In support of urban representation

Summary slides

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My story is the story of many Ngāpuhi who grew up in urban environments. We were raised away from our hapū and iwi. We do not always know the tikanga and kawa of our marae. We do not always know our histories, our stories and our genealogies. Many of us cannot speak our reo.

My experience of colonisation is tied to my urban-ness. My urban-ness is about location not identity. I am on the journey to reconnecting and I am becoming more confident standing as Ngāpuhi. We all arrive here with our tupuna. I stand here today with my ancestors – as a Tahere and a Tareha descendent. I stand here with the support of my whānau.

Urbanisation affects all Ngāpuhi. Albeit, in different ways. It affects hapū too. And I want to acknowledge that first. Urbanisation hurt hapū.

For us folk locating our experiences as ‘urban’ we must never forget that hapū suffered because of urbanisation too. When we reflect on our experiences, we must also reflect on the hurt experienced by our hapū through the Crowns urbanisation agenda executed through its assimilation policies.

The Crowns urbanisation agenda promised opportunity to whānau in tough economic times. It did not deliver. Like many of the Crowns promises. It failed to deliver.

The Crowns urbanisation agenda also stripped out whānau support bases in our kainga and on our marae. It did more than disconnect the collective. It drove the knife of colonisation through our communities. And we are all still bleeding from this today.

Over a period of about forty years, the Crowns assimilation policies coerced more than 80 percent of whānau into cities and towns. Away from our kaumātua and kuia. Away from our kainga. Away from our marae. Away from our maunga. Away from our awa. Away from the places that our ancestors spent more than a thousand years establishing intimate connections.

Many of us have not yet returned to those places. To heal from the loss of time. The loss of connection. Many of us do not know where those places are. Many of us do not know where to begin.

It is on that basis, that I stand here to support the proposed option for urban representation on the Central Negotiating Body and the broader suite of urban representation.

I support it because I aspire to see hapū leveraging the proximity of Ngāpuhi ki Tāmaki to the economic engine and international gateway of Aotearoa to strengthen Te Whare Tapu o Ngāpuhi.

In total, the option provides for 14 urban representatives across the Central and Regional bodies. The level of representation for Tāmaki acknowledges that Tāmaki is home to the largest consolidated Ngāpuhi population. It acknowledges the youth of the Ngāpuhi population by setting aside taitamariki representation.

It allows for diversity of urban Ngāpuhi experiences and perspectives. Inclusivity of a range of Ngāpuhi voices.

A good friend recited a quote to me that I feel is fitting for this kaupapa: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.

For me, the level of urban representation proposed, invokes the sentiment of being asked to dance. It is time our urban experiences are included in the narrative – not to displace our hapū. To strengthen our claim against the Crown for the fragmentation it wrought on our whānau, and our hapū.

I support  Ngāpuhi moving forward. I support moving forward because until we do, colonisation will consign future generations to a life of surviving rather than thriving. And there is so much opportunity for Ngāpuhi through urban representation from here in Tāmaki.

There is an opportunity to increase Ngāpuhi representation in decision-making forums in Tāmaki to advance our Ngāpuhi agenda.

Being part of the decision-making is integral to strengthening the pipeline of prosperity from Tāmaki to Taitokerau.

There is an opportunity to collaborate with the Regional bodies as a conduit to re-connect Ngāpuhi ki Tāmaki and Ngāpuhi returning to Aotearoa with their hapū. There is a revival brewing and we must be collectively prepared with the cultural infrastructure to connect our people with their place.

As it is Suffrage Day, it is fitting that I mihi here to all those people who have spoken about wahine representation. I think it only right that we acknowledge the importance of balance between wahine and tāne representation as we embark on this journey.

We must look at the future we want and create it now. We must begin to live the future we want for our tamariki.

In the words of Dame Whina Cooper:

Take care of our children, take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel, for how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa.

The future for our tamariki must be one of peace. And peace is about balance. The future for our tamariki must then be one where the roles of mana tāne and mana wahine are restored. This is not the time to get defensive over patriarchal realities inflicted on wahine, to appeal to merit while ignoring structural disadvantage introduced through colonisation. To move toward peace among ourselves and for the future of our tamariki, we must restore the balance.

Because colonisation is not a thing that happened to us in the past. It is perpetual. It is still happening to us today. It will be here tomorrow. It will be here after settlement. We must move toward peace among ourselves. Moving toward settlement is a first step in the peace process. It is not the end. Settlement is never the end. It is only the beginning of our revival.

We can choose settlement and choose how we will thrive despite colonisation for the benefit of our hapū and future generations to come. Now is not the time to delay. Now is the time to hold the Crown to account.

Kia ora!

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He uri o ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi ahau, and I am urban

A short story first…

“Shut up you dick!” cried Hana. She’d had enough of the fighting and hostility playing out in her living room. She stormed off to her bedroom, collapsed on to her bed, sunk her face into her pillow and wept. She was only 10. Hana’s mum was killed the year before by a Pākehā man who ran her over following a racist encounter at the pub she worked. He’d waited until she finished up, then in his drunken rage ploughed his car into her, as she crossed the road.  After that, everything changed. Her Dad began drinking heavily and returned to the gang life he’d detached from when he met her mother. He’d get angry, then sad and then angry again. Alcohol and gang life comforted him. But Hana didn’t like it. She felt afraid and unsafe in this new life her dad had imposed on them.

