Turia: Kia Tupu Ake - Local Government
Te Waka Awhina Annual Conference for Maori Staff working in Local Government
Te Wananga o Aotearoa
Thursday 30 October 2008; 1.30pm
Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader; Maori Party
When I was growing up, my kuia, Hokiwaewae, tended a succulent flourishing mara which always brought forth more than enough kai for us all. Our produce bloomed, fulfilling the message of the karakia, kia tipu tonu koutou, ake, ake, ake. May you grow on, for ever and ever.
And so when I learnt that the theme of this hui was Me tiaki, me manaaki, kia tupu ake; my thoughts returned to that garden; and the picture of abundance it conveys.
It is a wonderful aspiration to think about the pathway ahead for Maori staff working in local government. May you indeed grow on for ever and ever. May you be strong, be bold, be collective.
It is an incredibly exciting time to be here, with such a distinguished group of people, the people who care for, and protect iwi Maori, through the channels of local government.
I am aware that last year, you celebrated fifteen years since Te Waka Awhina was established, by travelling to Waitangi, the birthplace of our nation.
And I think of the words passed down from Tamati Waka Nene,
“you must preserve your customs and never permit our lands to be wrested from us”.
It is an apt challenge to consider as we think of the work for Maori employed in local government.
As you will all know, local bodies are required under the Local Government Act 2002, to “foster Māori capacity to contribute to the decision-making processes of the local authority”.
We know also that the Resource Management Act 1991 states that " the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu and other taonga" is a matter of national importance which councils must recognise and provide for.
One would think from those words alone, that the context is well established to preserve our customs, to protect our lands, to live up to the promise articulated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Having the words in place is important. If the words are the legislation – they provide the push for the words for strategic plans and operational guidelines – and that’s a good place to start.
Some areas of local government are doing that very well – Manukau, for instance, has a Strategic plan – Te Tiriti o Waitangi which outlines how the Treaty will be incorporated into Council’s core business.
The Tiriti o Waitangi Charter describes staff commitment to building relationships with Maori; and the Treaty of Waitangi toolbox is a resource which tells you how to do it – how to consult mana whenua, taura here, urban Maori authorities; and even a core competency system for staff development. In Manukau these strategy documents actually mean something on the ground – staff and elected members go through an education training programme on tikanga, and the Treaty; the Council has a Treaty of Waitangi Unit with three fulltime staff; and they have a planner whose duties include iwi liaison.
They have relationships agreements with Ngati Paoa; Nga Tai Umupuia Te Waka Totara Trust; Te Ahiwaru of Makaurau marae, Te Akitai o Pukaki Marae.
At the other end of the motu Southland Local Authorities negotiated a Charter of Understanding with Kai Tahu o Murihiku in 1997 to define the processes for Kai Tahu o Murihiku involvement and consultation in matters of resource consent. Southland District Council jointly with Gore District Council, Environment Southland and Invercargill City Council funds Te Ao Marama Incorporated, a business unit established to provide liaison between applicants for resource consents and local runanga. Te Ao Marama represents four of the papatipu runaka, the tribal councils of Kai Tahu, including matters covered by the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998.
However, where the issues have a wider Treaty or precedent-setting character, the required consultation is with the iwi authority, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. This is a fine effort by Southland District Council in recognising the vital importance of appropriate liaison and consultation with iwi on resource management issues within the District.
But the point is that all these structures in the world are a waste of time if they’re not used.
The 2004/05 audits released last year by the Controller and Auditor-General stated that twelve local authorities had not complied with the requirement to make their summary report available by the statutory timeframe.
The authorities were urged to lift their game, and to inform their communities promptly.
I think it’s encumbent on all involved in local authorities to keep evaluating their relationship with mana whenua to survey how well they are doing.
And I want to commend New Plymouth District Council on the initiative they have taken in setting up a reporting template to monitor consultation performance – specifically requiring all staff to identify the impacts on council policy and activities on iwi.
These three examples – Manukau; Murihiku; Taranaki – represent different ways in which local government has worked with iwi, hapu and local communities.
Unlike other parties, we in the Maori Party have no complaint with either local government legislation or the Resource Management Act.
In fact in our 2008 Policy Manifesto, we have sought to strengthen the impact of the legislation by ensuring its implementation is supported by robust and accountable work practices.
We want to see local government and regional authorities, when working with mana whenua; establishing effective strategies for engaging Maori communities and advancing Maori representation.
And so this is where we come back to your theme - Me tiaki, me manaaki, kia tupu ake; to preserve, to sustain and grow.
We must preserve your customs, we must take action to achieve sustainable development of our local areas, and we must grow.
This is where Te Waka Awhina really comes into your own.
You must continue to find the courage to protect our natural values, and to care for our streams, lakes, rivers and waterways.
Courage to protect our land from the production, release and disposal of toxic and hazardous waste and promote freedom from ecological destruction.
We must be bold and persistent, in ensuring our waterways are not contaminated from agricultural, industrial and domestic waste.
It is you who must continue to advance for mana whenua to be actively involved in issues around water including water rights and privatisation.
It is our Maori workers in local government who are most frequently called on to consider claims to water ownership and interests in fresh water within the context of the Resource Management Act.
I know it is not easy, to be actively vigilant, to speak up. Believe me, I know what it is like to be muzzled in a majority, when your views seem out of sync with everyone else in the caucus.
But if there is one message that the Maori Party can bring to this forum, it is that independence brings with it the great freedom to be true to oneself, to maintain the integrity of the people you represent.
Having a strong and independent Maori voice in Parliament is a source of great joy to me – that my words are not written on the 9th floor; my every utterance examined for its compliance with the party line.
Being able to be a strong and independent voice inspires me every day, to defend Maori rights, to advance Maori aspirations in the best interests of Aotearoa.
In just over a week’s time, you will all have the freedom to choose who can best represent you and your whanau.
In just one week, you can be part of the process of change, to make a difference, to advance the aspirations of your people, to make a choice to preserve, to sustain, to grow.
Just as Te Waka Awhina must stay focused on the hauora of whanau, hapu and iwi across all aspects of your work; we in the Maori Party are mobilised and motivated by the imperative for whanau ora.
In the midst of the fury and passion of the pre-election period; the opportunity to come here today, was something I eagerly took up.
What clinched it, was the challenge that we all face – kia tupu ake.
How do we build on the values of kaitiakitanga, of manaakitanga, of whanaungatanga? How do we directly influence the health and wellbeing of our whanau?
It is through our collective commitment to that one simple goal - to preserve our customs and to never permit our lands to be wrested from us”.
Every chance we get – we must take up the opportunity to come together, to unite in the shared vision of our future ahead.
We must come together, to create hope for our future, to become the architects and designers of a history we can all be proud of.
That’s what we’re fighting for. That’s what we standing for. That’s what we all must believe in.
Let us build our future, together.