The Kaumātua and Kuia Files

Explanatory note: The Co-Op thinks that the practice of intergenerational knowledge transfer is an important part of the political, social and cultural landscape. Rather than having our relationships filtered through the gatekeepers of knowledge, we figured lets go straight to the source and find out what diverse perspectives our elders have to offer on the issues of today.

Consign Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori to the Graveyard

By Pem Bird

Te Taura Whiri i Te Reo Maori needs to strike a blow for us. To take a bold but necessary action and consign Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori to the graveyard.

As the authority for Te reo, Te Taura Whiri should exercise its authority by actively fostering and promoting our reo with the support of all reo Maori producing bodies. A coherent two pronged strategy aimed at quadrupling the number of fluent reo speakers over the next 25 years.

In my view, it has taken us 40 years to realise the futility of Te Wiki o Te reo Maori as a vehicle of reo Maori revitalisation. It has been largely a hit and hope affair. It has achieved nothing much more than some self-conscious greetings on television by TV announcers, some smatterings and scatterings here and there amongst the odd Government Agency, very little in many schools, and zilch where it should matter – the public.

Here in Murupara it’s a mainstream black out. A non-event. It has served its purpose and is well and truly past its use by date.

Just look at the impact on politicians. Forty years on and many, if not most, are still murdering something as fundamental as pronunciation. Therefore I reiterate – abandon Te Wiki o te Reo Maori.

Let’s instead target our efforts, energies and resources on achieving a critical mass of speakers over a 25 year period that will secure our reo forever. We are very much an endangered species still.

The way forward is this:

  • The rapid expansion of the Maori medium sector , Kura kaupapa Maori Kura a Iwi and other immersion settings; and
  • The opening up of maximum access and opportunity for all school pupils in the compulsory sector to learn Te reo Maori as a core subject.

The role of Te Taura Whiri under this scenario would continue to be one of promotion and fostering but in a targeted and more coherent manner as outlined via a massive publicity campaign backed by all key sector groups including Te Rūnanga Nui Te Maru o ngā Kura a iwi, teacher unions, and other professional teaching organisations. For example, NZEI support the compulsory teaching of Te reo in schools.

An additional responsibility would be that of working alongside iwi on their reo strategies but in harmony with the Ministry of Education in a synergistic relationship rather than acting in isolation.

The day of iwi is here albeit at varying levels. The proposed Matawai as recommended by Te Paepae Motuhake would indicate such a role. The future calls for a fitness for purpose approach.

Our bottom line has got to be that our reo is of equal status under the law with English. And like English, our reo should be equally available and accessible to all pupils irrespective of ethnicity. As the indigenous native language there must surely be a state accountability for delivering on that accessibility and availability.

Step one abandon Te Wiki o Te reo Māori which is just a distraction!


Part II: Te Ture Whenua Māori Reforms

The New Governance Model

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

(See also Part I: Te Ture Whenua Māori Reforms)

Currently, most decisions about Māori land require approval from the Māori Land Court (MLC). The reforms attempt to remove this barrier and enable Māori landowners to make more decisions about their whenua without needing MLC approval. For instance, only Māori trusts and incorporations can own Māori freehold land, and landowners must apply to the MLC to create a trust. Under the Draft, Māori landowners can create a Rangatōpū and register with the Māori Land Service. Also, iwi and hapū will be able to own Māori freehold land.

The new governance arrangements are proposed in response to the feedback received from Māori landowners and iwi groups. Some of this feedback includes uncertainty around what a trust can and cannot do due to a lack of clarity, consistency and accessibility of the rules.


In attempting to address these concerns (and others), the Draft proposes new ways for Māori land to be held, governed and managed for the purpose of ensuring landowner autonomy, consistency of rules and processes, and better accountability mechanisms. In particular, the Draft proposes the establishment of a Rangatōpū[1] (as mentioned above) to address the issue of consistency around powers, duties, and obligations for all Māori land entities.

