Deck the Halls

On Election Day I worked at the Waiohiki Arts Village with my nephew Lawrence Kingi-Miki, Nathan Rose, Gerard Gunn, and Tipu Tareha. We were digging out pathways in preparation for a new layout to improve access for disabled people visiting or using the Waiohiki Creative Arts venue. Nathan lives on site and Gerard is our neighbour. Gerard and his wife Caroline are valued members of our bi-cultural kainga at Waiohiki. Caroline is an academic, studying for a PhD in health related matters. Gerard started off his professional life as an accountant but found it too exciting and became an auditor – well something like that anyway. Gerard and Caroline brought some property at Waiohiki from Taape’s uncle Boysie Mapu and they set up shop. They have made a valuable contribution to the kainga. Gerard’s got this little mini-digger – it’s really a big boy’s toy. He’d gingerly inched it along the footpath from his home towards the Arts Village, encouraged by the forgiving nature of the vehicle’s rubber tracks, to the back of the village where he could have most effect. He broke the surface of the driveway, scraping the rock-like surface so we could get the requisite depth for the boxing and reinforcing.

 

My brother in law Tipu joined us. Tipu’s recovering from a stroke but can’t tolerate sitting idly by so he pitches in where he can. It was all hard work on a hot Hawke’s Bay day, but somehow a really enjoyable act of physical effort. Apparently those of us driven to volunteerism are stimulated in the anterior prefrontal cortex and, because we are likely to carry the AVPR1a gene, are busy pumping out a hormone called arginine vasopressin. That’s the scientific chemical explanation for this giving behaviour. But, for me, it’s ethereal: it’s about soul, a celebration of vision, a deep sense of togetherness, communion, the quest for community, and in this instance a practical contribution towards the common purpose of building a 21st Century kainga at Waiohiki. Jimmy Baxter called it ‘mahi’ and identified it as one of the seven stones to be used in the slings of modern day Davids in our combat with the spirit crushing goliaths of modern society. This is the essence of altruism; understanding that your individual effort makes a difference.

 

That same day 1 million other New Zealanders seemingly didn’t get off their backsides to make a difference by voting. Maybe it’s not as black and white as that, and I accept that there’s probably a continuum stretching from ennui through to a deliberate silent protest by not casting a ballot. In some ways it also probably suggests a high degree of political illiteracy (to complement NZ’s widespread financial illiteracy). But whatever the reasons, it’s damn frustrating. So much for my “vote or shut up” ‘whakamana’ campaign. That fine old man Tony Haas used to rail about the need to teach civics (including the political process) at schools, and such a poor voter turnout says amen to that.

 

One MP that takes on board the responsibility to promote political education amongst the young is Hone Harawira. Hone has made a practice of bringing young school-aged leaders from his community down to Parliament to let them see and feel the pulse of the House. He deserves to be commended for it.

(photo source: Guide To)

For my part I thought it was a tragedy that Hone split from the Maori Party. He’s an outstanding debater, charismatic, and looks to be a good leader. During the election Hone claimed that Pita and Tariana were disjointed. For a while there it looked as though they might be discombobulated. There was talk that Pita was about to be rolled as co-leader by ‘Jimbo’ Te Ururoa Flavell. Te Ururoa has shown that he has mettle, but it is of a school prefect kind. He seems to favour detention or exclusion as a corrective tool. For instance he wanted to ban gang members from marae, deny the families of those who commit suicide the comfort of tangi, and it was he who prosecuted Hone Harawira for not towing the Party line.

 

In turn Tariana is steely in her resolve. She sometimes comes across as a blend between Boadicea and Princess Te Puia. It is said that she and Pita have had an uncomfortable working relationship. Between the lines one might have read that she could live with a change in co-leadership. Pita might be rolled but she wasn’t going anywhere. However, if Pita was rolled, the scenario might have been that he became so pissed off he walked and caused a by-election to be called, resulting in all likelihood Shane Jones taking the seat. I heard the welling frustration in Pita’s voice when he spoke of trying to balance the competing interests of governing in an MMP environment, of working his butt off for three years for Maori as a group and then being accosted by the town drunk and being called a prick. He was uncompromising about wanting to continue as Minister of Maori Affairs. This is not as Hone claims a ‘baubles’ thing but rather a profound sense of unfinished business.

