Counting the Cost of True Partnership

Have you noticed some similarities between the seabed and foreshore debate, and the growth of the Destiny church? It seems to me that each can be traced back to a failure to implement partnership between Maori and Pakeha.

While there is a range of interpretations, a generally accepted meaning of the term tino rangatiratanga is that Maori will have control over issues that affect them. This is commonly interpreted as recognising that, where Maori are stakeholders, there is an obligation by those in the decision making process to involve and consult with them.

The seabed issue arose because the Marlborough District Council failed to consult local Iwi in a decision making process that affected them, and a subsequent court ruling found in favour of the Iwi. While the Destiny church had been going for some time in Rotorua, numbers in the movement nationally swelled as leadership and some congregations chose to abandon the Apostolic denomination. For some this was a response to a decision to relocate the leadership of the movement to England.

When I wrote One Faith Two Peoples in 1990, I did an informal survey of Bible and Theological Colleges in New Zealand and found that the Apostolic denomination was training more Maori leaders than any other institution at the time. Relocating to England effectively removed the ability of Maori to participate in the decision-making, and (Maori) friends of mine identified this as a key factor in their decision to move on.

While I don't personally agree with all that Destiny holds to, I was surprised at the level of vitriol that they have attracted from the media. In fact it reminded me of articles I had read from earlier times in our history when other Maori-led prophetic movements have emerged.

Whatever you may think of the theology of Ratana, Parihaka and Ringatu, each movement has also featured strong leadership and a highly committed group of followers among Maori. And at the time, each faced suspicion and negative publicity from both secular media and many sectors of the church. Recent discussions in our newspapers have left me wondering if we are repeating history.

artnership between Maori and Pakeha does not necessarily mean that we will all end up at the same place, doing the same thing, and looking like each other. There will be some mainstream structures that some Maori will choose to get involved in, and there will be some uniquely Maori structures that will reflect the choice of Maori (and some Pakeha) to operate more completely in that world. Partnership does imply respect between the different expressions, and a willingness to consult when interests overlap.

However, among some of my more conservative Pakeha friends, I think there is a new impatience with "all that treaty stuff". Many resent the obligations placed on them by the partnership, and ask themselves what changes for Maori the emphasis on the Treaty has actually brought about. Especially when the media, which is still most people's main source of information about things Maori, are more likely to focus on the failures in that world than the steady and less spectacular successes.

The 1990s was a time when the mood of the nation made it convenient for individuals and organisations at least to pay lip service to partnership with Maori. For example, government policies ensured that organisations seeking funding had references to the Treaty written into their deeds and charters. Public servants were encouraged to become aware of Treaty issues, and the church largely followed suit. The Anglicans went the furthest, restructuring completely, and a couple of Pentecostal denominations managed to bury letters that they had released in the 1970s and 80s warning their members to stay away from Maori culture.

on Brash hit a nerve in our nation when he turned issues of partnership with Maori into a debate about political correctness. I think politicians generally were taken by surprise by the strength of public reaction to his speech in Orewa. Politicians do not prescribe morality in our society, they simply serve the interests of their constituencies by making things more, or less, convenient for the rest of us.

Both of the major parties have assessed the national mood and, for now, identify that group in society who are 'fed up' with partnership with Maori as a constituency which will be important to their success in the coming election. The politicians have consequently taken a step back from openly identifying with Maori aspirations. If it was convenient for the rest of us to seek partnership with Maori in the 1990s, it will probably become less so in the next few years.

I wonder if the pendulum, which swung toward partnership on the 1990s, will now swing back the other way, and if it does, where will churches and Christian organisations be found? Will we be as quick to jump off the bus (waka?) as we were to get on when it was popular?

Will education in Christian courses about the place of the Treaty and things Maori, for example, be given less emphasis in our programmes (perhaps shifted from a compulsory to an elective option), particularly if the students themselves become less interested? Will consultation and dialogue with Maori among our governance and management structures become less of a priority than it is now? Will we continue to wrestle with how to give effect to that line about the Treaty of Waitangi that now sits in most of the constitutions of our Christian organisations?

hese days I spend some of my time managing Praxis, a Christian provider of training in youthwork and community mission. As a team we have wrestled with what it means to give effect to the Treaty of Waitangi (yes, a reference to it sits in our Charter as well). We came up with three principles, which I think work equally as well for a congregation as for a training organisation.

