The Law Commission Report, Waka Umanga: a Proposed Law for Māori Governance Entities, was published in May 2006. In 2007, a Waka Umanga (Māori Corporations) Bill was drafted with Parliamentary Counsel office, and consultation with Māori and sector interest groups undertaken on this legislation, facilitated by Te Puni Kokiri (www.tpk.govt.nz).
The Commission will develop legal frameworks that will be available to Māori groups wishing to incorporate for the purpose of managing communally-owned assets and giving effect to communal rights and responsibilities on behalf of the members of the group.
In undertaking this project, the Commission will build on the recommendations and options outlined in Study Paper 13, Treaty of Waitangi Claims: Addressing the Post Settlement Phase. In particular, the project will address the Study Paper’s recommendations for four core obligations: principles of stewardship, information disclosure, accountability obligations and methods of dispute resolution.
The project will include mechanisms for approval or recognition of the entities, and a process to convert existing entities to the new model should groups wish to do so.
More than one framework may be appropriate in recognition that the groups will be of varying sizes and have diverse roles. It is expected that the frameworks will include some core elements, and in other areas provide options or guiding principles under which groups could develop their own rules. It is likely that the frameworks will be given effect through legislation, possibly with optional schedules, and other aspects addressed in non-statutory constitutions.
The frameworks must be capable of use by groups receiving Treaty and fisheries assets, so the project will address both the issues identified in the “20 questions” used by OTS to assess governance entities, and the 12 kaupapa for mandated iwi organisations as set out in the Māori Fisheries Bill 2003.
The analysis and recommendations will take account of current tax policy in relation to Māori authorities and charitable organisations, and the impact and incentives of these policies.
As well as creating frameworks for the umbrella governance structure, the Commission will consider frameworks for the organisations that often sit under or alongside the overall governance structure. These organisations may be formed, for instance, for health and social services delivery, or for purposes such as employment, education and cultural development. Most of these organisations are currently organised as trusts or incorporated societies, but there is a wide variety of organisational relationships, including use of charitable trusts. These organisations raise risks and opportunities for the profile and standing of the parent group, for relationships with government, and for wider government funding of service delivery by Māori groups.
The Commission will consider the legal frameworks for these organisations in the context of ways to realise the potential of these bodies and ways to manage the risks. This aspect of the project recognises that these social service and contract bodies may exist within both tribal structures and in other contexts such as the urban authorities.