Phi­lan­thropists’s con­trol claims slammed

South Waikato News - - NEWS/OPINION -

One of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent phi­lan­thropists has been la­belled a racist af­ter threat­en­ing to pull the plug on $1mil­lion of fund­ing to the Maun­gatau­tari Eco­log­i­cal Is­land Trust say­ing Maori are try­ing to take over.

Econ­o­mist Gareth Mor­gan said suc­cess­ful iwi at­tempts to take greater con­trol of the project were ‘‘ a case of bla­tant self-serv­ing op­por­tunism’’.

He is call­ing for the flag­ship 3400-hectare eco­log­i­cal is­land to be given na­tional park sta­tus to pro­tect it games­man­ship.

Mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Dr Mor­gan said iwi were ‘‘ seiz­ing and cap­i­tal­is­ing’’ on the ef­forts of the com­mu­nity’s, landown­ers and pri­vate fun­ders.

‘‘ My con­cern is their con­tri­bu­tion to work and fund­ing has been zilch. If they had been at all hon­est they would have made this move be­fore, not af­ter, the fence was erected.’’ He said few, if any, pri­vate fun­ders ‘‘will be will­ing to pour money down the throats of


po­lit­i­cal the wide-mouth frogs of in­dige­nous im­pe­ri­al­ism’’.

But Dr Mor­gan’s claims have been slammed by trust chair­man Doug Ar­cus, iwi and the Waipa District Coun­cil.

They said Dr Mor­gan was ‘‘illinformed’’ and fun­ders they had spo­ken to were sup­port­ive of the new gov­er­nance struc­ture.

Un­der the new struc­ture Mana Whenua will pro­vide three of the six trustees with the re­main­der drawn from landown­ers and com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the board hav­ing the op­tion to co-opt an­other two trustees.

Iwi will be able to ap­point a cochair­man.

Two trust mem­bers Fiona Judd and Peter Holmes were re­moved last month when they did not agree with the new struc­ture, which needed 100 per cent sup­port to be adopted.

Dr Mor­gan gave the trust a $1m in­ter­est-free loan and said he had been con­sid­er­ing writ­ing the loan off be­fore learn­ing of the iwi de­mands to have more con­trol.

Mr Ar­cus, a Hamil­ton lawyer, said Dr Mor­gan’s com­ments over­looked key facts, in­clud­ing Maori own­ing the largest amount of land locked up be­hind the fence, and that iwi were legally re­quired to be in­volved in re­lo­ca­tion of species.

Ngati Koroki Kahukura rep­re­sen­ta­tive and Maun­gatau­tari trustee Ted Tau­roa said iwi ‘‘did not want to get em­broiled in a racial war’’ and noted Maori had con­trib­uted a lot of land to­ward the project.

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