THE Whakatohea Maori Trust Board has welcomed the findings of the ministerial Investigation into its 2017 elections and matters relating to governance and management.
The investigation and report by Michael Heron QC found that there were no issues with the integrity of the trust board roll. The former solicitor-general also concluded that the trust board’s 2017 elections were held in accordance with the principles of part three of the Maori Trust Boards Act 1995 and the Maori Trust Board Regulations 1985.
The report acknowledges that while there were irregularities during the 2017 elections, they did not affect the outcome of the elections.
It also notes that the trust board needs to improve the way it manages conflicts of interest, and that there have been some instances where full disclosure of information to all trust board members has not occurred.
Trust board chairman Robert Edwards said the trust welcomed the findings and recommendations.
“He [Mr Heron] has made a number of recommendations, which will help to ensure we deliver best practice in in future elections. The trust board will work through those recommendations and implement them where needed, such as appointing an independent person to the role of returning officer to maintain transparency,” he said.
Trust board chief executive Dickie Farrar said the focus was now on strengthening policies and processes.
“We acknowledge there were some irregularities, and we are focused on ensuring we have the right support systems in place to help the board in its decision making.”
Mr Edwards said it was a huge relief to have the ninisterial investigation completed so that they could move forward.
“However, we acknowledge there is work still to be done as trustees to ensure we maintain the integrity of the roll and the privacy of each individual person who is registered. Rest assured, we do not take this task lightly.”
Mr Edwards said the trust board was keen to act immediately on the recommendations outlined in the report.
“Minister Nanaia Mahuta has set a deadline of 14 December to provide a progress report on the recommendations.”
The full report can be accessed here www.whakatohea.co.nz.
Hapu critical of QC’s report
NGAI Tamahaua hapu chairman Peter Selwyn was critical of the report’s findings.
“The Ministerial inquiry … clearly identifies that the general allegations of inappropriate conduct and improper processes are upheld and that these major problems do exist in the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board and that this misbehaviour has become ingrained in the culture of the board,” Mr Selwyn said.
“The board’s subsequent response claiming a form of exoneration is without foundation and is misleading.
“Although the report did substantiate the allegations made the report was superficial and a forensic level of inquiry is needed to address the many serious concerns that Mr Heron could not complete because of the short time frame and his limited resources.
“The conflicts of interest and pecuniary gain involving the aquaculture assets is a key issue outstanding.
“Minister Mahuta’s intention to validate the 2017 elections is of particular concern given Mr Heron’s clear finding that the board’s electoral roll was never authorised for use as the legislation requires, is unverified and unverifiable, and that one nominee was accepted in spite of being late.
“It is difficult to see if this was a local government election that that would ever be permitted. Why are Maori trust board’s subject to a second-class standard of democracy?
“The statements of the [chief executive] are ambiguous and inconsistent throughout the report. Mr Heron went so far as to recommend that the returning officer role be given to somebody else because the chief executive was not neutral.”
Ngai Tamahaua is one of six hapu which are part of the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board under the Maori trust Boards Act 1955. Each hapu elect two trustees every three year by postal ballot.