Sunday, April 22, 2012

Some Serious Egg On Your Face, Bro!

Shame. Shame. Shame.
Endless shame on the trust board members.
Taranaki iwi Ngati Tama's 2003 treaty settlement scored them $14.5m (mostly cash, with some land). If that dosh was safely invested it may have made about $800k pa. If half had been re-invested to grow an asset base, then about $400k pa would've been left for marae costs, admin., education etc.
But maybe the Ngati Tama Development Trust got greedy, too eager, stupid. Either way, its biggest single investment was more than $12.5m in Oz-based computer software company My Virtual Home (now down the gurgler)!! Other major investments included $4.39m with Tu'Ere Fishing (which went into voluntary administration in 2011, after accusations of labour and human rights abuses of foreign crews), and $1.19m with property investment company Open Group (also a gone-burger).
The most basic investment advice is: don’t put all your eggs into one basket. So what did they do? $12.5m into one investment! And into a software company to boot, which is seriously dumb unless you know IT and most people don’t...
This is a shameful case of people rising to the level of their own incompetence, playing with high stakes and not knowing the game. They were supposed to be acting on behalf of their people but failed to consider their responsibilities and ignored common sense. They've lost nearly $20m, and left their iwi with nothing but sorrow, empty piggybank and no future.
This iwi should be held up as an example, not to embarrass Ngati Tama but as a "what not to do" case study for other small iwi, who may also wanna make fast bucks with whitey's treaty hand-out. It should also be compared with the strategies of, say, Tainui, which I believe is currently worth $600m+!
Some commentators have said: "No worries, it was only taxpayer money in the first place, they’ll be back for more." Well, one bit of good news to come out of this fiasco is that Treaty Negotiations Minister Christopher Finlayson has said iwi will never be bailed out for losses made after settlement: "The Crown balances its responsibility to make sure the iwi are in a position to manage the settlement assets, against the need for iwi to plot their own destiny."
You make your bed - you lie in it.
And that's the way it should be.

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