Saturday, April 28, 2012

Kiwi corruption

Maori are often charged in the public media with nepotism, the practice of favouring whanau regardless of merit. [The word comes from the Latin for nephew]. While there are clear practical reasons for this in many business and political affairs, and the expression seems global, Maori are increasingly accepting the realities of matching the skills needed in our development with the best people available. Ngai Tahu, for example, have made this an explicit corporate HR process.

And we can rest assured, the mainstream media will remain hypersensitive to any hints of impropriety by Maori operatives, ay.

But what is happening to our Pakeha?

While Aotearoa/NZ enjoys an excellent reputation for the lack of corruption - indeed by Transparency International's measure, we are perhaps the least corrupt nation on the planet - it is a slippery slope. I posted a while ago that only 44% of companies listed on NZX have policies prohibiting bribery. This compares to 72% of the UK top 100 companies (by market capitalisation), 57% in Europe, and 69% in the US. Recent and one can assume, ongoing revelations about behaviour at the highest levels of office in this country must give us pause for reflection. Worringly, our easy come, easy go corporate regulation has allowed some very shonky dealers to set up a physical address here while dealing in gun running and drugs.

John Banks professes ignorance over 50k worth of dosh gifted by Kim Dotcom, and Campbell Live ran footage of Banks proposing a toast to Mr. Dotcom at his birthday bash.

An interesting commentary on US political corruption by Ezra Klein in a recent NYRB describes the modus operandi of Jack Abramoff, convicted of corruption in his dealings on behalf of First Nations ventures (modern life if full of such ironies, e hoa ma). Here's his MO:

'Once I found a congressional office that was vital to our clients—usually because they were incredibly helpful and supportive—I would often become close to the chief of staff of the office. In almost every congressional office, the chief of staff is the center of power. Nothing gets done without the direct or indirect action on his or her part. After a number of meetings with them, possibly including meals or rounds of golf, I would say a few magic words: “When you are done working for the Congressman, you should come work for me at my firm'”
In a small country like Aotearoa, such engagements are easy: around the golf course, in Koru club, a corporate box for the footy. Our corporate and political leaders are few in number and work cheek by jowl. Plausible deniability is easily conjured - Bank's failure of memory, an assertion of ignorance through processes run by the accountant, or the simple assertion that it is a much-needed pragmatic approach enabling economic growth.

I think our reputation as a remarkably honest country to do business is worth something, not least as an enticement to honest business people and supporting a culture we want our tamariki and rangatahi to grow in to as business operators and employees.

The Prime Ministers backroom deals - Warner Brothers, Sky City casino - may be standard for other political establishments but do they herald a new position for NZ leaders?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Maori suicide

Hot of the press, but with results only up to 2009, headlines tell a somewhat distorted picture ...
'Suicide rates drop, but still more work to be done' sez the NZ Herald.
No mention of Maori - a void in the media I've noted before with unemployment figures. Let's dig into the report and see what we have...

  • There were 83 Māori suicide deaths in 2009, a rate of 13.1 per 100,000 Māori population (this is the lowest Māori rate since 1999);
  • This compares to 10.6 non-Māori deaths per 100,000 in 2009.
  • In the same year there were 28 suicide deaths among our Pacific whanaunga ... 
  • ...and 25 among Asian ethnic groups.

These results differ somewhat from another report (from Chief Coroner, Judge Neil MacLean), albeit provisional ....

Provisional suicide rates by ethnicity per 100,000 population between July 2007 and June 2011 (n=2170)

Here's the comparison in an easy graphic:
Either way, it's bad. One hopes the new funding announced for youth mental health may arrest these terrible stats, although old men are proving sadly susceptible to going sideways of this mortal coil.

Where to get help:
If it's an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111. Or call Youthline 0800 376 633, Lifeline 0800 543 354, Depression Helpline 0800 111 757, What's Up 0800 942 8787 (noon-midnight).
Suicide Prevention Information New Zealand has more information. Visit:
The Ministry of Health also offers information, and a teen specific website at

Monday, April 23, 2012

Update on Indigenous Mapping controversy in Oaxaca

I posted on this controversy a while ago, and now thanks to Kieren McKenzie, have been sent a link of an interview with Aldo Gonzalez, the Indigenous Rights Officer of Union of Social Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO). 

