Speech: Māori Legal, Business and Governance Forum

I’m honoured to be here as the first Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti.

I understand many of you are keen to hear what this portfolio’s all about. I think that kōrero is also relevant to the kaupapa you’re all here to discuss over the next couple of days, so I’ll start there.

The creation of the portfolio signals the Government’s focus on opportunities for partnerships and better engagement between the Crown and Māori on matters of mutual interest.

To achieve this focus, the government has approved the following initial priorities for the Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti:

  • ensure the Crown meets its Treaty obligations;
  • develop a new engagement model and guidelines for the Government and public sector;
  • co-design partnerships, principles and frameworks to ensure that agencies generate the best solutions to issues affecting Māori;
  • ensure public sector capability is strengthened across the board;
  • provide a cross Government view on the health of the Māori Crown partnerships;
  • provide strategic leadership on contemporary Treaty issues;
  • other matters including the constitutional and institutional arrangements supporting partnerships between the Crown and Māori: and
  • continue to take the lead in organising significant Māori and Crown events, ie Waitangi Day.

 As Minister, I see these priorities as a means to improve the Māori Crown relationship by doing things differently and not repeating the mistakes of the past.

 Those mistakes include instances where governments decided they knew what was best for Māori, sat in Wellington and wrote up a strategy, then went out to whānau, hapū, and iwi and told them what the government had decided will be in their best interests.

That approach has never worked. So I took the time to travel around the motu and ask what we needed to do to strengthen the relationship, and what my priorities as Minister should be.

There was a lot of interest and enthusiasm to give me answers to those questions.

The hui ran from March to June. I held 20 public hui and 11 focus groups attended by over 1600 people, and received around 230 written submissions.

Some of you may have even participated in that process.

The overwhelming theme emerging from that engagement was that Māori desire a closer relationship with the Crown – one of partnership.

This doesn’t mean shared governance. The Crown is still the Crown and its obligations are unchanged.

To me partnership simply implies shared responsibility by the Crown bringing its support to the table, and Māori their motivation.

I have now finalised the scope of the portfolio based on what I heard, and happy that this has recently been confirmed by Cabinet.

Cabinet has also agreed to establish an agency to oversee Government’s work with Māori in a post-settlement era.
The agency, to be called the Office for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti, will help facilitate the next step in the Treaty relationship – moving beyond the settlement of Treaty grievances into what it means to work together in partnerships.
 
The name reflects feedback from the hui that Māori should appear first in the relationship. Te Arawhiti, refers to the transition phase we are in, that is ‘the bridge’ between Māori and the Crown.
 
Capability and capacity
During my engagement on the portfolio, much of the discussion was around capability and capacity. A common narrative was the need to build capability and capacity to fully realise Māori potential or make the most of opportunities available.

But too often this narrative is focussed on building Māori capability and capacity just to engage with the Crown and its processes.

I recall one comment in particular.

One of several focus groups I met with was made up of Māori business owners and entrepreneurs. At one stage we talked about the opportunities the Crown can make available to assist Māori business owners to be successful.

The response I received was: “We don’t need Crown assistance to be successful as business owners. We just need the Crown to get out of the way.”

That comment – and many others like it – made me realise that Māori can and are lifting their own capability and capacity.

Māori have been navigating and adapting to Crown processes since 1840, and continue to do so in the increasingly post-settlement environment we find ourselves in.

Fora like this prove it. The Māori economy is estimated to be around $50 billion – testament to the capability of Māori to capitalise on opportunities if they have the economic base to do so.

The Crown is actively supporting that through the work done by the Minister for Māori Development, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, and her officials at Te Puni Kōkiri.

Supporting Māori capability and capacity-building will always be a priority for the Crown.

But what I think is missing is the Crown’s need to build its own capability and capacity to engage with and support Māori as partners. That’s what I want to focus on as Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti.

Partnership
For too long the Crown has expected Māori to come to its table. In establishing the Māori Crown Relations portfolio, I want to change that narrative.

