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Turia: 2012 National Maori Housing Conference

Hon Tariana Turia
Associate Minister of Housing

2012 National Maori Housing Conference
Monday 26 March 2012
Copthorne Hotel, Paihia, Bay of Islands Speech

Ka rere atu nga mihi ki te hau kainga, te tangata whenua, Ngati Rahiri, Ngati Kawa, Ngati Hine, Ngapuhi whanui, tena koutou katoa.

Ki Te Matapihi He Tirohanga mo te Iwi – tena ra koutou.

Ki aku hoa, aku whanaunga, ki a koe e Phil, tae noa ki a koutou katoa kua tae mai i nga kokona e wha o te motu, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Over the last few days I have attended a number of events based around community housing. Just yesterday, I attended the launch of a habitat for humanity house, built by the community for a pasifika whanau who had dedicated their lives to support the people within that community. Also, along with Minister Heatley I too attended the launch of the Ngati Hine Health Trust’s Moerewa housing project this morning.

At both of these events I was struck by the significance of the achievements that they had undertaken. Communities, and iwi had come together to create something that would not only serve to provide a home for many whanau; but also served to bring people together, to harness our collective strength, and to lift the spirit of the community

It was wonderful. It reminded me of why it was that I recently took on the role of Associate Minister of Housing. It is because housing, in my view, is part of the vision of Whanau Ora that I have for our communities of Aotearoa.

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Housing is more than just a roof over your head, our homes are where our whanau gather, it is a place where we foster our happy memories, and it is a place that often impacts on our health and overall wellbeing. It is a place to retreat from te ao hurihuri; a site of sanctuary and safety; a haven of peace in our busy lives. It is the place where sometimes, our babies are born; often it also becomes a place where our loved ones lie before their final journey.

Our homes are our whanau museums; the walls adorned with the photos of our tupuna and our tamariki. They reflect our penchant for DIY, every room tells a unique story.

Housing is of vital importance to the future development of our whanau, and our people. When we talk about programmes that deliver holistic outcomes, you cannot go past the value of a whare.

I was recently reminded of the concept of a living marae, a place to meet, a place for whanau to be together, and a place which forms an inherent part of our identity – our turangawaewae. Our place to stand.

Where you live, how you live and who you live with – impacts heavily on who we become, what we do, and the quality of our lives. Needless to say, we all recognise that housing is a key part of the Whanau Ora vision.

Over the last week, I have been reflecting upon the korero from my beloved cousin, the late Rangitihi Tahuparae. And I must thank Te Rau Matatini for reminding me of this saying, because I heard it again recently at a wananga that I attended last week.

My cousins words were:

Me hoki ki nga paiaka.

Mai i te urunga o Ngai Tāua te iwi Māori ki roto i ngā kāwai mātauranga ō Tauiwi, ina, honotia te peka Māori ki te rākau rāwaho, he rerekē tōna hua me te rongo ō tōna kiko, he kawa.

Kāti, tēnei te whakahoki ki ngā paiaka ā kui mā, ā koro mā.

Let us return to our origins.

Since the time we as Maori were immersed in the knowledge streams of tauiwi, we have become like a branch, grafted to a foreign tree, producing fruit of a different quality and somewhat unpalatable. It is time that we returned to the rootstock of our ancestors.

I love the vision that Tahu left, and I wanted to share it with you today. For two reasons.

Firstly, I want you to know, that these words, which are dear to my heart, will guide my directions in my role as Minister over the next three years. Secondly, I wanted to ask you here today – are you ready and prepared to take this journey with me?

I specifically asked for the role of Associate Minister of Housing because I could clearly see, that if we are serious about looking after our whanau here in Aotearoa, then we need to deal with the issue of housing.

A warm, safe and healthy place to live is more than an aspiration – it is a right that we all share.

We must absolutely be addressing the social housing needs of our people. We need healthy homes to raise healthy whanau; we need housing security; and to improve the issue of affordability and accessibility so that we can create sustainable housing solutions.

However, my challenge to all of us, is to do this is in a way which holds fast to our tikanga, our traditions and heritage, and takes us forward to living the way our tupuna taught us, so that we may produce outcomes for whanau that cater to our views on wellbeing.

