“There can be no such thing as kaupapa Māori political parties or politics in Aotearoa” (Willie Jackson, Labour Party (2017). Māori TV, General/List Election Special)
I begin with that claim because at the time, I was confounded at first that it fell out of Willie Jackson’s mouth, and then conflicted about the extent of truth in the claim. It’s one of those claims that stirs inside you. Never settling, never still. But you don’t really want to address it in case it destabilises the foundations of your political thought. Kia kaha you tell yourself.
So let me briefly touch on why I think there is truth to the claim. Firstly, we know that the parliamentary system is built, shaped and operates according to rules decided outside te Ao Māori. Secondly, we know that many Māori political aspirants dream of holding ministerial portfolios to advance change for Māori inside government institutions. And lastly, we know that as members of political parties, individuals are always caught in a tension between party agendas and personal values – with the former more often than not prevailing. If that’s the case, then it’s not kaupapa Māori because in a sense, Jackson is right – its capitulation to the system, despite the most earnest intentions.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Māori politics experiences different waves over time as new voices and issues rise and seek an outlet. Some mild in approach, some with a decibel range beyond the need for a microphone and many other variations in between.
In 2017, the Labour Party promised a new wave of Māori political representation – the largest Māori caucus to ever sit in Parliament with the objective of producing the largest set of outcomes for Māori. This post isn’t about whether or not the party has delivered. Many have written and continue to analyse the strength of that initial promise.
What I propose is an alternative – a future of kaupapa Māori politics. Because as I wrote in The Interregnum (Morgan Godfery (ed). 2016. BWB):
“I like to describe kaupapa Māori politics as a lived story. That is, a story that is continuously shaped by our past and our present and that will shape our future”.
In this sense, I don’t see systems as fixed or kaupapa Māori as something that can only exist outside formal institutions. What matters is what we do and how we do it – especially inside those institutions.
I maintain earlier claims that I have made, that there is not one party that can universally claim to be the voice of Māori because the optics and realities of Māori representation will look different to different people at different times. However, I’m still convinced that mainstream parties are incapable of reflecting an indigenous worldview. That will be controversial and rightly so. I don’t speak for all Māori and there will always be a range of views that exist in the context of perpetual colonisation. I don’t say that to diminish the integrity of Māori who choose a mainstream party as their vehicle for change. I say that as a reality check on whose interests are prioritised in the “whole of party” mainstream agenda.
I absolutely believe that mainstream parties can be sensitive to Māori issues, and that they can work with Māori to design policies, strategies, services, outcome frameworks that attempt to shift the disparity between Māori and non-Māori. However, being sensitive to and supportive of Māori is not synonymous with prioritising and progressing Māori rights and interests in addressing inequities.
What we often overlook is that the party in government is the Crown. Its Ministers are Ministers of the Crown. Some might argue that it makes no sense to disaggregate the two given the Crown represents all New Zealanders. Except it doesn’t – it only presumes to in abrogation of its foremost obligations under two core instruments: He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is precisely what perpetual colonisation looks like. We are not in a post-colonial era because colonisation did not end, it normalised to appear invisible.
So let me get to the point about a potential “future for kaupapa Māori politics”.
Firstly, I question the desire to hold Ministerial delegations. While Ministers can influence system changes, as we have learned they can only do so insofar as the governing party or governing coalition allows. For micro-parties, entering formal arrangements with governing parties, erodes that influence further through positioning the party as an agent of the Crown and depriving the party of its power as an independent voice for Māori – the point I believe Jackson was making. However, his point hangs on the assumption that all Māori political aspirants desire Ministerial powers or to be in government.
But what if they didn’t? What if Māori political aspirants refused to seek Ministerial delegations and instead sought permanent seats on the cross benches? This could serve a very useful function with the right strategy. More on that shortly. The point here is that the essence of kaupapa Māori is arguably eliminated when the party or individual seeks a governing role with the Crown to make itself an agent of it.
Māori are limited in how we can participate in political life in New Zealand. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a realm of possibility that enables us to create new spaces within existing structures to effect the changes we want. To continue our activism and agitation inside the places that seem an unnatural fit such as parliament.
The next step then is to consider what kind of agenda would such a party or movement advance?
There is momentum to move away from being policy driven which requires participation as a Crown agent, toward a vehicle for constitutional change. Therefore, rather than trying to advance a policy agenda which tends to focus on how much budget money can be secured against a set of planned announceables, a kaupapa Māori politics would focus on reconfiguring the machinery of government to redistribute participatory power back to the community where policy innovation actually happens. This requires seats and a participatory framework for communities.
In a practical sense, this could be achieved by providing avenues for whānau, hapū and iwi to input into or design members bills that drive the changes needed in their communities. Developing a framework or tool to assess new legislation or changes – voting government bills up or down based on their consistency with Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The salient thing here is that focusing on constitutional change gets to the guts of what remains a frustration for Māori and helps new political actors to avoid the imitation of western politics that moves us away from kaupapa Māori.
In my mind, this approach has the potential to radically shift power and redistribute it back to the people – our people. Holding all seven Māori electorate seats could help create what we might call a Tiriti accountability arm in Parliament. This would, however, require that these seats be committed to the cross-benches as a check on the Executive and Legislature to ensure Māori rights and interests are protected and advanced at all times.
A constitutional focus with participatory mechanisms could also encourage more Māori to enrol on the Māori electoral roll which could increase the number of dedicated Māori seats, and the size of the Tiriti arm.
When thinking about the future demographics of New Zealand, the Māori population is growing meaning the number of seats could be hugely significant and Māori should plan for this demographic shift that will take place within the next 20 years rather than leave it to chance or to mainstream parties.
The groundswell of activism and mobilisation of Māori demonstrates that collectively we are hungry for a party or movement that will raise its voice as loudly in the house as it would on the frontlines. A movement or phenomenon that will use its collective power to activate change. Being Tiriti focused restores the collective aspirations of Māori rather than perpetuating the adversarial politicking that has only divided our interests and our relationships to each other.
The question is who will be brave enough to ignite that movement in 2020? Who will put aside their aspirations for personal power in favour of the collective power of communities for constitutional change?
There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it could help in the design of policy fit for the future.
Initially, I was locked into temporality – viewing future in opposition to past. A useful approach emerged in an article by Schultz (2018) that creates a distinction between futuring and defuturing (p.80). The former referring to extending human existence and the latter destroying it (Schultz, 2018 p.80). That approach helped to reframe how I had been thinking about the concept of futures. Here I was able to draw a connection to Gordon’s (2013) discussion of temporality on indigenous identity, contemplating indigenous futures analogously to western arguments about indigenous authenticity. Specifically, the way in which identity is often confined to the past by virtue of its authenticity being determined in modernity.
