Ministers meet with Taranaki Māori to discuss important issues

By Maiki Sherman

A ministerial delegation including Prime Minister John Key is being held in Taranaki over the next few days meeting with local whānau, hapū, iwi, and Māori organisations. 

The events are part of the 2014 Relationship Accord, Te Tatau ki te Paerangi, between the Māori Party and National.

The agreement creates more engagement by key ministers with Māori, regionally.

Those on this particular visit includes Prime Minister John Key, Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson and the Māori Party Co-leaders Marama Fox and Māori Development Minister, Te Ururoa Flavell. 

This engagement events allow the Prime Minister the opportunity to share at a local level progress being achieved for Māori across priority policy areas.  Eight Taranaki iwi will meet with the ministerial group tonight to discuss the important issues in their region.

The dairy industry plays a big part in the region and Parininihi ki Waitōtara Inc is excelling.  However, the gas and oil industry has been in operation for over 70 years and local iwi have not benefited.  

Strengthening Taranaki tribes' position in the region's economy is certainly one of their major focuses.

Iwi agree Treaty settlements play a big role in their economic involvement. Of the eight Taranaki iwi, four have settled their claims. Ngāti Maru Wharanui is still seeking mandate. 

A closed meeting will also be held today between the Crown and local iwi at Parihaka Pā to discuss ways in which the historic village can be acknowledged and supported in the future. Once discussions have formed an agreement, details will be made public.

Tomorrow, a dawn ceremony will be held for the return of the famed Motunui Panels - five late 18th century carved pātaka panels which comprise a masterpiece of Maori art. The panels made their way back to New Zealand only last year after more than 40 years overseas.

“The Motunui Panels are objects of huge cultural and historical significance as well as being extraordinary works of art,” Chris Finlayson said.

The Motunui Panels are five panels forming the end wall of a pātaka (store house) that were recovered from a swamp near Motunui in Taranaki in 1972. The panels were carved before 1820 by Te Atiawa artists, and were most likely hidden in the swamp during a period of inter-tribal wars for safe keeping. Shortly after their discovery in 1972 the panels were illegally exported out of the country, without the knowledge of the government. They were later sold to a private collector.