Hana had made up her mind that night to stand up to them. But things took a turn following her outburst. Haki who had been teasing her, got out of his seat rushed over to her with a raised hand, poised to strike. Her Dad stepped in to defuse the situation. But trying not to look soft in front of the gang, he growled her for being disrespectful and meted out a punishment.  He made her clean up the lounge where they were all congregated – get rid of the empties, clean the ashtrays, clear the dishes, vacuum the floor and serve them beers and kai.  They watched, they laughed, they threw their empties on the floor for her to pick up fully exploiting the situation for their amusement. Hana was furious with her Dad. He had humiliated her.

She recalled how when her mother was alive, she was his angel. He would never have done that. He would never have humiliated her. Hana was a middle child, but the oldest girl. She had two older brothers, but they were never around because when her Dad gets drunk he gets angry and takes it out on them.

By the time Hana turned 15, her trauma began to play out in in unhealthy ways. She began taking serious risks. On one particular day, she stole a car and took it for a joyride on the country roads she thought she knew so well. Hana didn’t see the other car coming. She had been distracted trying to tune the radio. She crossed the centre line. The noise was unforgettable. The sound of metal colliding created a nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach. She thought the driver in the other car stood no chance. Hana broke down. At this moment she remembered her mum and how much she missed her. She knew that her mum would not want this life for her and that she would be weeping at the way Hana’s life was turning out.

Hana stood in the wreckage frozen in disbelief at the mess she had caused. She took in the surroundings as if she’d lost her hearing, the scene taking place in slow motion as if detached from her. Flashes of her Dad as loving then the monster he had become. Visions of her brothers once full of hope and energy now fully committed to their gang life. Her baby sisters about to be confined to the pathway of trauma she had experienced in the past five years. Hana felt helpless and abandoned. As the police and ambulance arrived, Hana returned to reality. She heard an old but familiar voice calling out to her “Kōtiro! Kōtiro, come here”. Hana turned to see a kuia she had once known. She realised that she had collided with, and nearly taken the life of someone whom she had loved as a child.

Hana approached the kuia, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” she sobbed repeatedly. The kuia looked into her eyes, grabbed her hand and said “Kōtiro, your wairua is not well. You must remember in all your pain that you are your ancestors and they are with you. I’ve heard what has been happening since your Mother passed. Only now, have I seen the depth of your pain”. Hana cried again realising she had a choice to make – stay, where life would continue to be complicated, unsafe and wairua unwell or go, create a new life, heal her pain so she could heal the pain of her whānau.

After the ambulance cleared her, and the police questioned her, Hana went home. She asked the Officer to drop her off a bit down the road, as she was worried her dad would lose his temper if she showed up with them. They agreed, but because of her age told her they would need to speak with him soon.

When Hana walked in the door, the house was silent.

This was unusual, as her dad and sisters were always home. And there was nearly always visitors drinking in her lounge. She searched the house, but no one was there. She went outside – maybe her sisters were playing out the back, as they often did.

As Hana stepped out the back door, she saw what looked like a shadow. She froze. At the back of her house is a large tree. It used to have a tyre swing. She began screaming. She couldn’t hear her screams, but she could feel them. As she drew nearer to the tree, she began to wail. It was her dad. It was his shadow, hanging from the tree. But beneath him, lay her beautiful baby sisters, lifeless. Some neighbours had heard her screaming and came over to assist. Heeding the words of the kuia, she called on her ancestors to give her strength.

Hana, now in her 60s lives in the city. She has never been home. It is too painful for her. However, her mokopuna have begun asking about their tupuna and their culture. Hana has lost much of what she learned as a young child. When she left, she consciously left it all behind. Today, she had a vision of that kuia – “You are your ancestors’ kōtiro”.

(Involuntary) Urbanisation of Māori

Not every urban story begins with trauma or pain as explicit as this story. The above, is not a biography of any person, rather it is a persona intended to illustrate the complex and devastating effects of colonisation and rapid and arguably involuntary urbanisation of Māori in Aotearoa. I wanted to highlight that adversity impacts people in different ways and that the outcomes can involve more complexities than what seems obvious. Escaping negative social and economic conditions is a complex choice, often made out of necessity about survival.

Urbanisation of Māori is the story of perpetual colonisation. That is not to say that urbanisation in itself is a negative. It has many benefits and opportunities particularly in our modern context provided the cultural infrastructure of indigenous groups is enabled to thrive through positive social attitudes toward our culture, inclusive policy and sufficient resourcing. However, the implications for Māori through carefully executed assimilation policies by the Crown has embedded intergenerational trauma that will take generations to heal.

The Crowns English-language manual-labour focused education policies for Māori eventually coincided with slowing rural but booming urban economic conditions, which left many whānau with little choice except to move away from the tribal rohe and migrate to the cities. As noted above, choice is complex in this context, and as such, urbanisation was arguably involuntary.  For many it was a decision made on the Crown’s promise of work, money and pleasure. Like other promises made by the Crown, the reality quickly began to paint a different picture. As highlighted by UN-Habitat, ‘both indigenous rural–urban migrants and long-time indigenous urbanites tend to be marginalised and discriminated against by dominant population groups’.

Urbanisation of Māori was sadly not the story of realising potential, accessing opportunity, and achieving a high standard of living. We know now from lived experience that as well as disproportionate representation of Māori across the lower end of socio-economic outcomes and low participation rates in civic matters that urbanisation is also a major cause of intergenerational whānau fragmentation, disconnection to our hapū, iwi, whenua, and culture and loss of mātauranga, reo and cultural identity.

