1998 Services Attaches And Advisers Group Tour Of New Zealand

  • Georgina te Heuheu
Maori Affairs

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen

Whither Maoridom? - What future Maoridom?
Thank you for inviting me to meet with you and share my views on this topic. I am sure that many of you who have spent some time in our country will have come to some conclusions yourselves on what may lay in store for Maoridom in the future.

What do we have here?

It is important for us to firstly consider what Maoridom is in 1998, where it fits in New Zealand, and where it fits in the World, before we can predict where it should be or how it might improve.

In the most recent Census, from a Total Population of 3.8 million - 524,000 New Zealanders identified themselves as Maori or the descendants of Maori.

The Census shows us that the Maori population is growing more rapidly and in different ways to the general population. It will have significant impact on a range of areas including education, health and social needs, as well as the age composition of the Labour Force. Earlier this year, a report released by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Hon Tau Henare, "Closing the Gaps", identified the disparity between the social and economic condition of Maori people to the general population. From health, education, employment and justice issues the figures were sobering. They are not issues that concern only Maori however. Indeed the figures are far more relevant to the development of our country than many people seem to realise, it is therefore timely that the Government has recently established a group of social policy Ministers to specifically target these disparity issues.

The important point to note about the Census figures and the report on disparities is that the Maori population is generally younger, less educated, less trained for work, less employed and less healthier than the wider population. This presents real challenges for the country's politicians.

To many the notion of Maoridom is a misnomer, a modern term of convenience popularised in the past 20 or 30 years. Neither at the time of early settler contact, nor today has Maori society been organised nationally. The linkages between the many groups in the country were well known and widely celebrated, but the often isolated communities based around kinship and commerce were widely distributed throughout the country. These communities were known as hapu or whanau depending on their size, and held looser affiliations to iwi, the greater tribe, and wider relationships, like waka or canoes.

These collective communities provided security, safety and provision. It was with the leaders of these communities that the British Settler Government treated with in signing the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

A number of people now argue that since these were the institutions recognised in 1840 for the purposes of the Treaty of Waitangi, that they should now also be the basis of continuing relations between the Crown and Maori in the modern era.

But Maori people and Maori culture must, like any other culture, change to deal with changing circumstances. Maori people should be proud of their culture because it is dynamic and adaptable, not static and stoic. There is no denying the vibrancy and relevance of iwi and hapu as institutions in the early history of New Zealand, or even nowadays. But to suggest that they are the most relevant of institutions to all Maori people is to try and return Maori people to an age gone by. It does not properly recognise the changing nature of Maori communities and the modern needs they have.

Fortunately, most Maori are adaptable and have found ways to look after themselves and their own. They have found or formed new institutions and these organisations have replaced the areas in their lives where hapu or iwi may once have held sway. To many people schools, haka teams, urban trusts and even clubs have become more relevant than their hapu or iwi and their associated institutions.

As we embrace the changing nature of Maoridom and changing relevance of our culture to our people, we can in turn become more comfortable with that change and participate fully in it.

Over recent years the changes in our wider communities have shown the deficiencies in modern interpretations of Maori leadership, and it is important that we recognise that it is all right for us to change ancient models to deal with the changes in modern society. It is not a failing of a culture if its form struggles to cope in a modern world, it is a failing however if we refuse to adapt and pretend that change is unnecessary. A sign of a strong culture is its ability to change. There are already positive signs that leadership is once again becoming more inclusive. It will be of interest to you I know to learn that in traditional Maori society, leadership was not limited to men. In Maori tradition, the roles of men and women were complementary and developed on the principle of balance, recognising that only the valued contributions of each could ensure the well-being and stability of the group.

Maori culture is dynamic, it is adaptable, it is flexible, it is not stuck in the past, however noble an era that time may have been.

So what do Maori want?

Maori people are not as different to you all as you might be lead to believe. They are born and raised in families like yours, they may hold different values but the basis of these is not much different to the tenets of your own communities. In our modern society they hope for the same things as most other people, the chance to provide for themselves and for their own, and in the process to make a positive contribution to their communities.