The Rangatōpū would act as owner over the whenua and would be able to enter contracts, raise finances and do whatever is permitted in the governance agreement[2]. The draft Bill provides that the rules and processes for governing the whenua are to be determined by the landowners and can be designed to reflect their tikanga. In addition, the Rangatōpū must keep owners informed about assets and activities related to the whenua they are exercising governance over, and that they are required to improve the level of owner participation with the governance body. The consultation and notice requirements have been strengthened to reflect modern technology and are part of the improved safeguards for all Māori landowners.

Rangatōpū infographics from the Consultation Document


In summary then, the new governance provisions in the Draft propose to:

  • Improve utilisation of Māori land
  • Empower participating owners[3] to make decisions over their whenua
  • Empower Māori landowners to create a governance agreement and to define their rules and processes according to their tikanga
  • Create safeguards for all owners through more robust notice and consultation measures

The new governance model also reduces the role of the MLC in administrative matters, but refocuses the jurisdiction to deal with points of law or technical matters, and to review processes where a complaint is raised. Some concerns have been raised as to whether the MLC will be disestablished, the answer is no. The MLC is retained under the Bill.


While some have supported the governance changes as giving more autonomy to Māori landowners, and reinforcing the principle of rangatiratanga, others have criticised the model as increasing bureaucracy and compliance costs, and expressed concerns over loss of control to iwi organisations. For instance, the draft enables iwi and hapū entities to acquire and own Māori land. Although many see this as a benefit that will help ensure Māori land remains in Māori hands, others see it as an avenue for the few to make decisions for the many. A common concern is the potential for well resourced iwi and hapū organisations to put pressure on smaller whānau trusts.

In terms of the compliance costs, many are worried about the increased costs in transitioning to the new governance model suggesting with the new requirements owners are likely to require specialist advice as well as assistance with the preparation of documents to ensure legal soundness of their operations which can be particularly onerous especially for smaller trusts.

Another concern often raised is around the decision making thresholds. However, the draft has retained the existing thresholds and provides that Māori Landowners may increase those thresholds in their governance agreements but cannot lower them. Significant decisions will still require majority (75%) agreement. In this sense, the Bill retains the safeguards. However, as the Draft also makes it easier to convert whenua Māori to general land, this reduces some safeguards as it means if whenua Māori is converted to general land it would no longer be covered by the protections in the Act.

As you can see there is a range of views concerning the TTWM reforms. This post is not intended as an exhaustive list of either the positives or negatives. It’s a summary, to hopefully help people understand the kinds of things the Draft is attempting to fix, and the issues identified by some of its critics.

[1] Rangatōpū means a governance body..

[2] Under the Draft, the governance agreement can take one of three forms:

A new governance agreement (requiring 50% of participating owners to vote, for the agreement to be binding on all owners)

Grandparent an existing agreement (noting the Bill will override any conflicts and will be used to fill any gaps in the agreement)

Default governance agreement (this kicks in, if after 3 years the governance entity has not opted for 1 or 2 above).

[3] Participating Owner means an owner, of an interest in Māori land, who when owners are required to make a decision, takes part in making the decision

Part I: Te Ture Whenua Māori Reforms

By Ellipsister, Co-Editor

This series of posts identifies the reforms proposed in the exposure draft of the Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill. It does not take a position on them. Instead, it attempts to capture some of the key changes in a summarised format and notes the concerns raised in various forums. It is not written on behalf of any organisation. It is my personal summary having read through the consultation document and various websites and forums.

See also the full Exposure Draft  and Consultation Document 


For the past 150 years or so, Māori have endured extreme alienation from our whenua through a multitude of racist laws. In 1993, the enactment of the Te Ture Whenua Māori (TTWM) Act was the result of immense effort by Māori to retain and protect the land still in our posession. It’s no wonder then, that many Māori – landowners or not, are incredibly apprehensive about the proposed changes to the TTWM Act.

