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Turia: Speech - To Women In Management

14 October

Hon Tariana Turia


‘Using your integrity to guide you in difficult decision-making’

A free bird leaps On the back of the wind And floats downstream Till the current end And dips her wing In the orange sun rays And dares to claim the sky

On the 30th April this year, I was that free bird, leaping on the back of the wind of change. The process of decision-making that led to that leap, began with five sentences.

Five sentences, released by the Prime Minister and Attorney General on 22 June 2003, and one sentence in particular which in a mere fifteen words sparked off an unprecedented revolution of our people.

Those words stated, clearly and categorically, ‘ownership of the foreshore and seabed has long been considered to lie with the Crown ’.

Only problem was, these two women had not thought first to consult with tangata whenua about their views.

Last weekend, I travelled through the rohe of Ngati Kahungunu. I heard that:

“since 1000 years from Kupe and Whatonga to Rangitane and Kahungunu’s descendants, Te Kauae-a-Maui has proven a vital location as a seaward lookout and effectively protected, managed, governed and regulated our rohe’

Try telling these people, that the Crown actually ‘owned’ Te Kauae-a-Maui.

The people of Ngati Kahungunu are not an isolated minority, a mob of haters and wreckers, destined to bring the government down. They’re ordinary New Zealanders, much like the faces I see before me; people who are proud to be tangata whenua.

They reinforced to me what we believe in, what really counts, our, kaupapa tuku iho, the values that provide for the well-being of all.

Values such as Mana Whenua, turangawaewae and ükaipö, the places where you belong, where you count, where you are important and where you can contribute.

Concepts such as whanaungatanga, the rights, responsibilities and reciprocal obligations consistent with being part of a collective.

The promotion of manaakitanga, behaviour that acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own, through the expression of aroha, hospitality, generosity and mutual respect.

These are values that I live by, and are very important to me.

Some of you may think, what’s the foreshore and seabed got to do with women in management and business?

Well, as a woman, managing the demands of the Parliamentary business, the experience we have endured over these last sixteen months, has been one of the most challenging, indeed defining situations of my life.

When I was invited to come here today, I was asked to share my views about the importance of personal integrity in decision-making.

When it came down to the wire, the decisions I had to make about my political future had very little to do with Tariana Turia, the individual person.

They had everything to do with our twenty-four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Similarly it had everything to do with the legacy left by my ancestors, and the dreams and aspirations of the 45,000 people who joined the hikoi to Parliament.

To see our people trying to hold fast to our tikanga, walking once more for justice, for recognition, was devastating. Leaving Labour was easy in the context of their grief.

In this month’s New Zealand Management, leadership consultant Petter Cammock discusses leadership as a quality and capability which involves us all, a process in which we all have responsibility.

He suggests that leadership requires more than skill, it requires a holistic approach, a matter of ‘emotion, identity and character’ or what he calls ‘soul’.

That makes great sense to me. For in reflecting on the period when my greatest decision-making faculties were required, it was actually very simple – all it required was as Cammock suggests, the connection of rationality and feeling, head and heart, mind and soul.

So when the various inducements were offered – the retention of ministerial responsibilities, the house, the car, the staff, the salary – they were of no consequence.

For I had made the connection, many months before, that I could not ‘sell my soul’ if it meant living with the consequences of my actions for mine and future generations.

The connection with tikanga Maori meant that my every action would seek to maximise the expression of kaupapa Maori values.

It is a connection which I believe can instruct management and business decisions just as much as political or policy activities.

In a traditional market model of business, some might call it a materialist model, the goal might be that the managers of business maximise the income or wealth in the hands of the owners. This sort of thinking is fundamental to the huge body of literature on the theory of the firm world-wide.

In the tikanga Maori model, the expression of the kaupapa is to be maximised, while ensuring that the financial constraint is met. The profit is thus a collective profit, the objective to grow the people, with an emphasis on mutual respect and harmonious relationships.

Investment is prioritised as social, human and cultural capital.