Ngāpuhi and the urban and hau kainga discussion

The notion of urban Māori has become a prominent feature in Ngāpuhi discussions as we prepare for Treaty settlement negotiations. However, disconnection – created and perpetuated by the Crown, continues to fuel the rifts we are experiencing as urban and hau kainga descendants of the hapū of Ngāpuhi.

There is no consensus on whether urban Ngāpuhi should be included in the proposed negotiating structure. One of the reasons is that there is great discomfort in identifying a subset of Ngāpuhi as urban Ngāpuhi, in the sense that as urban they are distinct from their hapū. The reason for this unease, and in some cases rejection of the urban proposition, is that those who identify as Ngāpuhi do so as descendants of the hapū of Ngāpuhi and urban is not a hapū. As Waihoroi Shortland pointed out at a hui in Tāmaki Makaurau recently, Ngāpuhi is an identifier external to us, it is the consolidation of a number of hapū, who in their collective state form Ngāpuhi nui tonu.

I agree with those arguments. However, I also think there is a distinction between identity and experience in this context. For instance, in terms of my Ngāpuhi ancestry, my identity is as Ngāti Tautahi and Ngāti Rēhia. However, my experience as those identities is distinct from the hau kainga experience. My experience is urban. I was born and raised in Tīmaru (more than 1000 kilometres away from my tribal rohe), and have lived in Tāmaki Makaurau now for the majority of my adult life. My understanding of and connection to our whakapapa is much less than those who grew up on our marae with our kawa and tikanga, and on our ancestral whenua among our maunga, awa, and ngāhere.

My identity is not separate from te uri o ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi. However, my experience, and the experiences of many others is unique to our particular lived circumstances. Our experience of colonisation is tied to our urban-ness. We speak to disconnection as felt from being separated from our hau kainga and all of which that embodies. We speak to our marginalisation in the cities and our direct experiences of institutional racism in an urban context.

Our experiences are as much a part of colonisation as the experiences of our hau kainga.

The urban experience is a direct result of colonisation, and parking our experiences in the settlement context allows the Crown to avoid or minimise the significance of the urban disconnection conversation that continues to shaft te uri o ngā hapū o Ngāpuhi who have only ever lived in our urban centres or outside our tribal rohe.

In my experience, those of us who have urban experiences do not consider our hapū or iwi at fault. We do not consider this an “us (urban)” versus “them (hau kainga)” kaupapa. It is about all of us collectively holding the Crown to account for the destruction its assimilation policies wrought on our communities and within our whānau over many generations. It is not about pointing the finger at specific individuals who represent the Crown today or our Pākehā whānau, friends or neighbours. It is about recognising that the system that people like Hon Andrew Little represents, as a Minister of the Crown, and the system that enabled our Pākehā ancestors to settle here, has been unkind, unfair and frankly destructive to our Māori ways of being across a range of social, cultural, political and economic intersections.

We must be clear: involuntary urbanisation is a very real experience for many Ngāpuhi and locating our experience in our context is not about severance from our hapū, it is about recognising our distinct experiences of colonisation. We are descendants of the hapū of Ngāpuhi and we are also urban in our experience. Not every person who lives in an urban area will or is required to define themselves in an urban context, but to deny those of us who locate our experiences as Ngāpuhi in an urban context is to marginalise our voices and perpetuate the colonisation of the Crown.

We are our ancestors and we are surviving but fragmented we cannot and will not thrive.

 

 

Free speech is peace directed, refuse their act of war

Ignorance is not just not knowing stuff. It is also believing you have nothing more to learn. For instance, you choose to be racist and you can choose to not be racist because you can choose to do the work to unlearn the racist tropes and half histories you have chosen to be your truth. You can choose to share power or store power. You can choose peace or you can choose war. You can choose to understand free speech as something more than a right to say whatever you please without consequence.

Recently, I was asked what my position was on free speech and I was torn. I absolutely do not think any group whose ideology in practice engages in genocide has a ‘right’ to build or advocate that kind of movement under the protection of free speech.  The very real and imminent threat here is the potential of such groups to tap into people’s deepest fears and insecurities, play on their ignorance and mobilise them to commit atrocities that threaten the survival of a group or groups of people.

In saying that, ignorance is why I also consider there to be a place for deplorable worldviews. That is, how can we learn what inclusiveness looks like, if we suppress hatefulness? How do we reach ignorant people and help them to un-learn and re-learn if they don’t know what their ignorance looks like in contrast to inclusiveness? What if inclusiveness today creates unintended consequences that lead to different kinds of ignorance in future? We already hear discussions around transculturation, that is, the merging and converging of cultures into one homogenous group. There is a very real risk that inclusiveness passively morphs into its own white supremacy over time and how do we counter that if people cannot see that the white supremacy they have bought into is not inclusiveness?

I know I have more questions than solutions. But I think its important to start questioning things like inclusiveness and how we see that operating in future – what protections do we have to ensure it’s not a dangerously quiet transition into becoming the dominant culture?

As I see it, free speech is both theoretical and action oriented. Over time, societies frame and reframe it according to social norms, political beliefs and cultural practices. Many proponents of free speech often refer to western legal rights to justify hateful and challenging positions and liberal responses in turn use that same legal framework to justify limitations or restrictions on what we should allow or not allow people to say. In other words, we tend to fixate on the procedural elements (e.g. who, when, what and where) and legislative interpretation (e.g. rights, defences, exemptions) and subsequently lock ourselves in to a perpetual cycle of disharmony. But what if we turned our attention to its action oriented limb to understand the act of speaking freely, the act of actively listening, and the act of restoring harmony where ignorance and enlightenment clash?