The proposed changes in the exposure draft claim to:

  • Support and promote the retention and use of Māori land by its owners
  • Empower Māori land owners to pursue their aspirations for the sustainable development of their land
  • Enable Māori land owners to make decisions without needing Māori Land Court approval and to encourage owner participation
  • Respect the intrinsic cultural significance of Māori land
  • Provide an effective alternative to litigation to resolve disputes

The outcomes expected from the reforms:

  • Māori land owners making and acting on their own decisions
  • Fuller and more effective utilisation of Māori land
  • Disputes resolved effectively

Key Changes proposed by the reforms:TTWM_Tab_1 TTWM_Tab_2 TTWM_Tab_3

Upfront, that looks fine. But concerns have been raised in many forums regarding compliance costs, and the ability of a few to make decisions over the many. The latter concern generally relates to decisions to dispose of Māori land, i.e. gift or sell. It’s a concern because under Crown law, Maori land comprises only 5% of the total land in Aotearoa.

There has also been a lot of discussion about rushing this piece of legislation through without appropriate consultation. That being said what we are asked to submit on is at this stage only an exposure draft. This means that the draft proposed is not definitive, and has not even proceeded to parliamentary process yet.

The hui and workshops or clinics are said to represent an additional layer of consultation, the suggestion being that these will help to ensure that the needs and aspirations of Māori landowners and their whānau and hapū are reflected in the Bill presented to parliament. There will also be another opportuntiy to make a submission on that Bill when (or if) it passes the first reading and gets to the Select Committee process.

The thing about submissions is that we often use them just to oppose the things we don’t like. It was brought to my attention recently, that it’s good practice to also state our support for any parts that we do like. The reason being that the Advisory Committee are not mindreaders. If there is no explicit support for a provision there is a risk that it might be removed due to lack of support expressed in submissions. As such, it’s a good idea to stipulate the parts of the current Act that you wish to retain, and any parts of the draft Bill that you think are worth including in the final cut, together with any concerns or issues you have with the draft provisions.

The submissions template is divided into sections. You can view or complete a copy of the template here. Over the next few days I will deal with each of these sections highlighting both the good, bad and perhaps dubious bits. For now, it’s probably a good idea to get your head around the Consultation Document!

See also:

Part II: Te Ture Whenua Maori (The New Governance Model)

The Flag Debate: Why We Need It

Special Edition #1

By Joshua Hitchcock

Originally posted on Ka Tonuitanga (4 November 2014).

Contrary to the opinion of many that I have seen over the past week the debate over our national flag is a serious issue and one that I am glad we are having. The flag is a symbol of who we are as a people and providing a space to discuss this is a positive step. This debate is also much more than a debate about a flag design. It is another step in path of understanding who we are as a nation and of asserting our independence in the world. Many have made the mistake of viewing the upcoming referenda in a vacuum, ignoring the history, and future, of reform that this is one part of.

Yes, there are more important constitutional debates to be had. The issue of a republic and the role that Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the relationship between Māori and Pākehā are two issues that we must address. But these are issues that we are not ready to debate yet. Public discourse over Te Tiriti is too ill-informed, too knee-jerk, too outright racist, for us to seriously contemplate a national conversation over its place in our constitutional arrangements. Even issues such as Māori representation brings out the worst in people and that makes up only a small part of the partnership envisioned by Te Tiriti.

So where then do we place the flag debate? It is a continuation of a theme. We live in a generation where, in the absence of war, depression, or a nation divided by sport; we can start talking about what it means to be citizens not only of this whenua, but of the entire world that we inhabit. We started the conversation in the 1990s with a reform of our electoral system. Reform driven by the failures of the 4th Labour Government. As a nation we can together to change the way we govern ourselves and our representative democracy was strengthened as a result.

And slowly but surely we have gone about this reform on a case by case basis. The Privy Council has been replaced by the Supreme Court; the battle for the recognition of Māori rights has largely been won, with redress payments and co-governance arrangements proliferating without creating too much anger within the Pākehā community; and the social contract was restored with the landmark social programmes of the 5th Labour Government – working for families, kiwisaver, and the national superannuation fund.

