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Speech: Katene - Opening of Te Punga

He Waka Tapu : Christchurch; Friday 6 November 2009
Opening of Te Punga
Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga

I am so pleased to be able to share part of this very significant day, another stage in the journey of He Waka Tapu.

I have always loved the concept of he waka tapu- the sacred vessel to take us forward into the future. The journey that we must take is one which will ultimately carry us to destinations that we determine – destinations where peace prevails, and the waka itself is a site of safety and love.

It is a waka in which healthy relationships are the norm; where we take collective responsibility to maintain the momentum; to foster pride and to build on our successes.

That success is a past where we know children have been treasured, a time when whanau were the context for nurturing aspirations; the place in which whanau ora was the expectation.

He waka tapu celebrates that past – a past in which, according to the observations of Joel Polack in 1840, and I quote “the New Zealand father is devotedly fond of his children, they are his pride, his boast and peculiar delight”.

Daryl Gregory has built on that history, reminding the men he works with that this is the foundation left to them, to build positive, supportive, loving relationships.

Another aspect of our collective history featured here last night at a special gathering at St Marys church in Addington to honour Parihaka Peace Day.

I was really proud of those who gathered to remember the day, 128 years ago, when the people of Parihaka Pa in Taranaki gathered to protest the forceful seizure of their land by the action of passive resistance.

It is important that we bring this history alive, that we keep our stories at the forefront of our thoughts, as we encounter all the issues of modern day times.

I want to really mihi to Daryl, for the vision he has developed here, to take the dreams of our tupuna and to ensure all who travel in this waka are prepared for the challenge of the journey ahead.

Daryl makes us face the turbulent waters of today – the impact of drug and alcohol addiction; the grief of violence and abuse; the shame of offending; the damage caused by gambling.

Around him is a crew of expert navigators – alcohol and drug clinicians; social workers; nurses; counsellors; administrators; youth workers; kaumatua and kuia. Each of these people fulfils a vital work in keeping the waka afloat.

Today then, marks another significant beacon in the journey as we recognise the opening of Te Punga – the administration block for this centre.

One of the beauties of te reo Maori is that a concept can bring with it a rich association of meanings. Te Punga is no different.

We might more commonly refer to Te Punga as an anchor –but there are other interpretations relating to the concept of punga as security for a sale, the finance or resources to provide the context for a project; collateral or capital – or in the sense of having a stake in the business.

But we also refer to Te Punga as bringing with it a focus, a centre.

I am hoping today, that the opening of this new building helps to strengthen He Waka Tapu – to invest in the journey of hope.

When He Waka Tapu was established in 1996, it was designed to fill a gap in the provision of violence prevention services, by identifying Maori men as the key target group.

With the support of mana whenua onboard, He Waka Tapu started out in providing men’s programmes for Family Court, Child, Youth and Family Services, Community Probation Services and on release from prison.

Over the fourteen years since then, He Waka Tapu has stretched out over many other services.

And so nowadays, there is a diverse menu of choices on offer when one embarks He Waka Tapu.

There is Te Aratiatia Assessment and Referral Services for whanau experiencing difficulties with alcohol and drugs. There are health and nutrition services; a fitness and exercise room; and for those who prefer, ‘Gentle Exercise programmes’ run by Tania Wharehinga - ranging from dance movement to healthy cooking demonstrations. Now that sounds like me!

Rangatahi are welcome here, with traditional wananga in mau rakau; harakeke; mahinga kai and lots of emphasis on korero, korero, korero.

There are cervical screening clinics; mana wahine services; counselling for couples and whanau; a whanau worker helps respond to the challenge of problem gambling; and there is an emphasis on health promotion.

In short, everything you could want to invest in whanau wellbeing is brought together in this one centre.

And so with this new building, Te Punga, to act as an anchor for our journey ahead, we have reached a point in our history in which we say enough to violence; today we embrace peace.

I want to finish by referring to the words of one of the stories in the book, Don’s Waka, by Rosemary Gregory. In the opening chapter we hear these words:

“We are now ready my son, to commit ourselves to the journey – to the leaving and to the arriving. We are well prepared. We have done all that is needed.

Our provisions are loaded, the sea is calm and the wind will soon rise. Look the people are gathering for karakia. This is it. It is time to leave this place and sail into the hands of the God who shapes our destiny”.

As we acknowledge this special day, let us commit ourselves to the journey – to leave the trials and tribulations behind and to invest in the arriving of our new world.

The wonderful thing is that the new world we prepare for, is a world we have always known.

A world where children know their whakapapa and their connections to their marae, their waka, their hapu and iwi.

A world where we all practice and uphold the concepts of oranga for our wairua, our tinana, our hinengaro, our whanau.

A world where all members of our whanau can expect safety, protection, integrity, identity, love and hope.

This is the journey towards whanau ora that is the singlemost significant focus of our journey also, as the Maori Party.

Whanau ora is the opportunity for us to be transformational in Parliament and at the Pa – to encourage some flexible thinking in redesigning services with whanau at the centre.

He Waka Tapu is perfectly positioned to navigate a sure and steady direction into the future, based on the foundation of whanau ora. I wish you all great happiness and strength, as you take this waka forward, and as you commit yourself to the journey, a journey of a lifetime.


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