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Settlement Trust holding election, despite membership “shambles”

Media release from Mau Whenua
The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust who lost over 12,000 of its 19,000 iwi members is holding an election despite its membership register still being in ‘a shambles’.

Mau Whenua and other iwi members took the Trust to the Māori Land Court in an attempt to force them to rectify the register and processes and include the disenfranchised iwi members.

The Court appointed Sir Wira Gardiner to conduct a review of the Trust’s register and election practices. In May 2020 Sir Wira reported that the register was a ‘shambles’ and that thousands had been declined membership in addition to those that had been ‘lost’. The Trust was ordered to work with Mau Whenua and other applicants to repair the register and processes.

But 18 months later, the Trust has ‘up-dated the details’ of only 2,465 members and does not appear to have addressed the thousands of ‘declined membership’ at all. Of huge concern the whakapapa committee, which verifies membership, does not appear to be functioning, and there are reports that new registrations are taking over a year to process. Mau whenua and the other applicants are not satisfied with the progress of PNBST remedying the issues of the membership register. There appears to be a significant amount of work still to be done to address the lost membership and re-connect with members.

David Tawhai-Bodsworth believes he has a variety of skills and qualities that he could bring to the Trust. He has worked in operational, strategic and programme management for many years including past work as a Chartered Accountant. He has the required 5 registered iwi members to nominate him. He submitted his membership application in September 2020. Despite repeated follow-up queries, he is still not registered, and cannot stand for election or even vote.

Mau Whenua Chair Karen Parata says her brother Darrin has a similar story. And she is aware of other families where some or most members have been disenfranchised. She does not believe the Trust has made a serious effort to reinstate people on the register. “They have ignored our call for registration hui-a-iwi, refusing to meet with iwi members, despite being in COVID Level One for most of the period from May 2020 to August 2021. The delay in registering or reregistering iwi members is unconscionable. This election is a disappointment to all those whānau who should be able to vote but find they cannot. PNBST cannot claim to have a mandate from the iwi for 2021 elections.”

Iwi member Dr Catherine Love believes the large-scale disenfranchisement and rejection of iwi members is particularly tragic given the history of dispossession of the iwi. “Our people have had their land and their identity ripped from them for generations. To now have their own Trust repeat the process is heart-breaking and soul destroying”. The disenfranchisement comes on top of the Trust ignoring the 2016 iwi vote NOT to sell land at Shelly Bay and the unanimous AGM vote not to work with The Wellington Company the same year.