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Turai Speech: Federation of Maori Authorities

Tariana Turia Speech to the 2004 Annual General Meeting and Economic Conference of the Federation of Maori Authorities Friday 29 October 2004

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

When I was asked to come and speak to you tonight, I must admit to some nervousness about addressing such a prestigious event.

I did wonder what a dairy farmer from Whangaehu would have to offer a federation which collectively administers 800,000 hectares of land on behalf of an estimated 100,000 Maori beneficial owners.

So I went further afield and talked to the Chairperson of our iwi, Ngati Apa. He told me that as a small iwi, being a member of FOMA has been really helpful in alerting us to issues that we may not otherwise have been aware of.

But he was equally daunted about what we could offer you.

So the next call was to the Maori Party.

Well, maybe Helen Clark was on the right track when she called us the ‘upstart’ party. Because once started, there’s no stopping us!

The ideas came flowing in.

Perhaps I could set the political agenda for Maori economic growth over the next twenty years?

Had I thought how I could best use this opportunity to influence the legislature? The Maori Land Court?

Could I say something about the financial institutional perception of Maori Business?

If I wasn’t already nervous, just opening each email took a major act of courage.

So I threw caution to the wind, and decided to go with what I know, my own experiences of being part of an indigenous business network, to better understand the business of FOMA, and to lead me into speaking about your emphasis on improved governance and management of the Maori asset base.

Twenty years ago a group of us from home, were sitting around pondering the sorts of questions I was asked to address tonight from the Maori Party members.

How could we create economic opportunities within the rohe?

How could we assist our whanau to see their good ideas come into fruition?

How could we support our dreams and aspirations to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within our own land?

The answer, as always, we found in ourselves.

We started small – just the twelve disciples.

The Board members were selected from the various hapu and iwi around the rohe. There was my cousin Joan Akapita – never one to shy from a challenge; Jack Simon – a shearer; Sister Makareta Tawaroa – passionately dedicated to the cause of decolonisation; Bully Gilbert, head of a major training organisation; Michael Boaler, a Cook Island business man; my husband George – a self-employed bricklayer, plasterer, farmer; Aunty Julie Ranginui, weaver and educationalist; Geoff Mariu, ex-businessman, community worker; Denis Ratana, social entrepreneur; and Mihi Rurawhe, community development worker.

Basically our experience had been that we knew at first hand, the difficulties our families were facing in getting start up funding for business initiatives.

We saw our young on the ‘Training-Go-Round’, and never being able to jump off, and access start up funds for business initiatives.

So we went to the people – door knocking, calling on our families, asking for one of the biggest acts of faith we could call on – to invest in ourselves.

We did this for a year, going from hui to hui, taking a pledge form, laying a foundation for hope.

And our people responded.

Before long, people were giving anything from $5 a month to $50 a week. Within a very short time we had $8000, and we were on the move.

The first business that we supported was a mobile auto-electrician, who wanted to operate his business from out of his van. He had the van – we, the Whanganui Regional Development Board, helped him to buy the equipment.

Looking back at this first business, the principle of whanau self-determination was always uppermost.

Setting our own direction, being confident, secure and pro-active in all aspects of the environmental, social, cultural, economic and political life of this country, means we look to ourselves first.

We need to assert and confirm our role as tangata whenua, before we can ever consider how best to demonstrate manaakitanga for others in this land.

And that means, believing in ourselves, taking the first step.

Fronting up with the van.

Once we were on a roll, there was no looking back.

The Whanganui Development Board became a testing ground for anything and everything.

We got hairdressers into business, a butchery up and running, we established the kickstart for Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority to get going - providing them with buildings with no rental for their first two years. The whole whanau painted, wall-papered, and donated furnishings. [Incidentally, Te Oranganui now employs over 120 staff - doctors, nurses, health educators, in their provision of disability and mental health services and whanau ora].

Some ideas were ideas before their time – particularly those tangata whenua designer ties that I think would have gone down well here tonight.

And as an organisation ourselves, we also grew our skills.

We contracted Waikato University to come in and run ‘compressor courses’ –ten day immersion programmes on business enterprise. They were highly successful. Many of those attending went on to then set up their own small businesses.

