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Flavell: 10yr Anniversary of Ihenga – Tupuna whare

Ten year Anniversary of Ihenga – Tupuna whare

Waiariki Institute of Technology

Te Ururoa Flavell; Member of Parliament for Waiariki

Monday 6 November 2006

Tena tatou katoa

I said a few weeks ago, when we were here, that Waiariki Institute of Technology is extremely lucky. So lucky to have this tupuna on this land and I mean that.

It got me wondering, ten years ago:

- why on earth would our people agree to having another tupuna whare when we have umpteen around the Lake basin and beyond

- why on this site, a Polytechnic site for goodness sake!! It could have been at Kaharoa, or even Awahou!!

- why, when there would be no guarantees about control over the whare, and what would happen if the Institute got into financial strife? Where would the tupuna whare fit with that?

I am sure that Arapeta as the CEO had his views and will share those today, and Dr Hiko Hohepa had that way about him that it was probably difficult to say no!! As we record things today, I thought it was important to raise the matter because for me, this is an important consideration now, as it was then. What’s in having this tupuna whare here?

Perhaps we need to put things in context. I remember those times. Ten years ago I had just removed myself from the position of Adviser on Maori Education for the Taranaki/ Whanganui area. My job was to go and talk with schools about writing in the Treaty of Waitangi to School Charters and then the practical implementation of that.

As I say I did not last long. Think about it. Treaty claims, people living on confiscated land, the sacking of Parihaka, the possibility of the Maoris coming over the horizon and booting everyone off the land!! Teaching children and parents about the Treaty was never going to be a winner.

Waitara High School was put on the map for institutional racism. The Tino Rangatiratanga Maori Education Authority was up and running, looking for places where Maori people were not being given space. There was a huge march on one of the Government’s Fiscal Envelope hui at Owae Marae, Waitara.

Maori teachers and teachers of Maori from every sector would come together to meet with the likes of John Tapiata to discuss being marginalized and develop ourselves professionally to deal with the system.

These were the days when the “kaumatua” was asked to “conduct karakia” and open buildings with the “kuia” and the Maori contingent at 4.00am in the morning and the real ceremony took place when the Ministers – both religious and political arrived at 10.00am. The cutting of the cake and meal was held at the second opening.

Hohua Tutengaehe – respected koroua living in Christchurch and teaching cultural safety to Nurses was hauled through the media as one of his students took him to task about his teachings and the value of the cultural safety programme. Surely all people should be treated the same no matter what cultural background they came from?? That was the korero.

I was appointed to head a new stand-alone Maori Studies Department at the Polytechnic. Maori Studies in those days were in other departments like Humanities.

Taranaki Polytechnic had the first Maori language package registered with NZQA. Hiko Hohepa came to have a look at it while work continued on this tupuna whare.

I remember that Arapeta called all of the CEOs and Councillors together to Apumoana for a two-three day programme with guest speakers like Annette Sykes and one of the Tamaki brothers. I mean these were times when Maori in Polytechs were few, where one always felt as if you were in a battle to get any movement on things Maori, where we finally had a breakthrough with Arapeta winning the position here as CEO and opening the door to that possibility to the rest of us and where it was safest for any Maori on Councils (if there were any) to not say anything to advance Maori interests. The inevitable arguments would be like:

- We are all New Zealanders;

- One law for all;

- Special treatment for Maori.

These were hoha times. It seemed like everything was a battle.

A second hui was hosted at Waikato Institute of Technology and as I recall both programmes were about trying to get CEOs and Councillors to be “culturally sensitive” and hear the Maori perspective. More importantly, I think it was about finding a place for Maori in the decision making processes. Our people had become tired of being “consulted” and were on a path to making decisions not necessarily by ourselves but with others.

So I reckon that this tupuna whare was of a crucial time. Just imagine being a Maori trying to talk with your bosses about having a tupuna whare on site against this sort of climate?

In another sense though, one could have two takes on this move. Firstly it was an honourable and sincere move. It was an opportunity to expose the Polytechnic community and the wider community to tikanga Maori. This strategy was about saying we want our space in this place. We want to plan, organize and implement the things we believe are right for Te Arawa. I can never remember Hiko talking ill of anyone. He was about bringing people together.

It was also a clever, enlightened move! Once the whare is there, what can you do? You cannot pick it up and take it away as there would be an uproar from some.

You have to look at it everyday and face the challenge that Maori can and should have our space. Maori are not going away. It was a brilliant move.

The second matter that I would like to raise is, what is the purpose of a tupuna whare and marae? I haven’t gone anywhere to get an analysis of this question but my experience is that there are some obligations:

- They are a symbol of mana of pride for the locals. As there is no one else to look after them, the people all have a part to play in there up keep, looking after visitors, cooking, washing dishes, putting chairs out. It’s your marae, you present your best to ensure that no one goes away talking about you.

- Someone must keep the fires burning.

- A place where people lie in state. Here our tikanga is practiced, our reo is spoken where we express our identity. Where our mate bind us in comforting each other.

- Where important issues are discussed and debated. All views are respected, there is a move towards consensus of view in the best interests of the people.

- The physical look like carvings, tukutuku should be a source of pride. There are symbols of the whakapapa connections.

- People are held to account though whaikorero.

- The place where most Maori feel comfortable.

- It should never left to be mataotao.

- Maori are the decision makers.

So the question is has much changed in ten years? I leave that for you to ponder.

But the issue about finding space for Maori are still important. It’s like the space we want in retaining three seats on the Regional Council rather than losing one.

It’s like the space we occupy now as the Maori Party in Parliament of this land.

This whare must continue to remind people about finding that space.

It must continue to remind us about those obligations in having a whare here. Obligations to look after it. Obligations to allow space for Maori and if they choose to have a wananga here on this space, then that is how it should be.

Thank you again for the invitation. E te whare me te marae e takoto mai ra, hari huritau!!!


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