The Aotearoa Institute Claim Concerning Te Wānanga o Aotearoa Report
The Waitangi Tribunal today released its report on an urgent claim, Wai 1298, filed in September by Harold Maniapoto and Tui Adams on behalf of the Aotearoa Institute Te Kuratini o Nga Waka Trust Board, the parent body of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa (TWOA). The claim alleged that the Crown had breached its Treaty of Waitangi obligations to the wānanga by undermining its rangatiratanga and effectively taking control of the institution. The inquiry into the claim was held at Te Rapa Racecourse in Hamilton earlier this month.
The Wai 1298 claim arose after allegations were made in Parliament and elsewhere early in 2005 about poor quality assurance in the education provided by TWOA, along with deficiencies in its governance and financial management. The allegations of financial mismanagement were later the subject of a report by the Office of the Auditor-General, released on 6 December, and the Waitangi Tribunal's report does not deal with these. Instead, it focuses on the other aspects of the Crown's response to the situation facing TWOA, and in particular:
the extent of Crown intervention in the governance, management and strategic direction of TWOA through the review of the charter and profile for the institution; and
the number and extent of quality audits and programme reviews of TWOA's activities contemporaneous with the review of the charter and profile that were conducted by Crown agencies.
TWOA, with its head office in Te Awamutu, is one of the largest tertiary education providers in the country, with 28,000 equivalent full-time students in 2004 and 10 campuses and various satellites around the country. All witnesses heard by the Waitangi Tribunal, for both Crown and claimants, praised TWOA's successes in providing creative and innovative courses and methods of delivery that reach out to those, especially but not exclusively Māori, who have failed to thrive in the mainstream education system.
The Tribunal found that a wānanga is a uniquely Māori teaching institution that preserves and imparts the values of its founding iwi to all who wish to learn in this way. As such, it has responsibilities to its iwi and other stakeholders for providing the kinds of education needed by the communities it serves. Being recognised as a Tertiary Education Institution under the Education Act 1989, TWOA also has responsibilities to the Crown for the proper use of public funds given to it to deliver quality education to its students.
The Tribunal also found that the Crown had failed to conclude a partnership agreement that was prepared as part of the settlement of the Wai 718 inquiry. The agreement would have provided multi-level forums for early participation by wananga in discussions and negotiations on major policy changes and funding issues, and facilitated the resolution of any differences between the parties as they arose. The failure to complete the agreement was a breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi. In addition the Tribunal found that the Crown had formed an unduly limited conception of the nature and range of education that can be provided by a wānanga under the Education Act 1989. The Crown's attempt to impose its limited view on TWOA was also a breach of Treaty principles.
The Tribunal's recommendations focused on better practice for the future, and on ways to ensure that the relationship between TWOA and the Crown will be conducted in a respectful and supportive manner on both sides, as required by the principles of the Treaty.
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