Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill – Second Reading
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage): I move, That the Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill be now read a second time. Kua hinga te tōtara o Te Wao-Nui-a-Tāne. Ka tangi a Ngāti Hine, ka tangi te motu. Ko te poutokomanawa o Te Reo kua wahangū. A tree has fallen in the great forest of Tāne. Ngāti Hine mourns and the nation mourns with them. A mainstay of the Māori language has been silenced. I begin by acknowledging the passing of Ērima Hēnare, the widely respected and beloved Ngāti Hine leader, who, among his many roles, was a member of the Waitangi National Trust board, and who made an excellent contribution to that board.
This bill amends the Waitangi National Trust Board Act 1932. Its principal purpose is to make changes to the membership of the trust board and to provide fixed terms of appointment for board members. In doing so, it will provide a new framework for the ongoing relationship between the Government and the board. The responsibility of caring for the birthplace of our nation, the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed, is a significant task. It is one that the Waitangi National Trust Board has discharged since the Waitangi estate was gifted to the nation in 1932 by Lord and Lady Bledisloe.
The Waitangi National Trust Board’s aspirations extend beyond maintaining the Treaty House and its grounds, to making sure New Zealanders can learn about their history and understand the historical and contemporary role of the Treaty of Waitangi. The board is doing this partly through a major development programme to build a new museum and education centre at the Treaty grounds. Work on the new museum is progressing well, and when completed, hopefully by Waitangi Day next year, it will further enrich the visitor experience and enable the unique story of the development of our nation to be told in a more detailed and accessible way.
I am sure that such developments would have been very much approved of by Lord and Lady Bledisloe, whose gift of the Treaty grounds and its surrounding estate to New Zealanders has enabled the constitutional and heritage values embodied in the site to be shared with current and future generations. In this spirit, it is essential that the organisation responsible for one of our most significant historical sites has a suitable governance structure to support its aims and aspirations for the future while also staying true to the original intent of the board when it was formed.
The purpose of the Waitangi National Trust Board Amendment Bill is to create a clear separation between the Government and the board while also setting up a new framework for positive relations between the board and the Crown. This bill is deliberately narrow in its focus. It specifically removes the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, and two Government Ministers from ex officio positions on the board. It addresses the real or perceived potential conflict that could arise under the current structure by virtue of such ex officio members being on the board while also having a constitutional role.
Clause 6 inserts new section 4A, which establishes a statutory Crown representatives group, comprising the Prime Minister, the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, and the Minister for Māori Development. This group will provide a clear link between the board and the Government and will encourage open and positive dialogue. The bill allows for the Governor-General to be an honorary patron of the Waitangi National Trust, should he or she so choose. The bill also provides for two members of Parliament to be appointed to the board. New section 4B, in clause 6, requires one new full board member to be nominated by the Prime Minister and one to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. Creating these two new positions ensures ongoing Government and parliamentary input into the work of the board and a direct link to the elected representatives of New Zealand.
The bill restricts the length of time a board member can serve. It creates 3-year terms for most board members, who will then be eligible to serve for up to three terms—that is 9 years in total. The two members of Parliament being added to the board will serve for the duration of the parliamentary term in which they are appointed, unless they become Ministers or leave Parliament first.
The Māori Affairs Committee received three written submissions. The committee has recommended an amendment to the bill to increase the representation of Māori families on the board so that each of the four families currently represented on the board would have its own member. At present there is only one representative for four Māori families. The committee recommended this amendment in response to a submission from one of the families. The amendment has been included in the bill as clause 3A, which amends section 2 of the Act.
In recent years the board has standardised appointment processes for new board members. It has taken steps to make these appointments transparent, through advertising and disseminating widely the call for nominations. I would expect that the appointment of additional Māori family representatives to be in accordance with this rigorous selection process.
Although I understand the committee’s reasons for recommending the amendment concerning representation of Māori families, it raises questions about whether the current basis of representation on the board should be reconsidered more broadly. I am therefore initiating a wider review of the Waitangi National Trust, with the aim of ensuring the best possible governance and management of the Waitangi estate.
The review will also respond to issues raised by the board in its submission on the bill. Although supporting the intent of the bill, the board asked for changes to its powers and to penalties for offences and by-law breaches under the Act. These matters are outside the narrow focus of the current bill but will be considered as part of the wider review. Generally speaking, it is my intention that the review will look at the role, composition, and powers of the board; the appointment process and criteria for board members; how best to provide for iwi Māori involvement in the governance of the trust; offences and by-laws on the Waitangi estate; and the financial sustainability of the trust. By establishing a framework for continued positive relationships between the board and the Government, I believe the bill will create the necessary conditions for a wider review of the trust to take place.
I wish to thank the chair and members of the Māori Affairs Committee for consideration of submissions during the select committee process. I am pleased to note that there is broad, cross-party support for the bill, and I am confident that the bill will provide for a positive and cooperative relationship between the Government and the board. I look forward to progressing the bill through the House.