Cross-Examination: Exploring the Effects of Treaty Settlements on Iwi and Young Maori


Cross-Examination: Exploring the Effects of Treaty Settlements on Iwi and Young Maori

Cross-Examination is a blog series about current legal issues in New Zealand produced by EJP Communications volunteers.


Nicole Godber

Are large Treaty settlements damaging the development of young Māori in New Zealand?It has been argued that large Treaty settlements have disoriented the attention of Iwi and divided Māori as a national entity. Traditionally, Iwi were seen as a cultural support structure for Māori, however today large Iwi are increasingly being considered as big business essential to the New Zealand economy.Over the past twenty-two years immense financial compensation from the Crown has challenged the structures and operations of large Iwi, turning many into commercial business. In the company of other agreements, substantial financial and commercial redress has included for example, payments of 170 million dollars to Waikato Tainui Ruapatu and Ngai Tahu settling in 1995 and 1998, respectively[1], and Ngati Porou settling in 2012 for 90 million dollars.[2] Approximately 30 Treaty settlements have been completed so far with the National government set on achieving all claims settled by 2016.Moreover, the Māori economy is considered a diverse and integral part of the New Zealand economy. Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) identified 16 key industries of the Māori economy with most investment centered on fisheries, farming, and forestry. A report from BERL titled Asset Base, Income, Expenditure and GDP of the 2010 Maori Economy[3] found that Maori enterprises are valued at 10.3 billion dollars representing 5.9 per cent of the total value added from all enterprises in New Zealand. Further, Maori enterprises generated equivalent to 5.5 percent of New Zealand’s GDP.[4]With such immense compensation and a growing economy it must be asked why young Māori are failing?Young Māori make up 19 per cent of New Zealand’s 14 – 16 age group[5] however they make up 51 percent of youths apprehended by the police[6]. 53 per cent of those apprehended appear in the Youth Court.[7] Māori are less likely to remain in secondary school from year 11 to year 13. Only 54 per cent beginning in 2010 continued with their education until 2012.[8] This compares with 87 per cent of NZ-European students continuing through to year 13.[9] As a result, figures from the Youth Labour Force show that Māori, above any other ethnic group, are less likely to be employed or attend education institutions.[10]Future opportunities for young Māori are not promising either. Despite only 14.9 per cent of the New Zealand population identifying ethnically as Māori, 51 per cent of the male prison population and 58 of the female prison population are Māori.[11]Furthermore, a Ministry of Health survey found Māori continue to have higher rates of obesity and diabetes, as well as a range of other health conditions, than non-Māori.The position of Māori adults demonstrates the failure of the current social structure to assist young Māori.[12]In order to aid their young people many large commercially based Iwi centre decision-making around custom with a community-focused outlook. Scholarships, leadership programmes and social initiatives are frequently provided. Among others, in 2000 Ngai Tahu established He Oranga Pounamu to ensure the health and social services needs of all Māori living in the Ngai Tahu tribal area.Despite these efforts the current social structure still falls short.It should be recognised that while many small local hapu and Iwi provide the traditional support structure necessary in local communities for young people, it is the lack of support given by large commercially centered Iwi where young Māori are most likely to fall between the gaps.Speaking in 2013 shortly before his death, Sir Paul Reeves, former Archbishop and Governor General of New Zealand, stated:[13]

Māori are in need of education, housing, employment [and] health…those statistics are not getting any better in spite of the fact that we now have a substantial number of Treaty settlements and Maori increasingly have a strong asset base…

