Tuesday, October 27, 2009



I was invited to speak at the FOMA (Federation of Maori Authorities) conference in Wellington last weekend. I lovingly refer to FOMA as the Maori Surf and Turf club because the affiliated organizations are in the main primary producers in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture. Yes culture is alive and well in the Maori business sector.

FOMA reckons it’s the largest Maori business network with a voluntary membership of Maori Incorporations, Land Trusts, Trusts Boards and Runanga, and emerging communally owned entities. It’s FOMA’s job to foster and promote the development, sound management and the economic advancement of Maori Authorities which then positively impacts on iwi.

According to its website Federation membership is open to Maori Authorities: organizations established to manage communally owned assets. In the main these are Trusts and Incorporations governed by Te Ture Whenua Maori /Maori Land Act 1993, and Trust Boards and Runanga under the Maori Trust Board Act. It’s also open to business interests that have a majority shareholding or are wholly owned by a Maori Authority. FOMA includes Treaty settlement entities and entities formed by individual statute.

What impressed me most is the collective wealth of the 50 or so groups gathered at the Duxton Hotel totals around $17 billion and growing. A significant amount of this is of course comes from Treaty Settlements. Many of iwi receive their settlement and then sit on it, watching it gain minuscule interest - but interest none the less.

Settlements completed so far: Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika: $25 million
Central North Island Forests Iwi Collective $161 million. Affiliate Te Arawa Iwi and Hapu $38.6 million. Te Roroa $9.5 million. Ngati Mutunga $14.9 million. Te Arawa (Lakes) $2.7 million (plus $7.3 million to capitalise the annuity Te Arawa received from the Crown and address any remaining annuity issues). Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi $31 million. Tuwharetoa (Bay of Plenty) $10.5 million. Ngati Awa $42.39 million. Ngati Tama $14.5 million. Ngati Ruanui $41,000,000. Te Uri o Hau $15,600,000. Pouakani $2,650,000. Ngati Turangitukua $5,000,000. Ngai Tahu $170,000,000. Te Maunga $129,032. Rotoma $43,931. Waimakuku $375,000. Waikato/Tainui raupatu $170,000,000. Ngati Whakaue $5,210,000. Hauai $715,682 Ngati Rangiteaorere $760,000. Commercial Fisheries $170,000,000.

These sea and land people are by nature and bitter experience conservative risk adverse organizations. Some iwi like Waikato Tainui took bad advice and invested unwisely in Pubs and Rugby League teams, while others invested in aqua-farms are yet to see returns on their investments. But Maori are traditionally ‘long-haul’ people. They go into the future looking generations ahead and so while their investments may not pay off this week or next week, they will pay off.

This long vision approach to life doesn’t satisfy the social watch-dogs who say Maori need assistance now with poor statistics in health, housing, education, and the whole socio-political gamut of dysfunctionality. They’re right of course. Maori do need help now, and tribes are assisting their people through educational scholarships and iwi based health initiatives. There could be more assistance but to blow whole Treaty Settlements now on albeit worthwhile social woes is negligent. Settlements is for the benefit of all especially future generations. It’s the tribes’ responsibility to create generational wealth and that means investing in long term initiatives including sustainable horticultural ventures like Te Waka Kai Ora in Nga Puhi.

So back to the FOMA hui which incidentally was called ‘Future Frontiers’ and featured about 20 speakers both Maori and Pakeha including 2-degrees Mobile Communications CEO Eric Hertz, Fisher Funds Managing Director Carmel Fisher, Trevor Moeke from Te Whare Wananga o Aotearoa and Mike Pratt Saatchi and Saatchi New York. The kai was fantastic, given that it was a hui for surf and turf folk it was expected the kaimoana fresh and varied and the selection of meats just as assorted.

The only thing I found slightly ‘odd’ about the 3-day hui was the dearth of waiata. I counted only three waiata sung at the Duxton all on the final day at the poroporoaki. I hope we don’t become so slick at doing the business and talking the corporate-speak that we forgo or forget waiata. Waiata is what keeps us grounded in whakapapa and reminds us why we’re all doing the business.

Maori have this uncanny knack of planning ahead – generations ahead. They do this by focussing on past injustices and slowly stripping back the layers using the law, the moral high ground, activism and even humour to get to the original source of discontent. Once Maori reach the affected area it’s a build back up strategy employing both tikanga Maori and Pakeha kawa. It’s a long haul approach to life, which confounds, mystifies, and downright befuddles Pakeha and quite a few Maori too I might add.

Now take last week’s shambles over the television rights to broadcast the Rugby World Cup. Everyone knows the background and then the subsequent arguments so I won’t relitigate these. Just to say that some of the arguments boarded on stupidity ie: the 10% Maori language in broadcasts means ‘…we won’t understand, what’s going on..’ 10% in TV language is about 10 words every half hour. While other arguments were ignorant ie: ‘…$3million of tax payers money going on Maori TV.’ The entire RWC campaign will run at a deficit of $32 million and climbing – half of which will be paid off with tax payer money.

For Maori Affairs Minister, Pita Sharples, Maori TV’s bid was about international potential. The potential for Maori to promote its language to the world is obvious while economic spinoffs are evident. The crucial points in Sharples proposal are economic independence – sweet words to right wing capitalists. But it also proved to be the most untenable points for Ministers Brownlee and McCully. Not that these two stalwart Nats want Maori hanging off the government apron strings forever, but neither do they want iwi to make dosh out of this world cup event.

So what’s next? There’s no guarantee the IRB will accept this multi-platform tender. Infact the international rugby board could hold the country to ransom and hike up the price even further.

Maori TV stated they got crumbs out of the broadcast deal. That’s wrong of course, if they got crumbs they would have ended up with less games and no opening ceremony. What they didn’t get was exclusivity full and final. What they did get was public support on top of the already good will they have accumulated over the last five years. Maori TV deserves this good will. They have tried hard and been successful in bringing a wider Maori world to the screen. They have also brought the viewer some insightful and provocative documentaries.

But what Maori TV has failed to do is transfer this good will into bums on couches and eyes on the box. The channel averages 5 thousand viewers per night. The broadcaster's latest accounts show its $37.5 million annual income is almost entirely made up from public funding: $18.1 million from the Government and $16.3 million from Maori broadcasting agency Te Mangai Paho. It also gets about $18 million of Te Mangai Paho's $25 million contestable fund. That’s a total of around $50 million. That means Maori TV spends $10,000 per viewer each year. That’s a lot of entertainment money.

Compare the above figures to say 3News with an average viewership of about 370,000 and ONE News with 600,000, neither of these channels gets $50 million of tax payers’ money – so something is amiss. But what is it?

Could it have something to do with Maori TV’s marketing strategy – or the lack of one? Or could it have something to do with the channel’s lack of understanding of viewer habits? It certainly doesn’t have anything to do with its schedule of programmes. It peaks on days that show cases special events like ANZAC day, Waitangi day, even Sir Howard Morrison’s tangi did well ratings-wise. But the channel can’t leverage off these peaks and push the numbers across the week. Its inability to keep viewers hooked must be a reflection of its marketing strategy and its inability to predict then influence viewing patterns and habits. After 5 years of being on air 5000 viewers is pitiful, shocking.

The IRB will be taking this into consideration when it weighs up the pros and cons of the tender submissions. The money-focussed rugby group won’t want its prized world event to be a guinea pig experiment for a channel of 5000. It’s a high risk business case.