He waka eke noa - We’re all in this boat together

Publish date: 23 February 2015

Based on an editorial about the importance of engaging with Maori, which ran in Energy News in late 2014.

New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZP&M) has stewardship of New Zealand’s government-owned oil, gas, mineral and coal resources.

Our aim is to attract operators with high health, safety and environmental standards so we can grow our economy and provide a better standard of living for New Zealanders.

Success for these companies means success for New Zealand – a win-win for us all.

That’s why it is important we provide them with as much clarity as possible about what they need to do to operate successfully in New Zealand.

Successfully engaging with iwi (tribe) and hapū (sub-tribe) is a critical part of this.

As a government regulator NZP&M already consults with iwi and hapū over permit applications and tenders. Over the last few years we’ve embarked on an ongoing programme to build our stakeholder engagement capability.

Our stakeholder team has grown considerably, with staff going out around the country to meet with iwi, hapū and local authorities on a regular basis.

Our face-to-face, or kanohi ki te kanohi, meetings with tangata whenua are building stronger working relationships and helping those communities better understand the industry, how it is regulated and how it helps our national and regional economies.

We also have 26 Crown Minerals Protocols with iwi governance groups set up specifically to receive Treaty of Waitangi settlements. The protocols include consultation and a commitment to an ongoing relationship with those iwi.

In regards to operators, changes have been made to the Crown Minerals Act, which governs the allocation of the Crown’s petroleum and mineral resources, now requiring them to report annually on any engagement with iwi and hapū they have undertaken.

This is an additional measure – beyond the consultation we undertake around permits - aimed at strengthening operator and tangata whenua relationships.

It is also about operators being open and transparent with the Crown so we can get an appreciation of exactly who is engaging with which local iwi and hapū.

When it comes to specific operations the engagement should be led by the operator - as is the case with any company seeking support to run their business in a community.

While there is no legal requirement for operators to build a relationship with iwi or hapū in whose rohe (territory) they have a permit, it’s clearly the smart, as well as the right, thing to do.

This is especially so given the resource development process – from exploration to decommissioning – can last for decades.

There may be unresolved Treaty grievances still under negotiation with the Crown that may impact on that engagement.

Likewise, there may be dissatisfaction among some Maori over Crown ownership of some resources.

These discussions and debate are all part of our rich social fabric and form part of the New Zealand experience.

While they are indisputably Crown/Māori matters, it is important that operators understand the context in which they working.

Success in their own engagement will in part be dependent on an operator’s ability to appreciate and respect this.

As NZP&M work to lift our game in the engagement space, we also want to do our best to ensure that operators know what will help them to achieve their objectives.

That’s why we worked with Taranaki iwi Ngāti Ruanui to develop Best Practice Guidelines for Engagement with Māori, which were formally endorsed by the Iwi Chair’s Forum this year.

They’re a useful tool, particularly for new entrants unfamiliar with Māori culture and protocols.

The CMA reporting requirements are another step in this direction.

The feedback we’ve had from existing operators is that they understand this and are quite comfortable with the changes. The big companies already have well-developed engagement programmes.

The changes support new entrants to understand what they need to do to succeed in New Zealand, which is clearly in all of our interest.

He waka eke noa - a well-known Māori proverb, sums it up – we’re all in this boat together.

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