Te Whaea: Our Lady of Aotearoa

By Denis O’Reilly. Late last year I attended the unveiling for the late Hon. Parekura Horomia. Helen Clark gave a panegyric for her deceased acolyte. At the time of the tangihana itself, Helen was abroad, in her UN role, so she had to participate virtually. This is our new normal anyway. But on this day, she was there in person, in the urupa at Tologa Bay, Hauiti. Before Helen’s korero a kaumatua, giving his own eulogy as part of the service, had lauded Parekura’s achievements and leadership. He suggested that henceforth Parekura carry the title “Parekura of Hauiti”. “Parekura of Hauiti”, Helen boomed, a deep chuckle sounding like a kakapo, “indeed”.

Well, today I propose that another of Helen’s protégé’s be given a title for her leadership in a time of need. Jacinda, “Our Lady of Aotearoa”

This leadership thing may be catching. This morning I stuck up for Simon Bridges who was receiving criticism for travelling from Tauranga to Wellington to chair the Epidemic Response Committee. He’s great in the role. To me it is important that the chair at least operates from the Parliamentary precinct as a symbolic recognition that democracy prevails even when we are in a period of virtual martial law. Damn, the inquisitorial style of the ERC really holds the Government to account. Could this be the new Question Time?

At the suspension of Parliament in late March 2020 Simon Bridges said

And today, on the big questions in this House and in New Zealand, we agree. There’s no National or Labour or Green or ACT or New Zealand First; just New Zealanders. Simon Bridges, NZ Parliament Hansard, 25th March 2020

The people I serve are clustered on the social periphery. They are often described as gangs. Just as Simon Bridges says, there is no party line division in our emergency Parliamentary process, there are no longer gangs, just New Zealanders. This discontinuity, this state of punctuated equilibrium is an opportunity for what Ulrich Beck describes as ‘emancipatory catastrophism’. We can choose to leave that baggage of colonialism and abuse in state care and other negative socio-political policies that produced gangs behind us. We have an opportunity to redefine relationships between mainstream citizens and those who live on society’s edge so all of us produce and enjoy shared benefits in a new economy.

I’m telling willing ears amongst outlier communities that things don’t have to be like they were before. We don’t have to have a low wage economy. Our primary industries can be redefined. Forestry can be changed. How we harvest can be changed. What we do with the wood can be changed. What trees we plant, and where, and how we plant can be changed. Mark Farnsworth pioneered ‘three tier forest farming’ on the Poutu Peninsula many years ago. Experience may have changed his then hypothesis, but the guts of the issue was that we can have trees, and fruit, and crops, and animals, and people growing together in a sustainable and mutually reinforcing relationship.

The same is true for primary production in general. We will supply the world with protein. Anticipate Maori landowners looking for new arrangements on land that they lease to farmers. Expect that there will be a drive towards vertically integrated land use, paddock to plate, with Maori becoming farmers themselves rather than landlords. That will mean training young Maori farmers. We’re not going to have overseas labour to call upon, so we will be challenged to develop remuneration attractive enough to attract a domestic labour force. This will mean a serious rethink about how we organize fruit picking and packing, but its all doable.

If primary production is where we can expect to earn most of our foreign exchange, we can also generate streams off our IT and creative sector. Maori and PI communities will play a huge part in this sector. We used to call IT the ‘new economy’. We need a new vocab.

Back home we’ll have an internal economy with construction writ large. This will both involve developing infrastructure and building houses. Herein lies an opportunity for apprenticeships galore. “Marketable skills for life brother!” I’m telling willing ears.

And then we have domestic tourism. Initially this will become an opportunity to educate our fellow citizens, let them discover the stories behind what formerly were just poorly pronounced place names! Eventually this will develop and grow into high value low volume international tourism.