 

It’s worth reflecting on the possibility that had Hone stayed with the Maori Party (or conversely if Te Ururoa hadn’t initiated the “telling off” process) the Maori Party may well have retained Rahui Katene in the House and ended up holding a real balance of power. The historic record will suggest that Hone lost his way by eschewing the concept of an overriding commitment to the cause of a Maori ‘body politic’. Personally I don’t see how New Zealand can fulfil the promise of the Treaty without a Party dedicated to kaupapa Maori. That’s not to say I disagree with Hone’s Mana Party’s focus on issues of poverty and the need to actively engage all New Zealanders in the economy. Our nation’s egalitarianism is being seriously eroded. Recent research shows a dramatically growing gap between rich and poor in Aotearoa. Hone’s right on the button in this regard.

 

But that’s the same social justice space that’s been traditionally occupied by the Labour Party. The Labour Party will support, include and work for Maori when they are poor or dispossessed. But when Maori enter into the space of utilising their property rights as guaranteed by the Treaty and begin to engage economically as corporations then all hell breaks loose. I’ve noted in these columns before that at some deep intuitive level this use of property by Maori clashes with the Labour Party philosophy of a meritocracy built on a level playing field. ‘Level’ is interpreted by most New Zealanders as being the ‘same’, whereas the seminal speech by a Maori (Tareha Te Moananui), in the New Zealand Parliament in September 1868, pointed out that Maori and their Treaty partners are similar but not the same”.

On that basis, as both Pita and Tariana have confirmed that they will retire, and if Hone can just let up a little so that ill feelings towards him dissipate and can be assuaged, maybe Mana and Maori can hook up together. One field for common ground could be the ‘poverty’ issue. The Maori Party have committed themselves to examining and addressing the issue. Poverty is a relative concept. As the Lord said “the poor will always be with us”. It is not limited to an absence of money. Like ‘Whanau Ora’ it could be reframed in indigenous terms. In the early 1970’s James K Baxter described three metaphorical forms of poverty, personifying them as ‘Nga Pohara (the poor)’ ‘Nga Mokai (the fatherless)’ ‘Nga Raukore (the trees who have had their leaves and branches stripped away)’. Let us see what emerges. In any case it’s going to be a tough Parliamentary term. Finance – the economy and stewardship of it – will be on everyone’s lips. The financial squeeze will come on Maori causes and my Pakeha kith and kin will whine about the cost of ‘special’ deals for Maori and the cost of Treaty Settlements and so forth. Ahem, no commentators have pointed to date that the cost to the nation of the South Canterbury Finance bungle is approaching twice that of the entire cost of Treaty Settlements. If I recall the ‘fiscal envelope’, the cap, was set at $1 Billion. How is it that our best and brightest financial managers and regulators could have got sucked into this scam? We paid out with hardly a blink. It shows you where the bias lies.

 

These are difficult and complex issues and after all, MMP politics requires the art of compromise and intelligent pragmatism. Mier’s theory of synergy is ED = QT x A where ‘ED’ stands for Effective Decision; ‘QT’ stands for Quality Thinking; and, ‘A’ represents the degree of Acceptance. The game plan then doesn’t have to be the best one or even to be philosophically pure or dogmatically correct; it just needs the majority being ready to roll with it. Even though you may have to hold your nose or even swallow some dead rats, over all, the Key question must be “Can you live with it?”

