The Whakatohea Māori Trust Board was established in 1952 to administer funds then held by the Māori Trustee as compensation for 'land confiscation'. The Trust Board is governed by the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955 and has approximately 9000 beneficiaries on its roll.
The Trust Board's total landholdings are approximately 250 hectares. Since its establishment the most significant investment made by the Trust Board has been dairy farms on the Waioweka flats, totalling about 190 hectares. Dairy farming is the Trust Board's core business. It also has business interests in horticulture, health and education. The Trust Board is also developing its interests in the aquaculture sector. As one of Te Ohu Kai Moana fisheries recipients, the Trust Board will also have future interests in the fishing industry. There are six hapū in the Whakatohea rohe, each hapū has two representatives on the Trust Board. These twelve make up the Trust Board. The Trust Board also has a Board secretary – a position that is confirmed by the Minister of Māori Affairs.
The Trust Board has established an executive committee of seven Board members. The executive committee governs five separate entities. These are in the areas of investments, dairy farming, horticulture, fisheries and social and health services. The dairy farms have an independent advisor who reports directly to the executive committee on a monthly basis.
The Trust Board has a number of joint ventures, notably it is a partner in Eastern Seafarms Ltd. The joint venture is between the Trust Board, Tasman Mussels and New Zealand Sea Farms Ltd. It also has joint ventures with a local packhouse, Opotiki Packaging and Cool Storage (OPAC), a forestry investment located in Tolaga Bay called Waiteata Forestry Partnership and a joint venture dairy unit, Te Waiti Trust. The Board has a subsidiary company, Te Wheke Atawhai Ltd incorporating Whakatohea Health Centre and Whakatohea Iwi Social & Health Services, Te Aria Toka Family Service Centre and early childhood preschool.
The Trust Board is a major employer in the district. It employs approximately 64 people across all its activities.
The Trust Board's current strategic plan is in draft. The strategic plan is concurrent with the Trust Board's internal restructuring model. It is envisaged that this plan will be for 3-5 years. The strategic plan was developed by key people within the organisation and in consultation with Board members.
Each entity provides its annual plan and budgets by June every year. The Trust Board is also required under the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955 to produce a full set of accounts. The Trust's financial year runs from June to July and all budgets and annual plans are required to be done before the end of the financial year. Each entity submits its budgets to the executive committee for approval. The reason why the plans and budgets are approved by the executive committee is because the Board only meets quarterly. The executive committee is an interim measure and has allowed for more effective governance of the Board's business. Full Board meetings are provided with comprehensive reports on all of the activities.
The Trust Board's major investment decisions were made over 20 years ago with the expansion of the dairy farms. The more recent decisions relate to the joint venture investments.
The process for making investment decisions is that an investment opportunity is firstly brought to the table for discussion. The Trust Board then approves whether a full due diligence process is to be undertaken. Once the process is undertaken the analysis comes back to the Trust Board for final approval.
The Trust Board used various consultants and experts in undertaking the due diligence process on the joint ventures, particularly on the aquaculture venture. The Trust Board went to Blenheim for an aquaculture seminar and to see first hand the mussel farms there. Because the aquaculture industry was a new business activity of the Trust Board, the Trust Board consulted with iwi and hapū. Ninety percent of hapū agreed to the investment. Although it is not a legal requirement for the Trust Board to consult with iwi and hapū, the Board felt it was important given the nature of the investment.
The Trust Board has yet to formalise a policy on due diligence but has adopted a prudent practice as illustrated above. The Trust Board uses the equity to debt ratio for benchmarking investments.
Managing risk at a governance level is a relatively new concept to the Trust Board. Although the health and social services, Private Training Enterprise (PTE) and farms have their own risk management policies, the Trust Board is now aware of the need to have a central risk management policy for the whole Trust Board. The secretary is required to identify risks and make recommendations to the Trust Board on ways to mitigate those risks.
The Trust Board does have a conflict of interest policy and members must disclose any conflict of interest. However, there is not a conflict of interest register. Board members have trustee and fiduciary responsibilities to ensure that the assets of the Board are not put at risk. The Minister of Māori Affairs has the power to remove a Board member if particular actions compromise the specific sections of the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955.
