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Expressions of local governance on the East Coast

In Tairāwhiti in 1862 the total Pākehā population on the East Coast (excluding the area now known as Gisborne City and the Poverty Bay Flats) was estimated to be 20, while that of Maori was around 5,000.

This report by Jane Luiten commissioned by HistoryWorks for the Crown Forestry Rental Trust written in 2009 as part of the Waitangi Tribunal investigation into historic breaches of the Treaty, refers to a resident magistrate’s recollections of Māori community governance structures that existed before the settler governments imposed their local government on local communities:

“…Every day affairs on the coast at this time were said to be arranged by runanga. [Resident Magistrate] Baker reported that:

‘Almost every village has its own, in which everything, from far country news to domestic life, is freely discussed.’

Based at Rangitukia, Baker defined existing runanga as a community, consisting of any number of persons exceeding one family:

‘Thus, within a few hundred yards of my present residence, there is a collection of some three or four huts, the inhabitants of which style themselves “Te Runanga o Pahairomiromi;” the latter being the name of the village. These, and many other similar Runangas, assume all the powers and privileges of the largest Runanga (as at present constituted), and claim to be independent… of any control by the general Runanga, if such a term may be applied to the voice of the mass of the people.’ 

So there was a strong tradition of community governance and while settler governments imposed ‘local government’ straight over the top of these tribal arrangements undermining the mana of traditional runanga, in the post­‐settlement environment we are seeing a burgeoning of sub-­tribal groups being re-­established as hapū collectives and trusts with a focus on the social, economic, cultural and environmental revitalisation and wellbeing of their tribal area.

More recently this is extending/reverting to taking back the regulatory role for activities in the rohe via mechanisms like the Joint Management Agreement between Gisborne District Council and Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou that gives hapu groups more influence and responsibility in resource management decision-making processes.

Tapuwaeroa, Ruatoria

Māori Land & ‘Utilisation’ Issues

Plenty has been written by central government agencies, local government authorities, legal experts and economic development consultants on ‘unlocking the potential of Māori land. I’m definitely no expert in these matters and perhaps shouldn’t have an opinion as I will never be a Māori land owner – but my wife and tamariki are, so I like to think about what might be good for them and our descendants.
The whole notion of ‘unproductive’ Māori land is a little problematic and ironic.
Problematic because it takes a very utilitarian view of whenua, which is much more than an economic asset to be ‘utilised’ or even natural resource to be ‘managed’ or ‘protected’. Hirini Moko Mead describes it this way:
The land and the environment in which people live became the foundation of their view of the world, the centre of their universe and basis of their identity as citizens or as members of a social unit…
Land was necessary as a means of maintaining social solidarity. Land was the foundation of the social system, the base the means of giving reality to the system in the forms of residences, villages, gardens, special resource regions and so on. Continuity of the group depended every much on a home base called te wā kāinga where people could live like an extended family and actually see it on the ground as a reality.
Undoubtedly land provides a place for one to stand. This is inherent in the concept of tūrangawaewae, a place for the feet to stand; where one’s rights are not challenged, where one feels secure and at home….
The net effect of various cultural bonding mechanisms and traditional tikanga practices was to develop a relationship with the land. This relationship is about bonding to the land and having a place upon which one’s feet can be placed with confidence. The relationship is not about owning the land and being master of it, to dispose of as the owner sees fit. The land has been handed down the whakapapa line from generation to generation and the descendant fortunate enough to inherit the land does not really ‘own’ it. That person did not buy it. The land cannot be regarded as a personal asset to be traded.
(Mead, H.M. Tikanga Māori: Living By Māori Values, Huia Publishers, 2003. pp271-275)
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Legislation governing the way Māori Freehold land has been managed – since settler governments imposed British legal frameworks over most of life in Aotearoa – resulted in large tracts of Māori land being cleared for farming in the late 19th Century and many eventually having no effective administration as succession issues and urbanisation trends complicated management arrangements.
Many of those blocks left fallow for 30-50 years have started reverting to native plant cover with manuka and kanuka establishing themselves as pioneer (or seral) species that in time provide an ideal nursery for larger native trees to eventually takeover. So ironically, these ‘neglected’ land blocks are fast becoming valuable crops for the production of manuka honey, an industry experiencing exponential growth in the past ten years and on track to have a billion dollar turnover in the next five years.
The genesis of this post was when someone asked me this morning if I thought the first step to unlocking unproductive Māori land potential is improving governance of each landblock? If I had an opinion on it, I’d probably say yes and no.
Yes, I think where there is a group of shareholders already recognised by the Māori Land Court as the Responsible Trustee or Advisory Trustees for the block, then yes, they could be interested in accessing support with their governance role  – particularly planning and decision-making based on good information (getting access to the necessary ‘good information’ is another issue).
Where there isn’t that recognised group in place, or where the Māori Trustee has control of the block, there could be a service (and the government is setting up a new Māori Land Service but who knows how long establishment will take and how effective it will be) that:
  • works with any shareholders who express an interest to establish a group of owners interested in overseeing the process;
  • supports the group of engaged shareholders to contact other owners via the postal addresses held by the Māori Land Court and Te Tumu Paeroa, and via informal networks like whanau contacts and Facebook groups of various marae/hapū, to build a current database of shareholder emails that can be basis of ongoing, regular communication. Then they can start organising themselves as owners and making decisions about the land.