While Iwi recognize that it is not their role to do the job of the government, commercially centered Iwi do not appear to have remained involved in the social structures of young Maori, leading to a heavy reliance on government systems and structures. This is centered on the rationale that the State is best equipped to manage the inequity suffered by young Māori. However, the adverse statistics above illustrate that the New Zealand criminal justice system and the youth justice system is not effectively dealing with Māori youth. Moreover, anecdotal evidence shows that cultural initiatives within the youth justice system in particular are ineffective.Initiatives such as Rangatahi Courts have sought to utilize Māori culture in order to rehabilitate young Māori offenders. Youth Court sessions take place on a marae with the direct involvement from the local kaumatua and kuia. While seen as a step in the right direction by most, Rangatahi Courts have been criticized as merely constituting a different setting for Youth Court with no support programmes or relevant cultural ties to help rehabilitate the young offender or their whanau. Concerns have also been raised as to the mana (authority) Māori have over activities on their marae during the decisions.In addition, most large commercially based Iwi are not equipped to accept opportunities to become more involved with their young people. For instance, the Children Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 provides for a young person to be taken into the custody of an Iwi or cultural social service,[14] however this is rarely used due to the lack of programmes to utilize this opportunity.Ngai Tahu, the largest South Island Iwi, illustrates the commerce-centered approach of many large Iwi. From its initial Treaty settlement of 170 million dollars, Ngai Tahu now has a net worth of 877.26 million dollars.[15] Of this asset base, a surplus of 50.86 million dollars in 2013 was available for reinvestment and distribution to Ngai Tahu beneficiaries. In 2013, Ngai Tahu distributed 17.3 million dollars to beneficiaries. This constitutes one third of their surplus and 2 per cent of their total asset base that could potentially serve to assist young Māori. Iwi centered social services provided by Ngai Tahu make up 17 per cent of total distributions.[16]It appears the current business plan of Ngai Tahu is to provide its beneficiaries with a share of one third of its profits. The inequality of young Māori raises the debate as to whether this contribution is enough. In light of the inequality of its young people large Iwi such as Ngai Tahu should determine how to increase its contribution to best benefit its young Māori through cultural education and social programs.There are promising initiatives from Nga Puhi, New Zealand’s largest Iwi, centered in the Far North. Nga Puhi have signed a memorandum of understanding with Child Youth and Family to work together when Māori children are put in care. Nga Puhi Iwi Social Services seeks to provide programmes for whanau providing social care and security. In particular, its youth services aim to provide programmes for young offenders, mentoring services for young people whose offending is at risk of escalating and marae-based programmes to build confidence and leadership within young people.[17]The marginalization of young Māori as shown by the statistics means a way forward for young Māori must involve both Iwi and government support. Further developments comparable to that of Nga Puhi to work closely with state organization such as Child Youth and Family are needed to improve the social standing, educational qualifications, economic opportunities, and future of young Māori.The commercialization of large Iwi has come partially at the cost of the appalling position of young Maori today.. With such a large asset bases, the financial and social support given by large Iwi to their young people should be increased dramatically.The division created by large treaty settlements and the effect of commercializing Iwi has not stopped those in need suffering. It is essential that Māori be compensated for their historical grievances; however a balance in the distribution of their funds needs to be struck in order to support the growth of young Māori.As recognised by Sir Paul Reeves: “The judgment [for Māori] now is not to go down in history as capitalists who put a base together but to go down in history as the people who distributed the rest to those who need it”[18]During the course of writing this article several of the Iwi mentioned were contacted to provide comments or an article in response. None replied, but we still welcome replies from such bodies to the issues this article raises.   The views expressed in the posts and comments of this blog do not necessarily reflect those of the Equal Justice Project. They should be understood as the personal opinions of the author. No information on this blog will be understood as official. The Equal Justice Project makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. The Equal Justice Project will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. [1] Statistics New Zealand Te Ao Marama: A snapshot of Maori well being and development 2012 <>.[2] Statistics New Zealand above n 1.[3] Business and Economic Research Limited, Asset Base, Income, Expenditure and GDP of the 2010 Maori Economy – Report.[4] Above n 3 at 18.[5] Statistics New Zealand “Maori population estimates: mean year ended 31 December 1991-2011" <>.[6] Statistics New Zealand “National Annual Apprehensions for the Latest Calendar Years" <>.[7] Courts of New Zealand Youth Court Quarterly Report 2011 - Quarter 4" <>.[8] NZQA: Annual report of NCEA and New Zealand Scholarship Data and Statistics at 9.[9] Above at 9.[10] Youth Work Force Statistics <>.[11] Prison population statistics <>.[12] The Health of Maori Adults and Children <>.[13] Radio New Zealand Interview with Sir Paul Reeves 21 August 2011 <>.[14] Children Young Persons and Their Family Act, ss 234(c)(ii), 238(d) and 307(4).[15] Whanautanga: Ngai Tahu Annual Report 2013 <>.[16] Ngai Tahu Annual Report 2013.[17] Whakatapu: For the Next generation Nga Puhi Annual Report 2013 <>.[18] Radio New Zealand Interview with Sir Paul Reeves 21 August 2011 <>.