Educate about things Maori

A Treaty workshop, marae stays and some basic reo and protocol are compulsory parts of our courses. To our students who say (and they do!), "This is not relevant because I'm not working with Maori people at the moment", we would respond that New Zealand is our context and we are preparing them for all of it and not just the community they presently find themselves in.

Yet even with this emphasis, we felt we needed to inspire as well as simply inform our students. So as an organisation we have decided to adopt our friend Graeme Carle's campaign to recognise and celebrate Parihaka day1 on November 5th -- instead of celebrating Halloween, or the messy death of a Catholic activist on the other side of the world 400 years ago -- and make it our issue as well, as part of a practical response to partnership with Maori. The story of Parihaka is an incredibly moving one and despite how it turned out, there is much that Christians can celebrate from it. We felt it made a worthwhile cause to identify ourselves with, but this led us to the second principle.

Consult with Maori

As a team we drove up to Parihaka Pa in Taranaki to spend a day and a night in dialogue with local people to ask their blessing for us to be involved in this project. This exercise raised two problems that are common in the consultation process. The first is that Maori may not (initially) welcome our efforts with open arms and great joy.

For some of the people we talked with there has been too much history and too many responses that were little more than tokenism. We had to endure a challenge to our motives from Te Miringa, a guardian for one of the marae at Parihaka. It was only once we had demonstrated our willingness to listen and take on board what was being said to us that some level of acceptance was created. If you genuinely want to know, expect to hear some anger.

The other issue raised by consultation is who to talk to. We left the next day very aware that we had really only talked with one of the local factions, a problem that Helen Clark, who visited a couple of weeks before us, also faced. In my postscript to a later edition of One Faith Two Peoples, I noted that simply getting a brown face around our board tables is likely to be an exercise in frustration for both Maori and Pakeha.

Genuine consultation means doing the necessary investigation to identify the right people to talk to. It is naïve to expect that there is a single position among Maori on any particular issue -- consultation means taking the time to hear, explore and take on board the range of views from Maori and other stakeholders in a decision making process.

Create safe places for Maori and those of other cultures

We recognise that some people will choose to study in their own cultural context (whether that is Maori or Korean). For those who do choose to study in our context, or come to our churches, we want to minimise the number of cultural barriers to their integration and success. We will go out of our way to identify and remove barriers not because we want to treat some people as 'special', but because some people need to have more support in order to have the same chance of success as everyone else. And if I have to move out of my comfort zone (and help my students do the same) to make someone else feel at home, then surely that is no more than is expected of God's people towards others?2

Does any of this make a difference? Adam Smith, an American economist who lived in the 1700s, once posed an intriguing question: if we had to choose between the deaths of a million people in a far away country, and the loss of our little finger, what decision would most of us make? He assumed that self-interest would be the more powerful force, and if his bleak view is correct, then the majority of people will be unwilling to be inconvenienced for the sake of another. In fact, like a trickle of water finding its way down a slope, our personal choices flow most naturally toward paths of convenience and self-interest.

Of course the real test of Christian faith and morality is not what we do when our choices are popular and convenient. It is about the choices that we are prepared to make when it costs us something, and that is the point of Adam Smith's question after all.

Paying attention to the Treaty in the 1990s was relatively easy because the government made it that way. In the new climate it may be easier to allow lofty statements about the Treaty to remain ignored in our constitutions and mission statements. Doing something about our convictions is a messier reality that will involve mistakes and learning if we are prepared to go on the journey.

Good leadership is not about doing things because they are convenient and popular, it is about action because something is right and necessary. I hope we don't put partnership with Maori in the 'too hard' basket once it becomes less convenient.

Actually the question Adam Smith asked isn't so hard . . . it's the problem that Jesus raised with the rich ruler that I'm still struggling with.3

Different styles of decision-making

by Lloyd Martin

T IS COMMON for committees and boards to co-opt a 'Maori rep', pat themselves on the back and carry on with business as usual, unaware that their way of doing things appears cold, isolating and patronising. The Maori representative begins to miss the occasional meeting, turning up late to others. In time she/he simply doesn't come back. Members of the Board are puzzled and annoyed. They made the effort. "Why haven't Maori the same commitment to the _________ (fill in the blank) as other members of the community?"

OME OF THE tensions created in this process have a lot to do with the fact that Maori and Pakeha decision-making processes are quite different.

The Maori decision making process involves open, and often protracted, consultation and debate between all concerned before a decision is reached. Those who make decisions without consultation find that support for them and what they have decided soon evaporates.