Perhaps, Gordon’s (2013) criticism of modernity imposing conceptions of authenticity on Indigenous Peoples could then be viewed as indigenous defuturing, whereas his argument that Indigenous Peoples are “connected to ancestral forms of knowledge and cultural formation but are also the transformation of those norms in the human activity of cultural formation” could be viewed as indigenous futuring. Arguably, indigenous futures then is not about when in time but how in time.
To explain further, in a policy context, indigenous futures could refer to how policies extend the survival of Indigenous Peoples in contrast, to indigenous defuturing where policies – intentionally or not – promote the ongoing colonisation of indigenous knowledges, geographies and cultures, in effect threatening their survival. Such examples could include regeneration of tribal economies as an indigenous futuring compared with deforestation as an indigenous defuturing.
In a practical sense,I was able to apply this thinking at the inaugural Auckland Trade and Economic Policy School event concerned with the future of trade. A key insight was the emphasis on the increasing servicification of trade combined with advancing technology, the digitisation of data and the impact that this new wave of globalisation will have on future generations. However, absent in the discussion overall, was the demographic shift that will occur in Aotearoa over the next 50 years as the Māori population grows while the birth rates of Pākehā decline. In my view, the forecasts of most speakers fell into the trap of what Cicero refers to as the “tyranny of the present” as discussed in Wade’s (2012) scenario planning field guide based on the assumption that “the future will be a variation on a theme, and that theme is today” (p.9).
Two themes I was particularly interested to draw connections between were firstly, the idea of future factories being “people” in a services economy and secondly, the concept of reshoring, which refers to revitalising local manufacturing and bringing back other types of jobs to a country (where in the past it made sense for them to be offshored).
From an indigenous futuring perspective, there is a risk that silence on the demographic shift will lead to the development of ineffective trade and domestic policy to address the needs of the future Māori workforce. Moreover, when Māori futures are generally discussed, it is usually restricted to the risk of automation of their jobs because Māori disproportionately fill low waged labour roles, that robots will be able to do in future.
Despite recognition of services as the future of global economies, there was no contemplation of the role of Māori as a growing proportion of the national workforce, in advancing New Zealand’s trade in services value proposition. More importantly, there was a missed opportunity to explore the equality dividend that could arise with a demographic shift in lifting wellbeing outcomes for Māori as leaders in the new economy. Effectively, Māori futures are still conceived in deficit terms, despite the significant role Māori will play (and already play) in trade in services in the future.
The other aspect is in the context of reshoring. A current trend domestically is to create jobs in, or shift jobs to the regions. While some manufacturers are taking their factories to the regions, this kind of job creation is short term. The types of roles in these factories are the very kind that will likely be automated in future, creating rust buckets in our regions. Whereas in the past Māori were subjects of urban drift, there is a huge risk that Māori will be tempted to the regions for short term employment relief and forced out of cities where innovation in services will mostly take place, perpetuating the colonisation of Māori well into the future. This regionalisation is potentially a defuturing policy for Māori and should be approached with caution. While technology is making regional relocation and remote working a greater possibility, our policy settings will need to be careful not to commit Māori to low skilled regional jobs, while upskilling white folk in the cities for the future of services in the regions.
Indicatively then, trade policy has potential to play both a futuring and defuturing role for Māori. Developing an analytical framework to help policy makers understand the impact of trade policy and measures on Māori futures and the risk of defuturing will be critical for indigenous futures in New Zealand.
[Note: This post is adapted from a reflection written for other purposes on 9 September 2019]
Gordon, L.R. (2013). On the temporality of indigenous identity. UTSePress: Australia.
Schultz, T. (2018). Mapping Indigenous Futures: Decolonising Techno-Colonising Designs. Strategic Design Research Journal, 11(2): 79-91. doi: 10.4013/sdrj.2018.112.04
Wade, W. (2012) Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future. John Wiley & Sons Incorporated. –
In the previous two posts, I laid out the context and set the theoretical framework to answer a question: whether indigenous economies should take the LEAP.
This final part outlines ways to conceive of practicing mana motuhake within the existing legal system by carving out special jurisdictions that enable Indigenous Peoples to enter trading relationships and pursue their economic aspirations on their own terms.
These posts serve only as introductions to ideas about practical approaches to realising Indigenous self-determination.
The link to theory
With increased cooperation in the Asia Pacific region, Indigenous Peoples have become visible to each other again in economic and trade contexts. Events like the World Indigenous Business Forum or the World Indigenous Tourism Summit indicate that tribal leaders and indigenous entrepreneurs are looking for ways to leverage those opportunities and reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit and pragmatism of their ancestors for future generations. Countries around the world are exploring and evolving policies as an innovative approach to accelerate economic development in areas of high deprivation or underdevelopment – unfortunately a space that Indigenous Peoples know too well as a direct result of the violence of colonisation. There have been mixed successes and many lessons, one of the more well known examples being Shenzhen, China.
The essence of these posts is to suggest that there is an opportunity for New Zealand to support Māori to introduce everyday acts of resurgence into the international trade context to open up new spaces for cultural resurgence which could create and set new trade and economic expectations driven by Indigenous Peoples and their relationships to planet, place and people.
Exploring development models
In exploring development models, international models provide a useful and persuasive starting point. Intensive research from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development (Harvard Project) founded by Professors Stephen Cornell and Joseph P. Kalt confirms that Indigenous Peoples achieve better outcomes when enabled to make decisions about their own economic development (Harvard Project, n.d.). In its 20 years of operation, the Harvard Project has established four key themes that matter to the success of indigenous development models: sovereignty, institutions, culture and leadership (Harvard Project, n.d.). Comparably, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which by general definition refer to geographic locations within a national territory where the normal domestic rules do not all apply (Bell, 2016, pp.959-960) offer various exemptions and incentives to conduct business through free trade, foreign trade, export processing, and enterprise zones depending on the specific needs of the community (Crampton & Acharya, 2015, p.6).
SEZs and LEAPs as regional development policy initiatives provide alternatives for policy makers to “experiment with different regulations without threatening established national power structures” and to “trial and promote reforms that other regions could replicate or borrow from to meet the needs their particular constituency” ensuring that governments are responsive and relevant to their communities (Crampton & Acharya, 2010, p.6). Adopting this regional lens has benefits because New Zealand’s economic policy agencies already work in regionally defined programmes and this focus can assist in prioritising a range of development zone areas. These strategic and political levers matter because at a practical level policy solutions require political will.
SEZs are often adopted to encourage investment and stimulate growth in underdeveloped areas (Bell, 2010; Crampton & Acharya, 2015). However, some of the challenges SEZs confront include mixed success resulting from low institutional quality, poor local infrastructure, or corruption (Crampton & Acharya, 2015, p.6). The more radical LEAP zones (LEAPs) “special legal, economic, administrative, and political jurisdictions” are smaller in size than SEZs but draw people to them voluntarily as opposed to imposing them on existing communities (Klugmann, 2013). LEAPs share similar themes to the Harvard Project findings including their inherently regional focus, freedom to regulate according to the needs of the community, and an emphasis on leadership and credible institutions (Bell, 2016; Wong & Buba, 2017; Crampton & Acharya, 2015). Whereas SEZs focus on market liberalisation and financial incentives to do business in the designated zones (Crampton & Acharya, 2015; Bell, 2016; Wong & Buba, 2017), LEAPs offer more flexibility to advance the broader set of Māori aspirations. However, improving the usefulness of these models for the Māori context will require some deviation from the standard SEZ or LEAP definition: shifting the driver from economic growth to collective capability for self-determination.
