More to do and every day counts
Sixty-six thousand, five hundred and ninety eight.
That is the number of days from February 6, 1840 until today; 66,598 days on which the rights of Māori and obligations of the Crown under the Treaty of Waitangi should have been upheld. But they were not. In fact, during the past 66,598 days the Crown has systematically set out to breach, subrogate and erode the rights of its Treaty partner, tangata whenua.
In the past 40 years there has been progress in remedying some wrongs but as a nation we have failed to achieve equitable outcomes in a timely manner. Frankly, we have not done enough and as a society there has never been a collective will to do more.
Treaty settlements have returned resources to Māori estimated to be worth approximately 1 percent of the value originally taken.
Māori are disproportionately represented in the worst social statistics — health, education, income, justice. Māori in Tairāwahiti die on average 10 years earlier than non-Māori. That is a startling and shameful fact.
It is not the government’s sole responsibility to address this. It is actually all of our responsibility, however, let’s look at councils. The Local Government Act 2002 effectively gives life to councils which act, in part, as an extension of the government. Numerous government policies and various laws are implemented at the local government level. Under the LGA councils are obligated to empower and enable increased Māori participation in local government.
During this term our council has made some significant decisions in an attempt to comply with its obligations under the LGA. Most notably we voted to introduce Māori ward seats at October’s election. What has probably not been particularly evident to our wider community is council’s efforts to build meaningful relationships with mana whenua as recognised Treaty partners. Part of this mahi has seen councillors undertake several Treaty workshops to increase our understanding of Te Tiriti, our responsibilities and obligations and to guide the direction for council.
On Tuesday this week councillors will meet with local iwi leaders. We have attempted this meeting previously however Covid restrictions intervened. I believe my fellow councillors are really looking forward to this hui as the first of many, as we work to forge a new era in relationships with mana whenua. We are also very aware of the impending election in October and the need for us, as sitting councillors, to firmly and unequivocally establish the direction council is taking.
A term that is likely to gain more prominence in this and the next term is co-governance. I am aware that some people in our community cannot fathom the idea that the council would enter any form of co-governance with mana whenua on any matter. Council already has co-governance with mana whenua, for example, the Joint Management Agreement with Ngati Porou for the Waiapu Catchment. Co-governance makes sense and it is where we should be as a region and as a nation. More than 50 percent of the population in Tairāwhiti is Māori so it’s hard to base opposition to co-governance on proportionate representation. The foundation for co-governance lies in taking a Tiriti-based approach.
It appears to me that understanding Te Tiriti is difficult for tauiwi and I have met very few in Tairawhiti who have more than a rudimentary knowledge of Te Tiriti. That needs to change because it is this broad lack of knowledge and understanding that stops people, and in turn our community, from addressing issues in a meaningful way. I challenge you to challenge yourself. Now and every day, because every day matters.
Sixty-six thousand, five hundred and ninety eight and counting.