The Independent Maori Statutory Board is determined to make a positive contribution for all Maori and everyone else in the Auckland region. We've developed a work programme and are keen to get it under way.
We're very aware that our arrival has been controversial.
The Royal Commission recommended the new council have two elected Maori seats and one appointed by tangata whenua. After the Government rejected this, with some arguing there should be no statutory Maori representation, the board was a compromise first proposed in a Cabinet paper by Local Government Minister Rodney Hide and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples in August 2009.
After being adopted by Cabinet, Mr Hide introduced legislation in December 2009 to establish the board and outline its role and obligations.
The legislation was not rushed, but was scrutinised for five months by the Auckland Governance Legislation Select Committee, including representation from the National, Labour, Maori, Green and Act parties.
When it came to the board, the select committee made no major changes to Mr Hide's legislation.
The legislation, finally passed by Parliament in June 2010, is prescriptive. It uses the word "must" a lot and leaves little room for doubt or confusion.
It says the board must be appointed by a process facilitated by the Maori Affairs Minister and involving all Auckland Maori. The nine members of the board were announced by Dr Sharples on October 29.
The legislation says our purpose is to promote cultural, economic, environmental and social issues of significance to Maori in Auckland and to ensure the council acts in accordance with statutory provisions referring to the Treaty of Waitangi.
The law is clear we must be independent from the Auckland Council . We must identify issues of importance to Maori, work with the council and give advice on how it should implement its statutory Treaty obligations.
We must appoint up to two people as members of every council committee that deals with the management and stewardship of natural and physical resources. We have no representation or votes on the council proper.
To do our job, the law says we should consult those who can help us achieve our purpose and seek external advice.
We are required to put together a budget to carry out these statutory obligations and reach agreement with the council by February 15 on our funding. The law says the council must meet the reasonable costs of our operations, secretariat and external advisers to enable us to carry out our statutory obligations.
The board has followed the law to the letter and has been working with council officers and an independent consultant since mid-December to ensure costs would be reasonable.
After a workshop between councillors and board members last Monday, the council's strategy and finance committee, which includes all councillors, unanimously agreed our budget last Tuesday.
Some councillors changed their minds six days later and it seems we will now need to ask the courts to consider the matter. Hopefully, the mayor joins us in making that application.
When this matter is resolved, the board's first initiative will be to commission an audit of all local government spending on Maori engagement and consultation in the Auckland region over the last five years.
The objective of the audit will be to identify savings and do a better job in engaging and consulting Maori. It is designed to be win/win for all ratepayers and all Maori.
The audit will also provide a baseline in terms of spending and efficacy so our performance in delivering savings and improving quality can be measured down the line.
Depending on how long it takes to resolve present budget issues, we would like the audit to be completed by the middle of the year.
The substantive part of our work programme will then be able to begin in earnest and will be looking at initiatives on everything from opening up new life opportunities for disadvantaged Maori, to fostering Maori enterprise, to a longer list of specific initiatives that nag local communities.
Not everyone is happy about the existence of the board, our voting on subcommittees, our role or our budget.
It is our job to earn the trust of all Maori, our council colleagues and all Aucklanders. Kia kotahi tatou katoa o Tamaki. We are all Aucklanders. We all have an interest in making the new council work.
- David Taipari is chairman of the Independent Maori Statutory Board for Auckland.