese Indian et al business people.
Pollies and civil servants should just butt out. They dont have the skills to be telling business people what they should be doing. Good grief every time Gumint gets near a business is stuffs it up royally.

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for ONCE a Maori can be honest enough to point out that Maori will be far worse of under the Government handouts than they would be if they helped themselves. [edited]

Lets help them help themselves....stop the hand outs ALL OF THEM

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Does tax free business income not qualify as government help?

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Why are there not more questions about the very definition of who is a Maori? Most ‘so called Maori’ have mixed heritage, (as we all do). Many ‘so called Maori’ are 1/32 Maori heritage,or less, yet they claim Maori status, how does that work? Can these ‘so called Maori drop a KFC bone on land, then claim that it’s Maori land? Where will this nonsense all stop. I’m guessing never, why would they want it to stop?

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Well if Maori don't need govt help anymore, does that mean that they don't need anymore handouts either, and that they will finally stop at some stage.
I for one are just wondering when it all comes to an end, if ever?

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I see many comments focusing on the general charities exemption, but Maori Authorities (those not using the Charity approach) are also able to utilise a preferential tax rate of 17.5%.

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