This is Part 2 of The Daily Examiner’s article series on Labour Minister Nanaia Mahuta & egregious conflicts of interest involving her family. Part 1 can be found here.

Control over water has become a hot political topic in New Zealand, with the controversial 3 Waters legislation being enacted over the objection of the majority of local councils. Central to this has been Labour Minister Nanaia Mahuta, who has been tasked with pushing through 3 Waters as well as being Minister of Local Government. The same diligent researcher who put together the ties between Mahuta & members of her family who have been placed in key positions of power, has delved further into their control over NZ’s water.

The multiple conflicts of interest and concentration of power, particularly over water in New Zealand, in a single family should be concerning to all New Zealanders, Maori and non-Maori.

In essence, either a person is a Mahuta-Ormsby, or not.

Sir Robert & Lady Raiha Mahuta (Ormsby)

Born Robert Jeremiah Ormsby, Sir Robert changed his name by deed poll in 1963 to “Robert Te Kotahi Mahuta”. A NZ Herald article announcing his passing in 2001 calls the name change “ambitious”, stating that “Te Kotahi means “number one” in Māori, while Mahuta was the name of the third Māori King.”

Sir Robert was a principle negotiator of the $170m Crown-Tainui settlement and adopted son of the Maori King, Koroki.

Lady Raiha was crucial in finalising negotiations with the Crown for an agreement over the Waikato River in 2010. She passed that same year.

The Next Generation

In 2009, Nanaia Mahuta & her husband/cousin William Gannin Ormsby had a son, Waiwaia Ormsby.

The following year (2010), Gannin Ormsby was a co-signatory to a Treaty settlement of great significance to Tainui.  This was reached at the confluence of the Waipa and Waikato rivers and is known as the Waiwaia Accord.

The agreements included the Crown acknowledging the significance of Waiwaia – “the most important part of Waiwaia was that it was the water itself and without it man could not survive”. The agreements also included one that was specific to the management of the Waipa River.

Tipa Mahuta, as Chair of the Māori Advisory Group to Taumata Arowai (3 Waters), the new water regulator and Co-Chair of the Waikato River Authority, fought Watercare’s resource application for more water to Auckland. In her statement to the Board of Inquiry last year, Tipa described how central the Waikato river was to Tainui and to her family – the roles that her father and mother have had and how she continues their work.

The essence of Tipa’s objection to Watercare’s application was a “lack of respect”.

In 2017, just prior to the election & Nanaia Mahuta’s appointment as Minister of Māori Development, Nanaia Mahuta was the Chief Negotiator for the Maniapoto Māori Trust Board in a settlement with the Crown for over $150m. Post-election, Mahuta then took significant Māori ministerial portfolios and responsibilities within a year of acting as lead negotiator for the Maniapoto.

The Labour Party leadership was aware of the potential for conflict of interest prior to Nanaia Mahuta’s appointment as lead negotiator.

When Mahuta was appointed as lead negotiator for Ngati Maniapoto in 2016 she was at the time the Shadow Spokesperson for Treaty Settlements – two roles that are inherently conflicted. Mahuta spoke to the then Labour leader, Andrew Little and Annette King about the conflict and stood down from her spokesperson role. When Mahuta re-entered government as a Minister she was handed the Local Government portfolio and went on to steer 3 Waters and He Puapua as a Crown Minister. Ironically Andrew Little was the Minister for Treaty Settlements and concluded the Maniapoto claim in 2021.

In all of these dealings it is very difficult, if not impossible, to separate Nanaia Mahuta’s duties to the Crown and to her iwi on the other.

Conclusion

As a Minister of the Crown, Nanaia Mahuta has a duty of care and responsibility to all New Zealanders, including all Māori to act in their best interests. In combination with the numerous conflicts of interest detailed in Part 1 of this article series, it is clear that Nanaia Mahuta is not acting in that capacity at all but in a far more limited capacity as an advocate for Waikato-Tainui and explicitly continuing the work of her father and mother in claiming water assets.

Perhaps the bigger issue here is: As a Minister of the Crown, whether Nanaia Mahuta is consulting with, and acting in the best interests of Māoridom as a whole, or only in the interests of Waikato-Tainui and the Mahuta family.

One could ask why non-Mahuta-Ormsby Māori are not coming forward to protest this. A perspective on this was provided by an anonymous source: that because of the Mahuta-Ormsby link to the Māori King, many would be too afraid to speak out against the Mahuta-Ormsbys, for fear of ostracism by their own iwi. The Māori King is an influential figure. For an iwi-centric culture, this would be tantamount to banishment.

It should be evident that 3 Waters is not about water quality, co-governance or Treaty obligations. It is about the Mahuta-Ormsby family retaining power and taking an asset which they believe to be theirs. It is about the legacy of Sir Robert Mahuta and the future of the princeling, Waiwaia Mahuta.

As we wrote at the end of our first article, at the very least, it would appear that a thorough investigation is warranted.