Murphy (2014) describes the collective capability for self-determination as “members of a distinct political community” cooperating to implement a shared vision and build the physical, cultural, legal and political infrastructure to “shape their individual and collective futures” (pp.323-324). He also considers “capability for collective self-determination partly constitutive of the freedom and well-being of communities and their individual members” (Murphy, 2014, p.326). In linking Murphy’s approach to both Corntassel and Puig, collective capability could be produced through a combination of indigenous self-determination principles and approaches that policy makers could apply to development models such as LEAPs to accelerate indigenous economic development underpinned by a both responsibility to the natural world (Corntassel, 2012) and achieving community oranga (wellbeing) (Murphy, 2014). Re-framing in this way, centres communities and their wellbeing in trade discussions as opposed to market liberalisation which is often met with fierce opposition by indigenous communities due to the negative impacts globalisation inflicts on Indigenous Peoples and the protection of their natural resources (Puig, 2019). It also aligns with the Harvard Project findings that:
“When Native nations make their own decisions about what development approaches to take, they consistently outperform external decision makers on matters as diverse as governmental form, natural resource management, economic development, health care and social service provision” (Harvard Project)
There is a risk that devolving or ascribing LEAP functions for a geographical area outside of government controls could create domestic tensions as some of the public may express concerns about political stability if alternative legal or rules structures operate within the nation structure. However, this already happens to an extent with Local Government and as discussed throughout previously, marae already demonstrate how tikanga and kawa can operate inside a national legal structure without the threat of instability. As human beings, we have shown that we can operate according to a range of rules within a meta structure without things falling apart. LEAPs are not about implementing lawless regions, they are about enabling particular rules to be decided according to the needs of the particular community independent of the national body of rules.
Framing matters. Articulating the value proposition of LEAPs as exploring new ways to give effect to indigenous self-determination in a way that complements the national legal narrative will be imperative. Explaining the models innovation potential that combines the very best models available as the starting point, not the aspiration could shift opponents from a fear of instability to an optimism of possibility (Klugmann, 2013). For instance, rather than settling trade or investment disputes in courtrooms or through arbitration tribunals, they could be settled in the marae – kanohi ki te kanohi – direct between the parties, thereby reshaping and humanising commercial matters that in contemporary times have become highly impersonal transactions.
Imagining a Māori SEZ or LEAP in New Zealand
In terms of modelling, Bell (2016) notes that “[z]ones have in recent years begun shifting away from encouraging international trade with relatively simple financial incentives-exemptions from customs obligations, toward ‘multiuse developments’” comprising industries, commercial, retail, residential and tourism (p.974). The multiuse proposition could be particularly useful for developing remote or rural areas, or those smaller towns with high levels of poverty due to low employment – in both urban and rural settings. While not enjoying the special economic status of an SEZ or LEAP, Ruakura, the inland port and logistics hub owned by Tainui Group Holdings (TGH) reflects a multiuse type arrangement with the associated benefits (Ruakura, n.d.) and provides a potentially useful starting point to imagining an SEZ or LEAP in New Zealand in an indigenous commercial context.
Ruakura is located within the Golden Triangle with rail and road connections to both Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) and Tauranga ports (Ruakura, n.d.). When fully operational, it will offer a logistics and freight hub, residential areas, innovation centres and retail, providing jobs and homes for more than 10,000 employees and around 4,500 residents at Ruakura (Ruakura, n.d.). Given the stage of development for Ruakura, there is an opportunity for TGH and the government to explore these kinds of innovative approaches to accelerate the operationalisation of the hub. Comparing indigenous initiatives with different zone statuses and at varying levels of zone potential could enable TGH and the government to gain deeper insight into the innovation potential for indigenous economies, and their future trade and international relationships.
Iron Horse Industrial Park a Foreign Trade Zone in the U.S. owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation (Iron Horse, n.d.), offers a useful comparative case for TGH and the government to consider how it could support Waikato Tainui to exercise its mana motuhake (self-determination) through acquiring LEAP status for its development (if it desired that status). Iron Horse received Foreign Trade Zone status in 2014 to enable more liberalised international business transactions and to provide benefits such as tax incentives and duty exemptions, reductions and deferrals for businesses and investors seeking to enter the U.S. market (Iron Horse, n.d.). Like Ruakura, it is strategically located, and is considered a magnet site of the Port of Greater Oklahoma City’s FTZ (Iron Horse, n.d.). If TGH could attract the investment it needs to supercharge its Ruakura industrial development, the benefits of that investment – building the collective capability for self-determination of its people – could potentially accrue to its tribal members much sooner than its current timeframe of 2041.
Given the shape of our societies, the importance of both advancing iwi developments and exploring similar opportunities for urbanised Māori, is critical for policy makers to also explore to unlock the full potential of the diverse economies within Te Ao Māori. Two examples for conceptualising innovative approaches for advancing urban indigenous economies is the city of Toronto’s Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE) that is currently under development (City of Toronto, n.d.) and He Waka Eke Noa, a social procurement intermediary based in Manukau, Auckland.
Note: conceptualising LEAPs in urban environments creates a range of challenges – including challenges around tribal interests in land where it might be proposed that a LEAP is established. One way around this significant challenge could include corrective contemporary Te Tiriti settlements but this is a topic of its own and would require careful, inclusive and transparent consideration.
Indigenous Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ICIE)
When complete, the ICIE will offer a range of economic supports to Indigenous Peoples such as business incubators and accelerator programmes for entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses (City of Toronto, n.d.). It will also provide a commercial space for indigenous economic connections that will operate as a hub in what is to become an indigenous business district in downtown Toronto (City of Toronto, n.d.). The notion of an indigenous business district enables the City of Toronto to expand its vision and to outsource its development to the Indigenous Peoples it will serve. These kinds of initiatives support notions of resurgence as expressed by Corntassel (2012), and provide the infrastructure to build collective capability as imagined by Murphy (2010) and the rules and procedures of how any international trade could be managed from within zone (Puig, 2019), but all of those components require the open minds of decision makers and the institutional support to back them.
He Waka Eke Noa
New Zealand could look to the ICIE model to explore the potential to evolve He Waka Eke Noa from a virtual hub to a physical hub similar to the ICIE with the broader aspiration of establishing an indigenous business district with LEAP status in Manukau.