A group of us trained under Vivian Hutchinson in Taranaki, and established skills for enterprise training courses.

Those were the days before Mana and MACCESS funding.

When Mana and MACCESS came on stream, our Board was offered these contracts and we tried to marry up all the various pockets of funding available to ensure sustainable growth.

So when one of our families wanted to start up a Nashi Pear orchard at Parikino we worked with Mana funding to provide the equipment and the buildings, and MACCESS to train their own people to run the orchards.

Well it wasn’t all five star successes.

The Nashi Pears failed after a few years – there was insufficient land to lay a crop to sustain the people it needed to – but its success lay in the fact that the people involved in the venture had developed such strong business skills that they all went on to full employment in other areas.

We believe failure is just the creation of another opportunity for success.

But even more fundamentally, what we realised when we bought into Government funding was that we also bought into criteria and decision-making processes that were not made at home.

So although on paper it looked impressive to be financing business opportunities of up to $200,000 – a far cry from our man in the van – there were also some spectacular fall-overs.

And it comes back to basic first principles of rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga.

The principle which binds individuals to the wider group and affirms the value of the collective. Understanding and respecting inter-dependence with each other in the recognition that our people are our wealth.

We found out the hard way.

If you’ve got nothing to lose, you’re more likely to take risks with other people’s money.

If your whanau weren’t involved, your own investment wasn’t intimately connected to the idea, there simply wasn’t sufficient collateral put down to support the business.

And of course when you’re taking up someone else’s funds, you’re also buying into another ethos which may not necessarily be compatible with our own. Unless you thrive on the challenge of racism.

The classic was around the questions we were asked by the Regional Employment and Access Council, around support for a carving business.

I mean, really, would it get people jobs?

Well not only did some of those people go onto top notch jobs – Dean Flavell is Poutiaki Taonga Maori at Tauranga Museum, Mike Samuels has his own ta moko private enterprise; Aaron Te Aramakutu is manager of Te Puna Matauranga O Whanganui; but it also served as a springboard for many of our young, equipped with confidence and security in their base as tangata whenua, to get out there and take on the marketplace.

Yet it was also some of our own people, that confronted us with challenges.

The Development Board eventually ended up in conflict with many of our iwi authorities.

Some of our whanaunga saw the Development Board as taking away their opportunities to run business ventures within the rohe.

The fall out saw some of our Board members resign and go over to establish similar concepts within their iwi.

It did highlight for me the critical need to encourage relationships between whanau, hapu, iwi and other Maori organisations that can reflect inter-dependence.

The need to promote whanaungatanga as a model for good collective arrangements between different roopu.

The value also of harmonious and co-operative relationships.

In our heyday, our own tangata whenua providers outnumbered all other providers across the Whanganui Region. They worked as co-operatives, pooling resources, helping one another to succeed.

They would actively search for opportunities to place trainees in employment.

The Board was assisting with social aspirations – establishing Whai Oranga o te iwi social services; Te Korimako Iwi Health services.

The first kura kaupapa o Te Atihaunui a Paparangi was funded similarly. The Development Board gave $45,000 and we went to the whanau for koha. We self-funded for two whole years before the Ministry of Education began funding it.

Twenty years on, the Development Board is still around, although in a significantly reduced role than in 1984.

It seems a long time ago now, but in many ways, there were elements of our mahi then that have served to inspire me now.

More than anything it reinforced to me, like the members of this organisation would know only too well, economic independence begins with whanau.

The biggest shift is to shift the stuff in our heads.

From the blocks and prejudices to the ‘can do’ mentality.

I believe we are at a point of revolution in this nation.

We have a vision for a nation of cultural diversity and richness where its unity is underpinned by the expression of tangata whenua-tanga, Te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea.

Just as the Whanganui Regional Development Board drew on time-treasured practices of manaakitanga, of whanaungatanga, kotahitanga for our success, so too do we believe that co-operation and unity can lead towards distinctive nationhood across our peoples of this land.

When we looked to our beginnings as a party, we knew that our basis had to be with ourselves.

We need to remind ourselves that we have been, and can be again, the entrepreneurs and wealth creators of this land.

In the middle decades of last century, we have evidence that our economic prosperity dominated the national scene and was certainly competing with international markets.

