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Speech: Federation of Maori Authorities Annual Conference

Speech: Federation of Maori Authorities Annual Conference - Tariana Turia

Federation of Maori Authorities Annual Conference

Te Taura Whiri; He Taura Tangata; Te Taura Ki te Whenua

My Life in Parliament and Returning Home

Friday 26 September 2014; 8.30pm

War Memorial Hall; Whanganui

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• Her Worship the Mayor, Annette Main;

• The Chief Executive Officer of FOMA, Te Horipo Karaitiana;

• FOMA Chair, Traci Houpapa;

• FOMA Members of Aotea and nationwide.

There has never been a better time for the theme of this conference to sound in the hearts and minds of tangata whenua. Our connections to one another; our inseparable, irreplaceable bonds to the land, to the people, to te Ao Māori can never be severed, no matter how deep rifts may appear.

As we say in this rohe ‘e rere kau mai te awa nui mai i te kahui maunga ki Tangaroa. Ko au te awa ko te awa ko au!’

Essentially, I am the river and the river is me –our connections to one another are embedded deep within our history, our whakapapa; our land.

The relationships we foster within and between us are pivotal to who we are.

Yet if we cast our memories back to the weeks just gone, the health of our relationships appeared to be under serious threat.

One headline stood out after Saturday night. Dion Tuuta highlighted the conundrum: “Election shows serious lack of confidence in ourselves”.

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By anyone’s accounts it was a most unusual election.

Hone Harawira appears to have been punished for compromising the integrity of a Maori seat through an ill-conceived alliance with an outsider.

Labour leader David Cunliffe introduced a bizarre political stunt into the campaign by ruling out working with Maori.

Yet despite his refusal to let Maori into his tent, Maori voters curiously decided to place their vote with a party that would suffer its worse defeat in 92 years.

Maori were prepared to forgive and forget the injustice of the foreshore and seabed; the riots against Tuhoe; the refusal to sign the declaration on the rights of indigenous people; and instead render six of the seven Maori seats impotent with their MPs trapped in the opposition wasteland.

One of my whanaunga, Retihiamatikei Cribb put it even more succinctly in a facebook post :

“Māori will never learn. Like a beaten wife they go back for more, believing they can’t do without that particular partner. Either way Māori are again the biggest losers in a democratic system. Politics should be a must for mokopuna to learn through the education system if we are ever to see through the muddy waters of fear and lies”.

These are harsh words that make us draw our breath as we try to move forward from an election in which a staggering 45 percent of Māori failed to even make it to the ballot box.

So how do we make sense of the 2014 Election; regroup; come back together and do what we must all do to advance our people’s interests.

The answer I know lies in our own sources.

And so I come back to the theme of this hui.

That theme connects me instantly to our own tribal wisdom, he muka no te taura whiri a Hine Ngakau – a thread from the woven rope. The people up and down the river are so closely intertwined that it is akin to a woven rope; each thread connected as descendants of our common tupuna, Hine ngakau.

Tamakehu and his wife Ruaka had three children:

• Hine ngakau of the upper river;

• Tama Upoko who settled in the middle reaches and

• Tupoho, associated with the lower Whanganui.

Carvings on our tribal whare at Putiki and Ngapuwaiwaha depict a rope of three strands representing the three river sections which come together as an integrated living whole; binding our peoples together. The ever constant flow of the river reminds us that when our separate threads come together, we can maximize the strength.

How do we apply this tribal metaphor, then, to the forecast ahead for the Federation of Maori Authorities and the membership you serve?

I see on your programme a rich change agenda of stories to build a nation: stories of leadership; of the impact of law; the dynamics of the board; the PKW Maori Dairy Story. You will learn about Silver Fern Farms from Farm Gate to Plate; a glance at Morikaunui Inc; lessons from Atihau Whanganui Inc; and a theme of Governance leadership and Sustainability.

What does any of that have to do with what happened last Saturday?

I would suggest that the political agenda and the business growth agenda are intimately linked.

When FOMA was established some 28 years ago, under the direction of Sir Hepi te Heuheu and other esteemed elders, the motivation was very much driven by a call for Maori to come together to strategise on the way we protect our lands and seek new opportunities.

So how do we bridge the gap between what may seem irreconcilable differences on our political landscape and the sense of kotahitanga Sir Hepi was seeking in a business context?

Yesterday I had the privilege of spending some time with a pharmacist from the North, Dr Maryanne Baker. In her korero with me she passed on some learnings she had acquired through her time in the company of tohunga and kaumatua, including Ta Hemi Henare. Ta Hemi once asked her whether she understood the meaning of Te Kore. He threw open the window and asked her to look outside and tell him what she saw.

His young prodigy replied that she saw nothing. To which Ta Hemi replied, look again. What about the crystal blue sky and the puffs of cloud?

It is all about training the mind to see.

When we think then about the future of the Maori economy – on one hand we may see it in purely fiscal terms, valued at $37 billion dollars with significant potential to lift New Zealand’s economy.

But if we act in isolation of one another and only focus on our own situation we are inevitably missing the opportunity to make broader collective gains.

This hui is a good time to ask ourselves, what are the opportunities that we are missing because we fail to see?

What might we find if we search beyond Te Kore – and be willing to look anew at the context around us?

Twenty years ago, in the first week of the Waitangi Tribunal hearings into our river claim, my late cousin Matiu Mareikura, explained to the Tribunal that the maintenance of relationships between the various hapu was a matter of health and wellbeing for all. He said:

“It is ultimately important to have those inter-hapu, inter-whanau, intertribal links and relationships. They are important for our wellbeing because it’s not good for Ngati Rangi to be okay and Ngati Tupoho not to be. It’s no good for Hinengakau to be okay when Tamaupoko is not okay. It’s important that we all know this. We need one another for strength, we need one another to be able to hold ourselves together, as a people, as a tribe”.

