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Some Maori get a grip - but not all

Friday 15th December 2000

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By Jock Anderson

Old faces re-invented themselves, some stepped aside, some got the heave, others wouldn't take no for an answer and Donna Hall bounced back.

  • The expected ousting of long-serving Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission (Te Ohu Kai Moana) chairman Sir Tipene O'Regan in August surprised only for how long it took the writing on the wall to dry.

    Mangonui Ngapuhi Shane Jones took the TOKM helm from the Ngai Tahu elder statesman, who also relinquished his South Island tribal corporate posts.

    Clearly miffed but undaunted the wily Sir Tipene retained his seat on the board of New Zealand's biggest fishing company, Sealord, along with another TOKM oustee, international deal wizard Whaimutu Dewes. Sir Tipene stayed on as Sealord chairman following the sale of Brierley Investments' half share in Sealord to TOKM, which already owned the other half share, and Japanese fishing company partner Nissui.

    In a dazzlingly entrepreneurial move the drawn-out $207.75 million deal keeps the Sealord fishing quota in the hands of TOKM, while giving junior partner Nissui access to fish under contract.

  • At TOKM the replacement of long-time commissioners with new blood silenced much of the litigation-happy lobby squabbling over TOKM's model for allocation of quota and assets worth more than $800 million. TOKM last week brought retired High Court judge Sir Rodney Gallen to the fray to mediate between its opponents. Watch for the emergence of a stronger business-driven model that seeks to control fishing assets and safeguard resources while paying cash dividends to Maori stakeholders.

  • On the debt-ridden Tainui front the worst fears exposed by NBR in 1998 were realised. Among ventures to fall over, high-risk MDC Investment Holdings was placed in liquidation and receivership owing about $20 million, forcing the fire-sale of the Warriors rugby league club. Tribal strongman Sir Robert Mahuta fought unsuccessfully through the High Court to retain control over the tribe and its squandered millions.

    The government put a temporary hold on its final $13 million payment under the terms of the $170 million settlement signed in 1995. The money was paid over in November, allowing Tainui to pay HSBC $5 million this month with a $9 million balance to be paid by May 31.

    TOKM subsidiary Moana Pacific stepped in to sponsor last week's prestigious Maori sports awards in the wake of Tainui financial strife.

  • Another grandiose Tainui dream, the stalled purchase of five Hamilton CBD properties at a premium $24 million, was the subject of a 12-week fraud trial in Auckland District Court. A verdict was expected next week. Check the outcome on the NBR website.

  • Part-time High Court judge and Waitangi Tribunal chairman Justice Eddie Durie declined to hear a huge Treaty of Waitangi "umbrella" claim over large parts of the central North Island brought on behalf of about 100 claimants groups by his lawyer wife Donna Hall.

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