Just this activity of contacting shareholders and building a contact database is a huge undertaking that likely needs proper resourcing so interested shareholders can rebuild connections between whanau that may not have been physically connected to the whenua for a generation or more.

There could also be support for hapū groups to develop capability and capacity to take over land administration as Responsible Trustee from Te Tumu Paeroa to provide more active management and local accountability for decisions. Support may need to be provided to shareholders to go to the Land Court to make the changes once the hapū entities have the internal infrastructure to take on the responsibilities of administrating the land blocks in partnership with engaged shareholders.

In terms of then making ‘good decisions’ about the land use, shareholders and Responsible Trustees may be interested in accessing support to build consensus around the values they collectively hold for their whenua and systems for decision-making – particularly how the issue of share numbers may or may not determine the relative influence of shareholders in decision-making.

Locally we have recently invested in the establishment of an online platform to connect better with hapū and marae whānau, this will also be used to connect landowners in interested blocks.

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How ‘eco-friendly’ is our new house?

Some students from Te Wānanga o Aotearoa are interviewing me tomorrow about whether we built an eco-house. I thought it might be useful to list the ways I think it is and isn’t ‘eco-friendly’.

11196325_10153250715811273_8827879323077468267_nHouse Site:

  • We chose a building site next to Penu Pa, Tarsh’s marae we lived at for 14 months while the house was being built. That was partly determined by cultural imperatives – we were keen to be close to the pa and able to help out by keeping a close eye on it, opening up when necessary and helping out, fielding enquiries if people dropped in, etc.
  • It also had some financial benefits: we were able to utilise the marae septic system that already had a resource consent – we just need to pay for it to be cleaned every two years instead of every three; we can also utilise the free public internet (WaiWhai) that the pa offers; the new house proximity to power lines was also a lot cheaper than our preferred site up the hill which was going to cost $50,000 just to run an electricity cable to.
  • We are about 10km south of Ruatoria, so there is some transport impacts to consider – school, health clinic and shops use more energy to get to than if we had a house closer or in the township. But you can’t choose where your marae is! Some families further out of town than us occasionally ride their horses to town, so I guess that’s an eco-friendly option we can pursue regardless of how soon we’re all driving electric vehicles.

