Who is in charge of Māori Crown relations? - Nick Smith

By Talisa Kupenga

Confusion over which agency or minister is leading the Māori Crown relations sector has been raised in parliament this week.  

National's Māori Crown Relations spokesperson Nick Smith says three agencies each receive millions to improve the relationship between Māori and the Crown.

"The minister was pretty confused, he said 'actually Māori will know'.  That is not good enough.  There needs to be clear lines of accountability as if you are going to have different agencies they need to know clearly what their role is."

But Māori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis says Smith is just playing political games.

“Te Arawhiti funds help the Crown work with the Crown, sorry Māori, and Te Puni Kōkiri funds help Māori work with the Crown.  It’s that simple really.”

On Wednesday Maori Crown relations Minister Kelvin Davis appeared before the Māori Affairs select committee where Smith asked him if Whānau Ora, Te Puni Kōkiri or Te Arawhiti was in charge.

Davis’ response, “There is no confusion for Māori”.

Smith says, "There's a new $8 million going into Te Arawhiti with the new agency set up dedicated to improving relationships between the Crown and Māori.”

“Then you hop into Te Puni Kokiri and there's another $16 million described in the same way- and then you have Whānau Ora receiving $4 million with a similar function.”

But Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta says, "The road that is guiding all of our work comes from Treaty issues.  In some areas I am in charge across government departments, in other areas it is Te Arawhiti."

Smith says, "Equally it's important for Māori and iwi that if there is a problem over an issue like maternity services and they've gone through the proper channels of the District Health Board and they want to raise the issue further, which of these three agencies do we go?"

Mahuta says the confusion lies with Smith, but Smith disagrees.

"I'm left with the impression this is more about spin than it is about getting good quality services to Māori."