The descriptions of sports teams are used to unify and enthuse.

For example All Blacks. All Whites, Black Sticks, Silver Ferns, Kiwis. I think that I can safely promote that upon hearing any of these descriptors I am warmed by the feeling of unity, patriotism, loyalty and citizenship, of belonging, of being at home. Measure this against descriptions like Maori, Pakeha, Black, Samoan, Iraqi or Arab … then we are divided, uncertain even fearful. Why?

At a friendly meeting the other day with a pakeha (I prefer this word rather than non-Maori), I was informed that fear still existed about the role of Maori, particularly the Maori party; and especially that Hone Harawira. If only we were not so radical, so non-conforming, so Maori. What was evident was that fear remains. In today’s environment fear still exists regarding Maori. The impression clearly was one of: Maori want everything their way; and take, take, take. Look at those treaty settlements…

Oh how far we have travelled to not have moved at all.

I am reminded of a parable I once told regarding being a Kiwi, a description many are finding comfortable and that sits well with them. Yet when quizzed as to what was a Kiwi, many could not give a description other than tomato sauce, and the TV ad proclaiming I am proud to be a Kiwi by an Indian immigrant. Simply the story goes like this.

In the days of Jonah Lomu, Josh Cronfeild, Taine Randell, and Tana Umanga, we effectively had Tongan, Dutch, Maori, Samoan, and pakeha all playing for the AB’s. In preparing for a game against say, Aussie, these players reverently dress themselves in the colours of the AB’s and make their way onto the playing field. The first thing that happens after the cheering, many would say, is that they do the Haka. Wrong they assemble for the national anthem and then make their way to the centre of the field for the Haka. Anyway the game is played in the normal non-compromising fashion of the two nations and this time the ABs are successful. Not at any time during the game do I hear any voice cry Jonah the Tongan, or Taine the Maori or Tana the Samoan. All I hear is All Blacks All Blacks. Fantastic!!!

At the end of the game something absolutely significant occurs. It is no longer practised I hasten to add. The teams swap jerseys. At this moment Jonah the AB becomes Jonah the Tongan, Taine the AB becomes Taine the Maori. They have taken off the mantle of the Jersey. They have removed that one spell binding symbol that unifies us unashamedly as Kiwis, New Zealanders. The fear was removed during the time the Jersey was being worn. Think about it.

So what has this to do with my article? Well it must be about removing the fear that continues to dictate racial intolerance or indifference in this country. Maori want just as much as Pakeha to live harmoniously in this country, having earnt the rights of citizenship alongside our comrades in arms, having been here to welcome the ancestors of our Pakeha people, having successfully embraced each other on the sports field, and in the bed room. Yet there is still the divide created by fear. We must change this. This generation must take responsibility to change this.

I will add quickly, this does not mean one dominating the other. This has been tried already and was called colonisation, and assimilation. No, the new way is still partnerships, sharing and understanding. If people choose not to leave the perceived safety of their four walls then this cannot occur. If people do not choose to learn the Maori language, just as Maori were required to learn English (for which I am eternally grateful), if people choose not to understand, then the fear will remain.

Politicians must lead the way in this important endeavour. They must demonstrate at every opportunity through their actions, speech and policies that they are prepared to lead the way. It is more important now as treaty claims are nearing settlement, with the economic benefits that will bring to communities, Maori and Pakeha. As we enter the 2010 local body elections, pathways of working together are essential for everyone. The message must not be diluted by referring to the mass as a multi-cultural society. This is a red herring and not worthy of debate.

Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty Settlements, has offered a way forward with regards to river management in the Hawke’s Bay region. A cooperative partnership between Hapu Iwi and Regional Council, a committee evenly matched with Maori and Councillors, similar to the Hastings District Council/Maori Joint Committee. The difference being that the HDC model is not representative of Hapu or Iwi. The HDC Joint committee make recommendations to Council. I believe that where hapu and iwi are involved, it should be at the governance board table to make the decisions, not just the recommendations. It becomes more of the same otherwise. To use a phase I once heard at Regional Council, ‘Maori are being shoehorned into the structure (HB Regional)’. This is not the basis for a good sustainable relationship and is definitely not what I am advocating.

For their part, Maori are attempting — I think successfully — to reshape themselves for the future. Having understood the advantages of governance and economic muscle, Maori want to define themselves within the context of the next decade and the flow on effect of treaty settlements.

Nga Marae O Heretaunga is one such body. Nga Marae O Heretaunga is using the collective experience and shared aspirations to enhance the way in which Maori are able to advocate at the highest levels and bring benefits directly to whanau. It is a bottom up approach where whanau are the centre of everything. It preceded the Whanau Ora initiative recently launched, but embraces the opportunities now available for unprecedented good to arrive at the doorsteps of our whanau. Nga Marae O Heretaunga is a movement not a monument. It does not have ivory towers of habitation. Nga Marae has been meeting in the debating chamber of the Hastings District Council, associating themselves with the culture of Council and the need to understand and exist within these environments.

Examples of Maori adaption through understanding and experiencing are evident in the education and health systems. I have yet to see an understanding reached purely without any advocacy from Maori for change. It seems that only when Maori persist that changes are considered, and then Maori are seen as instigators of change rather than the more positive advocate for change. Understanding is misunderstood.

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  1. I was interested to read Des Ratima’s article in the latest Bay Buzz. I thought his point about the All Blacks could have been a good one, but it only went to show that Des only sees things in terms of ‘colour’ and race. The reason people cheer on the AB players regardless of ethnicity is not because of the colour of the jerseys, it’s because they are all playing for the same team, with the same goals and without self-serving motives.

    Des asks that people change their thinking and attitude and embrace the Maori culture, language and ideas, and work with Maori, which is fair enough. Nowhere does he suggest however, that Maori have any responsibility to change themselves. What Des fails to realise is that Maori have somewhat of an image problem. The perception (wrongly or rightly) is that Maori have their own agenda, and have no interest in helping the community as a whole. The Maori party give the impression that they are there to serve only Maori, and having the Pakeha hating Hone Harawira as a key party member, they do little to quell the non-Maori fears. Until public Maori figures take the lead and try to change the perceptions of themselves (which I think is as much a Maori responsibility as it is anyone else’s), can we move forward as a ‘team’ regardless of our jersey colour, and not as separate individuals who fear each other.

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