It is not for me to tell you what that looks like. In fact, my expectation is that over the next few years, you will tell me what this looks like within your hapu, your iwi, your community.

Many of you have already considered this, and are also well on the way to implementing those visions. For you, I want you to think hard about the journey that you took or that you may still be on, and to tell me how we could look at making that road easier for Trusts who have similar aspirations for their whenua and for housing projects.

The opening of the Moerewa housing development I went to today is one example of an iwi organisation who has walked that path. There are many other examples across the country, and in my own area we also have many developments, such as the Whare Kohatu project at Pungarehu marae through Te Urumingi Whanau Ahu Whenua Trust.

One of the things that we, as tangata whenua, know about each other – is that there is no universal ‘Maori’ view on anything. That each marae, and each hapu and iwi have different aspirations, and different ways of doing things which will fit those aspirations.

In the past, governments have not understood this. They have instead, created programmes, and criteria which layer by layer have added heaviness upon our people. We seek outcomes, when governments sometimes want to see outputs. We seek holistic solutions, whereas governments, for many years, have separated health from environment from housing and so forth.

This is the context that my generation, and yours have been born into, which makes our task even more difficult.

If we are truly to return to our origins, and the roots of our ancestors, we need to slowly regenerate. We need to take the time to consider what housing really means for our whanau, for the wellbeing of our whenua and hapu, and how we will all work together to make this a reality.

We are the people of the land – the tangata whenua, and we have responsibilities to that land, to our awa, to our marae, and to our people. My hope is that during the course of this hui, you will talk about what that looks like to each of you, and find the solutions that will move every element of our wellbeing forward.

My role will be to work towards preparing the Government to better respond to those aspirations.

I am sure many of you have read the Auditor Generals report on the effectiveness of government planning and support for housing on Maori land which was produced last year.

I am also sure that none of you will be surprised by the main conclusions within that report which highlight that the process for building houses on multiply owned Maori land is complicated; there is difficulty in raising finance for building purposes; Government initiatives are not effectively targeted; processes are not streamlined and agencies are not learning lessons from unsuccessful policies of the past.

Over the next three years, one of my key roles will be to address these issues. And I am looking forward to the challenge. We will be looking at better co-ordinating government agencies with a view of creating a single point of contact for Maori who want to build housing on their land; working with local authorities to see how we can build more flexibility into district plans to allow housing to be built on Maori land; and through the Department of Building and Housing finding better ways of targeting financial support programmes.

One specific example that we are already starting, is a review into the kainga whenua housing assistance policy.

I will also be looking at specific projects that aim to promote whanau, hapu and iwi as housing providers; and how we can support building the capacity of Maori organisations that plan to participate in housing.

My intention is to prepare the Government to better respond to Maori housing needs, with the support of the Maori reference group on housing, and other key stakeholders, such as Maori or whanau trusts, the iwi leaders group sub-committee on housing, as well as individual iwi who wish to pursue housing projects.

Perhaps then, the most critical role I will play, is that of advocate for the many aspirations that we have, as tangata whenua, at the highest level of government.

So on that note, I will leave you with a simple question – me ahu pehea tatou te iwi Maori? How will we move forward from here?

So I congratulate Te Matapihi for this much needed initiative of bringing people together to focus on housing. It is exciting for all of us here, who are eternally linked through the promise anticipated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi that this korero is held here, at the birthplace of our nation. And I mihi to you for your intentions, your aspirations and your desire to be inclusive.

I am particularly moved by the concept of Te Matapihi. Apart from the obvious function of bricks and mortar, we think of the many functions we associate with a window.

It is time to uphold article 3 rights – that tangata whenua deserve every opportunity to live and enjoy the same rights as every New Zealander – warm healthy homes, where windows open and shut – they let the sunshine in and keep us sheltered from wind and rain.

Matapihi are also about the protection of taonga – our article two rights to live as Maori, to restore our collective rights and responsibilities to one another, to assert tangata whenua approaches as the solutions.

And finally matapahi are about creating the chance to fling open our window to the world – to look at all the opportunities and initiatives whether they be indigenous inspired or the latest call for expressions of interest in social housing.

Today, is your moment, Te Matapihi he tirohanga mot e iwi – I am extremely proud to be here with you as you set forth, to help us all, whanau, hapu, iwi, take up every opportunity to carve a pathway forward.


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