In my view, neither of the arguments referred to above speak meaningfully to the mana and the mauri of people or peoples. One obvious reason is that the debate centres in western discourse. Arguably, the ‘public interest’ and the ‘autonomy of the individual’ arguments do embody elements of those concepts. For instance, autonomy respects the individual and therefore the mana they hold within themselves, and public interest speaks to the mauri of the people or peoples and protecting their wellbeing. However, because these are dealt with separately as opposing arguments, rather than as part of a whole story neither argument fully addresses – nor can it, ‘why and how’ free speech can operate harmoniously in our modern social context.

I think tikanga and kawa could and should have a major role in the free speech discussion in context of Aotearoa New Zealand because kaupapa Māori models provide a unique and balancing lens. These models help us to think about the issue differently and in a deeper and more spiritual context.

I’ve been delving into the stories of my tīpuna and their actions and corresponding kōrero in an effort to assert their rangatiratanga and to retain mana motuhake for their hapū and for Māori collectively.  Our tīpuna spoke freely, they spoke fiercely and by liberal standards today at times they spoke arrogantly, aggressively and derogatorily about the imminent settler government that threatened the survival of our people and our culture.

But lets clear something up here first, the threat to our survival as a peoples by the coloniser was and is not the same as the disingenuously propagated threat by white supremacists fearful of the erasure of their white-ness. Firstly, colonisation was the action-oriented part of a much larger political ideology that swept the globe, western imperialism. It was an act of white supremacy. Secondly, political power resides in white institutions through the militarisation of western nation states. The Molyneux’s and Southern’s of this world are using a pre-emptive war tactic appealing to the protections of free speech in an effort to hold onto white institutional power through the extermination of any peoples who they perceive as threat to that power storing. So when I think about speaking freely, and what it is intended to achieve through a tikanga lens, I am directed toward a state of peace and harmonious relations.

I think about the Māori context and how we deal with a take (issue) and the way the rākau is passed around so every person is allocated time to have their say, no matter how hard that truth may be to hear. The context within which these discussions or confrontations take place is one where the group affirm the mana of each speaker, and preserve the mauri of the people through a process of restoration – removing the tapu through noa. I love that our ancestors adopted a healing process so we could return to our lives with aroha in our hearts to continue the mahi of manaakitanga. This is the process by which they kept the mana of all intact and restored the mauri of all involved so the tribe could thrive as a collective. I don’t here claim that peace was achieved following every confrontation, we know that is simply not the case – in some cases, confrontations led to war (I’ll come back to this ‘war’ point below). If we can uphold the legacy of all our ancestors (Māori and non-Māori alike) in preserving our right to speak freely where our intention is directed toward peace and harmonious relations, then we can be clear about our expectations of each other and the process for managing conflicts, and helping heal ignorance.

This brings me back to current issues and my point of view on free speech:

Promoting and enabling movements and actions that threaten the survival of peoples, is not an act of free speech, it is an act of war because actions not seeking harmony and balance of power, threaten the survival of peoples.

When Mayor Phil Goff refused to provide a platform for fascism, he was refusing their act of war. When the Owners of the Powerstation revoked use of its venue for fascist purposes, it refused their act of war. When the people turned up at Aotea Square to challenge the arrival of fascists on our shores, they too refused their act of war. Similarly, when our ancestors signed He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi they refused the settler governments act of war. And as I see it, locking hapū and iwi out of Parliament, is an act of war.

Opposing the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio  

Disclaimer

I provide this submission in my personal capacity. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of my hapū, iwi, employer or any other organisation or group to which I am affiliated.

Position

This submission opposes the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio because:

(a) Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the founding document of this nation. As such, every Minister of the Crown has a duty to ensure the ministries and subsidiaries they are responsible for act reasonably and in good faith to advance and protect the rights and interests of Māori guaranteed under Te Tiriti.

A Ministry of Crown-Māori Relations is unnecessary given every Minister of the Crown already has an obligation to ensure the health of the Crown’s relationship with Māori.

(b) Despite the planned series of hui taking place around the motu seeking feedback and input from the public, Budget 2018 stipulates an appropriation for the establishment of a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio, signalling it is a fait accompli.

The approach is inconsistent with the concept of consultation and Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which provides that States must consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples and obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them.

(c) Establishing a caretaker portfolio potentially creates a new legal obligation requiring Māori to engage with the Crown on the Crown’s terms. Arguably, this has the effect of retrospectively amending Te Tiriti o Waitangi and ignores the Waitangi Tribunal’s finding that Māori did not cede sovereignty.

(d) There is a risk that a Crown-Māori Relations portfolio will provide the means for this government and future governments, to restrict the ability of Māori to enter into partnerships with the Crown as equals under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

It does this by potentially narrowing Māori-Crown partnership pathways to one entry point if the convention becomes that Māori must first engage the Minister for Crown-Māori Relations before access is granted to other Ministers relevant to their particular interests.

If this occurs, it would breach Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Article 3 of the UNDRIP because it would bind Māori to perpetual structural disadvantage impeding our ability to be self-determining.

(e) It is difficult to see how the health of the relationship can be objectively measured given the proposed Crown-Māori relations portfolio would be responsible for monitoring itself. It is unclear who will carry out a ‘health check’ of the relationship, and what measures or indicators will be used to determine ‘health status’.

(f) If the Crown wishes to improve its relationship with Māori, it cannot impose a new forum in which it expects Māori to engage with it using a deceptive frame that proposes to empower Māori while eroding our claim to our sovereignty. It is for Māori to determine what our relationship is with the Crown, and to determine the process by which we will engage.

