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Fiona Mackenzie

A Grab for the Gulf

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The feeling of having been totally out-manoeuvred has become a common sensation amongst Auckland regional ratepayers – and they don’t know half of what is going on. This powerlessness extends to some of the well-meaning City Councillors who thought they were being elected to work for the people; they now see themselves as fall guys, taking the rap for conniving bureaucrats, greedy iwi and unscrupulous politicians.

Latest Target

Currently, there’s a scheme being executed to gain control of the Hauraki Gulf and its surrounds. It’ll give a few from 26 tribal groups incredible power over a massive and very critical 4,000km² body of water (from near Mangawhai in the North down to Waihi in the south, and beyond Great Barrier Island to the east), along with the significant land catchments bordering the entire eastern coast of Auckland, the extensive Hauraki Plains, the entire Coromandel Peninsula, and the many islands of the Gulf.

Who will be affected by this? Think shipping, the Port of Auckland, aquacultural farms, commercial or recreational fishing, ferries, tourism, leisure, sport, every marina, ramp, buoy or mooring, and landowners – possibly even commercial air space, bridges and roads. And if there’s not enough money coming from these sources to fill the iwi coffers, there are always the defenceless ratepayers of Auckland City to squeeze a bit more from.

Gross Dysfunction

Since 2000, the Gulf has been managed by the Hauraki Gulf Forum with Auckland Council as its administering authority. Its board includes Ministry bureaucrats, elected representatives of all the region’s councils, plus 6 self-nominated tribal representatives appointed by the Minister of Conservation.

Unsurprisingly, there has been gross dysfunction in the Forum. In his 2015 report, management consultant Dr Nigel Bradly put it down to the “inability or unwillingness of members to act as a ‘political peer group’…….the mismatch of willingness, understanding and expectations of members is at the heart of the failure of the Forum to promote the objectives of the Act.”

This highlights the obvious − a fundamental conflict inherent in having elected representatives (some of whom are working in the public’s best interests, i.e. for the region’s environmental and economic health) and those of appointed, totally self-serving parties wanting to increase their power and wealth.

Lack of Due Process

To rid the Forum of its pesky conscientious objectors, a purposely selected team was tasked with coming up with a new governance model – one which would prioritise the tribes’ financial interests in fishing and pursuit of treaty settlements over the Gulf’s many harbours.

On 20th June 2016, the ensuing Report was tabled at the regular meeting. Despite its 83 pages and the serious implications therein (or perhaps due to), Chairman John Tregidga (Mayor of Hauraki District Council) and Deputy Chair Liane Ngamane ignored due process and tried to get the Report’s recommendations accepted on the spot.

The meeting, apparently, became rather acrimonious when some expressed concern at this attempt to shove the recommendations through. Understandably, they wished to have it reviewed by their respective organisations and obtain a mandate before voting. The inevitable claims of “racism” were made.

Obstacles Simply Eliminated

There’s no suggestion that principles of democracy, good governance or working in the best interests of the entire regional population formed any part of the Report’s recommendations. They require that:

  • The Forum be based on co-governance, with equal numbers of mana whenua (i.e. people from the 26 tribal so-called “authorities over the land”) and others.
  • The tribes appoint their eight representative members via whatever methodology their leaders deem appropriate.
  • The other, non-tribal side of the “partnership” represent the close-on 2 million regional citizens with −
    • 5 members (not Crown representatives) appointed by the Minister of Conservation (who would be guided by the advice of iwi-centric bureaucrats).
    • 3 members appointed by the local authorities (Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council and the territorial authorities collectively).
  • Each term would be for 3 years with the ability to reappoint as desired.
  • The Forum would gain statutory authority (i.e. be authorised to enact legislation over the Gulf).

This reads more like an aggressive takeover than a democratic solution focussed on what’s best for New Zealanders.

Conflicts of Interest

Notably, this Report was not prepared by appropriately independent or skilled professionals, without potential conflicts of interest. The authors were:

  • Paul Beverley, Partner in Buddle Finlay Lawyers − the same organisation which has been employed (at ratepayer expense) by the unelected, unaccountable (but with voting rights) Independent Maori Statutory Board. Paul is also ‘Independent Chair’ (sic) of Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari, the Forum’s co-governance planning arm; and he is reputed to be very close to National’s iwi-deal maker, Chris Finlayson, or at least his policy advisors.
  • Vaughan Payne, Chief Executive, Waikato Regional Council (with part Ngai Tai and Whakatohea ancestry).
  • Mark Maloney, a bureaucrat − Head of Internal Audit for Auckland Council (he is thought by some to be easily managed).
  • With input from the Forum’s tangata whenua members − Deputy Chair Liane Ngamane (a treaty negotiator for her tribe Ngati Tamatera) and Terrence (Mook) Hohneck (Chief Executive of the Ngāti Manuhiri Settlement Trust). They were to ensure the other three “understood tangata whenua perspectives”.

The conflicts of interest may not end there. At the time of writing, the Forum’s Auckland City Councillors did not yet know if this Report would be reviewed and voted on by their Council’s governing body. There’s a chance it could be directed to a sub-committee for an easier passage from carefully selected participants, plus the two votes from the unelected, unaccountable and totally conflicted members of the Independent Maori Statutory Board.

Under Urgency

There’s a real push to get the Report accepted at the Forum’s September meeting before there’s any chance of any more democratically-minded councillors being appointed in the October 2016 Local Body Elections. The plan is to start implementation immediately thereafter. 

There’ll also be a wish to progress the statutory objectives well before the 2017 Parliamentary elections, while the very obliging and pro-separatist National Party and its Chris Finlayson are still in power.

Democracy Knifed in the Back

So where is the accountability to the people? Where are the checks and balances to prevent any future harm, corruption or abuse of power from this most undemocratic of proposals? There are absolutely none.

And why hasn’t the NZ Herald covered this issue? The local body reporter Bernard Orsman says he’s not interested − which demonstrates just how much a part of the problem the media is.

What’s so unbelievable is that there are actually New Zealanders who consider this type of co-governance a suitable model in a democratic country. Alternatively, they could be excited by the prospect of rich pickings from showing support for rising tribal oligarchs.


  1. The purpose of the Hauraki Gulf Forum was established in Section 15 of the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act 2000. http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2000/0001/latest/whole.html
  1. Current Members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum: http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/en/aboutcouncil/representativesbodies/haurakigulfforum/pages/home.aspx 
  2. 20th June 2016 Agendahttp://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2016/06/HGF_20160620_AGN_6390_AT.PDF and Minuteshttp://infocouncil.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/Open/2016/06/HGF_20160620_MIN_6390.PDF
  1. Sea Change – Tai Timu Tai Pari, a co-governance entity established in 2013 to produce a Marine Spatial Plan for the Gulf – expected to be delivered late 2016. It is to be implemented by the Hauraki Gulf Forum. http://www.seachange.org.nz/