In European thinking representatives come along to a meeting to make decisions on behalf of the people they represent. In more traditional Maori thinking they are there to report back to the group they represent, so that group can make a decision as a whole. It takes longer, and at times can seem a waste of time to the goal-oriented European mind.

Yet for Maori the process is the goal. It is by working through the process that relationships are reaffirmed and strengthened. Visitors at marae or Maori functions who have sat around (seemingly for hours) waiting for 'something to happen' have often missed the point that the 'something' is already happening all around them!

AORI NETWORKS OF security and support are heavily reliant on immediate and extended family. (Pakeha tend to be more individualistic -- savings, assets, insurances and career usually form the basis of security for the nuclear family.) Therefore the maintenance of relationships and fulfilment of obligations within this support network are at least as important to Maori as paying the insurance premium is to Pakeha. Obviously one is quicker to do than the other.

Likewise with decision making, if the goal is to simply 'make a decision' then perhaps the Pakeha way of doing things is most efficient. However if part of the goal is the maintenance and solidarity of relationships, then a Maori way of doing things may take longer but will often achieve this better.

Where we seek to involve someone as a Maori representative we must ensure that support for the person concerned exists among his or her own people. Tribal considerations come into this as well -- especially in considering civil matters it is important to consider the local iwi.4 For example, in opening a new church, it would be appropriate to see if there are Christian elders from the local area who would participate before (or as well as) seeking Maori who are from elsewhere to be involved.

Maori and Education

by Lloyd Martin

DUCATION HAS A lot to do with a group of people's ability to participate successfully in wider society and the economy. Late in the nineteenth century gaining a 'European education' for their children was a goal for many Maori families.5 Schools such as Te Aute under the leadership of educators such as Peter Thornton took promising young Maori boys and prepared them for a university education. Around the beginning of the twentieth century a wave of bright young Maori men graduated from Te Aute, completed university education and entered the professions and politics. Many of their names are well known to us today: Sir Apirana Ngata, Sir Peter Buck, Maui Pomare and others whose public lives continued up until the middle of last century.

However, in a turn around of policy, government educators decided that it would be best to educate Maori for rural based, labouring occupations. This Pakeha vision of a role for Maori in New Zealand society was one of training in manual work and as handymen. Schools such as Te Aute were instructed to remove academic subjects from their curriculum and replace them with technical subjects. The school board at Te Aute fought this bitterly, with the support of the Maori ex-students, but eventually Thornton was removed and Te Aute fell into line with the other Maori schools.

HE RESULT WAS that the first group of Maori leadership which emerged into the mainstream of New Zealand life was not followed by others. Educational policies had relegated Maori people to a particular socio-economic status within New Zealand.

These policies did not begin to change until the 1950s and 60s. By that time several generations of Maori parents had been through an education system that sought both to cut them off from their own cultural heritage, and deny them access to full participation in Pakeha society. (The loss of Maori language and culture has only begun to be reversed since the Kohanga Reo movement started in the late 1980s.)

Deliberate attempts to isolate Maori from their cultural background were pursued by early government (and some mission) boarding schools: they sought to remove children from the influences of their family environments and only schools that taught in English were funded.

The practice throughout the first part of this century of banning spoken Maori at school had a huge impact on Maori. Although never official policy, it was a widespread practice backed up by corporal punishment. People are alive today who were punished for speaking their language in the school playground. These experiences deeply affected their attitudes towards European education, attitudes that have often been communicated to their children and grandchildren.

ANY COMMERCIAL AND community based initiatives rely on the input of a range of people with professional skills; lawyers, accountants, teachers, people with business skills etc. Through the historical failure of education this base does not exist among Maori to the same extent it does among other ethnic groups.

The few that are so skilled tend to be chronically overworked. It is important to bear this in mind when we read the reports of the failure in Maori initiatives that the media tend to sensationalise.

This material was adapted from the postscript to Lloyd Martin's book One Faith Two People.


1 For more info go to or try John Hinchcliff’s new novel Parihaka.
2 3 John: 5
3 Luke 18: 22-25
4 'Tribe', Maori did not (and many still do not) conceive of themselves as one nation, but rather a collection of autonomous groups, at the highest level based on their canoe.
5 Wiremu Parker, cited in John Barrington 1985, "Maori Schools Policy: A View From the Schools", New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies Vol.20, No 2, pp 151-164, this quote p 154.

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