Undue Influence: New Zealand’s Tribal Corruption Charter

Corruption takes different forms in different nations. In New Zealand the Race Based Laws which grant legal privilege to Maori individuals and tribal entities have resulted in a form of corruption, the undue influence of Maori tribal entities upon New Zealand’s  governance, economy and society.

Since 1975, this undue influence has resulted in an expanding cycle of “legalised” extortion, a "virtual Tribal Corruption Charter" through which wealthy, litigious tribal trusts can employ their special legal status as a mechanism to gain additional legal rights and powers, financial gain to individuals (mainly tribal trustees and employees) and tribal entities.

The ability of Maori individuals and groups to lodge claims with the Waitangi Tribunal that they have been prejudiced, in conjunction with an increasingly radicalised Maori electorate, also exerts undue influence on governments seeking policy reform, as governments quietly pay sweeteners to tribal groups to avoid protracted litigation and maintain internal support from Maori electorate MPs.

As many of the Race Based Laws are indirect in influence (eg the right to be consulted on an environmental application rather than the power to refuse consent), tribal entities often resort to implied threats of litigation and delay. As voiced by one tribal trust:  

“It says the first rule on consent application is to “object”. The second rule on consent application is “object”. If in doubt go back to rule one (objection gives time, time is of no importance to us, only the application) it says. The first rule of objection is to claim lack of consultation, the document states. The second is the Treaty of Waitangi, the RMA is the third, and the fourth “anything anyone can think of”. Results would not be measured in dollars, “but the sum of the good that can be gained for the hapu”.(1)

The result of this undue influence of tribal entities is massive costs, both direct and indirect, imposed upon government ministries and agencies, local government, business and individuals. (2),(3)

Direct costs to business and individuals include costs for "soft" payments to tribal entities, unwanted and unnecessary cultural consultancy and advisory services, regulatory complexity, legal fees and delay. The wider economy must also be damaged as individuals and businesses simply walk away from both scientific endeavour and business opportunities.

Indirect costs for the operation of parallel institutions, separate Maori seats, Maori wards, the Waitangi Tribunal, the Maori Courts and co-governance etc flow to individuals and business through increased taxes, rates and charges. In some instances, undue influence fosters criminal corruption which may or may not be reported to authorities.

The following entries, which document instances of only a tiny fraction of the undue influence exerted by tribal entities over the last forty years, illustrate how tribal rights are damaging not only our economy but the nation's social fabric through the normalisation of New Zealand's peculiar form of constitutional corruption. 

Please contact [email protected] if you have verifiable examples of undue influence that you would like to be included on this page.


$1.15 million (plus GST) to Kaitiaki Group as condition of consent to dredge harbour

Northland Regional Council has granted resource consent to Refining New Zealand to dredge the entrance to Whangarei Harbour. 

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Koha paid for consent to drill water bores on private land

To get a bore you have to get iwi consent, and they want a koha, which is not a gift, it's a bribe" one woman stated. 

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Confidential agreement to pay $880,500 to Runanga to withdraw objection to wastewater scheme

Horowhenua Council’s Chief Executive confidentially agreed to provide nearly a million dollars to Te Runanga o Raukawa provided it did not object to a wastewater scheme.
“the third point I want to make is a broader question. It is in respect of the Resource Management Act. At the weekend we saw reported what I think is a very sad development for New Zealand. This country takes great pride in being a corruption-free country, a country where things are done upfront. 

Spiritual values and placating taniwha

A Maori official “assisting” the Auckland Council preparing a billion dollar under-water rail tunnel told Council that the proposed route would trespass upon the territory of “horotiu” the taniwha (ancestral demon) 

Greenpeace is concerned that an oil company with an exploration licence off Northland may be bribing iwi leaders to bolster support for their controversial drilling plans. Greenpeace has taken a picture of three executives from Norwegian oil giant Statoil meeting with an Iwi leader at a Wellington cafe. 

Iwi consultation - over a barrel

The Chair of the District Plan Review Committee …emphasised “over and over that they were “over a barrel”, and that to refuse to adopt the recommendation that $20,000 be put aside for ‘consultation’ with the eight iwi members of the “collective”

Hong Kong based water bottling company approaches Ngati Paarau for "support and partnership"

One Pure, owned by Hong Kong based corporation Hon Lung International, with the capital and expertise to build a massive water bottling facility, felt the need to approach Hawke’s Bay tribal entity Ngati Paarau[i]  for “support and partnership [ii]” in their endeavour. Why?

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Waikato prison consultation costs $1.3 million

For over 2 years the Prime Minister, the Minister of Corrections, and local MP Nanaia Mahuta have known of the problems occurring in the Waikato and the concerns raised by local Māori as they spent $1.3 million. 

Genesis Energy - soft coercion

"Through regular engagement and funding provided by Genesis Energy, the parties seek to deliver the broad objectives of developing a long term relationship, assisting Marae development, fostering cultural understanding, supporting the kaitiaki role of the Marae and enhancing the environment and supporting education and training initiatives".

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Businessman requires consent of 13 iwi to reinstate shop window

"We were then told that under the new Draft Unitary Plan, not yet enacted, our building being within 50 metres of a designated Maori heritage site, we needed RMA approval (for a new shop window, for God’s sake), this instantly forthcoming at a cost of $4500 plus the approval of 13 iwi".

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Holcim Land Held Sacred by Waitaha

Waitaha (te Runanga O Waitaha Me Mata Waka Inc) appeal against the granting of RMA consents by Waitaki District and Otago Regional Councils, claiming the Councils had failed in their resource consents process to apply the Treaty of waitangi, Resource Management Act, New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and Local Government Act.

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Hon. Dr Nick Smith - this is an invitation for backhanders

"This decision is also concerning in that it invites Maori and Genesis to have 'a meeting of the minds' over the next 10 years to resolve the future use of the water. This is an invitation for backhanders, given the huge value of electricity and the leverage that Whanganui iwi will have over Genesis.

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Ngati Kura Wheel Clamp extortion

Members of iwi Ngati Kura clamp four cars at Matauri Bay and clamp four cars belonging to students on the beach for a surfing lesson. 

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(1) Ngati Puu: Christchurch Press, 12th March 2003; quoted on Dr Nick Smith: Hansard Parliamentary Debates: resource-management-amendment-bill-no-2-—-first-reading; http://www.parliament.nz/en-nz/pb/debates/debates/47HansD_20030320_00001026/resource-management-amendment-bill-no-2-%E2%80%94-first-reading

(2) Round, D --- "Here Be Dragons?" [2005] OtaLawRw 3; (2005) 11 Otago Law Review 31

(3) Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance costs, which identified that the RMA was a significant cost to business due to: 

• Inconsistency in interpretation 
• Lack of capacity in local government 
• Time delays 
• Difficulties in meeting obligations to Maori