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Building new “nations”

Building new “nations”

Project director Materoa Dodd and colleagues in the “Nation Building” and Maori Development Research Project have been asking some probing questions of iwi, Maori, and hapu framed in the context and imperatives of Maori development.

Materoa, a senior lecturer in development studies at Waikato University’s School of Maori and Pacific Development (SMPD), says “it’s not passive research, it’s action research about building and developing self-governance structures, so it’s at the sharp end of development”.

“There are a large number of Maori entities emerging as a result of the Treaty settlement process. The project works with a small number of organisations in settlement and post-settlement mode, building some trust, looking at governance models, provoking thought and providing advice,” Materoa says.

The project was established in 2000 following the successful Nation Building and Maori development conference hosted by SMPD. The University’s pro vice-chancellor (Maori) Professor Tamati Reedy convenes the project. The project researchers and analysts come from development studies, sociology, Maori studies, linguistics, law, management, economics, and marine biology disciplines.

The Harvard Project on Indian Economic Development in the United States is a collaborative partner with the Nation Building project providing some international comparatives for work here.

“We work with the leadership, directors and trustees, the decision makers,” says Materoa.

“Leadership is crucial in moving people forward. Organic leaders with both the knowledge of the Maori world and with strong business and political savvy are developing and building the framework for these ‘new nations’. Where organisational leadership lacks legitimacy, or has a weak or skewed “cultural match” systemic problems can occur.”

Next year, the project is due to report on milestones it has reached and, pending the outcome of funding applications, there are embryonic plans to establish an Institute of Indigenous Governance and Leadership at Waikato University to continue research, publications, advice and scholarship.

The Nation Building research is currently been funded by Te Puni Kokiri and has a number of funding applications pending to build research capability amongst graduates wanting to work for development organisations.

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