How to Break Out

 The month ahead is going to be flat out so I thought I’d jam a few words now in case I lose thoughts and insights during the passage of time. Some good and exciting stuff has been happening in gang land where we seem to be making some progress with employment and improving health, amongst the relatively affable at least. Next week I’m going to sit down with a couple of coppers who we’ve been working with in Wellington to further explore various initiatives we’ve established. These seem to have been effective in reducing crime in the central city amongst one significant crew at least. In this sort of circumstance I’m always conscious of having feet of clay, not only in terms of my own fuck ups but also those of my kith. Make an optimistic claim and soon as it’s said some crap always seems to go down. My reality is that the brothers live on the edge and crime is an ever present possibility. An opportunity for immediate wealth (albeit fleeting and unsustainable) contrasted against a proposition for a long hard slog towards skills and an eventual legitimate income can be just too damn tempting and a brother can succumb. It doesn’t need to be the end of the world. The late Joseph Roberts – you may recall Joseph was a member of the Eagles Foundation with ‘How to Break Out of Prison‘ John Wareham.

Founding Eagle and Chapter President, Joseph Roberts

Joseph came out with John from New York to us (see my blog ‘The Space at the Edge‘ May 2005) and helped with a breakthrough workshop attended by the Mongrel Mob and the Black Power. Joseph took ill here and was diagnosed with terminal cancer not long after his return to the States. Sadly he died last week. Anyway, Joseph used to say that people may not get the positive message the first or even on the second time round, but eventually most do. This view is echoed by Fulbright scholar Prof Howard Zehr the Co-director of the USA’s Centre for Justice and Peacebuilding who is currently visiting the Restorative Justice Centre at the Institute of Public policy at AUT. Zehr reckons that NZ’s got it right in our youth justice system with its emphasis on restorative justice and that taking a chain-gang Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office ‘Arpaio’ approach to our prison system, as currently being advanced by some lobbyists, not only won’t work but is likely to be counter productive. It’s interesting that an Arizona State University study, commissioned by the Sheriff’s office itself and released in 1998, reported that despite Arpaio’s stringent programs there was no measurable effect on recidivism. Moreover despite having a high rate of incarceration promoted in the State Arizona has the highest overall crime rate in the US (Vanderpool. T., Arizona battles top-of-the chart crime rates as meth use increase, Christian Science Monitor. August 18, 2005). It seemed to me that the overall approach was designed to degrade and brutalise the inmates. In 1997 Amnesty International produced an entire report on human rights violations in Maricopa jails.

It’s reassuring as well to see good scholarship and good reporting starting to address what over the past five years has pretty much been a one way discussion, at best a monologue and at worst a moral panic, as far as how we manage crime and punishment in Aotearoa. In my last blog (June 2007) I quoted part of a thoughtful editorial in the New York Times that compared the gang management policies deployed in New York and Los Angeles respectively. It seems that the New York approach is based on what we might call a community development model. Contrasted against Los Angeles, which utilised a suppressive policing approach, New York’s policy seems to be relatively effective. The assessment arises from a comprehensive piece of research and this provides an evidential basis for what have been my gut instinct arguments. I saw too a story carried by the New Zealand Herald (23 August 2007) about the gang policy of the new leftwing Ecuador Government led by President Rafael Correa. Ecuador has decided to recognise the Latin Kings – a heavy hitting crew – as a”cultural and social organisation which will now work alongside the police, social services and churches in the slums”.

At a ceremony with the Mayor of the Capital city, Quito, one of the Latin Kings leaders said that they could now live in the legal world and still have respect.

“It will be a struggle but nothing is impossible. We can make this work.”

As you might imagine the policy has its critics, describing the initiative as ‘mollycoddling hooligans’. Predictably, the gang is also facing a violent internal schism as some members oppose change. To a degree we face these same issues here.

