Is independent body needed to monitor post-Treaty spend?

By Talisa Kupenga

The government is not responsible for measuring whether conditional Treaty settlement objectives are being met post-payment.  Both government and the National Party say responsibility lies with recipients but Treaty expert Dr Carwyn Jones is asking whether a separate body is needed to hold them accountable to beneficiaries.

The government says onus for post-settlement spending is in the hands of recipients.

Treaty Minister Andrew Little says, "Any money that is paid under conditions there is effectively a trust over it and it's the responsibility of the recipients of those funds to make sure that the objectives or the purposes are met."

Last month Act Leader David Seymour raised questions around whether monies received so far by the Te Arawa River Iwi Trust (TARIT) had gone towards cleaning the Waikato river after a beneficiary raised concerns about where the money had been invested.

It's been reported some TARIT beneficiaries wanted to halt the board's payments while its chair is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office but the government isn't clear who has the authority to do that.

Little says, “I understand that's funded out of environment so it doesn't come anywhere near me."

But the Environment Minister David Parker says, "I'm not sure, it would either be myself or the Minister of Treaty Settlements.”

While Crown Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis says, “I don't have the authority because that money belongs to iwi, not the government. It's not right for government to interfere."

However, David Seymour says some oversight is needed to show money is going where it's supposed to go.

"Where are the beneficiaries left? Not benefiting from the taxpayer money provided for that purpose," he says.

Jones says an independent body could work but it could be tricky.

"The dynamics of iwi politics and tikanga Māori is a bit disconnected from the mechanisms in a trust deed or from the mechanisms of the High Court or judiciary review and so those mechanisms we usually would look to in terms of public accountability are not quite working in the way they should."

National's Crown Māori Relations spokesman Chris Finlayson says given there is no independent body it is an issue for iwi.