Reading the accounts of a small Maori Land Trust with which I am familiar, I am struck by some interesting figures.

Last year the trust received an income of slightly more than $160,000 as the net profits from farming activities run by a professional manager. From this amount, the Maori chairman of the trust, for doing very little other than running a couple of meetings, elected to pay himself $140,000, plus another $10,000 in “Honoraria” and telephone expenses.

The few thousand dollars remaining were then disbursed among the committee, where his family have the majority that votes him into office, and after accounting, audit and entertainment fees, the trust made a loss for the year.

Separate to this, I also note a NZ Herald article about New Zealand’s highest-paid charity executives, which listed John Tamihere as paying himself a salary of more than $500,000, for the onerous task of running Auckland’s Waipereira Trust, one of our smaller “charities”.

The trust remuneration figures, totalling some $2.5 millon, 77% more than last year, represented an average of the  payments made to thirteen Senior Managers at Waiperiera, so it is safe to assume that Tamihere, as the most senior of those managers, is being paid well in excess of $500,000.

Could it be a coincidence that this huge salary increase occurs at the very time Tamihere is being forced to pay back the $385,000 interest-free loan he took from Waiperiera to fund his failed political campaigns in 2019?

Two snapshots then, from either end of the Maori Trust spectrum. Trusts whose first order of business seems to be the enrichment of the elites who run them.

It’s not often I agree with Brian Tamaki but I do when he says, in a recent BFD article, “Maori elites are the ones who have ripped off Maori in our generation… lined their own pockets, and those of their mates… they’ve had multiple fraud cases, including the Kingitanga, and many iwi have had money meltdowns…ask most everyday Maori if they have personally seen any of the billions in Maori funding that has been given to these Maori elite, and 99% will tell you they saw none of it”

Does all of this have anything to do with the recent marches, the hui in Ngaruawahia, the visceral offence taken to simple questions about the principles attributable to the Treaty of Waitangi, and the general hysteria surrounding the direction of the new coalition government? You bet it does.

For centuries it has been well understood, when any regime is corrupt and failing its people, that an external enemy must be found so the focus of the populace can be redirected and misdirected. “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel”, as Samuel Johnston noted centuries ago, and the current “Maori patriotism” of the Maori elite is just another example of this.

Never mind the smokescreen of appeals to the Waitangi Tribunal about tobacco ban repeals and te reo de-emphasis, this self-serving by the elites at the heart of the whole Treaty settlements, charities and trusts industry is where the Tribunal should be focussed if it wants to realise the greatest good for the greatest number of Maori.

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