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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Derek Fox, and the mystery of the public dollar

It takes a special kind of bellicosity to both dissemble and attack Geoff Robinson on Morning Report in response to innocuous questions such as ‘Are there any life members on the Kōhanga Reo Trust?’, but Derek manages that kind of uncomfortable and unhelpful combination with unfortunate aplomb. My personal distaste for Derek’s style aside though, his question (and one also discussed on Paul Henry’s show last night, albeity briefly) of ‘when does a public dollar stop being a public dollar’ merits attention. But I’m not sure why it does. Probably because of its superficial (and deceptive)  simplicity. Derek challenged Geoff by saying (and I paraphrase): ‘When you go to the grocery store and pay for your groceries are you then spending public dollars?’ Geoff responded, “well of course not, that’s my money, I can do with it what I like’. ”Well, same diff!’ crowed Fox. (well, in more words than that, but you get my drift). Sorry Derek, that is just plain wrong, and worse, it is disingenuous. Let’s look at what Te Pātaka Ōhanga does. From some comments like Derek’s, you’d think they were purely contract service providers themselves, and so, you might be forgiven for thinking they are paid a contract price for their services, and just like an insurance company would receive payment for insurance taken out by some publicly funded agency, and then what they do with that money is their business and not open to public scrutiny. The lines are nowhere near as clearly drawn here. Look at the opening sentence on the TPO website: Te Pataka Ohanga Limited (TPO) is a wholly owned subsidiary company of Te Kohanga Reo National Trust and was formed to help manage the growth of Te Kohanga Reo and maximize the bargaining power through strategic partnerships with providers, allowing quality services and products at discounted rates. While the entity might be owned by Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, clearly TPO does things for and behalf of Te Kohanga Reo. That impression is strengthened in the next sentence: Te Pataka Ohanga Ltd also manages a range of services, on behalf of Kohanga like insurance, mokopuna oranga pumau, scholarships, computers (Dell), Internet service providers (ICONZ), Fuel Cards and many more listed on this web site. According to Māori TV’s Maiki Sherman:

‘However, according to Te Pātaka Ohanga’s constitution, it was established solely to manage the economic activities of the National Trust. Also, all profits not reinvested in the company are transferred to Te Kōhanga Reo or an approved charity.

 Is Fox trying to argue that these functions are entirely private ones, not in any way connected with the public nature of the funding received by TPO in the first place? TPO is not analagous to the insurance company, nor is it analogous to the salaried public radio broadcaster buying his milk and bread with that salary. Geoff, in buying his milk and bread is carrying out a private function, and his salary was tagged for that purpose, and reported as such in the relevant financial reporting documents. Geoff is at the end of that process, and when the money is in his possession, there is no accountability back to his employer. TPO, by contrast, is intimately involved, and indeed responsible for the economic activities of the parent trust. TPO is not at end of the funding chain, and what they do with the money reflects on Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust, and don’t forget, the leftovers of that money goes back to TKRNT (or another nominated charity). I’ll bet Geoff doesn’t give his leftovers back to Radio New Zealand. 

Fox’s defensiveness doesn’t help Te Kōhanga Reo, although I understand entirely his desire to protect and defend what the Trust does. He should understand that he is helping to achieve the opposite. Kāore taea e te tipu e rea, mēnā kua ngaro a Tamanuiterā. 

It’s the Māori economy, stupid.

Listening to Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell is kind of depressing right now, as he speaks with Kathryn Ryan on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon. The Māori Party wishes to be a kingmaker, so Te Ururoa says. OK, fair enough. The Māori Party wishes to provide an independent voice for Māoridom. That’s fine too, notwithstanding all the problems relationships with larger parties present. I get that relationships in politics matter, and the Māori Party have had the traction that they have managed so far under this government by their pursuit of positive relationships with National in general, and John Key in particular. So far, so good. But as a voter enrolled on the Māori Roll I am waiting to hear from the Māori Party what their vision of the New Zealand economy is, and what the Māori economy should look like under the next government. I know the Māori party cares about the Māori economy and about improving Māori economic participation, because they have a strategy on it: http://maoriparty.org/maori-economic-strategy/. THIS is where the Māori Party needs to pitch for Māori votes because, just like Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential nomination campaign, the biggest issue for Māori, Pākehā and all other groups in this country is “the economy, stupid!’ Whānau Ora is a great, as yet inchoate, achievement, the messages of empowerment are important, but I want to hear about regional development for jobs for my whanaunga in Kaitaia and Whakatāne. Why the heck isn’t the Māori Party reporting back on the achievements and work undertaken by the Māori Economic Taskforce? The goals of the Strategy? Future directions of a post-settlement economy? Principles of economic development? As a thinking human being I am very interested in constitutional reform, and the in debating Māori rights and status. As a Māori voter I need to know nuts and bolts and where the hell the Māori Party will seek to take Māori economic development. 20 minutes of interview so far and not a sausage, not even a porkbone on this one.

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