Travelling around the country from time to time gives me the opportunity to talk with everyday people about the things that matter most to them and their whanau. This has provided some valuable insights into the issues many Maori continue to grapple with. The issues of poverty, unemployment, homelessness, whanau violence, and improved community health services have been just as important to the New Zealand Maori Council as they have been to the new government. The decision to focus our energy on completing our triennial elections process hasn’t been without its challenges. Despite the reservations of some people, we have continued on our campaign to bring our organisation into alignment with our legislation. I am heartened by these results because for the first time in many years we now have a record 125 Māori Committees and Societies elected into place by an increased membership of 870. With all 16 districts now in full operation this is making for an exciting election.
The South Island has taken the lead in this important work with both Te Waipounamu and Te Tauihu o Te Waka being the first districts to notify their appointments to the New Zealand Māori Council. Welcome again to Norm Dewes, Ngaio Te Ua and newcomer Henare Manawatu of Te Waipounamu who are joined by Archdeacon Emeritus Harvey Ruru, Linda Martin and Verna Barrett of Te Tauihu o Te Waka.
The results of the Te Taitokerau elections are of interest given that their district has the largest number of Maori committees in the country. Newcomers such as lawyers Wiremu Puriri and Hiku Taylor-Wineera and longstanding Health advocate, Kim Tito, bring a wealth of new skills and experience into our organisation. From the Waikato we will be joined by Richard Clarke, Mere Devine and newcomer, Grace Hoet.
I remain committed to improving wider participation in our organisation through improved internal communications. As a first step, the contact details of all Maori Committee members have been entered the Maori Council data base. This should allow me to communicate directly with Maori council and committee members and keep you informed of events by emailing out regular panui. In taking this step I can assure you that your personal details are secure in our system and will not be passed on to others – we respect your privacy.
On a similar note we continue to receive enquiries and concern regarding the current poor management of the Māori electoral option, and the drop in Māori enrolments. It is clear to me that the main problem is not Māori complacency, but that Māori are not doing the managing. This view is not inconsistent with similar projects undertaken by government where they have accepted that getting Māori enrolled is a Māori process and Māori processes should be managed by Māori people. The problem in this case is the bureaucrats believing they know what’s right for Maori and failing to understand that to get our people involved you must sit them down and help them with the papers. I am confident we have an army of committee members and Maori Wardens who can be mobilised for the task, despite allegations that we lack impartiality and may be conflicted. The invitation to “send your proposals to me” is disingenuous in that Māori Council wrote months ago to seek an engagement with the electoral commission and didn’t get a reply, despite it being the Maori Council that gave birth to the Māori option policy in the first place.
In the meantime Maori registrations continue to fall. So, despite of the contradictions in the approach being taken by the government, we still need to do something to arrest the decline of Maori enrolling (or re-enrolling) in the Maori Electoral option. Now that we are starting to get our own house in order, I urge each of you to bring your own whanau together and help them to fill out the electoral forms. Remember that all the media hype in the world will not replace engagements with whanau directly. This is the tried and true way Maori harness our political capital to bring about change for our whanau and their communities.
Finally, I want to take this opportunity to welcome our newly appointed Council members and thank you and your members for the support and confidence you have given in recent months Ma te Atua koutou e manaaki ..
Noho ora mai,
Taihakurei Durie KNZM
New Zealand Māori Council