I truly believe that if we genuinely want a more productive, innovative and internationally connected Maori economy we need to improve collaboration and focus on the flow of relationships – from the pa harakeke the whanau, right through our local landscapes, and across multiple generations and lines of descent. We cannot and must not operate in isolation of one another.

Last year, 35 senior Maori business leaders spent a week at Stanford University where they were exposed to world-class business phenomenon and mentors.

One reflection particularly stuck out. In her takeout conclusions about the value of the Stanford Boot camp, Riri Ellis, the Manager of Treaty settlements for Te Runanga o Ngai Te Rangi identified that the future of Maori business is all about relationship building – relationships are the game changer.

This concept – the significance of our relationships with one another has been paramount in our approach as a political movement; a movement founded on the sacred value of kaupapa such as kotahitanga, whanaungatanga, manaakitanga, kaitiakiatanga.

Whanau Ora is essentially about the transformation of our whanau, through, by and with the strength of their own tribal connections driving the change they need to see.

In another example, in Maori and Pasifika Trades Training we have established a consortia approach based on a partnership between Maori and Pasifika organisations, tertiary education organisations, employers, and Maori and Pasifika learners. The aim is for the training to be aligned to the needs of both employers and learners; the new approach proving successful because of the widespread ownership for apprenticeships and sustainable employment.

Sometimes the connections we may create may not necessarily be bonds that are popular or fit with the way we have done things in the past. That was the point Dion Tuuta made, that for many Maori voters they are simply not ready to consider a place at the governance table with anyone other than a left-leaning government.

Dion concluded that adhering to our old-established conventions of being trapped within one particular ideology – be it left or right – does nothing more than entrench an ‘us and them’mentality; inevitably creating winners and losers.

Maybe it’s time for a different approach – a time to move forward, collectively, focusing on our mutual aspirations rather than look left, look right, at all that divides us.

I am suggesting that if we as tangata whenua are really keen to advance ourselves out of the position we find ourselves in now, we need to take the risk of a different approach; an approach founded on faith in building relationships; relationships focused on outcomes.

We need to focus on what unites us, not what separates us.

And surely what unites us all, is the best interests of our mokopuna?

The Maori Party has been interested in testing the concept of social impact bonds which would pay out on measurably improved social outcomes such as reductions in alcohol and drug use or improved financial stability. Basically the concept of the social bond invests in agreed performance outcomes with payment based on results.

We’d love to see iwi investing with the state for mutually agreed returns – it is a concept worth exploring.

Both sides coming together, to focus on what is right.

We believe our nation needs to get to the point where we can all agree that investing in whanau is good for the books.

Investing in Maori economic development is good for our national set of accounts.

Investing in Maori regional development - in a Maori development agenda – is ultimately good for New Zealand.

The point is, we need to trust in ourselves; restore to ourselves the faith in Maori being able to advance on our own steam– and not needing to be captured under the coat-tails of a mainstream political party or a foreign investor who effectively rewrites our agenda.

We need to move forward on our terms.

We must get to a point when we can open the window, look at the sky and the clouds, and realize the opportunities right in front of us.

My greatest regret in Election 2014 was that our people could have used their political leverage to build on the momentum we have only just begun to see through avenues such as Whanau Ora; He Kai Kei Aku Ringa; the refocusing of Te Puni Kokiri; the Rural Regeneration Fund in Housing; He Korowai Oranga in health; even the mechanism we have established through the Ministerial Committee on Poverty.

If we had applied our strategic self to the voting process we could have placed Maori in the kingmaker position, mobilizing the Maori vote in a way which would generate the best gains for our people.

Finally, I want to leave you tonight, with another meaning to te taura whiri a Hine-ngakau.

Our people think of that taura whiri as a spliced rope, entire from source to mouth.

But we know too, that a spliced rope, if broken, can be made whole again. In his wonderful book,Woven By Water, Histories from the Whanganui River, David Young talks about the process of the spliced rope as a metaphor for life.

“Occasional disunity is understandable. But like most peoples whose lives are close to nature, their patterns resemble those of nature.

For the length of the river the story is about connection and disconnection, alliance and fragmentation, coupling and uncoupling, realignment with the focus shifting, dynamic”.

In other words, challenge and conflict are merely part of the ebb and flow of life; what matters is what we do with the opportunity to come back together again.

My own journey has always been staunchly focused on the best interests for our whanau, hapu, and iwi - whatever it takes. Our families from home were astounded when in 1996 I first considered standing for Labour – much like many outsiders failed to fathom why in 2008 the Māori Party would consider a relationship with National.

The point is, I never took my focus off the people that mattered most – our whānau – the mechanism by which we chose to make progress was always the means to make that difference – not the end.

Whether it was red or blue, left or right was incidental to the main aim.

The Maori Party – while determined to retain the essence of our autonomy as a strong and independent voice for Maori has appreciated any opportunity to work with others that will enable the aspirations of our whanau, hapu and iwi to flourish.

We are at the cusp of realizing incredible opportunity within the Maori economy but to advance fully, we must take all our whanau along with us; we must focus on collective outcomes and we must be prepared to acknowledge the relationships that maximize our strength and consolidate a sense of unity.

The taura whiri is a powerful metaphor. I am so pleased that this conference is committed to building on the pragmatic wisdom of working together in pursuit of the collective interest.

Tena tatou katoa


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