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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Waipareira back in black

Te Whanau o Waipareira is back in the black after a year of major restructuring.

The West Auckland Maori social services provider had to rebuild after its previous management team abandoned key revenue streams, lost contracts and sold assets to cover loss making activities.

John Tamihere, who returned as chief executive after being ousted from parliament, says a lot of the hard work has been done, and the trust now has a strong balance sheet to build from.

“We don't get treaty settlements. We don’t get preferential contracting entitlements and rights like other groups. We have to fight tooth and nail for what we’ve got. So basically the bottom line broke $19 million this year, we cleared our decks absolutely of all debts, we don’t need an overdraft facility for the first time since 1999,” Mr Tamihere says.

Waipareira is back up to 160 staff, and it turned over $9 million in revenue over the past year from contracts delivering health, economic development, education and other social services.

IWI SIGN INDIGENOUS TREATY

Think global, act local.

That's what has prompted 11 iwi and 12 hapu to meet in Whakatane yesterday to sign a declaration of indigenous rights put up by the newly-formed United League of Indigenous Nations.

Aroha Mead, who signed the declaration on behalf of Ngati Awa at the league's inaugural gathering in Washington DC in August, says it's an attempt to develop and strengthen links between indigenous peoples around the world.

“This is not just at a theoretical or philosophical level. This is also a very concrete action. These include looking into future possibilities for trade and commerce,” Ms Mead says.

Other iwi including Ngai Tahu had observers at yesterday's ceremony at the Awanuiarangi wananga, and could join the league after they have consulted members.

FUNGI FOCUS FOR INDIGENOUS RESEARCH

A Ngapuhi Te Rarawa woman is looking for ways to save and use traditional Maori and Polynesian knowledge on fungi.

Rebekah Fuller is studying for a doctorate to the University of Hawaii.

She says her work, which is helped by a Te Tipu Putaiao Fellowship from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, crosses a range of disciplines in a way that hasn't been done before.

“This is pulling together a whole lot of little bits and pieces that have been recorded by other people in different fields, like mycology or botany or ethnology, and trying to pull all that information together and then going and talking to people about the specific resource which, if you’re a botanist, you’re not going to be really interested in mycology or the use of fungi, just in the use of plants,” Ms Fuller says.

She will also be looking at the economic potential for indigenous communities of wild edible fungi.

MAORI PARTY PICKS WAIKATO REMATCH

The first Maori Party candidate for next year's election has been found.

Angeline Greensill will again challenge incumbent Nanaia Mahuta for the re-drawn Waikato-Hauraki seat.

She's the daughter of the late Maori rights campaigner Eva Rickard, a Waikato university geography lecturer and grandmother of ten.

Ms Greensill says now Maori voters have seen the Maori Party in action, the contest for individual seats will be easier than last election, when she trailed by 18 hundred votes.

“It'll be a contest between the Labour MP and ourselves and I think there is a lot more support for the Maori Party and my own candidacy. To win this election you need the people power, you need the putea and you need the policies. I think we've got those,” she says.

The Maori Party is still picking candidates for Te Tai Tonga and Ikaroa Rawhiti.

TRUST IN POLICE SACRIFICED TO TERROR RAIDS

The fragile relationship between Maori and police has taken a beating after last month's anti-terror raids.

Lawyer Moana Jackson has studied Maori attitudes to the police as part of his work on Maori in the criminal justice system.

He says an attitudinal survey during the original research 20 years ago found Maori rated police a the bottom of a list of 20 professions.

A similar test of 2 thousand Maori earlier this year found police had risen to 11th spot, probably because of the work done on iwi liaison and community responsiveness.

Mr Jackson went back to his sample a fortnight ago.

“We asked if they would rank the professions again and the police had dropped from 11th back to last, and I think that’s a direct result of the behaviour of some police in Ruatoki and elsewhere during the so called anti-terrorist operation,” Mr Jackson says.

He's working towards a publication next June marking 20 years since his original report on Maori in the justice system.

WAIPAREIRA LOOKS TO NEW PROGRAMMES

Te Whanau o Waipareira has stopped its financial haemorrhaging and is looking forward to rolling out new programmes.

The urban Maori trust told its annual meeting at Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland last night that assets now stood at $19 million dollars, revenue from social services contracts topped $9 million, and it had no debt and no overdraft.

That's in contract to recent years where paper profits from property revaluation disguised loss making activities, with asset sales needed to maintain cash flow.

John Tamihere, who returned as chief executive after losing his seat in parliament, says the restructuring is complete and staffing levels have topped the 160 mark.

“We've repopulated the organisation with very capable good people and we’re lifting our performance day by day and we’ll be rolling out new programmes, innovative programmes, to drop Maori offending, lift Maori performance, but not only that, be a significant organisation in the health of the west Auckland community,” Mr Tamihere says.

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