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Tariana Turia Speech - Sharing and partnership

Tariana Turia Speech - Sharing and partnership: the value of Maori custom

Speech for quality accreditation of Te Ngawari Hauora, Island Bay Surf Club, Wellington


E nga mana o tenei rohe, tena koutou.

E nga iwi e huihui nei i mua i Taputeranga, te motu o Kupe, i nga takutai o te Moana o Raukawa, tena koutou katoa.

How nice it is to get away from Parliament, to join you in celebrating your achievement of quality standard accreditation.

Sometimes I think that if we don’t celebrate our own progress, no-one else will!

Our people are achieving great things in health, and in other fields. What is more, we are doing it against a background of enormous public ignorance and misunderstanding, that is starting to become actual hostility towards our people and our culture.

Te Ngawari Hauora first began in 1989 on a voluntary basis with Te Runanga Taura Here o Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Urban Maori Authority in Wellington.

In 1994 Te Ngawari Hauora became a legal entity, and secured a contract with the RHA. In July 2001, the Ministry of Health recognised Te Ngawari Hauora as a community organization providing quality health services.

Today, Te Ngawari Hauora is a Charitable Trust, a foundation member of the Capital Primary Health Organisation, and is accredited by Quality Health NZ.

This is a record of steady progress and sound development. Kia ora koutou.

I think that accreditation of quality standards can be a very helpful process for tangata whenua, if it promotes trust in our organisations among all those who deal with them – clients or patients, funding agencies, staff and suppliers, and the wider community.

Accreditation might help to nip in the bud the kind of public attacks that whanau and hapu service providers experience on a regular basis. A good accreditation process should also support the organisation to get sound management systems into place.

I want to go back to the issue I mentioned, of widespread misunderstanding and public ignorance that dogs almost every issue that involves our people.

The management of the coast and the sea is a classic example. I hope you don't mind me talking about it at your hui.

It seems appropriate, because of where we are. The south coast of Wellington is an important stage for the ongoing national drama of human migration, arrival and settlement. That story begins right here.

Just outside the window we can see a permanent record of the history of Kupe – the first navigator who sailed these shores a thousand years ago.

In this strait, Kupe killed Te Wheke a Muturangi, which he had pursued from Hawaiki. Kupe is associated with Taputeranga Island just over there, and other places all around Te Whanganui a Tara and the south coast.

The Kupe tradition was inherited and maintained by the people who established some of the earliest settlements known to archaeologists in this country. Those people named the landscape, established kumara gardens and planted groves of karaka trees along the coast. They sailed their waka, fished with lines, traps and nets, and dived for paua and koura, as people still do today.

Waves of tribes passed through here, most heading south, each one adding another layer to the rich history of the area.

Taputeranga was a refuge for the tangata whenua who experienced the cataclysm of the musket wars, in the earliest days of colonisation.

Then, in 1840, tangata whenua around Aotearoa made a bold decision. They decided not to fight British settlement, not to keep exclusively for themselves the resources that they owned.

Instead, they opened their hearts and homes to strangers, believing partnership and sharing could be the basis for a better future. By signing the Treaty of Waitangi, tangata whenua embraced the world, expanded their horizons, opened themselves up to possibilities. This was a tremendous leap of faith for our tupuna.

As a result, Island Bay has now become a suburb of the capital city of a developed Western nation. It is home to distinctive Italian and Shetland Island communities, whose ancestors settled here because of the sea and the coast. Some of their descendants own fishing boats moored in the bay.

Now, I do not speak for the tangata whenua of this particular place. But as a representative of tangata whenua in Parliament, I can say that our people remain committed to the vision that our tupuna had for the future. We welcome the contribution that all the diverse cultures and communities bring to our nation.

Our love of the sea and the coast, and its value in our lifestyle and economy, is one of the things that unites us as New Zealanders. Tangata whenua have no plans to deny others access to the coast and the sea. Why on earth would we undermine our relationships in that way?

However, we do not expect that we should have to abandon our tikanga, just because they are not familiar to immigrant communities. The Treaty of Waitangi specifically guaranteed protection of our taonga – which are all the things, including our tikanga, that make us who we are today.

The coast remains an area of particular importance in our culture and traditions. We can quite easily imagine our tupuna, fishing with flax lines and bone hooks, setting their cray pots, or gathering pipis and mussels.

Like other New Zealanders, we enjoy doing these things today for recreation, and because we like to eat what we catch. Because these things are important to us, we have no trouble accepting that they are important to all New Zealanders.

But for tangata whenua, there are other special reasons for maintaining our tikanga. Exercising our management rights, and fulfilling our obligations, is a way of keeping ourselves close to our ancestors, and the atua from whom we inherited these rights.

We do not exercise these rights as individuals, but as whanau and tribal groups. Sharing this heritage helps us to reinforce the bonds of kinship with our whanaunga.

And just as our ancestors followed their tikanga to protect our mana as their descendants, we do the same today for our grandchildren and mokopuna into the next millennium.

You might say that all these reasons, which are specific to tangata whenua, are spiritual and cultural dimensions of our tikanga, in addition to ownership and property rights.

Because tikanga involves questions of mana and identity, atua, ancestors and future generations, there is no way that tangata whenua will ever give up our rights voluntarily, or allow them to be subject to anyone else’s authority. We will never agree that the Crown or anyone else should hold them on our behalf.

Our tupuna who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 saw no conflict between exercising their rights in accordance with tikanga, and sharing their lands and resources with others. Neither do we today.

But what our ancestors required, what the Crown guaranteed in writing, and what we expect from our fellow New Zealanders, is that our customary rights be respected and protected.

So what are the tikanga of tangata whenua?

Most people have no idea, apart from tangata whenua.

The reality is that most New Zealanders have learned relatively little about our customs and the values that regulate our behaviour. So when we try to discuss how best to manage our coasts and seas, for example, we encounter misunderstandings which I suspect are driven by a fear of the unknown.

I think the time is right for New Zealanders to make the same leap of faith that our ancestors did in 1840. Let us all open ourselves up to the possibility that sharing and partnership is a sound basis for a better future. That means accepting that unfamiliar ways of doing things might have something to offer.

As tangata whenua, we know that our tikanga have provided a robust framework for managing our relationships with our environment for over a thousand years. We think they are better suited to sustainable development than a property rights framework. They certainly deserve full consideration!

I believe that much conflict and disagreement over environmental issues, including management of coasts and seas, could more easily be resolved if New Zealanders were to make a concerted effort to learn about local tikanga on their local beaches, and were able to contribute in an informed way to a national debate.

I would like to see the media demonstrate leadership, by providing more in-depth information to assist the public debate, as well as examining the minute details of political processes.

For most New Zealanders, an alternative approach to coastal management is a chance to do better, not a threat to the known world.

The legislative process provides opportunities for public input over the coming months.

I urge everyone to seize their chances, inform themselves, look at the bigger picture and the longer term, and help create an honourable outcome that will make our descendants proud of us.

Kia ora tatou katoa.

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