It seems that whenever a matter arises that involves some claim of collective ownership or control by Maori, John Key comes up with what he describes as an ‘elegant solution’. If Key can come up with a string of such solutions I thought maybe I could give it a try. Therefore, this is my attempt at developing an ‘elegant solution’ to the matter of Maori claims to the ownership of water.
I will acknowledge from the outset that I have reservations it will satisfy all matters. However, other aspects of an ‘elegant solution package’ can be negotiated along with it. If the crown and Tuhoe can agree on a practical outcome to the control and ownership of the Urewera Forest, I have some faith other acceptable aspects can be added to my suggestion outlined below.
The solution is actually pretty simple. Keep the 3 remaining power generation companies in State ownership. Tag a portion of their annual state dividend and distribute it to Iwi on an annual basis according to some preset formula. The tagged portion might be, for example, 5%. It could be 10% or 50%. A formula for allocating the money might be based on a simple population basis or could incorporate other criteria deemed appropriate. The size of the ‘Maori dividend’ and the formula for the distribution would need to be widely negotiated & consulted on.
Inevitably there will be comment from some quarters about Maori receiving undeserved income which is being denied to everyone else. How they are being privileged. To ‘even up’ this ledger a little I propose an annual ‘rate payers’ dividend also be tagged to the power generators annual state dividend. As with the ‘Maori dividend’, every year a certain percentage of the ‘profit’ is paid to local authorities according to some preset formula. This could be on a straight population basis or might include criteria such as social-economic, rurality or some contestability for certain core infrastructure projects. Whatever the percentage tagged and whatever the distribution criteria can be determined by negotiation and consultation.
Thus, what we would have are state assets remaining in state ownership. The issue of Maori interests could be met, in part at least, with an annual dividend distributed to Iwi. The ‘interests’ of the rest would be met by a ‘rate-payers’ dividend. This second aspect, not only blunting the claim of Maori being privileged, would also put some strong incentive in place to keep assets in state ownership. Why would ‘hard working rate payers’ (how many times have we heard ACT/National bleat on about this section of the population) quickly forsake a steady income stream that enriches, or provides rate relief, their local council? To my mind, they wouldn’t.
So, the continual ownership of state assets is tied with providing regular income streams for Maori and rate payers. Maori grievances are (at least partially) soothed and ratepayers’ demands for rate relief partially met as well. The latter group then become strong advocates against a future government trying to sell of assets.
Perhaps an elegant solution. Probably not one John Key would champion but maybe attractive for another political party to promote.