Arguably, the Crown has acted dishonestly by surreptitiously using its Māori Ministers’ access to Māori forums to primarily advance the Crown’s own interests. If the Crown is genuine in its commitment to restore its relationship with Māori then it must first:

(i) address the issue of sovereignty; and

(ii) give legal effect to He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Recommendation

This submission recommends that the Crown consider its alternatives to a “Crown-Māori Relations” portfolio. In particular, that the Crown:

(a) re-scopes its purpose to reconciliation and focuses on how it (the Crown) proposes to fulfil its obligations and correct unresolved historical and contemporary grievances under Te Tiriti o Waitangi and in alignment with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

(b) renames the portfolio “Minister for Crown Reconciliation”

(c) reframes its narrative so that it is understood by the public that the portfolio places the onus on the Crown to restore its relationship with Māori, rather than placing the onus on Māori to engage with the Crown in restoring the relationship

(d) redirects the $3.2million funding from Budget 2018 to establish an Independent Māori Advisory Panel (IMAP) to carry out a range of activities that will inform the future scope of works needed to support Māori in the realisation of their tino rangatiratānga (refer Article 18, UNDRIP)

(e) agrees to take genuine steps to work with Māori to address the issue of sovereignty and give legal effect to He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Toward removing predatory lending from our futures

debt

As the cost of living increases across the country, many working whānau struggle to make ends meet. Many whānau turn to predatory lenders with obscene interest rates just to meet their basic needs. In an age of policymaking geared toward wellbeing, there is an opportunity to explore new ways to address the financial stress experienced by many whānau who fear not knowing how they will be able to put food on the table or pay the rent or bills, without entering into a vicious cycle of debt.

Microfinancing has come up over the past few years as one policy route to support low-income whānau to escape the debt trap. In short, microfinancing is about offering small (usually under $5000) no interest or low interest loan solutions to people in need. These loans are usually offered as a means of improving wellbeing. We’ve seen success in initiatives such as Ngā Tangata Microfinance Trust (NTMT), a pan-charity trust that provides small, zero interest, no fee loans for asset purchases and debt relief for qualifying low-income applicants. Kiwibank provides the capital for these small loans and helped set up NTMT’s microfinance services. While public-private partnerships are one way of providing microfinance to whānau, I am interested in how a state owned microfinance service might work. However, before I delve deeper, I’ll provide a little context about what got me thinking about this kaupapa.

This morning, I was looking for vacuum cleaner parts. I was searching one retailer’s website and came across OxipayTM, a payment plan that allows you to make four fortnightly instalments but you get your product upfront. This wasn’t the first time I’d come across one of these payment plans. The other week, I was looking for work clothes and the retailer had a similar plan with AfterpayTM.

I briefly looked into these products to see if there were any hidden snags. They were relatively straightforward, but it would pay to look into them before you choose to use them. The products operate as follows:

  1. You select the option at checkout and sign up
  2. The finance company pays the retailer on your behalf (if the value is $1500 or less)
  3. You make repayments to the finance company
  4. You make the first repayment upfront at the time of your purchase
  5. You pay the next three next instalments fortnightly thereafter
  6. You can pay before the due date. If you don’t pay before, then the company will direct debit from your account on the due date

There is no interest but you need to pay on or before payment is due or have the money in your account on the due date otherwise you might be penalised with late fees. These weren’t too onerous, a $10 late fee and further fees if it remained unpaid for more than 7 days. However, there is always the risk that if you remain in arrears your account may be passed on to collections where you will likely attract additional penalties and fees. You will likely also harm your credit rating, making it difficult for you to access these (and other) services in future.

For me, these kinds of plans seem ideal as I could get the item/s immediately while servicing the payments in line with my pay cycle. But regardless of my purchasing behaviour (boring!), I found the model useful for thinking about how microfinancing could work to support all New Zealanders who find themselves in challenging financial circumstances, to sidestep the high interest quick cash short term schemes that can spiral out of control and exacerbate an already stressful situation.

Many whānau – from a range of backgrounds, are currently seeking out predatory lenders to help them with basics like rent, groceries, vehicle maintenance and school uniforms. Not because they can’t manage their money, but because they simply do not have the money to cover those costs upfront i.e. necessary expenditure exceeds income. Like many people, I want to live in a society where people can continue to meet their needs in tough times (and yes, in an ideal society, no one would experience tough times, but that is not the reality of now) which is why I consider that state owned microfinancing services might make sense.

The idea of state owned financing will cause a visceral reaction in some quarters and targeting toward low-income groups (the group microfinance is typically intended to support) will make the hairs on the necks of some stand on edge. But for reasons other than just making it more palatable, I’m in favour of expanding microfinancing by universalising it in recognition that we all need a little bit of help sometimes, and that we all need access to services that help us get through those difficult periods without the traps and snags of private (particularly predatory) lending companies. These are our economic realities, and failing a total economic revolution, this isn’t going to change anytime soon so we will need sticky plasters while we work on structural and systemic change.

What should be included in the design of such a service?

Empathy, needs to be at the heart of any microfinance service to acknowledge we all need a bit of help every now and then and in my view instalment repayment plans work in this sense by making borrowing and paying back less stressful for people fearful of how they will meet the needs of their whānau – whether as a persistent issue, or as a one-off.

