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Flavell: Rotorua Library Trust Fund Variation Bill

Rotorua Library Trust Fund Variation Bill

Te Ururoa Flavell, Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Wednesday 28 June 2006; (delivered 5.15pm)

I stand with considerable pride to support my colleague, Stevie Chadwick, in respects of this Bill, the Rotorua Library Trust Fund Variation Bill.

As the Member for Waiariki, I am delighted to endorse the original intention as specified in the will of Elizabeth Ann Seddon-Johnson, in relation to the Rotorua Public Library.

Like others, I want to note the generosity and foresight of the benefactor in bequeathing the residue of her estate to be used towards the building of a new wing to the Rotorua Public Library. This sort of idea is really commendable and will bring benefits to the whole community.

I, indeed, have visited and used the facility. My children are all members of the library - they are all cardholders - and I have a fine thesis sitting in a cupboard of the library that I hope will benefit all.

I understand that Mr and Mrs Seddon lived on the corner of Arawa and Fenton Street in Rotorua. Mr Seddon owned the comet shop - one of the first shops in Rotorua.

Where he is buried in Sala Street, there is a giant bust of himself on the grave - whereas the original library had a more modest plague that acknowledged Mrs Seddon.

That plaque is today, nowhere to be found. So in many respects this Bill serves another purpose in honouring her and her intentions as per the terms of her 1932 will.

But I am also profoundly proud to stand here today, in recognition of the respect with which books and literature have always received within Te Waiariki.

It is a source of encouragement to me that many of our rangatahi Maori take up the opportunity to use this fabulous resource.

The books in homes concept, for example, is encouraged at Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Koutu, which my children attend.

In this last week in which we have honoured Guide Bubbles, I think too of another hostess and guide at Whakarewarewa, Guide Maggie - Makereti Papakura.

She was of Ngäti Wähiao, Te Arawa, and Päkehä descent. Maggie Papakura was raised by senior members of her mother’s family and educated in Mäori knowledge from the time of her birth in 1873.

She developed a love of literature and writing, that was formalised in 1924 when she settled at Oxford University in England and began to record her knowledge of Mäori life and customs for a Bachelor of Science.

Tragically, just weeks before her thesis examination in 1930, she died. However her work, The Old Time Mäori, was published posthumously and remains a significant scholarly reference source, which no doubt will be a treasured component of the Rotorua local history section of our library.

Following Makereti Papakura’s death in 1930, her friend and Oxford academic counsellor, T.K Penniman, wrote:

“The secret of her own greatness of soul lay in knowing who she was.”

Thinking about the benefits and value that this Bill offers to the Rotorua Library, I inevitably turn to the resources that will stock the shelves and tell us who, indeed, we are.

The use of the ‘book’ as a vital tool to advance the revitalisation of Maori society has its source in 1923 when Sir Apirana Ngata established the Board of Maori Ethnological Research to publish Elsdon Best's manuscripts on Maori culture and other writings by contributors to the Journal of the Polynesian Society.

Throughout the next eighty years, the bibliography of Maori books has bloomed -each new decade bringing a distinctive chapter in our history of Aotearoa.

One only needs to look at the Pageant of New Zealand Books published in 1958 by AH and AW Reed - classics such as How the Maoris Lived, Living in a Maori Village or How the White Men Came, to give us a fascinating glimpse into the society of that time.

Of course the question about whether a book is a Maori book if it is written by a non-Maori will inevitably come up in this debate.

Yesterday, Hon Brian Donnelly talked about Ken Mair’s whanaunga Captain Gilbert Mair- in the new book called, Maori Treasures of New Zealand - Ko Tawa. It includes the stories of the tribes and people associated with each of the taonga he had collected in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The book includes interviews and photographs of the descendants of those who both created and gifted their taonga to Gilbert Mair; including the flute, Murirangaranga, the flute associated with the stories around Lake Rotorua, namely that to do with Tutanekai and Hinemoa.

The history of Aotearoa, ourselves, and knowing who we are, can illuminate the past to enhance our present.

In light of this I want to refer to one of our more latest taonga - The Art of Mäori Weaving - The Eternal Thread: Te Aho Mutunga Kore, written by Miriama Evans and Ranui Ngarimu, and published by Huia Publishers.

This book has been named as a finalist in the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Awards in the Lifestyle and Contemporary Culture Category. The Art of Mäori Weaving has also been nominated for the Textile Society of America’s R.L. Shep Award for its exceptional scholarship in the field of ethnic textile traditions.

In making reference to just one or two examples, I do not say that one is better than another; I do so to illustrate the variety, the excellence and the distinctive body of work encompassed in Maori literature that our libraries can draw on.

The production of that literature is being nurtured by three key initiatives that I want to refer to.

The first is Te Hunga Taunaki Kaituhi Maori - a committee that has encouraged writers to publish works reflective of the best of writing in Maori. The committee, consisting of Wena Tait, Dr Merimeri Penfold and Dr Hirini Moko Mead, is committed to the retention of Maori knowledge through publications in te reo Maori.

The committee assists in finding a publisher and providing a mentoring role for new writers. One example is Eruera Manuera by Onehou Phyllis which was published by Huia Publishers and won a Special Award in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2002.

The second strategy is Te Ha, a forum of contemporary Maori writers - to promote excellence in writing and to encourage new writers. The initiatives include ‘On the Bus’ - an annual showcase of readings and performances, taking Maori literature around the country, and providing workshops on writing.

Te Ha was first kicked off in 1991 by Witi Ihimaera and Patricia Grace, who are well known throughout Aotearoa, with a tour of Taranaki. They came to Waiariki in 2004 and this year are travelling across to Gisborne and the East Coast.

And the third initiative I want to refer to is The ‘Maori Writers National Hui' this being the biennial gathering for Maori writers and individuals passionate about contemporary Maori literature. This year’s hui is to be held here in Wellington in September.

I wanted to use the opportunity provided by the Rotorua Library Trust Fund Variation Bill to talk briefly about Maori literature because I want to correct a perception that some people have, which denies our distinctive role in the written genre.

Our strength as tangata whenua artists, is derived from our oral traditions. Our stories, our truths, our learnings from the past which guide us into the future.

But because we are fine orators, or passionate story-tellers, does not mean we are not also excellent writers of books.

And while our whaikorero is distinctive, our talents as Maori publishers are also worthy of note.

Publishers such Huia Publishers which produces books that have significant Māori voice to build on the high quality of Māori work already published.

There’s Mauri Tu limited, formed by Robyn and the late Dooley Kahukiwa; and Kaitoro Publishers, based in Hamilton, and publishing educational products and services which have a strong Māori theme.

We have Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust, which develops and promotes Maori literacy programmes for readers in kura kaupapa and Maori medium schools.

The Rotorua Library Trust Fund Variation Bill will enable the Rotorua District Council to access capital, some $300,000, to support the much needed extension of our local library.

As member for Te Waiariki I am delighted to support this Bill, realising the benefits of the smooth passing of this legislation that will ensure access to these sorts of facilities throughout out community.

Te Arawa indeed, will be much richer for the opportunity to access increased resources, that will lead us further to knowing who we are.

Kia ora tatou.


ENDS

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