 

On the theme of politics, I recently watched this fantastic documentary, Maori Boy Genius on Maori TV. It was about a 17 year old Maori lad – Ngaa Raunira Pumanawawhiti – who lives in Hastings. He’s interested in politics and he’s bright — a prodigy perhaps. He was schooled through the Kura Kaupapa Maori system and at 13 or so was studying at tertiary level through Te Waananga o Raukawa in Otaki.

Ngaa Raunira Pumanawawhiti

At 15 years of age Ngaa was accepted into the Summer School programme at Yale University and went back for a second stint in the following year. It was both riveting and uplifting viewing as we followed Ngaa through the intellectual, emotional and cultural challenges that confronted him. At one point he’s on Skype talking to his mum and whanau back home, expressing his trepidation about his classes and a paper he had to complete. We are left with a shot of his mum cuddling a younger sibling softly weeping as she thinks, perhaps, of her boy and the fact that he has to – and can only – face this enormous challenge on his own. It was poignant. There was another sequence where Ngaa, microphone in hand, is at the lead of the annual hikoi as it heads up the road towards the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. He’s rarking the crowd up with pithy comments about sell-out politicians. Then at some later point, after some reflection, he’s expressing the tumult in his mind as he grapples with the paradoxes and contradictions of politics. I can’t express what I’m thinking, he says, and if I did, it might be entirely different in a few weeks’ time. Ah, Honesty! Perspicacity! Take it from uncle D young fulla, politics ain’t for you.

 

On the matter of documentaries there’s a BBC one coming up called Strawberries with the Fuhrer. It’s about Helga Tischenko – my 6th Form German Teacher. She and her husband Nick lived just up from our family home in Evans St, Timaru. I can remember walking to class with Mark Henaghan and mimicking her accent. I’d do an impersonation where she would be demanding that I tell her the German for certain English words and her inquisition would end with “Vee haf ways to make you
talk!” Hell, it turns out her father was one of Hitler’s top generals and was executed for war crimes. Many a true word etc…

 

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So, it’s summer; the year’s end. It’s been a big ‘un right from the beginning with our Fatherhood, Gangs, Drugs and Choices hui that led to the Otatara Accord (Beneath the Kahungunu Flag, Feb 2011). For me, too, I made a significant step by laying down my Black Power patch (Kia Pakeke Ahau, June 2011). There was no immediately discernible change in lifestyle but I have noticed my thinking is shifting, and I don’t feel so compelled to drop everything at a call over some gang-related matter. At a meeting yesterday I was commended on the excellence of our Waiohiki Charity Art Auction. It’s nice getting a bit of praise because I tend to think more of the things that went wrong: money that was spent and needn’t have been; people volunteered effort but we weren’t organised enough to utilise them; food was unused whilst we had patrons who left hungry.

 

My overall reflection on the whole year is a bit like that too. I know I’ve worked hard, but have I worked smart? I took on a research project to reflect on the Methamphetamine Free Hawke’s Bay project. I decided I’d try these so called ‘Mode 2’ ‘transdisciplinary methods and went helter skelter running twelve mixed method consultations with some 200 participants. I bit off more than I could chew and I’m still grappling with the data. There is a sense though that the methamphetamine problem is on the turn. I believe we’ve helped. It’s a volatile market though and one consequence of the recent ‘ecstasy’ (and all sorts of other concoctions) bust in Auckland is that users might look for substitute amphetamine type substances (ATS) and go back to or try methamphetamine. Too soon to declare victory on that front then. And what might the ‘next big thing’ in drugs be? It’s here already – it’s called alcohol.

The Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust (CART) in Wellington – I’m the chair – has performed very well. CART aims to improve the health and wellbeing of Nga Mokai, a population sub-group who suffer from severe social and economic disadvantages. CART’s approach taken has been to first establish a sense of being ‘on your side’ with clusters of whanau, and being on hand to help answer their immediate needs. The ethos is that people are full of ‘promise’ that is, positive potential, and that all we have to do is to release that potential and remove barriers so it can flow. The relationship with Nga Mokai laid a platform for CART to customise programmes to support healthy lifestyles. Currently CART works with over 700 people from hard to reach families, taking a ‘holistic’ approach to achieving Whanau Ora including advocating and facilitating whanau into accessing health, social, legal and housing services. We use a process we call “Whanau Future Narrative”. This enables family members and families themselves to specify what ‘whanau ora’ means for them. We then we move into a planning process that establishes goals for improved health through addressing health determinants. As a result, CART has had to develop employment programmes, education programmes, fitness programmes, swimming programmes for children, holiday programmes and holiday programmes.

 

You can witness the shift in the psyche of our Nga Mokai community in south east Wellington: the increase in participation in sport and physical exercise; the preparedness to seek healthy lifestyles; the reduction of rates of offending; the evident desire for achievement on the part of whanau; the professional development and improving capacity of the fieldworkers. Its really pleasing, and, yet there is so much more to do. We’ve already had to adapt to the changing economic environment. Our labour pool, Wellington Workforce, was just not viable once the building market contracted, and sadly we had to wind that up. We’ve had to reduce staff in other quarters as well as Government funding has begun to shrink and, early next year, we’ll have to figure out how to do more with even less. We face a time of succession management as well with staff and trustee changes. It will be challenging.


Back up here in the Bay I also chair the Waiohiki Community Charitable Trust. Prometheus Finance described us, in their recent newsletter as “an excellent example of a progressive, community-based, social business which fosters art and cultural tourism, develop cross-cultural partnerships and encourages enterprise”.

 

Couldn’t have said it better myself. We’ve just put in a new ablution block, and as I mentioned at the beginning of the blog we’re busy putting in pathways and landscaping the site. There are maybe 150 people using the arts village. We run a successful youth development programme and provide a limited social housing service.

 

Still, there’s so so so much to do – and to do better.

 

And then there’s the Waiohiki Marae fundraising project. We’ve raised in the region of $150,000 this year, but, as good as that might be it will take us over 30 years to hit our target at this rate. So, a big year ahead for the Waiohiki Marae as well and smarter effort required.

 

Still, Pythonesque as it may be “always look on the bright side of life”. One way to encourage that is by noting and celebrating our achievements. That’s what we intend to do by way of the Waiohiki Marae Christmas Celebration on December 22.

 

Perhaps the biggest victory in the nation in 2011 was the shared success of the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup. On that basis we have scored the Backing Black Gamezone, a collection of five huge inflatables that replicate all the elements of a game of rugby and the skills required therein. The entire set up takes up 65m x 65m …it’s huge.


The nearest the entire Gamezone set up has come to Napier Hastings is a stint at Te Aute College as part of the RWC Telecom ‘Backing Black Campaign’. The Gamezone toured around the country – 22 towns – during the RWC and around 100,000 people played on it. That the whole complex of games has never been rolled out in either Napier or Hastings is a bit of a paradox as it is the ‘invention’ of a Hawke’s Bay team called ‘Funworks’, led by Rick Kirkland. Rick is driving a concept called ‘Fitness through Fun’. Essentially it’s play whilst getting exercise at the same time. He reckons that the Gamezone is like ‘Bouncy castles on steroids’ which is probably not the sort of metaphor that one might want to promote, but you get the idea. It presents not only a physical challenge but it requires the player to demonstrate the necessary skills as well. One of the things that emerged from the RWC tour is that you can spot kids with skill. Kevin Tamati has been mulling over the potential of the games to catalyse kids into action and to “coach coaches”.

 

The most popular of the five games is ‘Rugby Rampage’ – a rugby themed obstacle course. Two competing players crash through defensive lines, take down the opposition, swerve and sidestep, leap over obstacles and ultimately dive across the posts first. The other games are Dash’n’Dodge, where players from one team run down a gauntlet while the opposing team swing big rugby balls at them; Bungy Touchdown, essentially a horizontal bungy ; Low Down, more or less a game of rugby played on your knees . It promotes tackling with the arms; and, Knockout, where players stand on inflated pods and try and knock each other off by throwing balls.