We would need a user-friendly model that makes access to finance a simple and non-bureaucratic process. The technology for that already exists as companies like Oxipay and AfterPay have shown. We also have a ready-made account system through RealMe and we know that financing through a state owned institution is possible. Studylink is a clear example, as is the partnership between NTMT and Kiwibank.

There will always be risks around rorting the system, and these are clearly the kinds of hooks that would need to be worked through. But note, deductions on incomes and bank accounts already take place when dealing with fines or reparations, and tax codes could be another way of repaying loans as is done with student loans. Surely it couldn’t be that difficult to ring fence tax collected for microfinancing repayments.

I should note, while I support universalising availability, I remain of the view that repayments must cater to the needs of the borrower. Service design would need to be careful not to penalise our most vulnerable whānau by making provision for extended instalment plans and fee waivers, so that those at the lower income end can repay at a rate that does not trap them in a borrow-repay cycle.

I suppose my thinking is that task just does not seem that impossible or unpalatable when we are talking about small loans, repaid regularly, to improve the wellbeing of whānau and the overall hauora of our society. If we want to eradicate predatory lending, then we need alternatives that make their core business obsolete and this is one possible route.

 

 

Endnote: 

If you or someone you know is in need of microfinance, contact the entities listed below to see if you are eligible for assistance. 

From Sorted:

Microfinance providers in New Zealand

 

Knowledge Journey 2018

Part 1 (January)

For the past few years, I considered applying to do a PhD. Platforming off my masters, I would still want to focus on international trade, political economy, food, and Indigenous Peoples but I am still not quite there on my angle. This year, I have decided to undertake some personal research for two reasons, to:

  1. help shape my angle
  2. build depth of knowledge

One of the things I’ve noticed since finishing my masters, is the superficial level of knowledge I developed over a broad range of kaupapa, rather than the depth I enjoyed during study. Part of that is not reading as much as I used too – or not reading the right kinds of things. The other part is spreading my brain over too many things, rather than being focused. To increase my knowledge depth, I developed a bit of a framework on how I will target my research:

  1. Climate change as the lens.
  2. Local, National, Global as the levels.
  3. Māori as the audience.

I’m still exploring what issues I will focus on, but these are some things that spark my interests:

  • Participation (from the affordability angle)
  • Adaptation to climate change for the urban poor
  • Re-imagining a Māori economy (moving away from growth to thriving)
  • Performative wokeness

A quirk to my research will be shifting from a development to advancement narrative. I recall a discussion thread from 2014. One of the participants had advocated for advancement over development. I was indifferent at that point. I was part way through my masters and was comfortable with the term development, as I didn’t see the two phrases as having any major differences in intention. Additionally, I’d been exploring Amartya Sen’s work and was comfortable with the notion that development was about increasing choices to expand freedoms.

I’m still fine with the term development, especially Sen’s work, but I have developed a personal preference for the term advancement e.g. Māori advancement, economic advancement and so on. I do appreciate that there is risk in the term, since colonisers have long referred to Indigenous Peoples as “less advanced” and that using advancement could be seen as entrenching those notions. That is, that the imperative of advancement is movement toward whiteness. However, I don’t see development as being any less problematic since it is also prone to the same argument.

When I think about development, and how it is conceived at a practical level, the signifier of development seems to be growth, and more specifically economic growth. If economic growth is the practical imperative, then advancement becomes something quite different from development. For me, advancement brings to mind the idea of propelling forward, regardless of whether the imperative is growth or some other measure. It provides space to tell a story about non-linear journeys that cross-sect and intersect contemporaneously or asynchronously.

Hoping to have a brief summary literature review and an outline ready by the end of March, although that is approaching at a rapid pace…I’m likely to be far more piecemeal and will likely end up doing short lit reviews threads on twitter.

 

Participation…it costs

Returning to your tribal rohe, participating in hui, actively contributing to marae projects and so on, is prohibitive for many Māori. Not just from a cultural disconnection perspective, but from an affordability one. The cultural component is complex, and not the focus of this brief discussion. Here, I am interested in how we might reframe discussion on Universal Basic Income (UBI) to articulate the benefits of it – or a similar concept, through a Māori advancement lens. As I see it, if we want to increase participation – whether it be cultural, social, or civic – we need to make participation affordable.

During Election 2017, I spoke to Oliver Chan at Impolitikal (in brief) about the prohibitive nature of our democracy in Aotearoa in terms of affordability. People without savings, or access to regular income, or whom simply could not afford to take time off work, or indeed all of the above, would struggle to run as a political candidate, limiting the range of political representation.

The same is true for many who wish to participate in their hapū, iwi and marae forums. However, there might be a solution, or at least an opportunity to explore a solution in the form of a UBI. Maybe it needs a different name but the name isn’t important right now.

A few years back, I wrote about UBI but I’ve been pretty absent in the discussion for a while. You can read my earlier thinking here.

For the most part, those who advocate for the implementation of a UBI cite economic arguments. Those arguments are important and valuable, but so too are arguments from a cultural perspective. I’m not saying there is a tikanga to be applied here. Rather, that there is value – and arguably, a justification under Article 3 of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, to provide a guaranteed income to Māori to support their right to participate in cultural-political forums that are relevant to their rights and interests. A similar argument could be made to support all marginalised and minority groups.

