Indigenous Governance-The Agenda For Change



The Hon. Tau Henare, Minister of Maori Affairs


It is clear people in New Zealand are looking for leadership from the next Prime Minister of this country.


Another thing that is abundantly apparent is that they also want a clear sense of nationhood or identity - that very thing that stands us apart from the rest of the world.


There is this grand colonial notion that because the wealth of the nation was built on the back of our agricultural heritage, so too was our character.  That we are a nation of farmers with sheep for lap cats and Buzzy Bee cradled in our infant's cots.


The recent APEC conference didn't help.  If anything it drove home the stereotypical view and then what did we offer international leaders for the traditional APEC uniform: Aue Black!  Sailing outfits: Black woollen trousers, a black polo neck and a sailing jacket.


Our uniqueness is less complicated than we imagine it to be.  It's just that certain segments of our society choose to muddy that picture by placing an overemphasis on the colour of that identity, rather than focussing on its roots.  Because as a society New Zealanders through genealogy, heritage, intermarriage and assimilation are inextricably linked.


Yes!  New Zealand is increasingly multi-racial.  But the patches that make up the fabric of our society are very much mono-cultural.


Every other culture in this country is bi-cultural except for the predominant one.  One of the first steps other ethnicities take towards bi-culturalism is the moment they step into the classroom for the first time - they have to learn English in order to succeed.


So while the so-called minorities are making this cultural leap, Pakeha sit back and snuggle up in their comfort zones and remain blissfully unaware of the transition others have to take. Mauri Pacific will challenge that.


Through its Aotearoa policy we aim to prick the nation's conscience and challenge every day people in New Zealand’s comfort zones by normalising te reo and our story, and the Treaty, so we all have a better understanding where we're from and where we're going.


Maori culture is unlike any other in New Zealand.  It was here first, and then had all the others imposed on it.  When all the later arrivals came, they knew what to expect, and knew what they were getting into, with Maori already in residence, but they still chose to take their chances and come.  They came by choice, knowing what the deal was here and accepting it.


Ladies and gentlemen, we must stop thinking of bi-culturalism and the Treaty as part of the problem, and start seeing it as part of the answer.  What the principles of bi-culturalism do, as contained in the Treaty, is to show us the basic conditions of justice for indigenous people.  Unless these are met, Maori people will never consent to belong fully and positively in our nation.


The Government needs this information.  Because it is the Government which is responsible for what happens to Maori culture.


The Government doesn't need to help Pakeha culture.  It practically is Pakeha culture.  It doesn't need to help the Dutch or Chinese cultures.  They have their own homelands where they are strong.  But it does need to ensure the survival of Maori as a vibrant, modern culture here in its homeland.  Naturally, the Treaty also tells us how to do this, through the protection of rangatiratanga.


It is a basic right of every culture to survive and flourish in its homeland.  It is necessary to secure that right and put it beyond question, otherwise people will fight for it, as they are doing all round the world at this very moment.  In New Zealand that right is enshrined in the concept of bi-culturalism which is inseparable from the Treaty.  If bi-culturalism goes, so will the Treaty.


If we lose sight of the Treaty, we will rob ourselves of the very institution, which was designed specifically to achieve racial peace in New Zealand.  We have depended on the Treaty greatly in the last 20 years, and it has worked well, with the Waitangi Tribunal acting as a wonderful safety valve.



Aotearoa Education Policy


Mauri Pacific will make te reo Maori part of the education curriculum to form two.  This is not something new; we flagged it when the party was launched in October 1998.


Central to understanding culture is understanding the native language of that culture.


This should not be seen as a threat to the compulsion to learn English language.  More so, it's complementary.


A natural extension of learning te reo is to make Maori history part of the senior school curriculum.


Mauri Pacific calls it “ourstory”, as opposed to “history”.


I heard one of the other keynote speakers for this conference talk some years ago about ‘ourstory’.  He talked about how when he was at school he learnt about a savage by the name of ‘tear coretee’, that he was a murdering swine etc.  Then when he went back to his pa, his nannies told him stories of this warrior called Te Kooti, and how he was a hero to his people. This is ‘ourstory’.


The history they teach in our schools is of Atilla the Hun and others and has no relevance to this country's past.  No wonder there's grown ups around today trying to emulate similar feats of thuggery and colonisation in a contemporary sense.


Mauri Pacific sees ‘ourstory’ and te reo as priorities for the next government if the rhetoric of our political leaders is to be believed.  They talk about leadership and cultural integrity, yet they don't know what the terms mean.


Constitutional Reform


Another critical part of the Aotearoa policy is developing a constitution.


We want to give New Zealanders the opportunity to have an icon worthy of its history in the same manner that gives the Stone of Scone pride to Scotland; the Blarney Stone to Ireland; and the Magna Carta to England.


We say the constitution is not something that needs to be developed in a rush, but there needs to be a firm commitment to see it through.


Developing such an integral document takes time and education.  While Mauri Pacific does not believe it has to be done immediately, we wouldn't like the process to drag on for longer than 10 years.


So what would it look like, who would develop it and why not do it now?  I could probably be accused of pre-empting it by stating the Treaty is the lynchpin to it, but I'm going to anyway because it is central to the document's development.


People in New Zealand would develop it and there's no need to rush because I believe there needs to be an education programme put in place first so people know what it's all about.  Groups like Maori also need time to develop a unified position.




No other party has an Aotearoa policy because they're too focussed on the economic imperatives instead of people.  Mauri Pacific aims to bring the future government back to the people, but more than that, it's about building the ideal world your nannies and koro dreamed about when in the spirit of aroha they allowed others to share this land with them.


What Maori must focus on particularly at this year's election is making government accountable to Maori, rather than the other way around and putting their votes where they best think that will be achieved.


For every dollar invested into Maori initiatives, there’s a thousand hoops to jump through before they get the money.  We need to turn that way of thinking on its head, or at the very least make sure others have to play to the same rules.


My korero today has touched on the theme to this conference: Indigenous Governance and Accountability; and produced a plan for that to happen.


I wish you all the best for the remainder of your conference. Thank you.