He Waka Eke Noa currently operates as an intermediary function that “connects Māori and Pasifika-owned businesses with clients and buyers wanting to purchase goods, services and works” (He Waka Eke Noa, n.d.). This initiative is the result of a collaboration between local and central government agencies in Tāmaki Makaurau (Auckland) indicating that the model – as an innovation – enjoys a sufficient level of institutional support to improve its chances of success. The value proposition of a He Waka Eke Noa as the centre of an indigenous business district, is its current location in South Auckland – an area with one of the highest concentrations of Māori in the rohe and therefore the ability for Māori in the area to benefit directly from local jobs and local spend in the community. In addition, its upgraded public transport infrastructure and proximity to the Auckland International Airport also presents global opportunities at its doorstep, with ease of access to a major trade and logistics hub and the ability to attract local spend from increasing traveller flows to the region to help sustain jobs and enterprise in the area.
Other levers and their linkages to LEAPs
When thinking about LEAPs in the indigenous context, ‘reservations’ also come to mind. While marae reservations in New Zealand are not an ideal comparative to North American reservations, understanding the Canadian and U.S. reservation models provides a way of understanding how to better utilise the marae reservation status. North American reservations arise from negotiated settlements with their settler governments, where a “portion of their traditional territory is reserved for permanent use by the tribe” (Sierra Project, 2015, p.3). Along with the reservation of land, the Tribe is accorded a degree of sovereignty to enact laws and govern people within its territories (Sierra Project, 2015, p.3). This limited sovereignty effectively prevents States from regulating the commercial activities of Native Americans on their reservations (Sierra Project, 2015, p.3). Arguably, reservations reflect LEAPs based on the domains that tribes do have control over. However, the prohibition from entering into “treaties with foreign governments the way a traditional nation would be able to” (Sierra Project, 2015, p.3) limits the use of international trade as a tool for self-determination. LEAP status could assist in overcoming that by providing more levers than a standard FTZ that some tribes have opted for, in their tribal economic development.
In New Zealand, while marae reservations can be set aside for a range of purposes to prevent the land being compulsorily acquired under the Public Works Act 1981, the key point about marae is that it could be possible for them to operate as LEAP connecting points to build a networked reservation that establishes the cultural infrastructure and backbone support for the creation of indigenous LEAPs throughout New Zealand. LEAP status could enhance the function of marae to give them greater alignment to North American reservations by imputing a relational sovereignty for networked members enabling the regeneration of Māori cultural and economic assets. Strengthening cultural identity and enterprise together could as Murphy’s (2014) approach suggests, enhance both the physical and psychological wellbeing of Māori, by addressing social and economic triggers to stress and cultural connectivity. Anecdotally, when people see themselves reflected in their communities as valued members they feel more connected to who they are and where they belong. In addition, implementing LEAPs could help grow the number and range of enterprise and employment opportunities – including roles in the tradable (export) sector, to lift Māori incomes so Māori are accessing a greater proportion of the nation’s prosperity.
A fundamental challenge to achieving special economic status is the racism that persists in New Zealand, including in its institutions. Any special status sought or granted to its Indigenous Peoples will likely be met with rigorous resistance diminishing the will of politicians to take bold stances to advance the innovation potential of Māori economies and their cultural centres – marae. Often, opponents liken Māori cultural identity to religion and their marae to Churches or Mosques, whom, they will argue should also have access to those same special statuses. However, there is nothing in the idea of LEAPs to preclude those institutions from seeking similar special economic statuses. Additionally, critics of this school of thought should be careful not to conflate Māori identity with religion, and marae with churches, as doing so erases an entire peoples history which comes dangerously close to proposing cultural genocide.
New Zealand has an opportunity to partner with its indigenous communities to identify urban and rural areas that could benefit from special economic status and better understand the kinds of trade policy measures that will accelerate Māori economic development and give effect to the right of its Indigenous Peoples to self-determination to lift the wellbeing outcomes of Māori. The theories offered by Corntassel, Puig, and Murphy provide a basis for developing a uniquely indigenous development model without prescribing its rules, processes or conditions. Moreover, the tripartite of views provides the foundation to access legal frameworks that enable the establishment of zones where cultural resurgence can prosper and produce collective capability. Therefore, LEAPs offer an alternative approach that could support Māori (and other Indigenous Peoples) to continue the innovation legacy their ancestors began more than 6000 years ago when leaving Taiwan. Should indigenous economies take the LEAP? Simply put, yes.
 The Golden Triangle is ‘the term economic commentators use to describe the geographic area bound up by Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga’ (New Zealand Herald, 2018).
Bellwood, P., Hung, H-C. & lizuka, Y. (2011) Taiwan Jade in the Philippines: 3,000 Years of Trade and Long-distance Interaction, in Purissima Benitez-Johannot (ed.), Paths of Origins: The Austronesian Heritage in the Collections of the National Museum of the Philippines,the Museum Nasional Indonesia,and the Netherlands Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Singapore: ArtPostAsia. Retrieved from: http://www.earth.sinica.edu.tw/~epma/papers/…/A14%20PathsofOrigins_pp30-41_2011.pdf
Bellwood, P; Fox, J.J & Tryon, D. (2006). The Austronesians in History: Common Origins and Diverse Transformations in Bellwood, P; Fox, J.J & Tryon, D. (eds.) The Austronesians: Historical and Comparative Perspectives. ANU Press. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbjx1.4
Ko, A.M., Chen, CY, Fu, Q., Delfin, F., Li, M., Chiu, HL., Stoneking, M. and Ko, YC. (2014). Early Austronesians: Into and Out Of Taiwan. The American Journal of Human Genetics. 94, 426–436.
Le Dressay, A., Lavallee, N., and Reeves, J. (2010). First Nations Trade, Specialization, and Market Institutions: A Historical Survey of First Nation Market Culture” Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium International 72. Retrieved from: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/aprci/72
This section builds on Part 1 of this series to provide a theoretical basis for the final instalment (part 3 – to come).
Self-determination: law or resurgence — or both?
International law promotes the principal of equal treatment and self-determination, which includes peoples’ rights to freely pursue their social, cultural and economic development aspirations. This principle is provided in Articles 1 and 55 of the Charter of the United Nations (the Charter), Article 1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and Article 3 of the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), all of which underscore the intention of member States to uphold that principle. However, for indigenous self-determination, Article 46 in the UNDRIP imposes a restriction on interpretation of the Declaration. This suggests that in signing up to the UNDRIP member states considered recognition of indigenous self-determination as symbolic matter rather than a commitment to actively pursue, consequently locating colonisation as something in the past rather than accepting or acknowledging its ongoing effects (Corntassel, 2012, p.92).
Notably, New Zealand did not officially sign up to the UNDRIP until 2010 – three years after it was introduced and signed by 144 other member states. Interestingly, China voted in support of the UNDRIP despite not recognising Indigenous Peoples in the territories it proclaims sovereignty over, including Taiwan. However, New Zealand was not alone. Neither Canada nor the U.S. signed the UNDRIP at that time. Unsurprisingly then, New Zealand’s action to date parallels the virtue signalling of other members in its non-implementation of any of the articles. And whilst the New Zealand government announced earlier in 2019, its intention to “develop a plan of action to drive and measure New Zealand’s progress towards the aspirations” of UNDRIP (Mahuta, 2019), it framed the articles as aspirations rather than firm commitments, arguably heightening the presumption of symbolism and creating ambiguity around what the resulting action plan will actually do.
