23 Apr 2018

Insight: Settle up - Are treaty deals benefiting all Maori?

From Insight, 8:12 am on 23 April 2018

Iwi are increasingly using the proceeds from Treaty of Waitangi settlements to fix longstanding problems facing their people. Richer tribes are investing more in social housing, savings schemes and health insurance. But many iwi have received small settlements and struggle to find a balance between investing the returns for the future generations and paying dividends to meet the needs of the current generation.

The Treaty of Waitangi. He Tohu, a new permanent exhibition of three iconic constitutional documents that shape Aotearoa New Zealand. Treaty of Waitangi, Declaration of Independence and Women's Suffrage Petition.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Te Morehu Maurice Watene is adamant the health system has gone downhill

"I've personally experienced it with my parents, siblings and in-laws. It's pathetic," he said.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei kaumatua, Maurice Watene

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei kaumatua, Maurice Watene Photo: Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

"Like we would walk them in [to hospital] because it was the doctor's recommendation, and damn, they've gotten worse. Then we're left to carry them out in a box."

The Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei kaumatua, who is 68, thinks the health system has failed Māori.

Māori die sooner, and tend to be sicker than their Pākehā counterparts.

They are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure or to suffer stroke, diabetes or respiratory illnesses.

Māori are also over represented in statistics surrounding obesity and smoking.

They are also less likely to visit a doctor or dentist.

Auckland-based Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei has taken matters into its own hands.

"We're not going to wait for the government to come up with a magic solution for us, " Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust representative Ngarimu Blair said.

Alongside Australian-based insurer Nib, the iwi is offering free health insurance for its registered members, covering some 4,000 people around the country.

Whetumarama Porter and her Moko Te Ahikaaroa and Kanui

Whetumarama Porter and her Moko Te Ahikaaroa and Kanui Photo: Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

It will provide base cover for surgical and medical hospitalisation - a specialist option which covers specialist consultations and diagnostic procedures that don't require hospitalisation and an everyday option to assist with some day-to-day health costs like GP visits, dental, physiotherapy and optical costs.

"We tend to suffer in silence, and now we don't have to," Whetumarama Porter, 68, said.

"I used to pay a lot of money for major surgery only [insurance], and now I don't have to. And the new insurance covers stuff that I need, and I now can get."

A roadshow around the country to promote the scheme saw a strong turnout, Mr Blair said, and about 300 whanau have signed up since the initiative was launched earlier this month.

The deal will cost Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei about $3 million a year if everyone joins.

Mr Blair hopes to eventually roll the scheme out to iwi members in Australia.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is increasingly using some of the proceeds of its $1.1 billion Auckland property portfolio to address some of its tribes social needs.

It built 30 medium density homes under a communal housing scheme, which included underwriting mortgages to help whanau get a foot on the property ladder.

"Housing is a huge issue for us. There's a lot of demand from our people and rightly so given the rental market is pretty crazy," Mr Blair said.

"We want to do more and we're planning to do more."

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Photo: RNZ Insight/Patrick O'Meara

The tribe will also introduce a savings and investment scheme next month, which will give enrolled members $500 a year, and this money would be invested on their behalf.

"The only reason we exist as a tribe is to advance the social and cultural improvement of our people," Mr Blair said.

"There's no point having a $1 billion asset base if we can't improve the lives of our peoples, so we're very focused on that."

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is not alone is pushing social initiatives.

Ngāi Tahu, Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Porou are all investing in social housing, while Ngāi Tahu already has a savings scheme in place.

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But not all iwi are in a position to provide these services.

Of the $2.2 billion in settlements so far, large payouts are rare, with only five worth $100 million or more.

Ngāi Tahu and Waikato-Tainui received $170 million each in the 1990s and in the following two decades they have used it to build their assets to $1.7 billion and $1.2 billion respectively.

Over half of the 86 settlements have been under $20 million.

Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa settled with the Crown in December, receiving $6 million and 8,000 acres of land.

About 1,800 iwi members live in the Far North area, which Ngātikahu ki Whangaroa negotiator Ella Henry said was characterised by a lack of electricity in many of its bays, bad roads, no internet and few basic council services.

Dr Ella Henry

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

"You can't do much with $6 million. It wouldn't even repair one of the major bridges in the north," Dr Henry said.

"So I don't have any grandiose plans that we are going to transform the future quickly."

Even Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei benefited from its location at the heart of Auckland's commercial centre, rather than its settlement with the Crown in 2012.

"We settled for $16 million. That may surprise a few people," Mr Blair said.

"A lot of tribes are settling for very minimal dollars. It's important people realize that we put a lot of effort growing those comparably meagre settlements into something that can transform our communities with."

Iwi warn it is still the government's job to solve many of the social ills afflicting Māori.

"Article 3 of the Treaty (of Waitangi) is the social responsibilities of the government, and we are not going to let the government abrogate their responsibilities," Waikato-Tainui chief negotiator Rahui Papa said.

"We want to help and work alongside the government but we are not going to take over."

However, urban Māori Authorities argue iwi could do a lot more to help disenfranchised Māori who live outside their tribal home and have fallen on hard times.

"They are very much focused on those who got the settlement across the line, mainly those back home, and the majority of Māori, 85 percent, live in cities,"  Te Whānau o Waipareira chief executive John Tamihere said.

"And so there is a major disconnection between the leverage of an asset base that they've got and they're winning, and where their kinfolk are."

Mr Tamihere predicts iwi risk being sued by these people in the next few years if they don't take their obligations seriously.

He is urging them to work closely with urban groups such as his.

"Are they going to set up their own agencies in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch?" Mr Tamihere said. "That would be a massive waste of resources, time and money."

"So what you'd think you do is reach out to those who already have the relationship with the Māori population in those particular urban areas and then go from that point of strength."

"That's all the discussion we need to have really."

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