Changing our flag is the next step in the reform. It is the most visible symbol of Aotearoa / New Zealand. At the moment it reflects our colonial past and all the good and bad that has arisen because of that. A new flag will mark a turning point in our constitutional history. We can quite literally place a stake in the ground to work on discussing the more important constitutional issues that we need to address over the coming generation.

My hope is that we select a flag which respects and acknowledges our Māori and our Pākehā cultures. If we can point to our flag (and while we are at it, we should officially change our name to Aotearoa / New Zealand) as a symbol of the partnership between Tangata Whenua and those tangata who have joined us on this whenua then that is a powerful platform to build future constitutional change on.

Nāu te Haki Nāku te Haki (Your Flag and My Flag)

Special Edition #1

By Ellipsister (Ed.)

Change the flag. Don’t change the flag. I’m ambivalent. Some suggest a new flag will enable us to move on from our colonist past. Others have endeared themselves to the monarchy so much so that they avidly defend our ties, and express their fury at the very mention of disposing of the Union Jack as part of our national identity. There are those, notably the RSA who view any change as a slap in the face to those who have served their country under the existing flag. A side issue, but one gaining much traction, concerns the $26 million price tag to fund the ‘Change the Flag’ campaign. But the flag debate is not really about the money.Or at least, it probably shouldn’t be. It’s about symbols and what many are hoping will birth a new sense of unity. However, I remain sceptical that a new flag will bring about anything close to what many of those pushing for the change are suggesting. One of my worries is the persistent reference to biculturalism to advance the need for a new flag. The idea is that a new flag will appropriately acknowledge the biculturalism of our country.  My issue is that rather than biculturalism being a concept understood as ‘two distinct cultures within a geographically defined space’, it is more often than not used as a euphemism for assimilation or incorporation.

Let me illustrate using cats:





Incorporation (a more subtle form of assimilation)


Note in both these latter examples, there are no longer two cats. We are also looking at the watering down, merging or selective picking of cultural aspects, which in my view risks rendering either or both cultures meaningless.We are also no longer talking in terms of biculturalism. In my opinion, the same applies when we talk about one flag to unite us all.

I have concerns around incorporating Māori symbols into the new flag because it feels, well, assimilatory especially since the national Māori flag does not have equal status to the New Zealand flag. You might have gathered by now then that I support dual national flags and I think that until the national Māori flag (i.e. the Tino Rangatiratanga flag) receives equal status with the New Zealand flag, then I care very little about changing the flag. I should of course note, that there is some opposition as to which flag represents a national Māori identity. However, in 2009 consultation hui were held throughout the country and 81% of participants favoured the Tino Rangatiratanga flag.

The argument for dual flags is not new. Te Ata Tino Toa also advocate a dual flag policy. They explain that ‘at the moment the Tino Rangatiratanga flag can only be flown by the Government on certain days, such as Waitangi Day, but that needs to change’. So despite the principle of partnership enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the government remain in control of the times at which Māori can express our unique identity. Before anyone argues ‘its separatist’ or a ‘barrier to one nation’, the Australian government recognises the Aboriginal national flag as having equal status to their national flag. Also, this one nation business is an expression of direct oppression of Māori. It reeks of assimilation. I also worry that if Māori symbols are incorporated into the national flag of New Zealand, then this could diminish any claims to sovereignty under Te Tiriti and may amount, or be perceived to amount to a surrender of our struggle for tino rangatiratanga and mana motuhake. Additionally, any new flag will largely be decided by Pākehā and Tauiwi as the majority and therefore, it is not Māori who will determine which of our Māori symbols are included on the flag.

In saying that, I do think that a changed flag is probably a good idea. The existing flag is a reminder of a dark and painful history rather than a symbol of what we might hope for in the future. But as I said – I’d personally like to see equal status given to the Maori flag before seeing any flag change. Even if it’s not on the table at the moment.

