Hawke’s Bay ‘the fruit bowl of New Zealand’, was once the catch cry of a very productive and prosperous region.

Des Ratima

Hawke’s Bay is now known as a region with a low income economy. In 2006 the median yearly income of Hawke’s Bay people aged 15 and over was lower than the national median of $24,400. The rural central and southern districts had the highest median income ($23,500 and $23,660 respectively). These were followed by Napier city ($22,700), Hastings district ($22,600) and Wairoa district ($20,000). While the national average for those earning $20,000 or less per year was 43%, regionally it was 46%; and while an average of 18% earned more than $50,000, the Hawke’s Bay average was 12%.

Communities are the result of evolution. Evolution is the result of change. Change is a reflection of what values we choose to honour in our lives. Change cannot be stopped, only managed. In Hawke’s Bay we should agree that there has been change; change from prosperity to poverty. High unemployment, high crime, poor health, low educational achievement levels, and the list continues. While this list is not about the poor state of Maori alone, it would be fair to comment that Maori will form the bulk of the population in any of these statistics.

Maori continue to argue their difference in terms of the te taiao – our environment, whanauora – family values, and hauora – wellness to give a name to a few. Whether it is in front of the Waitangi Tribunal, Office of Treaty Settlements, local government or central government, Mãori continue to provide value-based arguments to support their case for shared understanding, inclusive participation and redress. Constantly, these values are intimately analysed and translated so that non te reo participants are able to obtain a glimpse into trying to understand the argument.

Mãori argue that the running of this country, from let’s say 1840, has been in the absence of Maori participation and decision making. Mãori 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 Mãoriism. Wow, a true fusion of cultural words. Regardless, the point I want to make is that it is time for the Mãori viewpoint to find its way into the light.

It is possible that a change of hands on the steering wheel might well contribute to an improved future for this nation. Mãori will no longer accept that they are economically helpless and without any ability to contribute towards the future of our country. A recent article released by Dr Ganesh Nana, a leading New Zealand economist, identified the Mãori economy as having a value of $37 billion including land, fish, capital assets, tourism, geothermal energy and forests.

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’. Mãori 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. Mãori no longer accept the paternal ‘we know what’s good for you’ approach.

Change must be managed. Change is unavoidable. It might be tempting for some to see this article as a call to action against the status quo. Consider this: From the beginning Mãori recognised the value of the new immigrant arrivals in many ways. We wanted to work with these new immigrants to develop a nation built on the proud histories of two nations woven together, forming an unbreakable bond of kinship.

Mãori aspirations focus on the better application of resources to assist their people move from these poor statistics to improvement in the next ten years. Mãori are already contributing to education and health and social services; there is a capability which now exists. The Treaty settlements will bring a financial capacity to give effect to these changes. What is good for Mãori is indeed good for New Zealand.

Arriving on our doorstep in Hawke’s Bay over the next three to four years will be the settlements of five major claimant groups. We are going to have to learn to work together in a completely different framework. It is not just a matter of paying the same rent to another landlord. It is a wonderful, empowering opportunity to be inclusive, decisive, and innovative to meet the needs of our grandchildren and aged into the next 100 years.

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