The geographers' sin in this case seems to be one of omission by not informing Indigenous participants of one of the studies sponsors - Radiance Technologies -  a company that specializes in arms development and military intelligence. Resulting and data was also hoovered up by Human Terrain System, a United States Army unit, for their global database that forms an integral part of the US counterinsurgency strategy.  

Serious teko comrades.

Anyways, like Kieren says, all maps are liars so best we geographer always tell the truth.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tactics of the Left

There is a curious disconnect between the contemporary Left in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and even the mainstream of Maori thought and practice. While I'm aware of old socialists in the Alliance Party and a few of the more rad Greens accepting aspects of tino rangatiratanga (though not the cultural harvest of kereru et alia...), the political scene seems to reserve a small space for Maori - Maori Party, Mana, Brown Nats, Brown-reds - we're missing any of cross-fertilisation that promises true reform and an equitable distribution of power and wealth. Anyways, cut and pasted this from a blog called Woodpile report...

Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals 
Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what the enemy thinks you have
Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of the enemy.
Rule 4: Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.
Rule 5: Ridicule is man's most potent weapon
Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy.
Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag.
Rule 8: Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period.
Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself.
Rule 10: Maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
Rule 11: If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
Rule 12: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
Rule 13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Ngati Tama ki Taranaki

I heard of news of Ngati Tama's financial turmoil while in Brisbane, just a hyperlink off my $2 for ten minutes internet access in a cheap hotel near the Roma St. train station. Couldn't download anything with pictures quick enough to trawl for details.

But it was enough to read the headline.

Their lands are to the north of the mountain...

Ngati Tama had their ringaringa in a range of companies: the Eel Enhancement Company; Original Pipe Traders; Open Group; and My Virtual Home. This last company is now in liquidation, over $12.5 million down the proverbial.
They are also the sole shareholder in Ikatuna which had dibs on Septic Solutions Taranaki and Tu'Ere Fishing. 
As it happens I met Ngati Tama CEO Greg White a couple of times, a man who could be called a straight shooter and be quietly proud of the label (which is a compliment after all in this country, Pakeha or Maori). Greg was a director in four of the companies, not an unusual thing at all, indeed any iwi should have highlevel board representation in thier investments.

That none of this worked is now well known.

Ngai Tahu commentator, Tahu Potiki, notes Ngai Tahu avoided IT and software start ups, the manifestation of conservative iwi investment profiles. He acknowledges that smaller iwi like Ngati Tama have a structural vulnerability in that they may struggle to recover from the bad years - several Ngai Tahu companies have experienced severe downturns - and as we now see, may be nearly wiped out by a few bad investments.

Ngati Mutunga chair, Dion Tuuta, is one of those now tasked with picking up the pieces. A safe pair of hands for troubled times. 

Anyway, let's finish on a positive...

Ko taku iwi tuaroa tēnā 

That is my backbone

(My backbone is sacred; do not dare touch it.)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes | UK news | The Guardian

The British have always kept great records - a boon for researchers with the time and inclination to trawl through archives. But interesting revelations of our colonial master destroying records of their brutality...
Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes | UK news | The Guardian

Records were destroyed not just to protect the United Kingdom's reputation, but to help protect the British government from litigation from freedom fighters mistreated in their fight to expel the colonising forces.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

World Banking and Aotearoa

Bankers. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live...well.

There are 19 banks registered in New Zealand. They are required by law to disclose their financial condition every quarter. Despite a rather big dip in the majority of business earnings, the five biggest banks in Aotearoa increased their profits, from $2.3 billion to 42.5 billion, (that's $2,300,000,000) in the second half of 2011.

The global context revolves around the Basel Committee, in the news for their Basel III agreement which will affect all banks, including the Aussie ones we rely on here in Aotearoa/NZ. They give this succinct summation: “The distinction between market and credit risk has been blurred by the development of credit risk transfer markets and the broad move to mark-to-market accounting for a wide variety of financial instruments. This has raised questions regarding approaches that treat the two types of risks separately. The financial crisis has illustrated how the two risks may reinforce each other and that in such stress situations illiquidity can exacerbate losses.” (See this Working Paper on 'Findings on the interaction of market and credit risk').

Maori grower group heads to Tokyo to promote kiwifruit

Maori grower group heads to Tokyo to promote kiwifruit - Business - NZ Herald News

Te Awanui Huka Pak Ltd (Huka Pak) was incorporated way back in 1991 but is now reaching out in a more direct manner to its international buyers. As the largest shareholder in Seeka Industries, the largest post-harvest operator of kiwifruit in the world, Maori landowners make up between 8-10 per cent of the industry.What we're seeing is the explicit linkage between our culture and our business. In the words of CEO Hemi Rolleston:
"We need to demonstrate what's different about us and our culture is part of our difference. They love it - that we can move from the kapa haka stage to the boardroom."

