What Our People Expect of Our Leaders
Tariana Turia, Associate Minister of Maori Affairs
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
talking with various whänau as to what they want in their leaders, I got the
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
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.
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
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.
is it we want to see in our leaders? What do we expect of those in positions of
We expect them to be able to create opportunities for
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.
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.
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.
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.
Minister had agreed to answer questions from the floor.
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?
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
In New Zealand what has been the most interesting forum that you have
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.
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?
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.
Does the Minister recognise our politicians as good role models as
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?
Do you feel there is enough representation from young Maori in parliament
at the moment?
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
Is there a way of implementing this to get more young Maori people into
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.
What inspired you to pursue mahi as a politician?
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.
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?
No. I wouldn’t; otherwise
there would be no purpose for me to be here.
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?
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.
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?
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.
How effective do you think that the strategy Kia Piki Te Ora o Te
Taitamariki is being implemented?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
When the unification of the Maori rangatahi happens what can our Maori
leaders expect from the government?
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
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?
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?’
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?
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.