John Key’s korero to FoMA (Fed of Maori Authorities)

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hank you for your welcome.

It’s great to be here today and to be part of your conference.

Let me acknowledge in particular your Chair Traci Houpapa and your Chief Executive Ron Mark.

The Government values the people gathered here, the organisations and people you represent, the roles you play and the potential you have to shape the New Zealand of tomorrow.

In particular we believe that the Federation of Maori Authorities has a vital role to play in accelerating the growth of the Maori economy.

I am supportive of that mission. Your success is New Zealand’s success.

Like you, the National-led Government is working hard to boost the growth of the New Zealand economy. Because a growing economy is ultimately what will provide New Zealanders and their families the jobs, security and choices that they aspire to and deserve.

It’s that desire to build a brighter future which lies at the heart of the National Party’s relationship agreement with the Maori Party.

We share a commitment to improving the lives and prospects of all Maori, and indeed of all New Zealanders, and our confidence and supply agreement has enabled us to work across a number of fronts to achieve that.

We have forged a strong relationship and one which I think has had a very positive impact on the work of this Government and the lives of New Zealanders.

In saying that, I recognise that while the Government can provide the environment and policy settings for success, ultimately it is you, the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the workers, who will generate wealth and growth in this economy.

We look to you for the ideas and energy that will fuel development for New Zealand and its people.

So the question for this conference is: how can you, working with Government and your wider community, support Maori to grow their asset base and the benefits that flow from that?

How can we unlock and boost the potential value in Maori-held assets?

I view the Federation of Maori Authorities (FOMA) as an excellent network for bringing together the voices, people and ideas who together can answer those questions.

We know there is a great foundation to build on. Great things have already been achieved.

In the five years from 2001 to 2006 the value of Maori owned and managed assets almost doubled to a value of at least $16 billion. As discussed at this conference the latest data points to additional significant growth in the past four years.

That growth reflects a lot of hard work and a huge contribution by Maori.

It reflects the flourishing of Maori businesses and the development of new ideas and ways of doing things.

In part, it also reflects the successful transfer of assets via the treaty settlement process to iwi.

I want to talk a little about that process today. I want to reflect on where we have come to so far, and what that means for Maori economic development.

This Government places a great deal of importance on the treaty negotiation process, and on completing fair and final settlement. Not because we believe it is the most important issue for Maori, but because like you, our goal, is to move beyond grievance, towards the brighter more prosperous future we all seek.

The settlement process is the means by which we can acknowledge historic injustice, acknowledge unfairness, and make amends for past mistakes.

It also allows for significant asset transfers to iwi, thus springboarding development opportunities.

It’s that positive, forward-looking part of the settlement process that excites me.

This National-led Government, together I’m sure with many of you, has been impatient to stop looking in the rear-view mirror at grievances past and to instead shift our energies and focus towards building stronger foundations for the future.

That has been spurring us on to accelerate the settlement process.

Last year we held two national hui with iwi to discuss ways in which Treaty settlements could be achieved more efficiently and expeditiously. They were very successful and the discussions at the third hui a few weeks ago made it clear that iwi are just as committed and motivated to settling claims as the Crown.

Iwi leaders see the experience of others who settled in the late 1990s and how much they have achieved in the intervening period. They don’t want to spend more time and money on litigation and negotiation; they all want to cut to the chase, achieve good settlements and move on.

The Government has been working hard to achieve that.

Minister for Treaty Negotiations Chris Finlayson has been doing a great job in this area and the joint iwi-Crown achievements since last year have been very significant.

In terms of numbers they include recognition of 14 mandates, 16 Terms of Negotiation, 12 Agreements in Principle, 10 Deeds of Settlement, and the introduction of four settlement Bills to Parliament and the passage of three settlement Acts.

Only a week ago, ministers and negotiators initialled a deed of settlement with Ngati Porou – the second-largest iwi in the country. Around one in ten Maori are of Ngati Porou descent.

These milestones represent major momentum in settling the historical claims for many groups.

As well as helping restore the honour of the Crown, these settlements will help build a further economic base for iwi in the regions. The deeds of settlement signed with Northern South Island iwi Ngati Apa and Ngati Kuia in the last fortnight will bring over $50 million into those regions, as part of a total regional settlement that will ultimately be worth around $300 million.

I understand that Ngai Tahu also sees this as an opportunity to work alongside the top of the south groups to take a ‘whole of South Island’ approach to Maori development. All groups in the South Island should be commended for this, which aligns with similar models that have developed in the Central North Island around forestry, geothermal, and utilisation of marginal land through carbon farming. I see that as more iwi settle and focus on development, the strength of a grouping like this coming together for commercial purposes will mean the Maori economy grows exponentially. This year has seen the largest volume of milestones achieved by the Office of Treaty Settlements and claimants in a single year and it is almost twice the output of the next largest year. Because we have accelerated the pace of settlements, there is an increasing focus on how groups can set strategies for post-settlement success, and that is something that Government Ministers have kept an open dialogue with iwi leaders on. Because, in many ways, I believe we are at a pivotal point in terms of Maori economic development.

We are moving on from a time when iwi leadership and resources have been heavily focussed on resolving historic injustices, and we are fast moving to an era in which that energy will be increasingly devoted to development and business opportunities for the future.

Specific achievements that need mentioning include establishing an innovative process for the settlement of the historical claims of the 20 groups with standing in T?maki Makaurau.

The first major milestones to be achieved within that process have already been marked, including an agreed structure for the ownership and management of the volcanic cones of the region.

This year we also introduced the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which will repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act and restore the right of iwi and hapu to seek customary title through the Courts.