Domestically, many Indigenous Peoples entered treaties during the early contact period to preserve their tribal sovereignty, as settler populations and demands on resources grew. In New Zealand, the key instruments were He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (He Whakaputanga or the Declaration of Independence) and Te Tiriti o Waitangi (Te Tiriti), and in North America the Silver Chain Covenant and the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation (Jay Treaty). However, these treaties and declarations commonly lacked legal standing later in settler courts attracting rulings that would serve to abrogate their rights for generations to come. For example, in Wi Parata v Bishop of Wellington (1877), the New Zealand Supreme Court declared Te Tiriti a nullity erasing any ability to rely on it against the injustices of the Crown. Similarly, in Francis v the Queen (1956) the Supreme Court of Canada held that the Jay Treaty had no legal effect because it had not been incorporated into domestic legislation. Common across white settler courts was the erosion of Indigenous Peoples rights as settler governments took hold of stolen territories.
Politics of Recognition and International Indigenous Economic Law
As noted in part 1, the question as to whether self-determination of Indigenous Peoples is actionable through international law or law at all, is disputed at length from scholars of both legal and non-legal disciplines. For instance, Jeff Corntassel (2012) rejects the politics of recognition (i.e. legal ot State recognition of indigenous rights) in favour of a “responsibility based ethic grounded in relationships to homelands and community”. He argues this approach avoids the limitations accompanying State recognition (i.e. settler determined findings about Indigenous Peoples) (p.93). Corntassel (2012) insists that Indigenous Peoples do not claim rights, instead they assert responsibilities that are sourced from their relationships with the natural and spiritual worlds and it is through these responsibilities that their rights emerge (p.92). Additionally, Corntassel (2012) considers sustainability an inherent element of indigenous self-determination and that this is achieved through practicing “every day acts of resurgence” (pp.92-93). Ani Mikaere (2011) shares a similar view emphasising that Māori rights as tangata whenua of New Zealand derive from Māori having occupied the lands for generations and “having developed an intimate connection with this environment, and an intricate set of relationships to regulate our place within it” (p.123-146).
So how might we understand indigenous rights to self-determination outside the legal institutions we have become accustomed to?
In the New Zealand context, te kawa o te marae (the protocol of marae) provides a useful example of everyday acts of resurgence with many non-indigenous peoples also understanding and respecting that marae operate according to processes and protocols grounded in a tikanga (values) that governs people’s behaviours and roles on the marae. This is a result of Māori continually practicing their culture, emphasising the importance of cultural maintenance for sustainable indigenous self-determination. It also exemplifies how over time everyday acts can shift mind-sets – where indigenous rights can be seen as grounded in indigenous relationships to people and place and not as decided in the court room or dictated by the pens of parliament.
In an international trade context, resurgence could be demonstrated through restoring traditional international relations practices too. For instance, the Kaswentha – a treaty agreed between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (an alliance between the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Seneca Nations) in Canada and European settlers during the early 1600s, set out the guiding principles that would govern their relationship amid growing tensions over the fur trade (Philpott, 2019, p.162-63). These principles expressed through the ‘Two-Row Wampum belt’ represented:
…a canoe and a ship travelling down a river side-by-side. The canoe holds the Haudenosaunee peoples, cultures, customs and laws, while the ship houses European settlers and their ways of life. The principles of the Kaswentha provide that the vessels travel together in a spirit of friendship and mutual respect.
(Philpott, 2019, p.162-63)
The Kaswentha illustrates the value traditional customs offer the contemporary international trade framework and the potential to radically shift how nations and peoples engage with each other for economic cooperation. Enabling Indigenous Peoples to introduce these practices as acts of resurgence complements the existing international law framework that is predicated on the promotion of peace and friendly relations between nations (see Art 1, the Charter) while retaining the cultural distinctions of the Indigenous Peoples entering into any negotiations.
Indigenous methods of establishing relationships puts values upfront, bringing the notion of responsibilities to each other and their own values systems to the fore in a humanising and transformative way rather than reducing relationships in trade to mere transactions.
In contrast to Corntassel’s responsibility based ethic that looks away from the law as a source of rights for Indigenous Peoples, Sergio Puig (2019) looks toward international indigenous economic law, as a developing body of work that he considers to operate as a shield and sword for the protection and advancement of indigenous rights, respectively (p.1302-1303). Similar to Corntassel (2012) who differentiates indigenous self-determination (relationships based) from state sovereignty (rights based) (p.92), Puig (2019) distinguishes indigenous rights from human rights, expounding Indigenous Peoples rights as distinctly rooted in unjust political and economic factors resulting from colonisation (p.1245).
Puig’s (2019) way around the over reliance on human rights instruments is to look to international economic treaties (p.1304). For example, he notes how the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade provides a range of exceptions that permit states to impose restrictions on trade, such as taking any necessary measures to protect public morals which operates as a shield for their protection (Puig, 2019, p.1304) . He references the EC-Seal Products case (EC-Seals cited in Puig, 2019), in which the European Union (EU) relied on the public morals clause under Art XX(a) GATT to defend a claim brought against it by Canada and Norway. The dispute concerned the EU Seal Regime that introduced a ban on the import and export of seal products because it discriminated against other indigenous groups and producers of similar products with an exception clause only for the Inuit Peoples of Greenland, for whom seal hunting remains a tradition. Although the WTO Appellate Body upheld that the exception was discriminatory in part because the EU had not made ‘comparable effortsto facilitate the access of the Canadian Inuit to the IC exception as it did with respect to the Greenlandic Inuit’ it considered the EU Seal Regime was necessary to protect public morals but the chapeau requirements were not met. However, as Puig (2019) highlights, the AB left open the ability of the EU to make the exception WTO compliant (p.1304-1305). Canada’s attempt to protect the rights of its Inuit Peoples in this case, is also worth noting, as it adds to the deepening dialogue emerging from States, providing potential geopolitical levers for Indigenous Peoples to draw on.
While Puig (2019) focuses on international economic treaties as a source for change, his argument could equally extend to specific bilateral or multilateral trade agreements where the changes in mandate occur domestically. For example, the Treaty of Waitangi Exception Clause contained in all New Zealand’s contemporary trade agreements acts as a shield to protect Māori treaty rights (MFAT, n.d. a), whereas Chapter 19 of the Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu on Economic Cooperation (ANZTEC) acts as a sword to advance indigenous to indigenous economic and cultural exchange. Using Puig’s argument in this way also brings the obligations of settler governments within closer proximity to its Indigenous Peoples. This provides a resonance to Corntassel’s responsibility based ethic by centring the communities affected in the agreements made between States. Therefore, these two theories could act as complementaries rather than be cast as antagonists, to enable direct relationships within and between Indigenous Peoples and foreign states by building on apparatuses such as the ANZTEC Chapter 19.