Energy:

  • We designed the house with a lot of large windows and positioned it facing north so it is a sun trap. As I sit writing this at 8am two days out from the Winter equinox, there is a heavy frost outside but I am bathed in sunlight and getting quite hot. The house is designed as two boxes – one side for sleeping/washing and the other for eating/living/working – joined by a small foyer.
  • We installed a wood burning stove in both sides, one is an oven with wetback to heat the water, the other a small heater for the sleeping side. Both fireplaces do a great job of warming the inside areas – if we load them up before bed, even on frosty nights (we live at the bottom of a valley) they keep the house warm overnight. We’re finding the wetback stove is over-efficient, so if the fire has been going full bore for more than 4-5 hours it heats the water too much and the hot water gets dumped outside so cold water can cool the cylinder. That’s a waste of precious water, so we’re looking at installing an additional cylinder to store the hot water or may just run the hose into the bath so it gets dumped there instead.
  • We looked at solar options but our building budget didn’t stretch far enough so that’s something we can save for as it is quite easy to install solar retrospectively. It was going to cost close to an extra $50,000 for a stand-alone off-grid system or $20,000 for a decent grid-connected system.
  • We use the wood oven for nearly all our cooking – we have a BBQ outside that is used more in summertime and we have a few electric appliances like a slow cooker and rice cooker. We have a gas hob beside the wood stove but hardly ever use it, maybe in summer when we don’t have the fire going as long it will be used more. Ideally we’ll replace that gas hob with an electric option to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
  • We used LED lights throughout the house – they are heaps more energy efficient, though a bit more expensive to start with. I did the lighting design which has turned out to be probably at least a third more lighting than we really needed as the LEDs I chose are brighter than I realised. We have dimmers on abut half of them so that saves power consumption as well as creating nicer lighting options.
  • We have polystyrene underfloor insulation and pink bats in the walls and ceiling. With more time and money we would’ve used wool or hemp insulation products.
  • The house is double-glazed aluminium windows and doors throughout. Aluminium isn’t very eco-friendly of course, but it is the most air-tight house we’ve ever lived in. Because of the double-glazing we just use custom-made vinyl roller blinds on most of the windows and doors as we have no need for thermal drapes. Vinyl isn’t very eco-friendly either.

Materials:

  •  The foundations are non-eco-friendly H4 treated pine and the external ‘ShadowClad‘ ply and flooring is H3 treated pine. Some nasty glue is used to seal the ply to the floor, wall and ceiling framing – along with a million nails. Ply uses a lot of nasty glues to seal the sheets of wood cut from the logs but we used untreated EcoPly for interior linings.
  • We were planning to use an Osmo eco-friendly natural oil product on the outside but had to send the 30 litres back after using over a litre for one coat on one of 80 sheets it was just too expensive. I used a water-based stain from Resene in the end.
  • The interior was finished with Aquatec Wood Coat by Cotec – a water-based polyurethane.
  • Our flooring is half synthetic carpet and half vinyl strips. In retrospect I wish we’d gone with the wool carpet but got talked out of it by the flooring guy. There wasn’t a huge difference in cost, it was more an aesthetic decision about how much it would fade in direct sunlight and a durability decision about how quickly it would wear out.
  • The roof is ColourSteel by New Zealand Steel, not the most eco-friendly option compared to something like a soil and grass living roof. The stormwater downpipes are recyclable PVC by Marley and feed two 30,000 PVC water tanks by Promax – who don’t seem to provide much sustainability information about their products.
  • The kitchen uses natural wood (macrocarpa) bench tops and plywood for the joinery facings with the standard chipboard for the internal linings. We reduced the need for hardware on kitchen joinery by cutting hand holes in the ply, but used standard aluminium hardware on all the internal doors.
  • The bathroom units are all fairly standard off the shelf products.
  • Decking timber is standard pine decking. We could have gone with Kwila decking but even though some of it has FSC accreditation, the products imported to NZ have had terrible environmental impacts.

I think in retrospect if we’d planned the build better by starting much earlier (like a year before we moved rather than after we moved into caravans so the pressure was on), then we would have made better environmental choices and/or saved more money to afford the eco-options or a longer build.