Some base data to set the scene…

Around 25 percent of the Māori population lives in Auckland, so I’m going to focus on that data to get a sense of the affordability angle of the participation story. Note this discussion is intended as more of an iterative activity, rather than a fully unpacked argument.

stats png

This data is drawn from Census 2013, IMSB, and Auckland Council 

* Māori living away from their tribal rohe

 A glance at the affordability side of the participation story…

Since the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Māori population has shrunk and dispersed, with almost 80 percent of Māori living away from their whenua tupuna, and comprising only around 14 percent of the total population in Aotearoa. That geographic distance and the economic conditions that failed Māori over the past 30+ years eroded the participatory ability of many Māori who found themselves confined to new urban centres, with fragile connections to their past.

Today, whānau trusts, marae, hapū and iwi all struggle to get member/whānau participation and that lack of participation creates tensions around decision-making, and can lead to internal divides within and between whānau and the wider rōpu. An unfortunate effect is the disengagement that follows and the further alienation of those already geographically and socially disconnected from their cultural roots.

Given the youth of our population and the shrinking older generation, participation would better support the transfer of knowledge between generations to protect and preserve our histories for future generations. This transfer often takes place on the marae and through connecting to urupā where our ancestors lay. Going back to our tribal rohe is vital for the future proofing our cultural infrastructure and would support revitalisation efforts of te reo me ōna tikanga.

The numbers above, tell us that the median income for Māori (~$410 net excluding student loan and kiwisaver deductions) is less than the median rent per week for a home in Auckland ($528 pw). It is also around $4,000 less than Pākehā (median income of $29,600).  It also tells us, that while 82 percent of Māori living in Auckland have iwi affiliations, 63 percent of those people affiliate to tribes outside the Auckland region. With the rising cost of living, persistent intergenerational poverty and the disparity of income between Māori and non-Māori, it is understandable why those living in the largest urban centre (and of course, those in other areas) in Aotearoa, might struggle to take an active participatory role in the governance and decision-making processes of their whānau, hapū and iwi entities.

The Māori participation rate in the general election (Tamaki Makaurau seat) at only 59.2 percent of Māori enrolled to vote turning out reveals the chasm between Māori and non-Māori values around engaging in democratic processes. Arguably, increasing participating in our own forums could increase participation in those broader processes as we begin to grow our understanding of how to make mainstream processes work for us.

A view toward a guaranteed income to participate…

Providing a UBI type payment or some kind of guaranteed income to support participation could have significant benefits for Māori advancement. If more Māori are able to participate in their whānau, hapū and iwi governance structures, then we can start to transform our cultural infrastructure for future generations – not just for Māori but for all people who call Aotearoa home.  There is the question of what it would cost, how we would implement it, and who would be accountable for outcomes. That needs much more investigation, but I would offer the following as possible advantages, as a reason for at least starting the discussion:

  1. Restoring and strengthening our connections to our whānau and whakapapa
  2. Preserving mātauranga through transmission of knowledge within and between generations
  3. Better information and access to decision making which could minimise disputes, and long drawn out processes and encourage kōtahitanga
  4. Revitalising Te Reo me ōna tikanga by enabling more urban Māori to socialise our language and customs in new domains as our confidence grows

People often have to make decisions based on competing priorities, and for many whānau, the choice will understandably be first and foremost to meet their basic needs. Of course, technology plays a huge role in supporting new ways to participate despite geographic location, however, for Māori and particularly those wanting to reconnect, or establish lost connections – kanohi ki te kanohi on the whenua is fundamental to that journey.

Affordability affects the extent to which people can participate in their own cultural institutions. We have laws that protect our rights to participate in our democratic elections  – as candidates and voters, and while these laws apply to Māori, there is no law that supports Māori participation in our own political and cultural institutions as the Treaty partner (and no, the Māori seats do not make the difference I am talking about. They are about electing Māori representation into a non-Māori institution).

Endnotes:

  • In pre-emption of the predictable “you’re just a [griever, trougher, other offensive label]” arguments of the Hobsons Pledge variety: I’m not here for your approval or validation.
  • I am currently undertaking a personal research project. Part of that process, is obviously identifying the issues I want to focus on for that. It is possible, that participation (from the affordability angle) and a guaranteed participation income is something I will pursue further.

2017: The year I ran for Parliament

A candidate’s brief self-reflection

There are multiple ways to transform outcomes for Māori. One of those is through political activity, such as seeking to become a Member of Parliament. Earlier this year, I chose that route to follow and ran in the notoriously blue seat of Pakuranga for the Māori Party.

While I remained positive about possibilities given an incumbent of more than 30 years had vacated the seat, I was always realistic about probabilities since a non-National candidate had only ever held the seat once. Additionally, I was a minor party candidate, standing for a party many in the electorate viewed as separatist or exclusively for Māori.

I was curious in this high stakes election whether the community would vote by party preference, or if they would split their votes to improve the chances of National forming the next government by having partnership options. But as expected, the electorate overwhelmingly voted two ticks blue. There was very little vote splitting and National increased its vote share.

I’ll admit my result was crushing and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed about that. The experience was incredibly enriching and educational. I learned things about our community and the diversity of thought and culture that lives in our electorate. I learned about voting behaviours and sadly but unsurprisingly about inherent bias and negative attitudes.

I am proud of my record in holding my own among current and former Ministers and experienced MPs in debates, panels and televised appearances. I smashed my anxiety around public speaking, and fulfilled a goal I had set myself at the start of 2017: to demonstrate the value of introverted leadership. I wanted to show that quiet people have loud minds and strong voices. Moreover, that substance, compassion and rigour outweigh planned lines, repeated spin and the show ponyism too often displayed.