Back in the day my dad saw Richard Pearse’s aircraft at Waitohi. There in South Canterbury facing the same challenges as the Wright brothers at Kittyhawk in the United States a Kiwi thinker was figuring stuff out. These-a-days, fed by global media, we also face the same frontiers of knowledge at the same time. One bit of info seems to be that the international criminal justice industrial complex is a self serving business that feeds its own interests rather than those of society at large. Is there a shift in the wind around crime and punishment?

If you are a devotee of Maori TV you would have caught the documentary on Tigilau Ness, ‘From Street to Sky’. The brother is a remarkable man and I enjoyed the journey down memory lane immensely. At one stage Tigi told of his commitment to action over the deep racist attitudes that seemed to be abroad in New Zealand in the late 1970’s and of his preparedness to match violence with violence and die for the cause as he saw it. He found another route through music. It reminded me of why we undertook the Keskidee Aroha Tour (1979). This project brought out to New Zealand a group of Afro-Caribbean musicians and actors. I had hooked up with them in London in 1977 after a trip to Jamaica to learn about the rising phenomenon of Rastafarianism. I was struck by the way that Keskidee managed to direct their social rage into music and theatre. Instead of blowing things up or smashing perceived enemies through riots they encouraged confrontation and resolution through theatre. On return to New Zealand I worked with others to bring Keskidee to New Zealand. We sent Tigi to London as our representative with the task of tying down the final details of the envisaged tour. We had a saying, “music speaks louder than words” and we had a little icon, a machine pistol that morphed into a guitar. In a historical quirk the project was underwritten by Rob Muldoon and is recorded in Muldoon’s biography by Gustafason as:

O’Reilly, who visited Britain to study its race relations in 1977, persuaded Muldoon in 1978 to go to Islington while the Prime Minister was in England. There Muldoon met the radical West Indian or afro-Caribbean theatre group Kesdkidee. Muldoon helped O’Reilly to bring the Rastafarians to New Zealand where they became a model for Maori theatre with a political cause
(Gustafson 2000:207)

Coronation of Kingi Tuheitia at Waahi Marae,

A contemporary piece of Maori theatre is that provided by the Kingitanga. Whilst Te Ata’s tangi became the focus for the nation the first anniversary of her death and thus the first ‘Coronation’ for Kingi Tuheitia received only modest coverage apart from the Maori media. MTV carried the whole show live and gave those of us who couldn’t attend had the opportunity to watch and listen virtually. It had everything a good TV show requires: politics, poignancy, clowning, drama, and a few things to savour and contemplate later on; the whole gamut. My favourite bit was the sermon by Anglican Bishop Paraone Turei in which he softly confronted Helen Clark and the assembled body politic. Bishop Turei stated that what was good for Maori was good for the nation. He reaffirmed ‘whakakotahi’, collective unity, as being the kaupapa of the day and the kaupapa of the Kingitanga. This unity though was based on diversity where ‘differences live in the whole’. The Bishop told the politicians that they modelled the opposite, showing division rather than cohesion as leaders. He advanced the desirability of enabling Maori to be unique, as they are, and rejected failed policies drawn from a colonial traditions – ‘no hand me downs’ he reckoned. He reaffirmed the special status of women as bearers of the seed of life. He expressed what many might interpret as a being a Christian paradigm, which is consistent with the broad ecumenism of the Kingitanga. It seemed to me that there was a message of reinforcement here to the wider Pacific community and in its own way it rang a bell both against the secularism of the current state and the possibility of a growing Muslim representation in this part of the world. Turei said that Maori have the right to express their own interpretation of creation theology and to express this as a ‘tikanga’ in their own way. He explained to the gathering the constitutional framework of the Anglican Church in NZ (The Church of New Zealand) based as it is on the Treaty of Waitangi and concepts of shared governance with a three stream model enabling mainstream, Maori and Polynesian voices to be heard and listened to. In the context of the presence of the gathered leadership of the Pacific (‘kahui ariki no Te Moananui a Kiwa’) this was more of a political than an apostolic rant.