An item on Maori news fills some gaps, and I found the 2004 accounts on TPK's 'Wall of Honour' page:

However, such ventures also speak of the growing gap between corporately connected Maori - business elites and large shareholders - and the economically disconnected such as those resident in Kawerau where
Ministry of Social Development figures show 1324 of the town's residents are working-age beneficiaries: 19% of the population of 6940. The mayor wants to stop beneficiaries moving there, a further constraint upon those who don't exactly have a lot of freedom to start with...

Monday, April 09, 2012

Plastic Maori

Click through to Wayne Youle (Ngapuhi, Ngati Whakaeke, Ngati Pakeha), who's work is currently tiled across the background of this blog... I love this stuff, part of the generation of Maori artists who have free reign over medium and message.

Here are some clever things someone else has said about him...

Lest we forget, plastic is a rather special substance. Although primarily derived from petrochemicals, the first man-made plastic was revealed at London's 1862 Great International Exhibition. Called 'Parkesine' after its inventor, this version is now called celluloid, an organic material derived from cellulose that once heated could be molded but retained its shape when cooled. 

The term 'plastic Maori' seems to have come about with the proliferation of cheap, foreign made trinkets for the tourism sector - racists would call the Indigenous inhabitants of Aotearoa/NZ 'plastic Maori' is they perceived any hint of 'dual-citizenship' in which that part based on Maori inheritance and experiential learning was perceived to fall short of natural and expert.

It's use as a perjorative perhaps harkens back to a time of artisinal crafted woodwork, and slow-chipped stone cathedrals, and i must confess i do try to do without it in my garden. But plastic is so damn useful! It was recently turned to the Plastic Waka for promotion of Ngati whatua during last years Rugby World Cup...

It seems almost 180,000 people visited the machine and survey's show an average satisfaction rating of 8.2 out of 10 (evidently higher than the Cloud or the Fan Zone). It was of course spun as an waste-of-money, iwi venture, and mainly by Labour Maori member, Shane Jones. Boo.

The debate goes on, of course, in many different guises. Just found this blog on an 'Urban Maori' Huffer doll, complete with grass skirt and spray can!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Maori economy updates: more and more goes the doey?

Flicking through the Google alerts on 'Maori economy' says an increasingly common reference to the so-called Māori economy in both mainstream New Zealand and Māori media, with Māori ventures posited to both grow the national economic pie and give Māori a bigger slice of ‘NZ Inc.’ But the growth of this economy correlates with the persistence of many poverty indicators for Māori, and the rapid expansion and intensification of resource use does so against ever stronger environmental and social pressures. Is this economy a myth, or is it merely broken?

But the wider global financial crisis (oh, it has its own acronym: GFC) has thrown economic orthodoxy on its head. While this latest collapse was something Indigenous Peoples (and others) predicted, they must still deal with the consequences of dynamic interconnections between local aspirations and regional and global forces from positions of marginality. Is it still feasible to speak of distinct Indigenous economies in the midst of such complexity? 

I'm working on a paper that will review the literature on the Māori economy. I see a peculiar schism where Western academia is ‘getting culture’ while Indigenous communities are ‘getting economics’. 

First of three hui held on boosting Maori economy
Radio New Zealand
The Maori Economic Development Panel has held the first of three open hui in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch, as part of its brief to find ways of ...
Good attendance for first hui
Radio New Zealand
Maori Economic Development Panel Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana says attendance at the first of three public hui to discuss ways of improving the Maori economy...
Workshop to link businesses with science and technology
Radio New Zealand
Business and Economic Research Limited (BERL) has forecast that the adoption of science and innovation by Maori businesses could add $12 billion to the ...
Property Council appoints new President
“My appointment recognises the significant role that the Maori economy now plays in New Zealand, particularly in the property sector,” said Mr Sewell.
Twisted economic logic for jails
New Zealand Herald
His concern for the economic impact on the local community reminded me of ... in the case ofMaori, housed a disproportionate number of their own people.
Class ratios really about the money
New Zealand Herald
Three out of 10 leave school without NCEA 2, including half of all Maori ... Compared with most other developed countries, students' socio-economic ...
Simon Lambert

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