Leadership – Recovery and Rebuild

Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Tā Mark Solomon says it is understandable that Ngāi Tahu will have to address complaints of conflict of interest as it continues to play a leading role in the recovery and rebuild of Canterbury.

Newspaper reports have recently outlined concerns expressed by some private developers that Ngāi Tahu has a privileged role in the city rebuild.

“We certainly take our statutory leadership role very seriously,” says Tā Mark. “But this role, which emerges from our role as Treaty Partners, is undertaken by our tribal leadership and this role is partitioned from our commercial structure, including our property company which has no such privileged position.

“Like any large enterprise, Ngāi Tahu has measures in place in order to maintain a clear distinction between its tribal representative body and commercial activities.”

Tā Mark accepts however, that he and others need to work hard at explaining some differences. ‘Ngāi Tahu’ is a term that can be used to mean a number of different things, from the corporate structure, to an individual marae-based community (Papatipu Rūnanga) through to individuals of Ngāi Tahu whakapapa (genealogy). “We always attempt to be clear,” says Tā Mark.

He says the tribal representative body, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, along with its statutory partners, the Christchurch City Council and CERA, each appoint a member to panel hearings to consider resource consent applications made by property developers in the Central City. The Christchurch City Council manages all applications and the convening of the panel. The panel is made up of professionals who provide independent decisions on property developments and urban design matters in relation to resource management applications. Ngāi Tahu professionals such as Dr Hirini Matunga, Dr Rawiri Te Maire Tau, and Huia Reriti (architect) have sat on a panel hearing over recent months.

“The re-emergence of Ngāi Tahu as a leader in this region is highly appropriate and we take our responsibilities very seriously,” says Tā Mark. “We have not and certainly will not shy from our leadership role. We have invested heavily of our time and energy to set up structures and identify resources to help enable the social, psychological, and physical recovery of people who have been most disadvantaged by the earthquakes.

“Those who criticise us need to come and speak to us. We are happy to explain our commitment to Canterbury and Cantabrians – we are all in this together and we will all emerge stronger for our improved relationships and commitment towards each other.

“Historically Ngāi Tahu Property has always worked hard to develop relationships with the Crown and local authorities with a view to identifying commercial opportunities. Tribal representation however is one of a statutory nature – providing appropriate advice on cultural aspects such as tikanga, principles, aspirations and values, and we keep this representation quite separate from the Ngāi Tahu commercial entities. It is important that business leaders in Christchurch understand these distinctions and we believe most do.

“We are clear about our responsibilities to help rebuild Christchurch and Canterbury. We are an active people and we are demonstrating in tangible ways how we can help our region to grow.

“Aroha ki te tangata – it’s about maintaining respect and regard for all.”