If the relationship between Māori and the Crown is to be one of partnership, both sides need to be committed to understanding the other and working collaboratively with the other.

This is why one of my key responsibilities is ensuring public sector capability is strengthened.

I propose to do this by developing and testing a number of modules to support the public sector’s capability to better engage and partner with Māori.

The modules include improving cultural capability (te reo me ngā tikanga Māori) and recognising unconscious bias.
An important aspect of this is the way the Crown engages with Māori. So I am also developing a framework to guide Ministers’ and public-sector agencies’ engagement with Māori, alongside engagement, co-design, and partnership principles to ensure agencies generate optimal solutions to issues.

These modules will be complementary with the upcoming State Sector Act reforms led by my colleague, Hon Chris Hipkins, the Minister of State Services.

This work also has a focus on lifting the public sector’s capability to support the Crown in meeting its Treaty obligations.
One of the aims is to better set out expectations, which are likely to include things like the State Services Commissioner and Chief Executives building cultural competence and supporting Māori public servants into leadership positions.

It will take time for this to become the new status quo.

A lot of work needs to be done to reach that point. But already I am seeing a real willingness on the side of the Crown to pick up this wero.

Innovation in a post-settlement environment
I recently attended the Ngati Porou – Crown Summit for 2018. The Summit provides an opportunity to give effect to a Relationship Accord that Ngati Porou has with the Crown through their Treaty settlement.

Collaboration to deliver improved outcomes is the underlying spirit of the Accord, and the Summit was this Government’s first opportunity to give effect to that intent for Ngati Porou.

I heard a number of issues Ngati Porou is facing right now. But there was one kaupapa in particular that struck a chord with me: the need for health equity for Ngati Porou.

Being so isolated on the East Coast, combined with poor infrastructure in the rohe, Ngati Porou die younger and suffer more.

They want this to change. They want health equity for their people.

To improve health access and service in the rohe, Ngati Porou have developed their own health service model of care. It has been developed independently by Ngati Porou, based on their own tikanga, and with community at its heart.

So Ngati Porou asked the Crown for help. But they didn’t ask the Crown for the solution to this issue; they just asked the Crown to work with them to develop a business case to support the model.

As I mentioned earlier, this is what Māori are already capable of.

This is the type of initiative that PSGEs are leading. The Crown can support this innovation by removing the obstacles in the way of their success.

So that’s what we did; we committed to supporting their business case. And not just by throwing money at it, but by actively working together with Ngati Porou.

The Crown committed to collaborating with Ngati Porou through the Ministry of Health to achieve the outcomes Ngati Porou desire for their people. To me, this is partnership in action.

Of course, that’s just the first step. The real test of the Crown’s capability will be in the work that is achieved with Ngati Porou and continued relationships that are forged.

It is my hope that, with my focus on lifting Crown capability, and the growing willingness I am seeing across the Crown, that collaborative, innovative projects between Māori like Ngati Porou and the Crown will be successful – to the benefit of us all.

Closing
That is my message to you – the Māori legal, business, and governance leaders of today and tomorrow: the Crown has a lot to learn from you. Fora like this prove that Māori are already leading the way in the approach to modern business.

You refute the well-worn narrative that Māori need handouts to lift their capability and realise their potential.

I say it’s the other way around: the Crown needs to follow your example.

Build its own capability and capacity, be open to collaborating and working together, innovate and explore new ways of doing things.

The Crown is supporting Māori development through the work done by my colleague, Minister Mahuta, and Te Puni Kōkiri, which must continue.

But I see a gap on the Crown’s side of that relationship – a need to develop its own capability to engage with and support Māori.

So while you discuss how to support the growing success of the Māori economy, the Crown is having the same conversation.

We are listening to you, and working on lifting our game to be the Treaty partner we need to be.  

Nāku te rourou, nāu te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi – with my food basket and yours, the people will flourish.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.