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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kotahitanga spirit at economic hui

Maori attending today's economic summit were positive Maori can make a significant contribution to getting New Zealand through tough economic times.

Ngahiwi Tomoana, the chair of Ngati Kahungunu, says Maori are keen to extract value out of their assets, and to do that they need to partner with the Crown.

He says participants are keen to continue working with Maori Party co-leader and associate Maori affairs minister Pita Sharples, who called the hui.

“Kotahitanga was the theme for the day. Although it’s been korero in the past and even though we’ve treated it as korero, we’ve actually come a long way and more determined to take it even further so mood of optimism, mood of positivism and mood of kotahitanga, something I haven’t seen in Maori politics for a long time,” Ms Tomoana says.

If Maori can come up with good ideas, there is no better person to sell them to the government and the country than Dr Sharples.


The Greens Maori spokesperson says the government's decision to scrap a billion dollar plan to upgrade the country's housing is a major step backwards for Maori.

The money was to insulate state and rental houses, making them more energy efficient and healthier to live in.

Meteria Turei says cold and damp housing is a major cause of health problems among Maori whanau.

She says Maori workers also stood to benefit from the jobs created by the programme.

“It's our people who will suffer the most because we tend to use the lower income housing more as well as be at the bottom level of the employment.

“We’re hoping to negotiate a resumption of the billion dollar fund or at least a part of it if we can,” Ms Turei says.


There's a new face in charge of Te Wananga o Aotearoa's biggest region.

The largest Maori tertiary institution yesterday welcomed on Yvonne Hawke, who was formerly vice president-community at west Auckland polytechnic Unitec.

She will be in charge of Tamaki Makaurau and Tai Tokerau, which account for about a third of the wananga's 19 thousand students.

Mrs Hawke, from Ngati Ranginui, Ngati Awa and Ngati Pikiao, used to be Maori education director at Bay of Plenty Polytechnic before moving to Auckland to head Unitec's Puukenga-School of Maori Education and Maia-Maori Development Centre.

She is the author of numerous papers on Maori educational issues.
Chief executive Bentham Ohia says it's a significant appointment as the wananga again sets a path for growth.

He says tough economic conditions represent opportunity for tertiary institutions, because people realise the need to build up their skills to make themselves more employable.


This year's controversial pick as Australian of the year is an academic and Aboriginal activist who has worked closely with Maori rights campaigners.

Mick Dodson has been dubbed the godfather of grievance for his insistence that apologies weren't enough, and Australia's indigenous people deserved compensation for what was done to them in the course of colonisation.

His first speech after receiving the award referred to Australia day as a day of mourning.

Rotorua lawyer Annette Sykes, a friend of the Australian National University law professor, says that's vintage Dodson.

“That's absolutely consistent with the way he has taught jurisprudence and his deconstruction of colonisation in the Pacific and why he has been a loud advocate, like people like Moana Jackson, for a decolonization programme to be committed to by the Australian government, the New Zealand government and the Canadian Government,” Ms Sykes says.

As well as his academic achievements, Mick Dodson has a track record of real contributions to his Yawuru peoples of Western Australia.


Meanwhile, a Christchurch academic says it's too early to declare the Maori protest movement dead.

Rawiri Taonui, the head of Canterbury University's school of Maori and indigenous studies, says people are cutting National and its partner the Maori Party some slack.

That's likely to result in a quite Waitangi day this year, but if there is not movement soon on important Maori issues, expect the temperature to rise.

“Probably a bit of a honeymoon period at the moment. One thing with Maori protest is it leaders tend to be thrown up according to the issues of the day. On the treaty front, we’ve got the water, review of the foreshore and seabed legislation, WAI 22 intellectual property, that’s due out this year. We’ll see how it goes. There’s still potential for some bumps,” associate professor Taonui says.

He says Prime Minister John Key has played the right cards so far by teaming up with the Maori Party.


What there will be at Waitangi are waka, and lots of them.

Northern iwi are preparing for one of the largest fleets to ever grace the Bay of Islands in recent years.

Tamahou Temara from Toi Maori's says Nga Waka Federation lined up 18 waka for the annual regatta which is part of the treaty commemoration programme.

That includes six waka from Tainui, there to support King Tuheitia on his first voyage north as te arikinui.

Iwi in from Bay of Plenty, Auckland and the far north are also involved in the mass waka project.


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