Then the tribal leaders of New Zealand and the Pacific spoke and, again, all of the gathered politicians would have been reminded that Parliament is not the only font of authority in Aotearoa. Tuiatua Tupua Tamaese Efi, the Head of State of Samoa, told Maori that they had stood by Samoa through thick and thin. They were friends for all seasons. Late in the day my old mate Matt Tarawa put on his party trick of Italian tenor-like song and closed up just in time before he was shut up. Not so lucky for the young guy who spoke, having tested the boundaries and the tolerance of Tainui then crossed them. A kaumatua gave the word and the women began to waiata drowning him out (so much for women not being able to speak on the marae). He didn’t take the message and advanced towards the paepae at which point a body of well dressed and burly men moved towards him and without fuss picked him up and removed him. No one blinked. No harm done. No drama. Mana maintained.

Last week we held a ‘cultural landscapes’ hui on the site of the Ngati Hinewera housing project here at Waiohiki. ‘Cultural landscapes’ is a term coined by a group of Maori architects and planners to deal with concepts related to Maori housing, elements which tend to have been ignored in New Zealand town planning. Two of this group are Karl Wixon (Ngai Tahu) and Jacob Scott (Ngati Kahungunu). They were generous enough to share their time and knowledge with us and the professionals that we have engaged – Napier architect Paris Magdalinos who has designed ‘the big house’ (which I described in my blog ‘Embracing the Positive, December 2004) and Anthony Clouston who’s company Javabec has worked with us in designing six whanau homes on the site. It was fantastic to see the Pakeha professionals swapping ideas and concepts with the Maori professionals, one building upon the other, fusing understanding and conflating cultures and disciplines.

An exciting by-product of some of the thinking and a ‘housing needs survey’ that we have recently undertaken here is that a discourse about papakainga housing has developed. Papakainga can mean original home but is generally used to describe a village settlement. The concept of papakainga has a deeper meaning expressing the strong relationship the Maori community has with ancestral land. Ancestral and traditional papakainga give ‘turangawaewae’, or a place of belonging to tangata whenua, who have a whakapapa or genealogical connection with ancestral land. The Resource Management Act requires in Section 6(e) of Part II that Councils shall recognise and provide for

the relationship of Maori and their culture and traditions with their ancestral lands, water, sites, waahi tapu and other taonga“.

There have been no papakainga in Hawke’s Bay for something like fifty years. Successive local authorities have steered housing development towards areas owned by their mates – at least that’s what it looks like. The little traditional Maori communities around the area have been heavily constrained when it comes to building or even rebuilding. Frustrated, and in order to get themselves decent living conditions, albeit in a suburb, the Maori landowners have often sold out to so called ‘lifestylers’. This has begun to threaten the indigenous lifestyle of an aeon. The issues of papakainga development have now come to the fore in Hawke’s Bay and new policies regarding papakainga are being mooted by Ngati Kahungunu and Hawke’s Bay District Council. Here at Waiohiki where newcomers now make up a substantial part of the community some of the Pakeha whanau have expressed interest in the papakainga concept. They too like the idea of a whanau living on the same land across generations. They don’t want to sell their land either. They want to pursue sustainable and environmentally conscious land practices. Could a Pakeha whanau have a papakainga? Why not? What a great day for Aotearoa when Pakeha consciously start to pick up a Maori approach and Maori values. In my view this is the stuff of nation building. It won’t happen overnight, but we now roll ‘Anglo-Saxon’ off the tongue to speak of a diverse whole, without pausing to think of the years of turmoil between the constituent peoples.

