Debbie Ngarewa-Packer: Small steps for Maori in councils and media contribute to progress

President Adrian Rurawhe during his election ceremony in Parliament. Photo/Mark Mitchell


This month I have been part of many kaupapa, each unique but common in one major aspect – they were all actualizing Maori transformational change.

And this accumulation of commonalities makes me wonder excitedly, are we turning a corner? Are we becoming this Aotearoa hou already?

Yes, it’s a slow, awkward double-decker bus that turns into a single-lane type of corner, but if transformational change is actually happening, it means Hobson promises, anti-Te Tiriti o Waitangi lobbyists have stung of the nose, because as we can see everyone, the sky has not fallen.

Now, before my private messages start buzzing with all the negative and anti-Maori comments, I suggest they put their fountain pens in the inkwell for a minute and let me back up my point with examples.

This month, 140 Maori candidates stood for Maori ward and constituency seats in 34 councils in this year’s local elections.

This is the first year that many of these councils have even had Maori participation, with 60 new Maori ward councillors. In contrast, over the past two decades, competition for many of these positions in local government elections has equated to two candidates per seat.

I have traveled to our Te Tai Hauāuru constituency and am thrilled. Council tables can now begin to resemble the actual communities they serve.

Decisions made and commitments sought can connect more to all of our communities, creating greater engagement, which can only be positive.

Imagine what this means for future long-term planning, investment and development in local communities, particularly in the face of climate issues and inequalities, including the housing crisis.

This month we also saw the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu) Representation Bill passed the House, where a combination of tangata tiriti and tangata whenua, members of the Regional Council and Ngāi Tahu worked side by side to defend a position that restores the direct representation of Ngāi Tahu. in Canterbury Regional Council.

As with the Māori quarters, there was an active smear campaign by opponents proposing he was creating a ‘separatist’ Aotearoa. But most honest people saw through this small delegation of anti-change, anti-Maori pessimists, knowing that this partnership is necessary to build an Aotearoa that works for everyone.

Koroneihana celebrations at Tūrangawaewae saw the launch of a new eight-book resource to inform tamariki about Kīngitanga, as part of learning about the history of Aotearoa in schools.

Te Ara o Te Kīngitanga was developed by King Tūheitia’s office, Tupu Ora Education & Development, and written by Greg Koia, to introduce a human element to the story. It is an educational resource that promotes Iwi identity and the strength of Kotahitanga and is available in Maori and English.

We also heard the weather on 1 News read in te reo Māori, with TVNZ loudly declaring that they are proud of their presenters and how they embrace their cultural identity, supporting their use of a combination of English and te reo Maori.

Miraka Kirimi milk chocolate from Whittaker.  Photo / Provided
Miraka Kirimi milk chocolate from Whittaker. Photo / Provided

We saw popular chocolate makers Whittaker’s proudly launch their new packaging emblazoned with the words Miraka Kirimi (creamy milk) as part of their official Maori Language Week campaign.

We have just seen the election of a new Speaker of the House, Adrian Rurawhe. He is only the second Maori to hold this position.

We are delighted and look forward to the balance between ture and tikanga, and the kaupapa of fairness, that it proposes to bring.

Regardless of the magnitude of the change, it is abundantly clear that it is happening. It happens one step at a time. One educational resource, one product packaging, one policy and one invoice all in one. It is supported by the private sector, businesses, communities, young people, tangata tiriti and tangata whenua.

Transformational change involves many small steps that grow in size; one step after another, repeated regularly. Normalizing our spaces and silencing those who have the most to lose from a rebalancing of powers.

I am optimistic about the changes and maturation of our nation which honors the rights of tangata whenua, embraces partnership with tangata tiriti, which reflects aroha and manaaki and is proudly called Aotearoa.

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is co-leader of Te Pāti Māori.

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