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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

King Tuheitia to Raiatea summit

The Maori King Tuheitia is off to French Polynesia today to join other Pacific ariki families for a summit called by Tahitian Prince Teriihinoiatua Joinville Pomare.

Others expected at the Raiatea event include the royal families of Samoa, RapaNui , the Cook Islands, Hawaii, New Caledonia, and Tonga.

The French Polynesian government has asked the ariki not to come because of internal political and security concerns, but a Kingitanga spokesperson says the trip has nothing to do with the government and nothing to do with politics.

Prince Pomare is expected to seek support for a declaration calling for improving education and economic development across Polynesia.

Moko Templeton from Tainui says the Kingitanga has sought closer links with other Pacific royal families since the time of Princess Te Puia Herangi, and King Tuheitia faces similar challenges as the other traditional leaders.

“They having lost their ariki as well of Samoa and Tonga, at the same time as us losing Te Atairangikaahu, I think it’s just the royal families themselves sharing a unique bond in that they have lost their parents,” Ms Templeton says.

MAORI WOMEN FOLLOWING PATH INTO LAW

The high number of Maori women entering the legal profession could have dramatic impact on the legal landscape.

Tama Potaka, who chaired last weekend's Maori Law Society hui-a-tau, says he was heartened by the number of female lawyers and law students attending.

He says that will affect the pool of talent which can be drawn on for judicial appointments, and should help the courts become a better reflection of society - similar to what has happened in Parliament under MMP.

“Around 15 percent of MPs are Maori or are of Maori descent. I don’t think we could say the same of the judiciary at this time. Neither could we say the same of the judiciary with regards to wahine,” Mr Potaka says.

The hui looked at ways lawyers could strengthen Maori communities.

MAORI BOOKS NEED WIDER AUDIENCE

Maori librarians want to see Maori children's books reach a wider audience.

Books written in or translated into te reo Maori were acknowledged at yesterday's Library Association Children’s Book Awards, with Robyn Kahukiwa receiving the Te Kura Pounamu award for Matatuhi.

One of the judges, Eddie Neha from the Maori library association Te Ropu Whakahau, says it was a strong field, but few people out of the kura kaupapa system will see the books.

“As much as they get published, they don’t go to stores. Most of them are published as resources through the Ministry of Education through Huia, and they’re free resources. So only really Maoir get them, because they’re only put into wharekura and kura kaupapa and those sorts of things,” Mr Neha says.

He says there is no longer a shortage of Maori authors and illustrators, and most of their books are translated into English.

TIKANGA NEEDS LEGAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Maori lawyers want greater acceptance of the role that tikanga Maori should play in New Zealand's legal system.

Tama Potaka says it was a major topic of discussion at the weekend's Maori lawyer's association hui in Auckland.

He says the continuing raruraru over the burial... and possible exhumation.... of Christchurch man James Takamore has highlighted gaps between Maori custom law and statute law.

He says Maori perspective need to be respected in the creation and application of the law.

“At the ground level many lawyers and non-lawyers are increasingly aware that there will be a time in the country’s future where our own customs are analysed, reviewed and considered as guidelines for judges and for legislators,” Mr Potaka says.

NGAI TAHU MODEL NOT FOR EVERYONE

A Maori academic says Maori can't be fitted into one-size-fits-all models.

Manuhuia Barcham, the director of Massey University's Centre for Indigenous Governance and Development, has won a Marsden Foundation fast start grant to study what are the most appropriate governance structures for indigenous groups.

He says corporate models may help with economic development, but often neglect people's cultural needs and desires.

Dr Barcham says many iwi are told they should copy Ngai Tahu's highly corporatised and business-oriented structure.

“That structure might be useful if you’re an iwi with a large resource base, large land area, high degree of human capital, but if you’re a small land-locked iwi with low human capital, remote from large urban centres, that more than likely won’t be the best structure for you to adopt,” he says.

As well as Maori models, he will be looking at indigenous groups in Australia, Canada and the United States.

KUAKA GAVE ANCESTORS GLIMPSE OVER HORIZON

The return of kuaka or godwits to the shores of Aotearoa has been linked to the earliest period of Polynesian exploration.

Thousands of the birds are making the 11,000 kilometre non-stop flight from Alaska and Siberia.

Keith Woodley from the Miranda Shorebirds Centre, who has been using satellites to track the birds, says oral history suggests the kuaka may have given Maori ancestors the confidence to strike out southwest across the ocean.

“We know that if some birds do strike bad weather or they need to drop out they do come down onto some of the islands, although not in great numbers, but of course anyone living in the Pacific would have realized that at certain times of the year these birds, which are certainly not sea birds, they were not equipped to live in the water, they were coming down and they were taking off and flying in a certain direction, so it was a good indication there was something to attract these birds over the horizon,” Mr Woodley says.

Kuaka are attracted to areas with large tidal estuaries, including the Firth of Thames, Manukau, Kaipara, Parengarenga and Farewell Spit.

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