What Our People Expect of Our Leaders


Hon. Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Maori Affairs




Ki a koutou te mana whenua, tënä koutou.  Tënä koutou e awhi nei i tenei hui. Ki a koutou nga kaipara i te ara, mo nga ra e heke iho nei. Tënä koutou nga tai tamawahine me nga tai tamatane.


I want to start by saying that all of us here have the potential to be leaders.  In fact I will go further, all members of whänau, hapü and iwi are potential leaders. Most of them already are engaged in leadership roles, whether it be in the areas of social, cultural or economic development; for and with their whänau.Some lead by example.  I think about the many whänau who give unstintingly of their time to our rangatahi, tamariki, and mokopuna, to tutor or train them in kapa haka, sports or to be there in times of great need for the whänau. You see the expression of this leadership on the marae, in hui, whether it be at a wänanga or a tangihanga. They are the ones who fulfil all the roles necessary that will nurture and support the whänau and sustain the integrity of the marae through the maintenance of tikanga.


It is important for us today, to share some thoughts on what we consider to be qualities for leadership. For our people, leadership is both ascribed and achieved. Two leaders who fit the first criteria are Tumu Te Heuheu and Dame Te Atairangi Kaahu.  When we refer to them we see a long and honourable lineage.  A whakapapa that is dedicated to serving their people.


There is other leadership too, people who in the first instance, gain recognition through their deeds and achievements, with their whänau and their hapü.  Another leadership has emerged out of western universities.  Some of these leaders are strong in their tikanga and have adapted extremely well to western academic and intellectual pursuits.  These people are recognised by their own whänau and hapü as leadership material.  They have not cut themselves off nor have they ever been divorced from the marae settings of their parents.


Another source of Mäori leadership also comes from the university and is often recognised as leadership material by others, other than whänau, hapü and iwi.  The criteria for this leadership are often vested within their being acceptable to Pakeha people.  Too often we have Pakeha defining who the Mäori leadership is.  But would we as members of whänau, hapü and iwi acknowledge these same people? 


Governments in the past have been very good at determining and appointing Mäori leadership. Even the media helps to shape our thinking in terms of who our Mäori leaders are.  If they choose to demonise or idolise you, our people get a particular perception of the truth.  You have the ability to read critically; and to ask who benefits from the criticism or the promotion of Mäori leaders? 


In talking with various whänau as to what they want in their leaders, I got the following responses.



I would like to pay tribute to those who have gone before us and acknowledge their leadership. There have been many of our leaders who have sacrificed their all, fighting for the rights of our people that they believed were protected with the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Their fight must not have been in vain. We of this generation must continue that fight and build on the efforts of those very people. Many of these leaders were motivated, I'm sure, by an extremely strong desire to serve those people who would shed tears over them when they die. Perhaps we can all reflect on that, as I have recently heard people say that in the end the people they will stand with are those who will weep over them at their tangihanga. Who do you think those people will be? A faceless bureaucrat, a vote seeking politician, a profit seeking CEO who will sacrifice the jobs of our whänau, or will those people be members of their whänau, their hapü and their iwi?


I know who I will stand with; and I know who my whänau will stand with; and we will know why. I would like us to think about the lessons we learn from our tupuna, from our leaders of the past. What were the sacrifices they made so that we could benefit?  What were the criticisms made of those same people in making those sacrifices?  The cost was huge; and their whänau often suffered for it.


People often confuse power with leadership.  There are many people who do not have the opportunity to utilise their leadership abilities for the benefit of their whänau or hapü. There are many people in positions of influence and power who are not acting for the benefit of the people. They were the leaders who were least admired, those who misused the trust placed in them, or abused the power that they had. We have never tolerated that sort of leadership; and we should not start now.  Every iwi has stories of leaders they have removed because of the abuse of power.


Some people think that being elected an MP makes one a leader.  I can tell you, it doesn’t. It makes you a servant of the people, our whänau, hapü and iwi; a person whose role it is to try to find ways to realise the abilities that each and every one of us has.  Abilities which can be used to benefit all of us.