On Our Own Two Feet

Special Edition #1

By Jordan McCluskey (Ed.)

Flags have been in the news a bit recently, you may have noticed. A thing most people do not really think about can in a moment become a flashpoint for argument about a nation, its history, and its future. Witness the tortured contortions of politicians in the Southern United States, over the removal of the flag of the rebellious Confederacy, which launched a civil war 154 years ago for the right to own human beings as property. Or more humorously, CNN confusing a mock ISIS flag covered in drawings of sex toys at London Pride for an actual ISIS flag, and bringing on a security analyst to gravely analyse the new development.

The genesis of our flag is that of a product of colonialism. Our first flag came about not because of Te Tiriti O Waitangi, but commerce. Ships from New Zealand in the 1830s had difficulties arriving in Australian ports because not being a formal colony, they could not fly the Union Jack. In 1834, the British resident James Busby in consultation with Māori created the flag of United Tribes, which was then superseded by the Union Jack upon the signing of Te Triti in 6 February 1840 by most Rangatira. From there, a more local flag was created with the adoption of the British blue naval ensign in the 1860s, reaching its final current design in 1902 with Richard Seddon’s favoured design of the blue naval ensign with the red white- bordered stars of the Southern Cross. It is noticeable that each stage Māori get less and less of a say.

Te Tiriti and its principles which are now part of our national life, ask that the Pākehā and Māori work together in a spirit of partnership. Despite this the Pākehā flag remains dominant. Some Iwi still fly the flag of United Tribes, and in recent times the Tino Rangatiratanga flag has also been adopted by some. The government has recently also allowed the latter flag to fly from government buildings on days of national significance. To change the flag we only need to look north to the land of maple syrup, ice hockey and tarsands oil (it is horrible, google it), Canada, to see what kind of serious debate we might need to have.

Canada, as a British colony also had a Union Jack based ensign flag. In the 1960s the leader of the politically dominant Liberal party (then out of office) Lester Pearson, promised a rapid flag change. Elected in 1963, Pearson presided over a Canadian flag debate that was partisan, long, rancorous, and took no account of the views of indigenous peoples. In the end however, Canada got a flag that reflected its own self-determination, its status as an independent sovereign nation and a powerful, recognisable national symbol. Changing the flag did not accelerate in the slightest a move towards a Canadian republic, and Canada remains a federal monarchy within the Commonwealth (former British Empire countries sports and games club)

The New Zealand debate has been by contrast, lacklustre. Public meetings have had pitiful turnouts. The website for flag designs submitted by the public has descended into farce. The divide between the New Zealand people and its politicians is a subject for another blog post, but it is extremely disheartening to see people rubbishing a potential flag, a powerful new national symbol, because it is seen as the legacy project of the National Party Prime Minister, John Key. It is also a false argument to submit that because people died while fighting under our current flag, it can never be changed. Your relatives, and mine, didn’t die for a rectangular piece of blue cloth with red stars and a Union Jack on it. They died for our shared values of tolerance, egalitarianism, democracy and a fair go. If we change our national symbol, the values it previously represented will not fade away, if anything they will become stronger because we have chosen a new flag that belongs to all of us.

So where to from here? As the process draws closer, minds are becoming clearer and more people are focusing on the real issue. Voters will rank four preferred designs in November-December this year, and then the highest ranking design will face a run off referendum in March 2016 next year. Both referendums are binding. In under a year we might have a new flag, this is terrifyingly close, given the lack of public engagement. I want a new flag, and personally I favour the Tino Rangatiratanga flag as our new national flag, for historical reasons. However, if the winning design of the first referendum is objectively terrible, I will vote for the status quo. This will inevitably mean the issue is not discussed again for a generation. I was rather the change was done right, then just done for the sake of it. In closing, I ask you to do me one favour: talk to your family and friends about this debate. It is important.

In a time of such rapid global change, we need a flag that belongs to all of us, not some of us. I hope the flag is changed. It is time to stand on our own two feet.