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Waitetoko – Steaming Water

tim-barnettTim Barnett
Chief Executive
National Building Financial Capability Charitable Trust

For most weekends this year my partner and I have been travelling from Wellington up and down to Tauranga-Taupō, a small settlement about a third of the way up between Turangi to Taupō on State Highway 1. That’s because his (our) hapū, true to the name of its’ marae, has been bubbling away – maintaining that marae (Waitetoko), planning a strategy and structure for the next few years, and mounting a bold bid to amend a Settlement Bill (Tūwharetoa) currently before Parliament.  And playing their part with the 25 other hapū of the iwi, which have come together as the Post Government Settlement Entity; that body is developing its shape, values, character and mission before handling a host of Settlement issues. Including land, iwi advocacy, placement with other organisations aspiring to leadership, building up each hapū to the challenges of a hapū-centred settlement. 

Saying it another way, weekend after weekend we have been burying ourselves in an extraordinary multi-layered experiment in community action and in preparation for community governance.  As a pakeha “add on” to that journey, I often reflect on the extraordinary skills, energy and commitment which I see and engage with all around me when there. It transcends what I have ever experienced before in NGO management. The context is compelling. The drivers are justice, kinship and the realities of a complex settlement process. The prizes include the return of land, of mana, of political influence.  The implications of failure are equally compelling. The vehicles are varied, in response to the diversity of challenge. And of course, the frustrations are equally deep, and the pain heartfelt.

All that is not unknown to those of us working in NGO management in the Wellington bubble. But the reality is so stark.  For example, there is a stretch of the State Highway which incites tension and a tragic sense of loss to our hapū.   It runs through a Bay steeped in history and culture.  It had 753 kinship “owners”. A century ago, it was grabbed by the Crown, handed to the local body to manage, leased out as a caravan park and then – only a couple of years ago – passed into Australian control for the next 20 years with a lease assignment.  Faced with such reality one can only pause to mentally gasp, to reflect and to determine that the new approach can’t come soon enough. To experience the arrival of at least a sense of justice and to feel the rise of Māoridom on its’ long journey back really is seeing some of our well-worn NGO phrases come to life – local is political; he tangata, he tangata, he tangata; and, just occasionally, the tyranny of structure. I reckon that to be living in Aotearoa in 2018 as this extraordinary resurgence of a people gathers pace enrichens every one of us. And for NGOs contains extraordinary examples, fascinating opportunities.

This blog has been contributed by a member of the ComVoices network

ComVoices is a Wellington based network of national community and voluntary sector organisations. It was established so that sector organisations would have a more powerful voice at Government level and in the community.

Click here for our website:  http://comvoices.org.nz/