 Beyond papakainga, the interest in whanau housing is national. Apparently, as a nation, we are moving further and further away from the possibility of the ordinary Kiwi family owning their own home. What is so important to us about home ownership? Is it because we can accumulate non-taxed capital wealth by dint of steadily increasing property prices or are there other drivers? For me it has to do with whanau stability, provision of a turangawaewae for the whanau. The consequences of lack of such a base are illustrated in the consequences of poor whanau only having the choice to rent. This often results in highly transient families, shifting to find affordable rent. That means that the kids regularly have to change schools and consequently their learning patterns are disrupted. It means not establishing a relationship with a local doctor or medical centre and not building up the support relationships that come with membership of a stable community. In line with the currently established pattern of relative disadvantage Maori whanau are over-represented in rental accommodation and under-represented in home ownership. Paradoxically, rising property values mean that in many instances Maori who are the beneficial owners of ancestral land may now have the equity to build if they were able to use their land as collateral. One way to address the low rates of Maori home ownership would be to capitalise on this state of affairs. It could be that a beneficial owner still rents their home from their collective entity, contributing towards the mortgage. The key objective, whanau stability, is still met even though individual wealth may not accrue. The Maori Trustee currently sits on a healthy pile of cash, about $20 million annually accumulated from interests on unclaimed rents and other monies. These funds underperform in the commercial sector and it would seem to me to make sense to redeploy them to the social housing sector – for this is what communally owned Maori homes are in. On that basis mortgages might be able to be extended over longer terms – why not 50 years rather than the standard 25 years for instance? Because these homes and land are held in perpetuity then these investments are unlikely to contribute to inflation and in fact, because the social housing stock is increased there may be a deflationary effect in terms of house prices and rentals.

Besides planning on construction we are also currently in the process of deconstruction. I’ve spoken before about the arts centre at Otatara, once run by Para Matchitt and Jacob Scott. It was based around the old stables built by G P Donnelly back in the late 1800’s. Para developed it as a ‘community upwards’ arts development, and, in many ways it pioneered the introduction of arts into the polytechnic system. During the 1980’s we had a huge crew up there employed through the ‘make work’ schemes of the day. It was a hive of creative activity. For reasons best know to education bureaucrats the site was deemed unsuitable for classes from the adjacent polytechnic. In recent years it has fallen into disrepair and it presented a risk in terms of vandalism and potentially, fire. A decision was made to dismantle or remove the buildings and, in response to an RFP from the Eastern Institute of Technology, the Waiohiki Community Charitable Trust put in a proposal and it was accepted. Our idea was to take a conservationist approach and to retrieve as much material as possible, to shift buildings for further use and to recover timber. The Waiohiki Trust’s architect Graham Weaver determined that we would remove and reconstitute a long workshop currently on the Otatara site. This was made of material earlier recovered from the old Napier Woollen Mills – so some of it has seen over 120 years use already – and we’re going to crank another 50 or so years out it. Before we commenced we had a very moving ‘hiki’ ceremony, a lifting, led by kaumatua Joe Northover who spoke of the ancestral ties between Waiohiki and Otatara – it is the same place he said – and the continuation of the arts kaupapa that had been started at Otatara and would now be continued at the Waiohiki Creative Arts Village.

Para and Jacob also spoke, as did Helen Mason. We had photos of our deceased bros John-Boy Tareha and Gary Crawford there and we spoke of the people who had contributed. We are going to take one more load of clay from Otatara and ask potters involved with the original arts centre to fashion a work. We will fire it in our new kiln, again built with many bricks from the Otatara kiln. Some of the timber from the stables has been badly attacked by borer and we will use this for the firing so that its ash will be fixed to the surface of the pots and give that wonderful old building another form and purpose. Perhaps drawn by this energy a little guy from Yorkshire, Mikey, turned up on our doorstep. He is a Journeyman continuing the ancient traditions of the wandering qualified apprentice, travelling the world for 3 years and 1 day before he is deemed to be a craftsman. Three years and one day, travel the world with little but your wits. He is a helluva hard worker and is prepared to live in pretty basic conditions. Mikey dresses up in his traditional leather apron and bowler hat and the bros get a buzz out of his ‘prospect’ attitude. I took him over to see Para so we could figure out the best way to make use of the beautiful native timber that we are pulling out. Para and Mikey are designing some outdoor furniture – none of your bloody unsustainably cropped kwila here – and we hope to set up a jig so we can produce stuff even after Mikey has moved on to his next adventure.

And me too.

Tags: Bishop Paraone Turei  Joseph Roberts  King Tuheitia  

Twitter Feed
NZEDGE on Twitter