What is it we want to see in our leaders? What do we expect of those in positions of leadership? 


·         We expect them to be able to create opportunities for others. 

·         We expect them to show integrity and honesty.

·         To admit when they are wrong and to realise they are never really on their own.

·         To be inclusive and acknowledge that the collective wisdom is always greater than the individual wisdom.


Leadership is about creating opportunities for others to have a better life – to participate in every level of society and to fight for what the people believe in. That is why we put people in those positions – because we believe they will fight for the needs of those most disadvantaged in our society, and to do so in both the good times and the bad; and to create spaces for the people's voices to be heard.  There is no one superior ‘style’.  Leadership is about knowing the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and of others; about how to draw others in and support the development of their strengths. Our people are not likely to accept leadership from those who do not know their whänau, hapü, and iwi.  It is through participation in these relationships that important values are handed down, that whakapapa is nurtured, that ancestors become more than a name, that the value of one’s whänaungätanga, hapütanga and iwitanga becomes part of a person. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.


I have noticed throughout my life that there are always the detractors who are poised and waiting; ready to criticise our Mäori leadership.  The most severe Mäori critics of Mäori leadership are themselves identified by the whänau, the hapü and the iwi from which they draw their whakapapa.  In criticising an individual, they are also criticising the whänau, the hapü and the iwi from whom that individual draws their leadership rights.  So when we criticise, let us take care as to who it is we are criticising, because if the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts, then we are also criticising the iwi from which that individual comes.


Despite the cost of this hui, it is heartening that so many young leaders from whänau, hapü, iwi have had the opportunity to attend.  Many of us will stand before you and possibly be judged as to whether we meet your criteria for Mäori leadership.  I hope you do not leave here disappointed but leave knowing that Maori leadership is diverse, and is achievable for each and every one of us.  As leaders of the future, the question you need to ask yourselves is not what the iwi can do for you, but what you can do for your whänau, hapü and iwi. Na reira, kia kaha, kia maia, kia manawanui.



Questions and Responses


The Minister had agreed to answer questions from the floor.


Question                     How has the Minister felt, moving around the various communities as a Maori woman in a Pakeha government? How has she been able to achieve and maintain the strength as a consequence of the push/pull scenario that her role as a Minister of State and the obligations that she has to that particular area?


Tariana Turia              With people, certainly within Maori communities and in marae settings, I have had no difficulty whatsoever, however I could not probably say the same about other settings. I don’t know whether that was agenda related or related to other issues.


Question                     In New Zealand what has been the most interesting forum that you have spoken to?


Tariana Turia              Well I guess everybody has a comfort zone and I am always far more comfortable speaking to our people, I think I would be dishonest to say that that wasn’t where my comfort zone lay. I don’t think that it has been more comfortable in one forum or another I have been quite happy to speak at any forum. So no, I don’t think where it is taking place is the difficulty.


Question                     If I can just go back to my question about the role of women as leaders in today’s contemporary society. Do you see that changing or in fact growing? What pearls of wisdom can you provide to our young wahine who are considering a career in politics or in the wider leadership role?


Tariana Turia              Well I think I did say that you don’t need to be a politician to be a leader and I want to reiterate that, I don’t want you to believe that politicians are necessarily the leaders. I have never seen gender as an issue or as a reason to not do what you believe in.


Question                     Does the Minister recognise our politicians as good role models as leaders?


Tariana Turia              I guess in the end the answer to that is how our people perceive them. I don’t think that politicians are necessarily the best people to ask whether they are good role models or not. In the end it is about whether our people consider them to be role models. Are we?


Question                     Do you feel there is enough representation from young Maori in parliament at the moment?


Tariana Turia              No I don’t. I am very conscious of the fact that the majority of our people are under thirty-five years of age and my own view is that their voices need to be represented in parliament. We do have one or two people who probably fall within that age range but certainly insufficient for their voice to be an important part of decision making in parliament


Question                     Is there a way of implementing this to get more young Maori people into parliament?


