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Speech: Flavell - Education (Polytechnics) Bill

Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill
Thursday 10 December 2009; 4pm
Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki

Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa i tēnei ahiahi.

I do not think it is any surprise to the House that the crux issue for the Māori Party in the Education (Polytechnics) Amendment Bill is the whole notion of the value of Māori representation on tertiary governance bodies, including mana whenua and Māori student representation as well.

I suppose it becomes more relevant in terms of some of the discussions that have been put in front of the House today, in particular the feedback from the select committee.

It amended the bill by deleting the four positions for representatives from the academic board, the students, the community, and the chief executive officer. There can be no doubt that by providing for only one community member, the chance of Māori representation on any polytechnic council is pretty slim. For us, that is a real concern.

The next question is why Māori representation is such a significant issue. It is pretty simple. Some members have already set that out. It is about a Treaty right. To give that some context, the 1986 Royal Commission on the Electoral System said: “the Treaty of Waitangi marked the beginning of constitutional Government in New Zealand. Under the terms of the Treaty, the Crown formally recognises the existing rights of Māori and undertook to protect them. It is in this sense that Māori people have a special constitutional status.” That is one part of the argument.

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Although the bill has a requirement in section 171(4)(a) that it is: “desirable that the council of an institution should reflect so far as is reasonably practicable the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the communities served by the institution.” I have to say that that is a pretty toothless provision that disregards the constitutional significance of the Crown’s relationship to Māori.

I also have to say that the failure of successive Governments to recognise and give effect to the Treaty as a basis of constitutional Government in New Zealand does not grant consent for subsequent Governments to perpetuate the failure.

I need to tell this Parliament that the Māori Party will continue to keep the notion of Treaty rights at the forefront of discussions about our nationhood, and they are basically reflected in the relationship between Māori and Pākehā in this land.

I also have to say that the Māori Party gained a lot of confidence in our relationship agreement with the National Party that said: “Both the National Party and the Māori Party will act in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi, te Tiriti o Waitangi” and that, of course, will be an ongoing discussion.

Having said that, it simply tells us, against all of this context, that Māori representation is a Treaty right that is appropriate in the context of our history and our understanding of tangata whenua rights.

The main concern with the bill is, as I said, the lack of Māori iwi Treaty partnership reflected in the arrangements, and I would expect the Minister to be working with iwi entities at least to ensure that proper representation is enabled. Māori representation in polytechs stems from our status as mana whenua and the mana of the land.

We have been the guardians of the land, the seas, and the harbours of the regions for centuries. To put it into context, Māori welcomed and gave a place to the settlers expecting to live alongside them in a respectful relationship. We all need to recognise that relationship today if we want to move into a positive future based on peaceful relationships between people and the land To wrap it all up, the unique status of Māori also requires that our values, norms, and ways of doing things should also be reflected in all of our key institutions.

It is about giving space to Māori culture, and that is what we have been asking for not only with this bill but also with the whole question about the Auckland super-city proposal. It is important because giving space to Māori culture is about survival and about our ability to flourish in the only place in the world where that is possible: Aotearoa, our home.

Many would not be aware that last Friday a hui was called at Te Noho Kotahitanga Marae, Unitec, Auckland, that was attended by representatives of iwi, hapū, whānau, marae, and tangata Tiriti from throughout the whole country. At that hui, known as Te Hui o te Kotahitanga, the participants pledged ongoing support to the mana whenua for dedicated seats on Auckland’s super-city cancel.

A report from that hui concluded that it had reinforced the determination of Māori to support that a legitimate right of mana whenua of Tamaki to have reserved seats, as recommended by the royal commission and as supported by 80 percent of the public’s submissions on the super-city. They concluded that a genuine Treaty relationship would reflect equal fifty-fifty representation of tangata whenua and tau iwi at governance level. However, as a very minimum there should be three guaranteed seats for Māori representation and, more important, mana whenua representation as recommended by the royal commission.

So in that regard, this discussion is not just about polytechs but it is, in fact, about the bigger picture and the whole nation of Treaty rights. So how does all this discussion then relate back to the bill on polytechnics?

I am proud to speak to a bicultural partnership governance model for polytechnics put together by the Waiariki Institute of Technology, Te Whare Takiura O Te Waiariki. As the local member, I am pleased to support the proposal. The proposal has been approved and strongly supported by the Māori Party, and we have referred it to the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley, for consideration.

The model proposes equal council appointments for Crown and Māori with community appointments filling the balance of the required council positions. The model has a bicultural focus and proposes an active demonstration of Treaty commitments. The paper describes those commitments as the Treaty relationship of partnership, the Crown’s duty of active protection and a duty to act reasonably and in good faith by many for participation, including the obligation to consult.

The special relationship would be endorsed by formal recognition of representative tertiary education iwi authorities as legislated bodies. We are talking about allowing iwi to have space to formalise agreements with the Crown, which basically allow iwi to set up their own forums and present proposals to these sorts of bodies. I suppose, in a sense, they are legitimised by a rubber stamp from the Crown as well. Once the iwi authority is established by the iwi in the rohe they would elect members for appointment to the polytechnic councils.

If members did not know, there are a number of polytechnics throughout the country who already follow this particular model. The recommendation is that the council then would compromise for a minimum of nine and a maximum of 12 members—3 of whom would be appointed by the Minister after council input, 3 appointed by the representative tertiary education authority, and up to four appointed by the people living in the community served by the polytechnic.
I was pretty impressed by the model, as was the Minister of Maori Affairs, Dr Pita Sharples. We will be introducing a Supplementary Order Paper at the appropriate time, which I look forward to support from, in particular, Labour and the other parties.

I take it on words from the comment of Ranginui Walker who said earlier this year “The Waiariki Institute of Technology is a surrogate of the Crown. It has accommodated the tino rangatiratanga of Te Arawa and other tribes in the institute’s catchment area by committing to a partnership with tangata whenua.”

That should set the scene. They have been operating this way since the year 2000, and in their structure, Te Mana Matauranga o te Waiariki Trust represents the people of Te Arawa, Mataatua, and Tainui waka, including Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Awa, and Ngāti Tūwharetoa, and other iwi whose ancestral homelands lie within this rohe.

Their structure involves a joint committee of five council members and five from Te Mana Mataurang. It is a unique bicultural model in a mainstream setting. It is the best of both worlds. In a practical sense it aims to indigenise the curriculum and produce graduates who are culturally competent.

So in conclusion, there are other models of Māori representation such as Tairāwhiti Polytechnic and Whitireia Community Polytechnic, which reflect the quality of the relationship with local iwi, relationships which are formally recognised through direct council representation.

Tairāwhiti Polytechnic council, for instance, has four community places held by Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Porou, Tūranganui a Kiwa, the Wairoa-Waikaremoana Maori Trust Board, and the Māori Women’s Welfare League.

If the community viewpoint, including mana whenua through its representatives is removed the focus of governance decision making under this bill will quite quickly become central government based rather than regionally based. It is more important for central government to respond to community needs than it is for regions to respond to centralised requests. Māori representation is a Treaty right. It is critical for robust decision making and institutional success over the long term. It is critical for our capacity as a Parliament to act in accordance with the Treaty of Waitangi so we will at this point be supporting this bill. We will be introducing an supplementary order paper and reassess it at the appropriate time in the third reading.

ENDS

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