Money well spent: Māori ministers back $155,000 Ihumātao consultants' fees

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Dec 2020, 3:43PM
Minister of Maori Development Willie Jackson during the post-Cabinet press conference. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Minister of Maori Development Willie Jackson during the post-Cabinet press conference. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Money well spent: Māori ministers back $155,000 Ihumātao consultants' fees

Author
Jason Walls, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 1 Dec 2020, 3:43PM

Top Māori Ministers say the $155,000 the Government has spent on consultants, who were paid up to $325 an hour, to provide advice on the Ihumātao land dispute was money well spent.

And one has hinted that the Government has reached a solution on the land dispute which would yield a "good result for everyone".

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media this morning that the Government is not yet ready to make any announcements related to the issue.

This morning, the Herald revealed the Government had spent at least $155,000 on external contractors to provide advice over the Ihumātao land dispute.

Minister of Māori Development Willie Jackson this morning said that the money was "without a doubt" worth it.

"It's been a tough process and we have had to work through a lot of complexities – it's been quite complicated at times because you've got different groups claiming mandates."

Because of this, he said the money for the consultants was "money probably well spent".

He added that the Government does have an answer to the dispute and it is "very comfortable where we are at with it".

The Government was just working through a few things, but Jackson said that it would be a "good result for everyone".

"We don't want to leave our Ihumātao whānau out in the cold."

On the contractors, Ardern said it was not unusual for departments to engage external support for issues such which are "extraordinary outside of their usual work programme".

"It was a significant dispute that was having an impact on a private operator and obviously we are still seeking to resolve that.

Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis, with senior Maori MPs, from left, Kiri Allan, Peeni Henare, Nanaia Mahuta, Meka Whaitiri, Willie Jackson, Adrian Rurawhe and Tino Tirikatene. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"I think people will see in good time that it [the consultant spending] has made a difference; when we are ready to announce a solution we will do that."

Both Deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis and Whānau Ora Minister Peeni Henare agreed with Jackson that the consultants were a good use of taxpayer money.

"I'm pretty sure if you look across all consultants across Government agencies, you'll see lots of questions about dollars spent on consultants for the kaupapa of Ihumātao."

But he said in this particular example, the money was worth it.

But National's Māori-Crown relations spokesman Simon Bridges was not convinced.

He said it was "clearly not" worth it, as the Government has got nothing for it.

The dispute over the land has been going on for close to 18 months and the Government has not yet announced a solution.

"Even if you take the view that this is a grave injustice and the land needs to be given back to local iwi, so far it's a bit like the climate emergency; it's a bunch of chat with nothing happening."