Outcome measurements needed for Treaty payments with conditions – ACT Leader

By Talisa Kupenga

Act Leader David Seymour is calling for measurements to be put in place to account for Treaty settlement funding when it is allocated for a specific purpose. He says it is unclear if the $18-million funding provided so far to Te Arawa River Iwi Trust to clean up the Waikato River is being used for the reason it was given. 

The Trust's chair, who has been accused of significant impropriety, is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. The  Trust is also set to receive a further $12-million over the next twelve years.

Mr Seymour says Treaty Settlements with conditions need to be measured to show money is going where it's supposed to.

"There doesn't appear to be a lot of testing around the environmental outcomes that are being had and there is also a question mark around how you can have somebody who is the chair of an organisation that is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office while receiving such a large amount of Taxpayer money."

Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little says it raises concerns.

"What I am concerned about is that if public money has been provided for a specific purpose, that we make sure that it actually goes on the purpose for which it was provided."

In response to an Official Information Act request the Environment Ministry said the Trust is 'not accountable' to the Ministry for how the money is used, that the Ministry 'does not have a responsibility' to evaluate the outcomes of the funding, and is not required to complete due diligence on the recipients of the funding.

Minister Little says "I'm a little surprised to hear that. Again, that's some of the information I hope to get at a more detailed briefing of that situation."

Mr Seymour says "If you're going to give money as no strings attached redress then you don't need to worry but in this case it's not clear which one we've got; there is supposed to be an outcome which is environmental protection of the Waikato River and at the same time we have no idea that that's actually happening."

It's been reported Te Arawa elders have asked for the trusts payments to be stopped while the SFO investigation is underway.

It's also been reported Crown Māori Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said he does not have the authority to do that.

Environment Minister David Parker told Te Kāea "no, MFE can't stop a payment that is the result of a Treaty settlement".

Seymour says "you could argue that is an issue for the Ministry for the Environment in the way that they operate now, you could argue that that is an issue for future Treaty Settlements, but either way I think there are important learnings from what's happened in this particular instance."

The Environment Ministry says it has not been approached by the SFO or the Trust and would continue to make payments unless advised otherwise.