Anything else?

Community

Pākehā Violence

I think it’s weird that I’m writing this post.

Everything I’m going to say has already been said, better and with frequency by Māori – and by Amelia Shroyner, who I’m adapting this from. But it seems like when it comes to racism (just like men re: feminism) Pākehā need to hear it from other Pākehā.

So let me state this plainly. Pākehā, we are massively failing with our Pākehā fragility. When we are asked to do the very least in empathetic listening, we centre entire conversations around our own feelings.

We argue with Māori about their lived experiences of racism. We say “not all Pākehā!” and “tino rangatiratanga” and totally miss the point. We ask Māori to educate us, and to be “nice” about it. We talk about our good intentions. We bring up the times we were also treated badly.

Why? Because we can. As Pākehā living in Pākehā supremacy we have the power to take that focus because society values our words more than those of Māori. It’s hard to even recognise we’re doing it. But it has to change. We have to be able to comprehend a point about racism without demanding that Māori patiently hold our hand and explain it to us very delicately as to avoid hurting our feelings.

Let’s just get this out of the way: The fact is, if you’re Pākehā in Aotearoa, you’ve likely said, thought, or done something racist. It’s just a fact. We were all brought up in a Pākehā supremacist culture. Not only do we passively participate in institutionalised racism as Pākehā, we benefit from it! To shy away from that is to put oneself (yet again) above Māori.

We have to unlearn a lifetime of subtle and not so subtle social cues and behaviors. We have to become aware of how we think about people. We have to cringingly remember times we said racist things to other Pākehā, or worse, in front of Māori. Whatever it is, we have to face that shit. And it’s hard. And it should be hard. We’ve had everything handed to us; we can’t demand racial enlightenment on a silver platter too. We have to do the work.

By resisting (or even embracing) fear, guilt and shame we can open ourselves up to conversations about culture and power that actually create a deeper understanding. By not expecting to be greeted with enthusiasm or praise for talking about culture and power, we can avoid the pitfalls of feeling “attacked” or “bashed” when our assumptions are challenged.

We don’t need to be silent, but we do need to learn how to listen. We have got to stop entering conversations about racism only to derail them and centre them on our feelings and our perspectives. We need to stop taking the focus away from the work the POC activists are doing.

We have to realise that being called a racist isn’t worse than being the victim of racism.

Māori who are activists and educators, and especially wahine Māori who are activists and educators, are often asked to invest emotional labour in breaking down racism into bite-size pieces so that “well-intentioned” Pākehā can understand. We need to lessen this burden by understanding how taxing this work is and simply listening before we share our own insights and perspectives. Māori are very familiar with our stories.

I don’t have to live with the weight of knowing I will be prosecuted for no reason and my incarcerator would get away with it. I don’t have to experience the shame of my cultural group being labeled child abusers, welfare bludgers or a warrior race. I don’t ever have to contemplate how to prepare my child for a world that will fear, dehumanise and underestimate them. I cannot fathom that. I also cannot imagine carrying the weight of this knowledge only to be asked to educate the same people who resist listening to my reality.

To then demand that Māori educate you on your own ignorance with the expectation of their further emotional labour is to abuse them.

Pākehā, we can do better. We can sit with our Māori friends and whānau and feel our emotions without coopting their grief. We can do our own work to educate ourselves, and find new sources of information to take the burden of our own ignorance off the people we have oppressed for centuries.

We can work harder to educate each other, as fellow Pākehā, on how to better discuss racism, how to really show up for Māori in meaningful, non-disruptive ways, and fight Pākehā supremacy from within.

And we can do these things without demanding treats or pats on the back or taking credit for “starting conversations.” These conversations have been happening without our participation for decades. We don’t get a gold star for acknowledging humanity and being decent human beings.

We’ve got to do better. People are dying out here.