However, adopting international economic law as a basis for protecting and advancing indigenous rights potentially suffers from similar weaknesses to the human rights law approach. That is, the governance and rules still depend on systems and structures that have perpetuated the injustices of settler governments against Indigenous Peoples. Be that as it may, earlier treaties and agreements such as He Whakaputanga, Te Tiriti and the Jay Treaty present clear explications of indigenous ancestors recognising the value of having their rights to their territories and resources confirmed and notified internationally for the ongoing and sustainable benefit of their uri (descendants).
Despite some clear weaknesses to work through, I still consider that international indigenous economic law could provide an enabling function for achieving indigenous rights. Different courts, tribunals and governments have recognised, protected or interpreted indigenous rights and practices in various ways and to variable degrees. However, the growing body of international indigenous economic law in conjunction with a responsibility based ethic grounded in the everyday acts of resurgence we already see, could benefit from an agglomeration effect of sorts. That is, the growing level of political interest in indigenous rights and the moral capital it attracts could provide a useful lever for Indigenous Peoples to cash in on the political capital that in recent times Canada and New Zealand governments at least, have electorally banked in their favour. Moreover, unlike human rights laws, international economic law has a more practical effect because often there are financial incentives for settler governments to uphold the commitments it makes in them, as well as political incentives, such as avoidance of reputational harm at both the domestic and international level. After all, a government seen to not uphold its economic obligations would struggle to secure the trade benefits it seeks in future trade agreements and could attract legitimate trade restrictions.
Agreement between New Zealand and the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, and Matsu on Economic Cooperation 2013.
Charter of the United Nations 1945.
Corntassel, J. (2012). Re-envisioning resurgence: Indigenous pathways to decolonization and sustainable self-determination. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, 1(1), 86-101.
European Communities – Measures Prohibiting the Importation and Marketing of Seal Products (2014, May 22) WT/DS400/AB/R, WT/DS401/AB/R.
Francis v. The Queen  S.C.R. 618.
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1947.
He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni 1835.
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966.
Karnuth v. United States, 279 U.S. 231 (1929).
Le Dressay, A., Lavallee, N., and Reeves, J. (2010). First Nations Trade, Specialization, and Market Institutions: A Historical Survey of First Nation Market Culture” Aboriginal Policy Research Consortium International 72. Retrieved from: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/aprci/72
Friday 15 March 2019. The heart stands still. The lives of 50 people stolen by a terrorist in the most reprehensible of ways. Not a lone wolf. Not a mentally unwell individual. A terrorist armed with weapons of war committed to a white supremacist ideology that demands its followers reach into and express the darkest versions of themselves.
How do we centre Muslim voices in the aftermath of white terrorism?
As I watch across a range social and news media platforms, many of us who identify as Māori are noting our lack of shock or surprise at the racism and the extent of white extremism in this country. Any shock we feel is the abysmal failure of the modern system of government to prevent terror from actually happening on our whenua. Shocked at the depth of institutional racism to the point of weakening our security institutions. We protested surveillance because it unfairly targeted Māori and other communities of colour. We saw the terror that the State imposed on whānau and hapori Māori with Operation 8. However, we passively assumed that our state surveillance meant the system would also have its eyes on the heinous white extremists living here. But it didn’t and we will hold the government to account for that in the days and weeks to come.
For now, we must tautoko our Muslim brothers and sisters to voice their concerns and experiences. I know that this might raise some challenging feelings for Māori across this motu – being asked to centre non-Māori voices is confronting when we have had centuries of trying to have our own voices centred when it comes to matters of racism affecting our lives. We must acknowledge too, that some of our whānau also identify as Muslim, and we must support them to have their voices heard.
In the aftermath of white terrorism, it is important then for us to understand why it matters to centre Muslim voices, and how we can go about doing that.
Why must we centre Muslim voices?
We must centre Muslim voices to enable change in Aotearoa. To change how our systems privilege different groups over others, to change how dominant groups in society treat people who hold different beliefs, practice different cultural traditions, speak different languages, have different names, wear different clothing, or have different skin colours. We must centre Muslim voices to help change attitudes – because hate and intolerance begins in the home and the places we normalise privilege and tolerate prejudice.
We have the privilege of recognition as tangata whenua of New Zealand.
This is not privilege in the sense that we extract excessive social and economic benefits from our status as tangata whenua.
We must recognise that compared to non-Māori people of colour, the dominant white population and the system designed for them at least recognises us as being of the land and not foreign to it.
Understanding our oppression
We are not immune from racism, prejudice and discrimination in our homes. We rightly criticise the treatment of Māori by successive governments and the way society stereotypes and degrades us. However, we are complicit in much stereotyping and prejudicing of other communities of colour and marginalised groups.
An obvious example is the appalling attitude and distasteful behaviour demonstrated by the Destiny Church this week – many of its followers identifying as Māori, the Bishop himself – Māori. The Bishop taking exception to the nation observing 2 minutes of silence followed by the Muslim call to prayer (adhan) to be played across New Zealand’s airwaves in remembrance and honour of the dead and their whānau. Inciting hysteria inside its congregation that this government was threatening Christianity that the Bishop claims this country was founded on.
We must remember that Māori cosmogyny existed prior to contact and remains a fundamental element of our Māori identity. Some forms of Christianity – including the Destiny Church brand are complicit in the kinds of oppression that stoke bigoted hate fires and fuel ideologies like white supremacism leading to extremism.
For those who have come to identify as Christian, this is not a diatribe against Christianity. It’s a reminder to all of us – Christian and non-Christian Māori, that this was a faith brought to our communities from outside Te Ao Māori. It provided a spiritual connection for many Māori communities following colonisation and suppression of our language and culture. However, we cannot allow exclusionary versions of Christianity to permit us to internalise prejudicial practices and views.
On a less religious angle, we cannot allow political parties and the media to taint our views about migrants and refugees or to teach us that people who look different from us – as Māori or White, are not of this land.
Over time – almost 200 years, colonisation of Māori has supported and taught us to internalise racism, prejudice and discrimination in our communities and we must be ready to examine these now. Because if we do not un-learn those things we have internalised, we perpetuate the harm that props up the structures of white supremacy, rather than tearing them down.
Do things differently
We know that our spaces for dialogue are limited. That institutional racism and bias close the door to us at almost every step we take to challenging white supremacy in our social, political and economic domains.
We are not being asked or told to take a seat in our own whenua.
One way to visualise doing things differently is to take ourselves out of Te Ao Pākehā where communities of colour fight for the same piece of the diversity and inclusion pie, and step confidently and firmly in to Te Ao Māori.
