Iwi Chairs' Forum launch attack against FOMA

By Maiki Sherman

The Iwi Chairs' Forum has launched a scathing attack against FOMA, the Federation of Māori Authorities.  The spat is over the government's advisory committee for the Māori Land Act review, specifically, the number of seats FOMA members have been appointed. 

The seven members of the advisory committee were announced by Māori Development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell, yesterday.

The Iwi Chairs Forum say they've played a major role in the national consultation meetings regarding the review of the Act and they represent tribes and sub-tribes who are the land owners.  However, we know FOMA also conducted a reform survey of its members, more than 150 authorities.  The Minister says FOMA also played a significant role in the review.

As the advisory committee held its first meeting in the offices of Te Puni Kōkiri, criticism ran rife from the Iwi Chairs' Forum over its FOMA members.

Willie Te Aho says, “FOMA should be side-lined from the committee. They should not sit on that committee as they don't care about the land nor the groups who own the land.”

The number of members with affiliation to FOMA on the advisory committee for the Māori Land Act is the issue.

Of the seven members, Te Aho says three are FOMA affiliates.  He says the problem is FOMA isn't interested in small land owners, only big businesses.

Te Aho says, “They are very good at looking after large companies who are utilising Māori land, but the goal of a new Act is to empower the smaller land block owners throughout NZ.”

“They also own land blocks and whether it was a good choice or a bad one I have made it and the group has the necessary skills,” says Te Ururoa Flavell.

The Minister is certainly standing his ground, but there's no denying the pressure is on. Sonny Tau, chairman of the Iwi Chairs' Forum Māori land sub-committee, says he spoke with Te Ururoa Flavell this morning.

He says, “What we are saying to the Minister is to take a closer look at who is advising him on this "right path".  We aren't fussed as to the people appointed, only that it start and end with those from iwi and hapū.”

Flavell says, “He will soon receive a letter explaining what was said at Kerikeri. I have no concerns about it, the decision is final.”

Despite our requests, FOMA chief executive Traci Houpapa wasn't able to slip away from the meeting to speak with Te Kāea.  However, we know both Kingi Smiler and Dr Tanira Kingi are well experienced when it comes to agriculture. So the question is whether it's sour grapes on the part of the Iwi Chairs' Forum?

Flavell says, “I'm not sure, that's for them to say. In the end I had a big decision, I've made it, and I'll follow it through to the end.”

“That is rubbish talk which comes from the cows on the side of the road. Come to the horse's mouth for the real story,” says Tau.

Despite it all, the last word remains with the Minister who isn't budging. Whether that'll come with a cost, only time will tell.