Tēnā tātou katoa,
Matariki is a time to reflect on those who have passed over in the last year and a time to consider how we can best honour their legacy. There have been many key figures in our whānau and tribe, indeed across the motu, who are no longer with us, we owe it to them to continue on with their mahi to strengthen ourselves as a people.
Published: Tuesday, 23 June 2015 | Rātū, 23 Pipiri, 2015
Between now and the end of the year, I will be focusing on making some really significant changes to the legislation that governs Māori land as well as the Crown’s responsibilities to ensure the protection and revitalisation of te reo Māori.
These two matters run very deep in the hearts and the minds of Māori people because they link us to our ancestors and our whenua, they determine and define the vitality of our culture.
The relationship between Māori and their land has been severed since European colonisation. Just over 150 years ago, the first laws were created to reduce the mana of Māori over their land.
The doors of the law maker were shut, the voice of tāngata whenua were silenced.
Since then, successive governments have also failed. That is evident when we look at Māori originally owning the vast majority of this country’s 27 million hectares of land to just over one million hectares today.
But rather than focus on what has been lost, I want to talk about the opportunities available right now for Māori land owners.
Since the start of June, the Ture Whenua Advisory Group has been facilitating meetings throughout the country with Māori land owners to inform them about the proposed changes to the Māori Land Act.
These changes are comprehensive but in essence they are about keeping Māori land in Māori ownership but also enabling Māori land owners to have greater control over the management of their land. It is up to the owners how they wish to utilise their land.
Economic development is a term we are hearing more of today. Some Māori cringe at the concept of applying this to Māori land but it’s not new at all.
The history of Māori trading and doing business with other iwi, within and beyond our shores, existed long before the arrival of Pakeha and Government. It was that type of economic development mixed with Māori practices and values that sustained our whānau, hapū and iwi. Those activities provided mahi, kai, whare and supported other needs among our people, so the term should not be feared.
Doing business for the whānau runs through our blood as Māori and it is something that Māori can be extremely proud of.
I realise that Māori land owners need more time to go through the proposed changes in detail, so that is why I have extended the consultation process by five weeks. There is also the opportunity to comment on the bill once it is introduced in to Parliament and then goes to Select Committee at the end of this year.
I encourage all Māori land owners, whether currently engaged in the affairs of their whenua or not, to start engaging on this issue by going through the proposed changes, talking with their whānau and making their views known. You can view a copy of the draft bill and the consultation document on the Te Puni Kōkiri website. Written submissions can be made up until Friday 7 August 2015.
Another important matter on the Government’s agenda is the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill.
It is simply not good enough that only one in five Māori can speak the language of their ancestors and it is the drive to increase the number of language speakers that has motivated me as a Minister to look at new ways of achieving that.
That resulted in me setting up a Māori Language Advisory Group to go back to the table and analyse every single detail of previous proposals and consult with those language champions who have dedicated their lives to keep this taonga alive.
The group’s draft proposal addresses many of the concerns raised by submitters with the current Bill, while still addressing its intent – to place more influence in the hands of iwi and Māori.
I encourage anyone passionate about the language to attend the meetings throughout the country that the group are holding up until June 26.
We know that Māori language will and can only survive if it is led by those who it belongs to – whanau, hapū and iwi Māori.
Turning to the recent Budget, I am happy that the new funding of $100 million I secured will help whānau, hapū and iwi make more progress in three critical areas – whānau, whare and whenua or families, housing and land.
The new funding is not about keeping boards, agencies or other structures manicured. It is about servicing people first and foremost.
The areas that have focused funding including supporting people who are addressing the depressingly high suicide rate amongst our rangatahi Māori, providing a big boost to Whānau Ora Navigators and Kaitoko Whānau so we can retain those critical positions and a new Māori Housing Network which will help provide Crown leadership across the various agencies that deal with housing as well as a focus on addressing some of the major barriers to using Māori land.
On the Whānau Ora front, $49.8 million to be used to fund 230 full-time equivalent Whānau Ora navigators to support whānau who want to improve the wellbeing of their whānau.
Also on the whānau front, $2.1 million has been allocated to reach those Māori communities where there is urgent need to tackle high rates of Māori youth suicide.
On the whare front, $35.3 million will go towards helping whānau living in deprivation, communities who want to build their Māori housing capacity and supporting regional facilitators to support whānau access housing support. More details on this fund will be announced in July this year.
On the whenua front, $12.8 million used to remove the barriers so owners can generate meaningful benefits from their Māori land.
Te Puni Kōkiri and the three Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies have a big job ahead of them to bring these initiatives to life. I look forward to seeing the development of these initiatives and the positive impact they will have on the lives of whānau, hapū and iwi.
Photo: Minister Flavell with tamariki at the opening of Pā Kids at Omaka Marae. Fairfax NZ / Marlborough Express