Tariana Turia.             The way in which party processes work I think it is quite difficult to engage with young people. There are not very many people that I know of that are particularly interested in joining political parties. To be able to get into parliament you have to belong to a political party and because there are very few young people engaged in any political party the chances of young people getting in I think right now are not great. Unless young people join up with political parties, be they main stream or Maori political parties, their chances are not great.


Question                     What inspired you to pursue mahi as a politician?


Tariana Turia              I felt I had tried everything else, I had gone into the system, I’d stood outside and thrown stones at it and in a way it was a last hope. To go into politics, to try and get the change for our people which I believed was critical for us to move forward. So I guess for me it is about a last hope. I am not young and would probably prefer to be home with my tamariki and mokopuna. It was basically having tried everything else and having not succeeded, this was another way of trying to get the issues addressed that our peoples think are critical for them.


Question                     You made a point that sometimes some Maori get into positions as leaders within Pakeha organisations because they are acceptable to Pakeha. Do you feel that you have had to make any compromises in your own identity as a Maori woman moving within those societal circles that are influential – Pakeha circles?             Do you feel that you have had to compromise your Maori identity in order to succeed at the level you have?


Tariana Turia              No. I wouldn’t; otherwise there would be no purpose for me to be here.


Question                     You were saying this was more or less your last hope for you to do something for Maoridom today. Do you feel that there is any progress being made currently by today’s government and with the current situation of Maori housing, health and education?


Tariana Turia              I think that we are making progress, but whether we are making the progress that is actually needed to advance us forward as a people, I don’t think that sufficient progress is being made. If we look at the housing situation that our families are in; only today we again hear of another whanau losing their lives. In the North, we have some 3,000 Maori families living in really dire housing circumstances. It is a really difficult issue because right now we have a Treasury that sees the way forward for Maori people is to move them into urban areas, yet right now we have Maori moving back home because of the situation they are in, in those very same urban areas.  I think the issues are really complex and difficult that have been happening to our people over many, many years and they will not be resolved overnight. I think we are making progress but probably our people sitting out there are feeling not to the degree that we should be.


Question                     How do you see the changes in the health system with the introduction of the District Health Boards, do you see that as being beneficial to Maori, by Maori for Maori services iwi/hapu based. Do you see that as a positive step?


Tariana Turia              Any decision making that is returned as close as possible to where the people are, is critical. There are some issues that are going to have to be worked through and one of them is about the role of mana whenua sitting alongside those District Health Boards so that they participate in establishing the strategic direction for those District Health Boards and also play a part in monitoring the kind of services for our people within those rohe. I think it is going to be very dependent on that relationship building which is going to be critical, but I do feel more positive about decision making being much closer to where the people are instead of being made centrally down here in Wellington.


Question                     How effective do you think that the strategy Kia Piki Te Ora o Te Taitamariki is being implemented?


Tariana Turia              The strategy hasn’t been in place that long even though it was developed some three years ago. My understanding is that the strategy has only recently been picked up. If you look at the suicide statistics in this country they actually have come down for the majority of the population, the concern is that they have not come down significantly for our people. I guess in the end that strategy will only work when the whole of our society actually begins to see the critical number of suicides amongst our people, particularly the young and do something about it ourselves. Personally I don’t believe interventions from outside of whanau work in the end. It is about what we as whanau take responsibility for, to try and provide a safe environment for all our rangatahi and for those of ours who choose a way out which just leaves a lot of families devastated.


Question                     A letter from the Ministry of Education was recently brought to my attention asking about how I felt about the closure of Queen Wikitoria, which has been open for a very long time. What is the government doing to support our Maori boarding schools? I know there has been major changes and major difficulties within that sector, however I am wondering where you as a Maori and a politician and your party stand on this?