 

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Anyway, the theme for the Waiohiki Celebration is ‘Korero Awhi’ – that is, “uplifting talk” – so we’ll have people stationed at each game with the task of giving positive feedback to players for their skills and for their effort. The idea is that we will open the gates at noon. It’s a Thursday with kids out of school and basically the day is available for free fun. Later in the day we will have some challenges, dads vs. sons, marae vs. marae, club vs. club. It should be great fun. In the evening we will have kai and a little concert. We’re also going to pay tribute to a local Maori showband called the Shadracks. It’s 40 years this Christmas since their main man Abe Phillips was killed, and we’re playing a radio programme that features their music.

 

In January we are going to stage three ‘talent search’ youth events in the Soundshell on the Marine Parade (20th January, 27th January, 03 February). They will be called ‘Talent Upload’. The idea is to enable young people to perform across any of a number of genres and sub-genres: Music, including bands; solo; acapella; unplugged, choirs; Maori cultural performance; dance; recorded film clips; graphic art as slide-shows.

 

We will teach each crew or act how to capture their performance digitally so it can be uploaded to YouTube and other new media and social networking platforms. Vodafone will supply the technology and will provide prizes for participants. The event will be free to attend, and even though we are targeting youth participants we expect that families will comprise the major audience. It’s part of our quest to promote alcohol free youth events. The Grand Finale of the talent quest will be part of Maori Motown which we’re holding at the Marae on 24th Feb, the eve of the Mission Concert.


Maori Motown – now in its third year – promises to be quite a night. Mr. Dependable Frankie Stevens will be the MC, and we have the deep throated Thomas Stowers with his hot backing group Taste of Fusion. A special guest artist will be Chad Chambers, the “Maori Rod Stewart”. Chad won the Maori TV Homai Te PakiPaki talent quest. He’s got a very funky take on the pronunciation of lyrics and he delivers his words in a very East Coast reggae style. His signature uniform is white gumboots. It’ll be a hoot.

 

 

For Christmas, Taape and I are going out to Ocean Beach to stay with the old lady Hariata (Te Ruru Te Akonga Mohi) Baker and her daughter Dawn. It’s a privilege to share her company and listen to the wisdom she imparts. She’s the last surviving granddaughter of Pukepuke Tangiora, one of the last Century’s famous Maori Matriarchs of the Bay. Pukepuke Tangiora was born in 1853. She farmed her own land and was an early conservationist and environmentalist. She was also an early and active member of the Christian Temperance Union, a trustee of the Kotahitanga Movement and a dedicated member of the Ratana faith. Pukepuke Tangiora died in 1936. Her son Te Akonga Mohi was her successor but tragically he died in 1937.

Pukepuke Tangiora

At that stage the nine children born to him and his wife Peti were meant to inherit what was a huge estate. There seemed to be a paternalistic view that they just couldn’t handle it. Basically from that time onwards the original Will was set aside through an amendment to the Maori Purposes Act (1943). The Governor General would appoint Trustees. It led to sixty years of poor communication and resulted in distrust and discord within the whanau. Sadly it continues to this day.

 

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to support the old lady Hariata in a petition to the Maori Affairs Select Committee to have the original Will revived so that the descendants could at last manage their own affairs. I understand that the petition has been successful. Here’s to healing.

 

In any case the old lady Hariata has demonstrated how to take charge of your assets. Dawn and Hariata were at the forefront of a strong and successful fight against developer Andy Lowe in his attempts to develop a coastal village at Ocean Beach (Waipuka). When the big rain storm hit the ‘Bay earlier this year the area that Andy wanted to build on was absolutely devastated. That indigenous understanding of what is appropriate for a place is invaluable and Andy has picked up on that. He is a committed environmentalist and is passionate about reversing the terrible record of species extinction. At this point Maori interests and Andy’s coincide. Part of his effort has been at Cape Sanctuary where they have built this huge predator proof fence and have successfully rid the internal area of rats and stoats and possums and other introduced species that damage indigenous for a and flora.