The Treaty of Waitangi claim and settlement process has dominated much of the discussion on Maori Pakeha relations in the past 10 to 15 years. And these processes have also dominated the Government's approach to Maori issues in general. The National Government since 1990, and the National lead Government since 1996, have been working toward the resolution of Treaty claims, leading the World in an area without any real precedence. This required considerable courage and foresight of the consequences were this task not undertaken. This process attempts to deal with past injustices and the grievances resulting, in order to restore to Maori a sense of Justice, and faith in the system of Government that we inherited from Britain. In addition, the settlements offer Maori and economic opportunity for the future, they are a beginning, the beginning of a more worthwhile and shared future for all of New Zealand. They recognise the special place of Maori as tangata whenua in Aotearoa - New Zealand, a people who have a unique contribution to make to that shared future.

Turning to the current Government focus, I am pleased that my government is now turning its attention to what I consider to be the most important issues facing Maori people. Their Health, their Wealth and their Wisdom. We want to help all Maori people become healthy, wealthy and wise.

Treaty issues are important and it is right to address them, but to many people the everyday issues faced by families are indeed the most pressing. The provision of a healthy environment, the literacy and numeracy of children, the preparation of young people for work, and the development of an environment which promotes and rewards enterprise, are the areas where we must focus our attention. After all, it is these issues which keep Mums and Dads awake a night, not the constitutional affairs of state, however important we might think they are.

The Treaty settlement process can contribute to these areas, by way of positive development,, but there is so much more to be done, not just by Government, but by Maori and by New Zealanders generally. We all have something to gain from the development of Maori people, whether it is a more productive society or even a larger workforce. If we are to share a future together, we must first develop the basis of that future. John Stuart Mill said, in his book "On Liberty",

"Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit."
My own legal background reminds me of the celebrated jurist Hoehfeld, who said,

"For every right there is a responsibility, for every privilege received a duty is owed."
And in a Maori context an often quoted phrase,

"Ko tou rourou. Ko taku rourou. Ka ora te iwi."
In English,

"With your contribution and mine, we shall all prosper."
These three quotes show us that this approach is not foreign to any of us in the context of our modern lives.

I want all New Zealanders to recognise the stake they have in the future, so that we all work on it together, the old adage that

- "people get the society they deserve"

is as true as ever. If we want a worthwhile community then lets get on with building it together. If we ignore each other, it will be to the detriment of us all.

So how do we start?

The function of Government is not to confer well-being on people, but to provide an environment that gives people the opportunity to develop well-being for themselves. But that does not mean we should remove ourselves from what needs to be done. Good government should provide an environment that encourages opportunity and development. When it comes to the needs of Maori people they are more or less the same as everyone else.

We need to equip our younger generations with useful education and training so they can take a worthwhile and productive place in the development and future of our country;
We need to engender the value of a work ethic, because all good things come from hard work. Work, however humble is a virtue;
We need to develop and encourage thrift, so we can save what we earn. Savings bring security not just to individuals but also to countries;
We must encourage enterprise and reward those who show courage and innovation; and
We should promote good health so we can all participate more fully and for a greater time in the progress of our country. It also saves money, and gives us more time to spend with our children and grandchildren.

If Maori people are to succeed then it will be through the application of these values. And if they succeed they will in turn strengthen the institutions they are part of, whatever the path they choose. This success will provide them with the ability to choose their futures in a way they may not enjoy now.

In 1962, Michael Harrington wrote in "The Other America",

"One cannot raise the bottom of society without benefiting everyone above."
The issues we face in New Zealand need not be seen as racial, the circumstances of Maori people are not all hereditary, they are not all doomed because of race. We must change that attitude where it exists and foster the energies of the whole country. We need to think of how best to take advantage of the opportunities that our society offers us, so that we can all feel part of the same community, that we all have something to gain and lose in the successes and failings of each other.

So, to the question Whither Maoridom? Without Maoridom whither New Zealand?