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Another message from our chair

16 May 2018

FROM THE DESK OF THE CHAIRPERSON

Another three Districts have now filed their final returns. I am encouraged by the calibre of those involved.

The hui of the New Zealand Māori Council itself is now scheduled for 7-8 July at the Brentwood Hotel in Wellington. The agenda and meeting papers will be circulated after the remaining District Māori Councils have submitted their election returns.

The newly elected New Zealand Māori Council promises a new look with new blood and a renewed commitment to the vision of Māori community and policy development. The New Zealand Māori Council holds fast to the fact that its strength comes from the grassroots of the Māori Committees.

In this light, the Ngai Te Rangi-led Hikoi ki Paremata, last Monday, is a timely reminder of the strength of the people and the importance of tikanga. The hikoi was in protest against Crown plans to reassign Ngai Te Rangi land to other iwi. It was also in protest against the way the Crown manages Māori matters. The Tribunal has found that Hauraki have customary interests in Ngai Te Rangi territory, but does this mean that Hauraki has a right to lands in the area? The right answer will depend on the full facts, but the bigger concern is who will make the decision. Too often it is the Crown, but how equipped is the Crown to deal with these distinctly cultural questions when the decision is made by bureaucrats with no experience in Māori matters, abetted perhaps, by a Māori in government employ.

Think then of some of the consequences from such an arrangement. Te Atiawa was awarded land in the heart of Rangitane at Palmerston North because of losses sustained in Wainuiomata. Kahungunu-Rangitane got land at Mangakino for the loss of lake Wairarapa. Tuhoe got land in the territory of Tuwharetoa, Te Arawa in the land of Ngāti Awa and so on and so forth. Nothing in this is different from the exercise of a bureaucratic power that saw the Israelis placed in Palestine.

The message must be clear. Let Māori decide Māori matters, and most of all, let Māori decide the process by which the decision will be made.

All power and support for Ngai Te Rangi then, for seeking a better mode of decision making.

But equally, all power to the Government for addressing the issue in a way that no government has done since Hon Matiu Rata floated the Waitangi Tribunal, in 1975. At the heart of all this is a question of how Māori and the Crown relate to one another. Now, the new Ministry on Crown-Māori relations could lead the way. Should the Ministry bring together the best minds in Māori custom and tradition to advise government on the true application of tikanga Māori, in substitution for the bureaucrats who have managed these issues in the past? The old Council debated the issue last year. The new one may need to propose an answer.

Taihākurei (Eddie) Durie

Chair, New Zealand Māori Council

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