Des Ratima, a former military man with the heart of a marshmallow, passed away a few days ago. He was a passionate grassroots leader of Hawke’s Bay Māori, an ONZM, widely recognised as the de facto mayor of Whakatu, and the adoring husband of Evelyn.

The entire community will miss his staunch advocacy, reasonableness and strong, wise gentleness.

Des wrote a number of columns for BayBuzz over the years. Here are some excerpts.

“Māori 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.

“The Māori voice in environmental issues is a strong voice. Māori are able to argue strongly against projects which impact on the landscape, drawing from their cultural base of knowledge and understanding. 

“Māori have always asked for consultation. But as understood by Māori, consultation should occur when the idea is still forming. Not when it has been born, growing and someone remembers that they need to include the Māori perspective.

“Māori reject consultation as a final hurdle. They embrace consultation from the outset. If this pathway is seen as the norm, I am confident that Māori perspectives will be available a lot earlier and last minute pressure points can be avoided.

“Māori are by nature conservationists. Their culture has processes to protect and monitor the use of the environment, and have had these in place from the beginning.

“Environmental issues are indeed the food of the future … the place where politicians will stand or fall. Everything has an environmental component.

“Relationships are the model and solution of the future. Māori would benefit by using their achievements at Treaty negotiations to better equip themselves for life in the post settlement era. This includes how Māori will engage with local councils. The interests of Māori and the community might be better served by having co-governance and co-management models developed and implemented as opposed to seats.

“Māori view the world through the lens of whakapapa and mokopuna. Their view is not issue-driven; it is value-driven and based on the welfare of the future unborn generations. The common response to any decision is: “Is what I am doing in the best interests of our mokopuna?”

“Who speaks for Māori must remain within the sanctuary of the marae and hapū. The leadership at this level is determined by the most common denominator of all communities, the whānau. Whānau weigh the eternal interests of the mokopuna and the welfare of whānau when determining who speaks for them. Over this construct whānau have total input. Any construct that removes whanau away from immediate contact or response is not in the best interests of Māori, and therefore any such body or organisation will struggle to be a credible voice for Māori.

“Māori argue that the running of this country, from let’s say 1840, has been in the absence of Maori participation and decision making. Māori would say the country is worse off under the current economic value system than under our people-valued system. Some might stereotype this as socialism or communism, I prefer that it be called quite simply Māoriism.

“New Zealand should prepare for the arrival of a smarter, skilled, bilingual leader that has retained the values of the proverb, ‘what is the most important thing in this world, it is people, it is people, it is people’. Māori will seek changes to the way our futures are managed. We will insist that we sit at the decision making table. We will contribute to the changes needed to return our nation to one that values people and our environment so strongly that all else is insignificant.”

Des died during the current lockdown. Here are his observations on the ‘original’ one, as reported at the time by Keith Newman.

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  1. Thank you Des for your wisdom, friendship and commitment daily in the desire to strengthen the Māori Crown relations. You will be missed but not forgotten. Much love to your wife Evelyn and whānau at this time. Moe mai ra e Te Rangatira.

  2. Taku whakamarie nui.
    It was always a real pleasure to work with Des. He made me feel there was hope if we just kept trying. He will be sorely missed by so many. Aroha to the Ratima whānau. Moe mai ra e Te Rangatira.

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