Iwi Chairs met with Ministers today in Waitangi – but what does this mean for housing Māori?

The Iwi Chairs Forum met at the Copthorne Hotel in Waitangi over the past two days. It was evident that the Iwi Chairs have the ears of Ministers - but what does this mean for housing Māori? Te Matapihi offers a perspective.

  PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF (NZ HERALD)

PHOTO / PETER DE GRAAF (NZ HERALD)

Day one focussed on reporting back on Iwi Chairs activities across various portfolios and consolidating messages to Ministers, who were invited to attend on day two. Housing, economic development and Te Ture reforms were all on the agenda for discussion on day one. With Raniera “Sonny” Tau in the role of Housing spokesperson, the housing update to the forum was relatively brief, with a summary of issues and potential activities tabled that had been put forward at the previous forum hui.

It was evident on day two that the Iwi Chairs Forum has the ears of Ministers and the potential to be a highly effective and influential partner to Government. Iwi Chairs presented a series of succinct messages to Ministers across a number of issues, including the Te Ture Whenua reforms and economic development. Housing was not covered in any detail, however it is expected to be high on the agenda at the next Iwi Chairs Forum to be held in Whakatāne 4-5 May 2017.

The desire to work in close partnership with Iwi was sentiment was clearly signalled by our Prime Minister Bill English in his address to the forum. The PM brought along an impressive line-up of front-bench MPs to the hui, including Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell, Minister of Building and Construction Nick Smith, Minister of Social Housing and HNZC Amy Adams, Minister for Economic Development Simon Bridges, and Minister of Treaty Settlements Christopher Finlayson.

A number of Ministers offered responses to the Iwi Chairs presentations, including Minister Flavell, Minister Finlayson and Prime Minister Bill English. Minister Flavell took the opportunity to announce a number of new initiatives, including establishing a Ministerial advice group for the proposed Māori land service, and an Iwi-Crown Economic Taumata.

So what does this mean for housing Māori?

The Iwi Leaders technical group for housing have previously floated the idea of developing a National iwi housing strategy. A perspective to this approach is that iwi are all at various stages of involvement and interest in housing, a number are pre-settlement (including the largest iwi in the country, Ngāpuhi), and not all iwi participate in the Iwi Chairs Forum (with notable omissions including Tūhoe).

Iwi Chairs is a vehicle for presenting a coherent iwi voice on pertinent political issues, whilst also respecting the mana and diversity of iwi represented. However, there are certain limitations, because as a cross-iwi group the forum is not the Treaty partner. The development of a set of high-level policy statements may therefore be a more appropriate focus for the Iwi Chairs activities in the area of housing. This set of high-level messages can then be populated with Ministers via the Iwi Chairs Forum and advocated for directly by iwi through their direct Treaty relationships, with the technical team working closely with senior officials to develop the implementation pathway.

Te Matapihi looks forward to working closely with Iwi Chairs this election year to support better outcomes for housing Māori.