In 1996 following a review, the Trust Board changed the method for the election process from tikangabased to the formal systems of the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955. This has resulted in a change in philosophy regarding representation.
The Trust Board endeavours to maintain best practice throughout its business interests. The Trust Board farms have a farm consultant for advice. The health and social services operations maintain a best practice philosophy for accreditation, and the private training establishments are subject to New Zealand Qualification Authority audits.
The Trust Board members are responsible for reporting back to their hapū. However, this is often difficult as 80% of the beneficiaries reside outside the area. The Trust Board does not send out newsletters due to the costs associated with 6000-8000 newsletters.
The Trust Board has recently established a website which fulfils two purposes: first to inform and update Whakatohea on the activities of the Board, and second, to inform individuals on the efforts to resolve the raupatu claims.
The Trust Board is still in the process of building its database and welcomes the 'Tuhono' – Māori Registration Service initiative – as it will provide the Trust Board with more contact information.
Standard financial reporting is used for performance reporting. In terms of farming, the Trust Board also reviews the monthly returns provided by Fonterra to report on the economic performance of the farms.
The health and social services and PTE contracts require outputs that are measurable, as stipulated by government funding agencies. Additional to these accountability aspects, the Trust Board needs to translate economic performance into real benefits for Whakatohea. The Board does not have shareholders and does not make dividends. However, the Board is a Charitable Trust and is required to make substantial charitable grants. Therefore, grants are available to those of Whakatohea descent for sporting, educational, marae and other cultural activities (eg kapahaka groups).
The Trust Board's performance is only judged against its financial performance. However, the Board is looking at putting in place a formal policy to review its performance as a collective.
The Trust Board has a good relationship with regional bodies. The chairperson or the secretary have the most immediate relationship with stakeholders and are usually the ones to represent the Trust Board.
The Trust Board follows the formal process as prescribed under the Māori Trust Boards Act 1955. It costs the Trust Board approximately $15,000 for each election. The Act requires an independent group to organise the election. The Trust Board believes the Act is too pedantic. For example, it requires a different colour voting form for each hapū. Also it can take up to six months to resolve any objections that arise from the election process. Although providing a profile or curriculum vitae is not a requirement for nominees, it is a practice that the Board adheres to. This information is sent out with the voting forms. The ultimate aim is to exit the Māori Trust Boards Act regime following raupatu settlement and to establish a new organisation under Whakatohea legislation.
The Whakatohea Trust Board recognises the different roles of governance and management. In an effort to aid governors' understanding of their role the Trust Board has organised governance workshops for Board members in the past.
The Trust Board employs the Board secretary on a full-time basis to manage the office and work on risk management issues. The secretary's contract is reviewed annually by the executive committee.
The Trust Board's employment policy is to employ the best person for the job and it follows standard procedures for employing people, including advertising the position and having a panel to conduct interviews.
Managers within the Trust have authority for financial expenditure within a limit and according to the budget, although ultimately the budget is controlled by the financial manager. The secretary usually monitors the signing of cheques and any expenditure outside of the budget must go to the financial manager and must meet certain criteria. The executive committee monitors any extraordinary expenditure.
The majority of management issues are dealt with through the executive committee. The executive committee meets monthly and receives monthly reports and deals with them as required. Managers and advisors provide the required reports as part of their management responsibilities. All managers' contracts are reviewed annually.
All operational policies are reviewed regularly. Reviews for the health, social and education services are contractual requirements and are therefore highly regulated. Extensive mechanisms are put in place and issues arising as a result of the reviews are addressed accordingly by the Trust Board.
Any conflict of interest arising between management and governance is dealt with by the executive committee.
The twelve people elected as Board members is considered an appropriate number for representing the Whakatohea rohe. However, the secretary believes any more Board members would be too cumbersome. The Trust Board has a formal policy requiring new Board members to undergo training at the beginning of their terms. In the past there was not such a need for Board member training because they had long serving Board members.
Last modified: 15/06/2011
MŌ TĒNEI PAE TUKUTUKU
TE AHEINGA KIA URU ATU
WHAKAPĀ MAI KI A MĀTOU