Where the kawa that governs how we share our kōrero embeds the notion of aroha ki te tangata – respect for all peoples. Where there is a time for listening and a time for speaking. Our time to talk will return when the speakers have had their say.
Follow our kawa and trust in our tikanga. Give space with only love in our hearts.
Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa
Let us keep close together, not far apart
*Please note that this is just one among many indigenous views. I don’t speak on behalf of all Māori.
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.
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.
In his recent post, Too quick to take the credit?Morgan Godfery argues that it was a “crass” move by the Māori Party to put out a statement taking credit for the $790 million hardship package included in this years Budget. His key argument was that there were others who shifted political thinking such as Matua Hone Harawira with his Feed the Kids Bill and various advocacy groups, and as such that credit lies with those people not the Māori Party. It’s not that I don’t think others have been strong advocates on poverty. I absolutely do and of course agree they all deserve credit for their advocacy. But I think it’s unfair to discount the efforts of Dr Pita Sharples and Dame Tariana Turia and the continued efforts of Matua Te Ururoa Flavell and Whaea Marama Fox, as well as the party’s previous MP’s, parliamentary staff and members and supporters who have advanced the issue of poverty within the party and in their respective communities for the past decade.
Godfery writes that:
[C]laiming the credit for forcing the government to act seems a little, well, crass. Much of the credit belongs to Hone Harawira. It was Hone who did more than anyone else to help put child poverty on the Parliamentary agenda with his Feed the Kids campaign
Firstly, if you have had an opportunity to listen to Flavell’s Budget Speech, you will note that he said the Māori Party pulled it over the line…with a little help from National. After all, no Budget measures can take effect unless the government agree to it. The Māori Party have been strong advocates for poverty since entering Parliament, and the evidence is readily available in their policy manifesto’s. [Discussed further below].
Secondly, I completely agree that Harawira has been an outstanding advocate on issues of poverty and social justice. He certainly put child poverty on the media agenda but the claim he put it on the parliamentary agenda is bold. It’s worth noting that despite his advocacy in the media, Harawira had 2 years to put his Feed the Kids Bill before the house, yet withdrew and delayed on numerous occasions. It was only put forth following the 2014 Election, by NZ Greens Co-Leader Metiria Turei. Also note, the Māori Party voted in favour of that bill.
I also wholeheartedly agree that Campbell Live, Action Station, Child Poverty Action Group, and Auckland Action Against Poverty among other groups have been at the forefront of many community led initiatives to get the government to address poverty in Aotearoa. That doesn’t mean in order to recognise their strong advocacy that we need devolve into adversarialism. To allege misattribution by the Māori Party and essentially accuse them of riding on the coattails of the work of others is itself a misplaced attribution. The collective efforts and the varying roles each of the organisations have in policy development were not dismissed by the Māori Party. But in my view, they have every reason to say we pulled it over the line, since it is the Māori Party who through their relationship accord were able to directly influence that budget decision and absolutely the public pressure from these groups played a vital role in the Māori Party being able to secure that funding for poverty.
Action Station have expressed their tautoko of the Party in the fight against poverty:
@FoxMarama We agree – it's not enough, it's not as much as we could do, but it's better than nothing and we know you had a hand in that.
On the above it is only fair then that we also take a brief look at the Party’s history of poverty advocacy.
In 2008, the Māori Party entered their first relationship accord with the National Party. At that time, Harawira was an elected MP for the Māori Party under the leadership of Turia and Sharples. The 2008 Policy programme that the Māori Party campaigned on included Ending Child Poverty by 2020. Part of that policy programme included:
Rais[ing] core benefit levels
Establishing an Every Child Matters fund
Investigating the reintroduction of a Universal Child Benefit
In 2014, addressing the effects of poverty was weaved through critical areas of the Party’s policy platform: Whānau Ora, Health, Education, Economic Development, Homes, Family Violence, Enabling Good Lives and so on. The goals stated were to build on the objectives and the progress made since 2008.
For the Party to be reproached for being proud of their contributions, that is, seeing the materialisation of the work their MP’s and the kaimahi behind the scenes have put in to the relationship accord over the past 7 years, is awfully undermining of their efforts.
I do agree with Godfery where he states:
Improving even one life is a positive step, but we can’t claim success until we begin changing the system which reproduces Maori disadvantage generation after generation. Budget gains may help stop the slide, but they won’t reverse it.
However, to my knowledge the Party haven’t claimed success on the “reversal” of poverty – they’ve indicated that the budget gains are a start to improving the lives of our most vulnerable whānau.
In the 2015 Budget the Māori Party negotiated and secured around $1 billion worth of funding directed toward Māori initiatives and the countries most vulnerable whānau. The most significant gain being the increase in the core benefit rate of $25 per week. The first increase in 43 years. However, in giving with one hand, National took with the other by imposing stricter obligations on sole parents, who will now be required to return to work two years earlier and for longer hours.
Understandably, many are expressing concern that the hardship package is fraught with challenge and will not remedy child poverty in Aotearoa. For instance, Metiria Turei of the NZ Greens was quick off the mark to point out the flaws and concerns in the package:
No solution to poverty. The benefit incr is eroded by increasing costs & working families get the equiv of a block of cheese. #budget2015
In fairness, I’ve not seen anyone claim the hardship package is a panacea to the country’s social and economic ills. Nor would I expect that anyone would think this was some kind of magical fix. Poverty is complex. It is layered and each situation requires different approaches to not only address the hardship each whānau face, but to also step out a plan to overcome hardship permanently. This in my mind, is the benefit of having around $50 million more funding toward Whānau Ora to be distributed by commissioning agencies to ensure those funds reach frontline services, and therefore whānau.
However, unlike some others, I don’t see the increase in the core benefit rate as a negative. I applaud the Māori Party, in Te Ururoa Flavell’s words, for pulling this over the line. I mean even if National only agreed to the increase to save political face, in my mind, what matters is that for the first time in 43 years our core benefit rate has increased. This means that any future government can arguably increase the amount further without causing a massive public outcry. In my opinion, the left (many of whom are being incredibly critical of the increase) should champion this idea. Afterall, the New Zealand public are likely to adapt or perhaps cope better with incremental increases to core benefit rates than they are to sharp increases.
I do agree that the immediate material impact may be minor for many of the whānau targeted by this policy. But the long term prospects for those families who find themselves on a benefit are much better today than they were the day before the budget or indeed since the massive cuts in 1991 under the National government at that time.
A small anecdotal note, however, for those claiming that $25 per week or the $18.40 or something that it turns out to be is laughable, or not even worth implementing. I can assure you, as child of a beneficiary parent in the 1990’s, that “something” will always be better than nothing. I am not saying we should just settle for the bare minimum. I am saying that this “something” although not enough to fix hardship, could mean the difference between having a home with power versus a home without power. It could mean the difference between having porridge in the cupboard versus having nothing. It could mean the difference between sandwiches for lunch versus having nothing. It could mean the difference between accommodation versus eviction. It could mean the difference between going on a school trip versus feigning a sick day. So yes, based on my own personal experience I am going to be supportive of any policy that increases core benefit levels.