This is important because it showed this Government’s commitment to recognising property rights.

When the previous government passed the Foreshore and Seabed Act, although 40,000 mainly Maori New Zealanders marched on Parliament in protest, it’s easy to forget there was considerable disquiet from business groups that the Government would pre-empt a Court process and extinguish potential property rights the way it did.

Business groups also contributed prominently to the Ministerial Review of the Act last year, reiterating their objections.

The Marine and Coastal Area Bill restores the right to seek customary title in parts of the marine and coastal area, where a group has had exclusive use and occupation of the area since 1840.

That brings with it a certain bundle of property rights for the customary title holder, including development and mineral rights similar to a fee simple title holder.

The Bill also gives customary title holders the right to commercialise those development rights, such as giving permission for activities that also require resource consents in the customary title area, and providing rights of input on marine-mammal watching permits.

In keeping with the historical nature of customary title, the rights do not include the right to exclude or charge the public for entry, or to sell the title. But the Bill restores the rights taken away in 2004.

This reflects that a government which respects property rights over politicking is not just good for business in general, but also Maori business.

My sense as I travel around the country, visiting communities, marae, schools and homes is that most New Zealanders, Maori included, want to move the conversation on.

To move on from a conversation about past injustice, to one about how to address Maori underachievement, about how to deliver world-class education standards, to ensure Maori have the skills and resources they need to succeed and how to ensure that Maori children and families have good jobs and high aspirations.

The desire to see Maori improve their lot in life, to be better equipped to succeed and to no longer be overrepresented in negative statistics associated with education, health and crime lay at the heart of why both the National and Maori Parties chose to work together even though neither party was compelled to do so.

We’ve been making some good progress together.

On the social side, I think the Whanau Ora initiative has been really exciting.

It’s one of a number of Government initiatives to help families become more self-managing and to take responsibility for their own development and well being. It recognises the importance of the family and the things that make families special.

Fundamentally Whanau Ora is based on the idea that, with a little help, people are capable of sorting out their own lives – and putting in place the fundamental elements for long-term well being – so surely it’s within our grasp as a Government to recognise that and to organise our own services around whanau and family.

I understand Minister Turia is going to speak more about Whanau Ora at this conference.

The obvious counterpoint to all of this is the need for Maori to live and work in an economic environment capable of providing them the jobs and opportunities they need.

As I said earlier, the Government has a role to play here, but ultimately it is you as the business people, the enterprises, the groups of entrepreneurs, the innovators and the kaitiaki of Maori assets, that will spur that growth on.

I’m excited about the role FOMA can play. I am aware your organisation has recently been through some changes and that you are looking to redouble your efforts.

As you look to the future, I hope you do so with three big opportunities in mind that I’d just like to touch on briefly.

The first is the importance of science, innovation and research and development.

The information I’ve seen estimates that of the billions of dollars of assets held by Maori, at least half are estimated to be in the primary sector. I see great opportunity for these primary sector businesses to step-up and grow, particularly through science, innovation and research and development.

It’s this science and new thinking that will boost the value of the products you produce, that will increase the profitability of production process and that, ultimately, will create extra value out of the resources you already have.

The Government sees science as a key tool for tapping into New Zealand’s potential. That’s why we appointed Sir Peter Gluckman as my Chief Science Advisor, it’s why we’ve increased funding for fundamental science, supported reforms to the Crown Research Institutes to make them work better with industry and why we’ve introduced new grants to support business innovation.

As owners and managers of some of New Zealand’s most significant natural resources, iwi and Maori organisations are key end-users of this research, so you really stand to benefit from this push from Government.

I understand The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology is working directly with a number of Maori organisations to help identify these opportunities. In addition, the research commissioned by Minister Sharples’ Maori Economic Taskforce is designed in part to better inform the opportunities for growing the Maori asset base through science and innovation.

I understand many of you will have been contacted as part of this research, and I do hope you are able to make good use of it.

I hope also that this conference, and the support provided by FOMA is a catalyst for Maori asset holders to think about how science and research could boost their efforts and how you can strengthen your relationships with the science sector.

The second big opportunity I see is the Rugby World Cup 2011.

It’s important for Maori to make the most of New Zealand’s time in the spotlight, focusing on maximising the social and economic return of the tournament.

It’s a great opportunity for Maori business to showcase their products, and innovative business ideas as well as creating connections with international markets.

Which brings me to the third opportunity, which lies in making the most of New Zealand’s considerable international trade relationships to maximise exports.

I think there is great potential for Maori businesses to band together to make the most of these opportunities. Networks like FOMA are very important in this regard.

As a recent example, Minister Sharples has recently returned from leading a Maori business delegation to Shanghai in order to provide a platform for Maori to increase market exposure for Maori sectors and businesses as well as to cultivate relationships.

I understand the delegation was a huge success and that business links were established with distributors and other contacts and relationships forged.

It’s important to maintain the momentum generated by visits like these, and I understand delegates are considering initiatives in a number of areas including fisheries, agriculture, tourism, technology and investment.

In closing today, let me repeat that I think the future for Maori business is brighter than ever.

You and the people you represent are faced with bigger growth opportunities than ever before.

Managed well, those opportunities can be turned into jobs, increasing incomes and better livelihoods for Maori throughout the country. Indeed for all New Zealanders.

Organisations like FOMA are important vehicles for bringing your leaders and thinkers together, and conferences like this are a great way of sparking the ideas and aspirations that will lead the way.

I wish you all the best for the year ahead and I look forward to talking with you this afternoon.

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