Nikki Preston, Waikato Times
Economist Gareth Morgan said successful iwi attempts to take greater control of the project were "a case of blatant self-serving opportunism".
The hard work of volunteers, private funders and landowners was being "threatened by piracy," he said. He is calling for the flagship 3400 hectare ecological island to be given national park status to protect it from political gamesmanship.
Multimillionaire Dr Morgan said iwi were "seizing and capitalising" on the community's, landowners' and private funders' efforts.
"My concern is their contribution to work and funding has been zilch.
"If they had been at all honest they would have made this move before, not after, the fence was erected." He said few, if any, private funders "will be willing to pour money down the throats of the wide-mouth frogs of indigenous imperialism".
Mana whenua had "struggled to lift a finger so far" and now the hard work was done and money contributed, they were demanding effective control of the mountain's future, Mr Morgan said.What a diatribe, but is it true? Not according to those who might know something about it.
Dr Morgan's claims have been slammed by trust chairman Doug Arcus, iwi and the Waipa District Council.
They said Dr Morgan was "ill-informed" and funders they had spoken to were supportive of the new governance structure.
Mr Arcus, a Hamilton lawyer, said Dr Morgan's comments were "misinformed, simplistic and what many on the trust considered racist". His comments overlooked key facts, including Maori owning the largest amount of land locked up behind the fence, and that iwi were legally required to be involved in relocation of species.
Waipa Mayor Alan Livingston – also a trustee – said Dr Morgan's comments were "out of whack". He said the new governance structure would be more effective when it came to making quick decisions.And what is the big change that has caused this distress?
Under the new structure, mana whenua will provide three of the six trustees, with the remainder drawn from landowners and community representatives and the board having the option to co-opt another two trustees. Iwi will be able to appoint a co-chair.It is still only 3 of the 6 trustees - that is not onerous considering the stake tangata whenua have in the area. And also considering the state of the trust as i posted about here. What is this project?
The trust oversees the ambitious ecological project which saw a 47km-long pest-proof fence built around the bush-clad mountain southeast of Cambridge. Since the fence was completed in 2005 and pests eradicated, more than 30 kiwi and other endangered wildlife – including takahe – have been released on to the mountain.
In October, Ngati Koroki Kahukura chair Karaitiana Tamatea told the Waikato Times iwi were hopefully of a cash settlement for their Waitangi Tribunal claim in relation to Maungatautari, which would be invested and the interest ploughed into the project. Iwi were aiming to be able to provide "about $1m a year, forever," he said.
Morgan gave a 1 million interest free loan and was going to write it off but because of the increase in Maori involvement on the board now isn't. If morgan is really interested in helping this trust then he will listen to the people involved and what they consider the best way forward is - there is no ownership involved in giving a interest-free loan - that's just business.