In referring to capital, I like Peter Mataira’s description of capital:

“the synergy of relationships, values, collective action and identity that enable a community to develop new insights into their own future and destiny”

So in going back to the original theme for this talk, the importance of personal integrity in decision-making, there is but one word I would change.


There is an old feminist cliché, the personal is political. I would add to that, the personal is political is collective.

Making excellent decisions is not about sidelining one individual, isolating them from the wider group, providing inducements, performance bonuses, promotion opportunities.

That excellence is derived from collective effort is a well-established principle in Maori society, expressed in the whakatauki

‘Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, he toa takitini taku toa – my strength is not of one but of many’.

At the recent Maori Business Excellence Exposition held in Otaki, Professor Whatarangi Winiata, President of the Maori Party, shared a case study which exemplified how management and business can exemplify excellence in a world view that is absolutely, totally tangata whenua .

One of his staff members at Te Wananga o Raukawa had received a $2000 scholarship for a research project they were engaged in, and wrote to the Wananga to thank them for their support, and to enquire as to an appropriate use of the scholarship.
The response from the Wananga recognised the commitment to manaakitanga, in the appreciation given to the Wananga for their support.

The Wananga went further, to comment on the values of whanaungatanga (familiness), of ukaipotanga (belonging) and kotahitanga (unity), in the way that the research would ultimately benefit Ngati Pareraukawa, and Ngati Huia.

Another model may have given precedence to the $2000 – as representing the achievement of excellence.

In distinguishing instead the recognition of excellence as in nurturing values in motion, the Wananga demonstrated another way of operating.

I read a somewhat cynical comment from Germaine Greer recently, where she admitted:

“I might as well confess that I think management is the art of taking credit for other people’s work”:

While perhaps not going as far as Greer, I am always conscious of the collective identity, the whanau, hapu and iwi that centre me, the principle of whanaungatanga which binds me to the wider group.

Even in getting here today, my husband has played a role in caring and nurturing our mokopuna who we are bringing up, my children inspire me to consider their best interests, my hapu and iwi have allowed me to put on hold my responsibilities to the ahi kaa while being involved in a bigger picture.

That is why I always resist the notion that the Maori Party is about any one person.

It is at its very strongest when our weakest members are woven together, when all our relationships, our connections are elevating and enhancing, where unity is built through humility and the act of giving.

I started this talk with a quote from Maya Angelou, willing us to dare to claim the sky.

The media of course would have a field day with that invitation,

‘Turia moves from the foreshore and seabed to claim the sky as well’.

Well you know the results of the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Study, released earlier this year, reported that Maori women are among the most entrepreneurial business people in the world. So why should we let our horizons be limited by anyone else’s short-sighted vision?

I want to finish with my own case study, that of a young woman from the Whanganui river, Nancy Tuaine. As a child, Nancy used to get what she called ‘dragged around’ various tangi and hui of Ngati Uenuku. At the time she really hated it – but as the years have gone on, she’s come to appreciate the benefits of taking up her responsibility and her obligations in whanau matters.

She was an early school leaver, and came to work for me, answering the phones, doing the mail, and always watching. After a while she became my secretary, a bit later on a personal assistant another level higher, and all the way up to Corporate Manager for the business unit of our Iwi Health Authority. She is now General Manager for the Whanganui River Maori Trust Board.

Nancy attributes her early education in Ngati Uenuku, the concept of whanau, as being of the strongest influence in her life. Aspirations for management success or business innovation were of secondary interest.

“I went there because of my passion to help and work with our whanau. ….Sharing knowledge is how you grow. My learning is reinforced, when I pass my knowledge onto others. Our women are awesome at doing this ”.

I believe we can all be awesome at walking the talk, of sharing leadership, of making decisions which enhance the mana of all parties.

Let us all dip our wings in the orange sun rays, and fly past the horizons, to rebuild our nation with integrity, with passion and with the recognition that our people are our greatest wealth.


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