Tariana Turia              I have to admit that I have not had a lot to do with that particular issue, however I understand that that decision has partly been made by the owners of the school which is the Anglican church, I don’t think that the state can really interfere in the decisions that are made by churches who in fact own the majority if not all of our Maori boarding schools. I can’t give you a personal answer to that because I have to be honest and tell you that I don’t really know a lot about it.


Question                     Within the political arena sometimes your views are considered controversial and yet he pono te korero. Would there be a stage when you may look at pulling away from the Labour party and forming your own political party?


Tariana Turia              I think I need a big drink of water here! My family have a long history in the Labour Party. I have had two uncles and an aunt who have represented Labour in parliament previous to me. In a way, in going into politics I was choosing the devil I knew best and I chose to go into the Labour Party probably because of those family ties. If I decided that Labour wasn’t going to be able to progress things for our people in the way that I want, I think that I would probably retire from politics. I have a view that there are major difficulties for a Maori party to actually make any significant inroads as an independent party in parliament. The reason I say that is if you are not in government you can scream and yell and carry on as much as you like but in the end you don’t make one iota of difference because the government doesn’t have to listen to you. So I have made a choice and for some people they would see that as a compromise choice, and I think that any Maori who chooses to go into politics enters into the game of compromise. That is our political reality. But I think it would be incredibly difficult to be outside of a major mainstream party and not be part of the government who in the end are the ones who make the decisions. I’m not actually sorry at this stage that I made that decision to go with Labour.


Question                      I have a question in relation to a Treasury report. How seriously is Cabinet and Government in taking the advice in regards to relocation grants and people moving from so called deprived regions to greater economic growth areas?


Tariana Turia              That report has only just come out in the last month and right now the Government is looking at what the social impacts will be on moving people into urban settings. The Treasury report is based around the ability of sustainable development to take place in isolated rural communities versus what could take place for families in an urban setting. So I guess it is about jobs, it is about opportunity. The Government hasn’t made its decision on that particular report.


Question                     When the unification of the Maori rangatahi happens what can our Maori leaders expect from the government?


Tariana Turia              If we look at what has happened in Maori society it would appear that there has always been difficulty for iwi, for us to come together in any national forum and have a single voice. Tribalism has always been seen to be our greatest strength and it can also be seen to be an enormous weakness because of our inability to speak with one voice. If rangatahi are able to achieve that, then that is going to make an enormous difference, both for our people and this country.


Question                     In the Maori option which has just been completed recently, our group who worked on this we found that there was a population of 53,000 Maori on the Maori roll. However we found more were registered on the Pakeha role. What is the Maori caucus doing about reducing the number on the Pakeha roll and increasing the Maori roll?


Tariana Turia              The whole idea of the option is highly political, and certainly the Maori caucus has met and gained an agreement from the government that in the future because the census is a legal requirement for people to fill in, the option should be carried out at the same time so that every person or at least 98% of them will be contacted on their door step. That then should address the issue that we have some 60,000 of our people not enrolled at all. I have been critical of the option and will continue to be critical of it because it does nothing to give Maori people any political power at all. As long as our people have the opportunity to opt between rolls essentially what that does is deny us and certainly deny anybody who represents our people in parliament the opportunity to represent them adequately. There is no way that someone like Mahara Okeroa can service the South Island right up to the Hutt and across to Porirua where you have got twenty six general electorates. There is no way that one Maori person can service that electorate adequately. We could have between 13 and 15 Maori electorates in this country if our people were all on the Maori roll.  I guess the big question for our people is ‘Do you genuinely believe that others can represent the issues that confront you and your whanau?’


Question                     Would you consider establishing training forums for young Maori leaders who wish to consider the possibility of politics as a career? What can we do today to assist you to achieve this for rangatahi Maori?


Tariana Turia              I do like the idea, it’s not something that we have considered, but nothing is impossible. What you are suggesting is a great idea and I can see that the CEO of Te Puni Kokiri is listening intently. I am hoping that he would see this as an opportunity to build capacity amongst our people so that we do participate in that political environment. So thank you for that suggestion and one that we will certainly take up and look at.