NEW ZEALAND: Final Maori institution claim settled

The New Zealand government has settled the last of the claims made against it by Maori tertiary institutions for capital funding that will put them on an equal footing with other public tertiary institutions. At $50.6 million (US$29.8 million), the figure agreed with Te Wananga o Raukawa last month adds to nearly $10 million already paid to the institution and brings the total value of settlements for the three public wananga to $169 million.

The settlements stem from a successful legal claim made in 1999-2000 and based on the Treaty of Waitangi, a document signed in 1840 by many Maori tribes. The document provided the basis for British settlement of New Zealand but more recently provided an avenue for settlement of historic grievances, mostly relating to sale and confiscation of land from Maori tribes.

The wanangas were set up in the past 25 years and later became public institutions, resulting in their claim that they should receive capital establishment grants similar to those provided for the creation of other public tertiary institutions such as universities and polytechnics.

They won their case in 2000 but had separate negotiations over how much each institution should receive from the Crown. Te Wananga o Aotearoa, one of New Zealand's largest tertiary institutions, received $71.8 million, while Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi agreed to $37.1 million though $8.5 million of that is dependent on a successful business case.

Announcing the latest settlement, Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia said the settlement recognised that Raukawa had capital needs and characteristics comparable in the context of the settlement to those of a university-led institution. Horomia said the settlement was sufficient to cover Raukawa for the cost of bringing its buildings, plant, and equipment up to a standard comparable to other tertiary institutions.

Though all three wananga have Maori educational success as a key goal, they vary considerably. Awanuiarangi is the only wananga to offer a doctoral programme, and it and Raukawa offer basic certificates, diplomas, and bachelors and masters degrees.

Both institutions are small by New Zealand standards, having roughly 2,000 FTE students each, are based in small population centres, and have their roots in tribal education initiatives. Aotearoa is much larger with 19,000 FTE students, many of them non-Maori. It has campuses throughout the country and its courses range only from certificate to bachelor's degrees - it does not provide postgraduate programmes.

* John Gerritsen is editor of NZ Education Review.