We are enveloped by leadership. Our nation is empowered by tino rangatiratanga. Since lockdown I’ve been humbled to be part of Police-convened teleconferences undertaken with the leadership of those who we might formerly described as being the two major indigenous gangs, the Mongrel Mob and the Black Power. This korero has been facilitated by Deputy Commission Wally Haumaha and essentially has been about how these leaders can enable care for their communities and how we can collectively help build community support for the Govt’s Covid19 plan. It is an intelligent approach to policing and may be a harbinger of a new approach to dealing with our whanau on the social edge. As the lockdown continues and people get a bit tetchy, we need these pro-social advocates.

E taku Ariki, how long, how long
Till Your moon lights the heart of a Maori Zion
And a thousand men move out of the bin and the clink,
Working and eating together, sharing whatever they have
And You are born again in a broken whare
And Your Mother wears on her head the taniko band?
Zion James K Baxter

We are all in this together, “Tatou tatou e!”.

Tūtira mai ngā iwi,
tātou tātou e
Tūtira mai ngā iwi,
tātou tātou e
Whai-a te marama-tanga,
me te aroha – e ngā iwi!
Ki-a ko tapa tahi,
Ki-a ko-tahi

Line up together people
All of us, all of us
Stand in rows people
All of us, all of us
Seek after knowledge
and love of others – everyone
Think as one
Act as one
All of us, all of us

The late Canon Wi Huata wrote this song “Tutira Mai” and taught it to his children whilst on a family gathering to Lake Tutira, north of Napier. He was explaining how the iwi came together to support each other. I met the Canon sometime after I married Taape. He used Tutira Mai as a device to promote this movement he described as ‘moral rearmament’. It was an idea promoted pre-World War 2 by Frank Buchman a member of the ‘Oxford Group’ and picked up again post-war by Wi as a way of uniting different cultures. Wi used to run waananga at Waiohiki Marae. He would test us in our use of Maori. We would always start and conclude with a prayer, sometimes ancient Maori karakia, and sometimes ‘missionary” prayers. One day at the end of the waananga he called upon me to say the karakia. He said, “say the Lord’s prayer Reilly, and not in English either! I started “ Pater noster, qui es in cœlis; sanctificatur nomen tuum: Adveniat regnum tuum; fiat voluntas tua, sicut in cœlo, et in terra” Wi started to giggle. We were possibly the only two people in Te Huigna, the marae hall that knew Latin. We need all the prayers in the world now folks, in any language.

I want to suggest a change to mark this great discontinuity caused by Covid19. To do something different. Mark our change by learning one more verse of the New Zealand National Anthem and sing it only in Te Reo Maori.

Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Aotearoa

Men of every creed and race
Gather here before thy face
Asking thee to bless this place God defend our free land
From dissension, envy, hate
And corruption guard our state
Make our country good and great
God defend New Zealand.

I say sing in Maori because Te Reo Maori must become the voice of our souls. It makes us one and makes us safe in Aotearoa with papatuanuku, the land, beneath our feet. We start verse one in Te Reo Maori, we then sing it in English, and then we return the rakau, the symbolic speaking stick, back to our tuakana, our elder brothers and sisters, and sing verse two in Te Reo Maori. We should learn the actions too, so there we are, all three official languages of Aotearoa in one new symbolic act.

Say home. Don’t be the prick who bursts your whanau bubble. Stay safe, be kind, break the chain of virus transfer. We are in this together. Tatou tatou e.


Tags: Denis O'Reilly  

  • Daniel Mulholland - 1:34 pm on May 2nd, 2020
    Love this in lots of ways ! Kia ora Denis
  • Brenda Wilt - 7:05 pm on April 14th, 2020
    An absolutely phenomenal piece - it breaks my heart; lifts me up; takes me places I have never been before and gives me so much hope for New Zealand. You are one wonderful country and I yearn for you. Always a Kiwi....
  • Kelly - 9:07 am on April 10th, 2020
    Thought provoking. I love your reframing of how we label people. The suggestion of a new economic structure is pragmatic and inspiring.
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