Is it enough? Absolutely not. But I’d just ask people to be mindful that when you claim $5, $10, $20, or $25 etc is nothing – you might want to check your privilege. It can make a difference. And even if only minor, that difference can change a persons outlook, or even just what kind of day they have. This matters to those who have been forced to become accustomed to having nothing.
Furthermore, when the ethos of a political party changes from ‘slash the benefit’ to ‘increase the core rate’ then progress has been made. Just over three quarters of a billion dollars targeted at poverty is a milestone in these circumstances. Social change doesn’t happen from people crowing at the sidelines. It takes collaboration and nurturing of relationships to create and instill change. We are yet to see whether the National Party will embody this change in focus and become more receptive to issues around poverty in future. Although, the more stringent work requirements for sole parents on a benefit with toddlers arguably counters the notion of a genuine change.
The other argument as Turei raises above is that these increased work requirements erode the increase in the core benefit rate. I’m not going to dispute that. I wholly disagree with the onerous requirements placed on sole parents to become available for work for 20 hours p/w, as opposed to 15 hours p/w, when their child turns 3 years old, as opposed to 5 years old. Sacraparental sets out 16 reasons why that particular policy is problematic.
However, I think we can support the increase in the core benefit rate for the reasons I set out above, while remaining critical of the increased work expectations. To this end, I think the Māori Party have done some great mahi to negotiate an historic increase in the benefit coupled with the extra funding for Whānau Ora and other initiatives that can help address hardship and also temper some of the challenges inherent in the onerous work availability policy.
Whānau Ora has always been in the hissing pit when it comes to NZ politics. Another example of Māori “Special Privilege”. Every jibe simply an attempt by the sneerer to reinforce their assimilationist predisposition and/or self importance. Much of the criticism is misplaced or exaggerated. And it can be quite distressing seeing Māori internalise that lack of faith in Māori systems. It’s implementation is by no means perfect, and sure there are certainly areas requiring vast improvement, but there is no denying that it has helped thousands of family in the four years it has been in operation as a matter of government policy.
Two days ago, the Auditor General released a report on Whānau Ora. While it has been depicted in the media as a damning indictment, the Report simply sought to clarify what whānau ora is, where the funding has gone, and what Whānau Ora has achieved after four years. The Auditor General appraises Whānau Ora as “an example of innovation and new thinking in service delivery”. She also states that it provides “an opportunity for providers of health and social services in the community to operate differently and to support families in deciding their best way forward”.
Many people have commented that they are not quite sure what Whānau Ora is or does. I’m not convinced that’s due to a lack of information. Arguably,(in many cases at least) it is misunderstood as a result of passive ignorance.
The idea is that “no single sector or discipline has all the answers” to meeting the holistic needs of whānau. This means that a Whānau Ora approach is “cross sectoral, inter-disciplinary, Whānau centred”.
An integrated approach recognises that economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions are inter-related and one cannot be adequately progressed without the others.
Whānau Ora recognises that “cultural worldviews are important to health”. As well as building on “Māori world views, language [and] culture, networks, [and] leadership”, Whānau Ora reaches out to cultures in all their diversity. The objective is to provide a framework within which all whānau can define their own distinctive pathways in accordance with their cultural practices and values to improve whānau outcomes.
Goals that empower
Whānau Ora values “human dignity, positive relationships, self-management and self-determination”.
It is about “addressing the impacts of whānau disadvantage as well as assisting families to be strong, capable, resilient and self-managing”. The goal then is not only providing services that address existing disparities, but to unlock potential to help whānau access opportunities and navigate their own futures with the tools they need to improve their whānau outcomes.
Why would we turn the spotlight on ourselves, and expect an initiative which is still evolving to rectify generations of neglect or indifference from the state?
Critique is to be welcomed. Evaluations ensure transparency and accountability. The Minister of Māori Development Te Ururoa Flavell appreciated the report claiming it affirms “the value of taking an innovative public policy approach to supporting families in need.” He considers that the Report provides valuable lessons for “Ministers, government departments, commissioning agencies and providers”. Flavell highlights that:
Since Whānau Ora began in 2010, around 9,400 families have benefitted from whānau-centred service delivery which includes almost 50,000 people.
The problem with exaggerating the shortcomings identified in the report, as the ILG point out, is that it risks hurting whānau who have or could benefit from Whānau Ora services. The reason being that if the public perceive the services to be performing poorly or at least buy into the misplaced criticism by opposition MP’s, then it provides grounds for the government to withdraw funding despite the gains made to date and the future potential of the approach.
…delays in spending the available budgets meant that some of the funds intended for whānau and providers did not reach them as originally planned. In our view, better planning and financial management were needed.
The funding made available for their use was administrative “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora service delivery approach” in the 2010/2011 period and “to implement, develop, and evaluate the whānau ora commissioning approach” in the 2013/2014 period.
The total amount spent was $137.6 million, which was made up of:
$20.8 million (15% of the total) spent through the WIIE fund which “made funds available to whānau through some form of legal entity to enable them to prepare plans to improve their lives”
$67.9 million (49% of the total) spent through the Service Delivery Capability fund which “made funds available to providers, who used it to build their capability to deliver whānau-centred services”
$6.6 million (5% of the total) spent through the funds for commissioning agencies; and
$42.3 million (31% of the total) spent on administration (including research and evaluation).
There is certainly good reason for being concerned that funding appears to have centralised in administration and bureaucracy. This is especially so when providers are always in need of additional funding to meet the needs of whānau. Former Minister Tariana Turia criticised this last October when she questioned why there was an underspend on Whānau Ora and sought answers to where the money had been allocated as she believed that more funding should have been directed to frontline services.
The Report most likely answers her question: much was tied up in Administration. The challenge going forward will be finding more efficient administration systems to ensure more funding finds its way to service providers and navigators.
The benefit of the Report is that it provides clear observations and recommendations that highlight for Te Puni Kōkiri in particular, where it needs to improve its effectiveness. After all, Whānau Ora is about being whānau centric, so any costing’s and financial planning must always be mindful of how whānau are centred in those plans.
However, Whānau Ora cannot resolve the effects of almost 200 years of colonisation in 4 years. This seems to be the crux of much of the criticism in an attempt to disband Whānau Ora and force a return to the shabby state services that have been in place for decades and have not been able to change outcomes for a large proportion of Māori. It is an undeniably unrealistic expectation to suggest that Whānau Ora would magically solve inter-generational disparity in under half a decade.
In saying that, Whānau Ora has helped numerous families to date. And that success should be celebrated. Although, it is currently geared toward Māori and Pasifika whānau to address the history of disparity in Aotearoa, the approach itself is applicable to all whānau and has the capacity to provide a new way of delivering health and social services to all whānau to improve outcomes and finds solutions for whānau self-determination.