 

Having opposed him on one thing the old lady Hariata has supported Andy and his wife Liz in others. In this instance she has been instrumental in liaising with other tribes and hapu who hold indigenous species. Just this week we had a powhiri at Mihiroa marae and welcomed Ngati Raukawa, Port Nicholson, Wellington Tenths, Ngati Awa, Wharekauri, Te Atiawa, Ngati Te Whiti, Ngati Koata, Kai Tahu, Ngati Tuwharetoa and Ngati Hei to celebrate the agreement to relocate tuatara to the Cape, and to welcome transfer of Diving Petrel and Grey Faced Petrel from Motu Mahanga . Andy and other philanthropists like him are creating a hospitable environment for indigenous species whilst trying to balance the realities that go with land utilisation, farming, horticulture, industry and housing. They are doing something else as well; they are creating an environment that is hospitable to human values, particularly indigenous values, and are repairing the torn papyrus of the Treaty. The fact that the native species are recovering and re-establishing in their ancient habitats is an indicator that the human environment, the relationship between our peoples is also recovering, and this is a cause for great hope.

Just as at Waipuka (Ocean Beach) the whanau planning process ignited by the whanau ora programme has catalysed a real energy for return of lands into whanau control. Taape and her cousin Dorrie have been working hard digging through records and succession orders. Crikey, Taape’s dad died some forty years ago – without a will. Just last week they discovered that a Hawke’s Bay accountancy firm had been administering a block of land in which they have shares, collecting rents, and, of course, taking fees. It could have run on like that in perpetuity. There seems to be no device to actively hunt out Maori landowners effectively alienated from their lands by dint of a lack of succession orders. Watch these spaces.

 

Well on the 7th January we’re celebrating Taape’s 60th. This will be a buzz and I’m scheming and dreaming to make it so. While the extended Tareha whanau are around we’ll take the opportunity to do a bit of whanau goal setting and planning. Hold on to your hats.

 

In the meantime I’m working away at reports and planning. Early in the morning and late in the evening I’m out in the garden. I’ve been applying a solution of Neem Tree Oil to the tomatoes and spuds to defeat this prick of a South American bug called Potato Psyllid. It arrived here a couple of years ago. The Psyllid is a light gray-green insect about the size of an aphid. It injects a toxin into leaves as it feeds causing the plant to yellow and the tops die off. It wasted my crops last year, leaving me with little marble-sized spuds and sick looking tomatoes. Not this time – no way José.

 

A more mysterious matter has been the disappearance of my squash and watermelon plants. Each day I’d come out and find another one dug out of its mound or gone altogether. I’d been blaming the puppy from across the paddock possibly sniffing out interesting smells from the compost. However closer observation revealed the true culprits. Quails. A whole noisy covey of them come up from the river and have a right old time munching on my plants. Hmm, stuffed baked quail for Christmas sounds tasty. Be warned birds!

 

Well, friends, whanau, readers at large, that’s all from me in 2011. I pay my respects to those who, during the year, have passed into the long night. Moe mai, takoto mai e nga mate. And to those still in the world of light, thanks to all those who have supported me and the causes I champion. I’d be lost without you. Our efforts are shared. I am blessed.

 

Have a great Christmas, enjoy whanau and friends. Speak uplifting words, words of support, words of care, nga kupu aroha, words of love.

 

Nga mihi ki a koutou.

 

Arohanui. D

 

May those who love us, love us still:
And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He then turn their ankles,
So we’ll know them by their limping.


Tags: Consultancy Advocacy and Research Trust  General Election  Mana  Maori  Ngaa Raunira Pumanawawhiti  Waiohiki Arts Village  

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