It was eye opening but not off putting. I’m not going to speculate or pontificate about what I think the party should do or provide reflection on what it didn’t do but could have, or what it did do and shouldn’t have and so on. It has an AGM coming up in the New Year, and many committed, experienced, compassionate people and fresh innovative thinkers to take on that mahi to restore and reclaim its place in Parliament.

But for now, I have formally hung up my membership to the Māori Party to focus on transforming outcomes for Māori through my mahi. To grow my kete mātauranga and use the skills I learned on this journey to provide an influential voice for Māori in multiple domains unencumbered by political affiliation. As one chapter ends, a new one begins and it feels strangely liberating.

 

It’s looking like a rewind not a reset

A critical reflection from a Māori Party candidate and member perspective.

It looks messy. It looks disorganised. And it looks like a power grab from behind the gate. As the membership mentally prepared for the next phase of the rebuild following the announcement by Māori Party President Tuku Morgan that he would stand down from his role at the beginning of the Hui Taumata, disquiet apparently emerged in some quarters. Interests in the role of President were widely known among active members. So I have to disagree with Party Co-Leader Marama Fox, who reportedly told the NZH that ‘the membership asked him [Tuku] to stay on for the sake of continuity’. There was no vote.  However, one might say process is a word more closely related to McDonalds meats than to what ultimately transpired at the Hui Taumata.

My criticism is not personal. I genuinely believe that for the party to rebuild, we need an Executive reset, not a rewind. This is a hard post for me to write. I am privileged to have had close working relationships with the Executive team prior to and during the election period. The dedication, hours, and heart they all committed and continue to commit to the kaupapa is incredibly admirable. I have a great deal of respect for all involved – at that level it is high pressure and involves navigating many complex relationships. However, until we accept that we are broken as a collective we will not progress. Fragmentation is rife with electorates throughout the country fighting their own internal battles. Unfortunately, the Party looks a lot like Labour looked in 2014 and in fact, up until Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern took the helm.

It’s worth noting here, that it would be naive to believe that the Party can duplicate Labour’s fortune and pull a personality out of a hat 8 weeks out from Election 2020 to deliver us a hyper-saviour moment gifting us re-entry into parliament. But in all fairness, it’s not all gloom. There is a mood for rebuilding and many hands on deck to do the mahi.  But the darkness matters. Ignoring it risks retreating into a political fantasy that enables the timeless looping of strategic and tactical errors.

I arrived at the Hui Taumata with quiet excitement. That was short lived. Within the first hour it transpired that only the leadership were allowed to talk to media and attendees were not to livestream or post on social media. Our Facebook and Twitter accounts effectively lost their right to be social for the duration of the hui. I felt silenced and cut off from igniting friends and followers.  Criticism and disagreement frowned upon as anti-party rhetoric or as an unconstructive barrier to progress. A suffocation one would expect in an autocratic society and not within an indigenous movement meant to carry our aspirations as an independent voice of our people.

Not everyone disagreed with the social media blackout. Some felt those who wanted to be involved ought to have made arrangements to be present. Others recognised that the registration fee was prohibitive for many whānau – particularly those required to travel from outside the region.

Creeping ageism and sexism were also sadly not off the agenda. It was ironic really. The number of disparaging references made about a supposedly inexperienced young 37-year-old woman landing the top job on the one hand, while lauding the young wahine talent running this election (who  also, as it happened, ended up on the arse end of the list) and the need to capture the rangatahi vote in future, on the other

For clarity, I am upset that the Māori Party is not in parliament. Tā Pita Sharples is one of my absolute heroes, and it is for his work and legacy and the whānau who remain committed to the kaupapa of the Party that I feel the most regret in the Party’s untimely exit.

But in my mind, the tough question we need to honestly answer is:  did we collectively do enough to deserve re-election for another term? Because between snickering and finger pointing few were willing to own or accept the Party’s blatant shortcomings. I appreciate that many variables made the Party’s task of re-election more challenging this time around and plenty of people have attempted to cover those variables since the election. But before the rebuild can begin, the Party must address that assumption: that it deserved to return to parliament this election.

The Party cannot just look back as many are suggesting. It must look past the table, and we must all re-learn to listen with our hearts. I know some people will be unhappy (potentially scathingly so) with my public purging but as a collective the Party must accept that people did not lose faith in themselves to be the leaders of their destiny. They did not lose faith in their identities. They lost confidence in the Party as a trustworthy vehicle to carry their aspirations. It’s time to regain that trust. That starts with ownership.

Book Release – The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand

BWB7760_Text_Cover_The Interregum_HighRes_0

Kia ora e te kaupapa whānau,

It’s been a while. Aroha mai for that. I can’t say that I’m back writing here on a regular basis, but maybe. It all depends on time. However, I want to pānui out the release of Morgan Godfery (ed.) The Interregnum: Rethinking New Zealand (2016, BWB Books:Wellington).

From the BWB website, here is a teaser:

Is New Zealand’s political settlement beginning to fray? And does this mean we’re entering the interregnum, that ambiguous moment between society-wide discontent and political change? In BWB’s latest book of essays, edited by Morgan Godfery, ten of New Zealand’s sharpest emerging thinkers gather to debate the ‘morbid symptoms’ of the current moment, from precarious work to climate change, and to discuss what shape change might take, from ‘the politics of love’ to postcapitalism.

The Interregnum interrogates the future from the perspective of the generation who will shape it.

I have contributed a chapter on Kaupapa Māori Politics. I’m totally open to discussing (debating!) it, so if you do buy the book, and then want to have a mutually respectful kōrero with me about my chapter, please do comment here.

 

Ngā mihi nui ki a koe.