The records of our entrepreneurial activity are astounding. Here’s just a few for starters.

By 1857 we had 29 Maori-owned, water-powered flour mills ;

Reports on ‘natives’ within the Bay of Plenty area revealed that they owned nearly 1000 horses, 200 heads of cattle, 5000 pigs, as well as 43 coastal vessels averaging nearly 20 tons each, and upwards of 900 canoes .

It is also reported that in 1859, 1792 waka entered Auckland Harbour with produce and other goods for sale.

What was unique, was the extent to which these activities were not only land based, but also value added at a communal and hapu level.

Our wealth was not about an accumulation of personal asset.

Hapu sought wealth as a group, in order to be able to maintain and enhance their success in the demonstration of manaakitanga.

Mana-a-hapu remains a major driver for today. Mana is determined through the eyes of others, and it is a result of good management. It is evidenced as an expression of manaakitanga, and also rangatiratanga, kotahitanga, whanaungatanga.

What binds and unites us, from the entrepreneurs and traders of the middle 19th century, through to the Whanganui Regional Development Board, through to FOMA with its $4 billion asset base, should be the expression of these kaupapa tuku iho.

These kaupapa are values that can provide for the well-being of all and are in a constant state of enrichment and refinement as new insights are gathered from new experiences and discoveries.

I would like to suggest that this is an area when FOMA can provide leadership, in providing us with the discoveries of how to balance two things:

How we can maximise the expression of kaupapa subject to financial constraints (such as acceptable profit margins and rates of return on capital that are determined by the collective);


How to maximise financial returns and wealth subject to kaupapa and tikanga constraints.

Despite the confidence expressed in our belief in ‘Te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea’, our long term survival as a people is not guaranteed.

In the accounts of those days when our people were explorers and settlers, our people travelled light. They had the intelligence to observe, to conceptualise what they saw, and then to adapt.

Those intellectual skills continue to be fundamental to our survival.

Like our tupuna before us, that same entrepreneurial spirit is still thriving - as a distinctive feature of this organisation – and others.

FOMA has a major role to play, to ensure that each passing generation must contribute.

In the 19th century we had the skills in governance and management to dominate the entrepreneurial scene. As we enter the 21st century these skills need to be reaffirmed, enhanced, refined and enrichened with those kaupapa that distinguish us on the global cultural scene.

In other words, to put kaupapa into your management.

FOMA can help its members to consider how to balance kaupapa as a source of mana, with money as an instrument but not an end in itself.

This leads me to suggest another challenge to you all tonight.

How do we develop the art of innovation?

How do we find solutions to what might be seen as insoluble problems?

An example. We need to create insight, skills and knowledge in risk management through innovation to avoid the need to offer whenua tupua, (ancestral land) as security.

In the Nashi Pears project, one of the most disappointing aspects of the scheme was that whanau land had been put up as collateral.

Innovative ideas to manage risk, may well have generated other knowledge about how to secure the loan, other than placing whenua tupua in jeopardy.

Innovation will see us drawing on our kaupapa, to be distinctive in the products and services we offer the world.

Finally, when I return to my members from this conference, and they say to me, did I set the political agenda for Maori economic growth over the next twenty years, I will be able to say in all truthfulness yes.

That is, because this agenda must be ours.

Ours as Ahuwhenua Trusts, Maori Incorporations, Runanga, Maori Trust Boards.

Ours as whanau, hapu, iwi.

As a Federation, you understand and demonstrate the principles of collective representation and ownership.

Just as our families at home, in digging deep for their $5 a week, knew it might not affect their own individual prosperity, but it was a pledge on behalf of their tamariki and mokopuna.

We recognize the draconian effects that can result from any proposals which affect the sustainability of Maori land and moana assets.

We have observed what the Government has done in abolishing Maori private property rights, in removing our citizenship entitlements to the protection of the rule of law.

And we have said, NO MORE.

We are renown for our skills and courage as entrepreneurs, as the accounts from the mid 19th century reveal.

We now need to apply that same fortitude to the political arena, recognizing we are at a turning point in the collective fortune of this nation.

We believe we can provide a strong base that leads to the advancement of not only tangata whenua, but all those people who lay claim to this country as their homeland.

And we can do it together. What better time than now?

Na reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

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