Smelter company negotiates deal to get govt money for waste clean-up – Ngapuhi gets $150 million while negotiations drag on

The government is doing things by halves with public money in the south while going all out to set a $150 million precedent to win Ngapuhi favours in the north.

The negotiations resulting in public spending down south were  overseen by Environment Court Judge Laurie Newhook, following legal action brought by the Environmental Defence Society to determine ownership and responsibility for removing toxic waste, called ouvea premix, stored in Mataura.

The Minister for the Environment – good for him, eh? – joined the proceedings to facilitate a solution for removing the material.

The Ministry for the Environment and New Zealand Aluminium Smelters will contribute up to an estimated $500,000 each for clean-up costs.

The government is pumping a much bigger sum – $150 million – into establishing an Investment Fund for the benefit of the Ngāpuhi tribe in the hope (it seems) that this might encourage progress in acrimonious treaty negotiations that have dragged on for years.

Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little said:

“The Fund sends a clear signal of our intention to seek to meet the aspirations of ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi for redress for their people and their rohe, when they are ready.”

It sounds like taxpayers should regard this as a down payment.  Little affirmed this, in effect, when he said Ngāpuhi Investment Fund Limited, “with initial capital of $150 million”, is a new Crown company that will acquire and grow a portfolio of assets that can be offered by the Crown in negotiations with Ngāpuhi.

There have been no previous initiatives of this sort during Treaty negotiations.     

Asked by Point of Order if he expects this precedent will galvanise requests for similar investment funds to be established during other Treaty negotiations, Little replied:  


The Crown will engage with iwi on a basis they want, and they’re comfortable with.  In this particular circumstance for Ngapuhi it is the right thing to do. Ngapuhi have a large number of hapu, many hapu groupings, so the commencement of negotiations has taken longer than usual. 

His good news for Ngapuhi emerged from the Beehive along with announcements that

  • Yesterday was World Wetlands Day.  Taxpayers have not been spared.  Funding, through the Government’s Jobs for Nature programme, is supporting the implementation of the new regulations and the restoration and protection of wetlands around the country. Last year more than $64 million from the Jobs for Nature was committed towards council projects, many of which involve wetland restoration.
  • Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has appointed four commissioners to act in place of elected representatives at the Tauranga City Council. The commissioners are Anne Tolley (chair), Bill Wasley, Stephen Selwood and Shadrach Rolleston.  Tolley said she is looking forward to working with the other commissioners and the people of Tauranga to address the council’s problems “and return the city to full local democracy as soon as possible.”   Similar pledges typically are made by military despots after they kick out an elected government. The commission’s term is “expected” to begin on 9 February and end after the triennial local authority elections on 8 October 2022.
  • The latest data from Stats NZ today shows the recovering economy is continuing to add jobs, led by a record high for jobs in construction, while unemployment fell. The government is chuffed.
  • Seven new District Court judges have been appointed and will take up their roles in March.
  • Another “cash lifeline” is being rolled out to the regions after the approval of funding towards a wide range of events and activities to stimulate domestic tourism. Contracts now have been signed with all nine regional tourism groupings to enable the $50 million Regional Events Fund to be distributed around the country.

With regard to the clean-up in Mataura, Parker said it was disappointing that more public money needed to be spent on the remediation

“ … but it reflects the history of the dross and the need to move it quickly for the benefit of our environment and Mataura resident.” 

Taking a leaf out of the PM’s “be kind” book on good government (reflected in our Trade Minister’s recent advice to Aussie leaders on how to deal with China), Parker did not chide the company that had stored the waste at Mataura.

Rather he said:

“After months of negotiating and exploring of options by all parties, I would like to acknowledge New Zealand Aluminium Smelters for agreeing to the material being sent to its Tiwai Point site where it will be stored in containers.

“I would also like to thank Inalco, which is processing the material, for their cooperation in reaching this agreement.”

Staff will be diverted from Inalco’s Tiwai Point operations to increase capacity and another loading site at Mataura will allow more trucks to be used.

The accelerated removal process is underway and is expected to be completed within a few months.

David Parker emphasised that this agreement is intended only to resolve the Mataura issue and is not related to any agreement on the smelter’s future or environmental remediation.

At the other end of the country, Little was keen to persuade us the $150 million for Ngapuhi will be money well spent by explaining:

 “The ability to engage in meaningful negotiations for commercial redress is an important part of restoring the Crown’s relationship with ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi. This important work will sit alongside our continued work on restoring all aspects of our relationships with ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi, including mandate issues and having in depth discussions around issues such as He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti. 

“We have established the Fund so that the Crown has more options to put on the table for ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi in future negotiations. It will help ensure that ngā hapū do not miss out on opportunities for investment while they work towards negotiations.”

Sir Brian Roche has been appointed as the Establishment Chair of Ngāpuhi Investment Fund Limited. Ripeka Evans (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou, Te Aupōuri, Ngāti Kahu) is Deputy Chair, with Lindsay Faithfull (Ngāpuhi), Sarah Petersen and Geoff Taylor as the other directors.

The Fund can invest in a wide variety of New Zealand assets, including land-based businesses, as well as standard financial assets to help the Fund grow. Investment decisions will be made by the Fund itself, according to its kaupapa and investment strategy, which will be developed by the independent board. The Fund will operate as “Tupu Tonu” – in simple terms this translates as ‘prosperity in perpetuity.’

A part of its annual revenue will be used for grants to Ngāpuhi for social development and building governance capability.

More information can be found at

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