SUSTAINABILITY Settlement or Governance

Fifteen months ago the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development (the Business Council) and Westpac New Zealand embarked on project to offer business solutions for Maori organisations in the post claim settlement phase, based on principles of sustainable development. The project drew together some collective experiences of iwi and hapu which had gone through treaty settlement process in the hope that shared experience could assist other Maori organisations starting down the settlement path to develop robust governance procedures and minimise risks.
The Business Council was also keen to explore how the principles of sustainable development could be incorporated in the post settlement planning for ventures aimed at satisfying economic as well as social and environmental needs of claimants.
The group comprised the chief executives of Deloitte (Nick Main), Griffins (Tony Nowell) and the Business Council (Peter Neilson), Westpac communications guru June McCabe, kaiwhaku mana tiriti from Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research Rau Kirikiri, communications expert from the Business Council (Lyn Mayes) and Chellie Spiller who was writing doctorate on the subject. They consulted with leaders from Ngti Whtua, Ngi Tahu and Tainui and drew on the experience of the indigenous peoples of Canada.
The work aimed to identify the risks, particularly in the post settlement phase of treaty settlement, and suggest some mitigating steps. However, the project has been neither quick nor easy. The process absorbed much more time than seemed likely at the outset and it has been difficult to determine an appropriate start point for the model.
The temptation to overlay modern management theory had to be checked at every pass because that is not the way Maori enterprises tend to operate. Maori businesses often have kaupapa (philosophy) that centres on longer strategic timeframes and owners are prepared to forego short-term financial returns for community and whnau benefits such as staff training and tikanga reo learning.
The Business Council group eventually came up with blueprint offering suggested checks and procedures which hapu or iwi might follow as they approach settlement. “Let’s settle this – through settlement to sustainable Maori enterprise” provides iwi with some guidance on some fundamental questions that need to be answered to protect the interests of beneficiaries.
Business Council members learnt much from the process – not least the fundamental importance of the stakeholder engagement process, the need for strong communication and the ultimate challenge of leadership and governance.
Whilst treaty settlements are not huge in terms of overall national wealth they do present an opportunity for economic independence and the accumulation of wealth. Since many claimant groups are based in economically deprived areas of New Zealand the prospect of economic development in these regions could have profound effect on the country’s wealth distribution in the future.
There are numerous successful Maori incorporations flourishing in rural districts of New Zealand but sadly it is the failures that make headline news. Too often failures usually relate to lack of good governance procedures.
One of the principal problems has been blurring of the role of governing the settlement process with subsequently governing the enterprise. Sometimes the people who have done Herculean job in winning settlement claim automatically assume they have the skills to manage an investment portfolio when the funds are handed over. This can lead to disaster. Furthermore, many iwi simply do not have the experience or professional skills from among their members needed for good governance.
Contributing factors include:
• desire by the claimant and settlement leadership to play dominant role in the investment phase even if they lack relevant skills, combined with reluctance to recruit externally to secure the best leaders.
• Acknowledgment that one size does not fit all. The structures required for an iwi with settlement of several hundred millions dollars would not be appropriate for one with less than $40 million.
• Ensuring competence takes precedence over kinship when important positions need to be recruited.
• The value of education for shareholders (beneficiaries) needing commercial understanding to be accountable for investment decisions
• The absence of quality assurance for professional advice and services.
Many successful Maori enterprises are built on kaupapa of sustainability that reflects the spiritual and cultural values of Maori and their respect for natural resources. We profile these in the book along with considerations we believe are critical for pre-settlement, during settlement, post settlement stages of economic development.
Kaitiakitanga (guardianship) embraces guardianship of our environment and has the principles of sustainable development at its heart. Weaving this with kaupapa of economic success is vision shared by the Business Council. thriving Maori enterprise will benefit the whole New Zealand economy, not just Maori.

• Rob Fenwick is chair of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development.

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