by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia
IT was Kingi Tawhiao who said, “Maku ano e hanga i toku nei whare” — I will build my own house. In many ways this statement articulates what Whanau Ora is all about; being empowered, taking control of your own affairs, determining your own needs and working towards building something for the future.
It has become harder and harder for our families to achieve this over the past few generations. With colonisation came an erosion of land, identity and resource. Once these things have been removed from you, it is very difficult to operate from a base of confidence or empowerment.
We have had leaders, prophets and change-makers who have moved across many fronts to find space for our knowledge in order to remedy the fate of our whanau. This has been a multi-generational struggle. In fact, many of us in our day-to-day lives are advancing the future of our whanau by breaking stereotypes, removing barriers, building a bridge of cultural understanding between organisations and tangata whenua.
One of the key issues that has acted as a barrier for Maori development has been that our entire State and system of government has been established upon Western philosophy. It does not fit within our world view, and we have spent countless hours justifying, explaining and proving that how we see the world and how we operate is valid, meaningful and works for us.
Whanau Ora has been about creating the space for our aspirations and our knowledge to be fostered.
There are other areas where this same work is going on. We have established whare wananga, wharekura, kura kaupapa Maori and kohanga reo, which have proven to be successful in revitalising our language while also achieving educational outcomes; we have seen the proliferation of Maori health and social services working to advance our wellbeing aspirations; the rise and rise of our iwi identity, our runanga system and the strengthening of our culture; the development of Maori business, and the growing awareness of the strength of the Maori economy which has supported non-Maori business to recognise the need to engage with tangata whenua.
The change is slow, but it is happening.
I thought about all of this over the weekend after launching the changes to the kainga whenua scheme, a product developed to support Maori trusts, whanau and individuals to get loans to build houses on multiply-owned land.
Our views on housing are intrinsically tied to our sense of self and place, our connection with our land and resources, and of course our whanau. The kainga whenua policy was put in place as a means of recognising this link.
In its first form it did not reach the audience for which it is formed, but we have been able to revise it, improve it and ultimately make it fit for us. We have increased the income cap for borrowers, opened the eligibility criteria to trusts and all individuals who can service a mortgage, and we have expanded the policy to be able to cover not just new builds, but maintenance and repairs on old whare.
To see an initiative which recognises and supports our unique aspirations for housing is wonderful. The expanded programme also acknowledges the role of the wider whanau in supporting the wellbeing of their members.
This is but one area where we have been able to make progress, but of course there is always more work to do. Housing is an area where there is significant need for Maori engagement, and I look forward to seeing more papakainga developments, and more whanau living in safe and healthy homes.
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