Although we’re being asked to keep our social distance, this shouldn’t stop us from being socially engaged. The whakataukī, “Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa” exhorts us to be close together and not far apart. This is particularly poignant now in this era of Covid-19. As a nation and as a people we must pull together, our collective voices must be heard and our responses united for the wellbeing of future generations.
History shows that Māori have and continue to respond to crisis situations and adversity competently and effectively. Not only are Māori adept in this area, but Māori are also able to do so in a manner that upholds tikanga and cultural values such as manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga. Māori are accustomed to being called into action at a moment’s notice on the marae. This type of experience together with our taukaea aroha – our whakawhanaungatanga all place Māori in a position and within a network that sustains and supports our community’s resilience in times such as these.
After the Christchurch earthquakes and then again after the Kaikōura earthquake, Ngāi Tahu’s response was admired and commended. The iwi’s response to the Christchurch earthquakes and its participation in the ensuing recovery process has been considered a model of best practice. The Matapopore Charitable Trust was created as the mana whenua organisation responsible for ensuring Ngāi Tūāhuriri / Ngāi Tahu values, aspirations and narratives are actualized in the city’s regeneration. The new Ōtautahi emerging no longer invisibilises mana whenua but instead acknowledges the Treaty partnership. Unfortunately Ngāi Tahu’s experience in Kaikōura was different. Despite the positive coverage of the mahi Māori and iwi organisations did in this area, this did not translate into an increase or greater presence in policy making decisions in that rohe. Instead unlike in Ōtautahi, Ngāi Tahu was not included as a statutory partner for the subsequent Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquakes Recovery Act 2016.
This experience in Kaikōura should not be repeated in this Covid 19 Aotearoa. Now is not the time to marginalize Māori voices from decision making. Recently Simon Bridges has rightly come under criticism for the under representation of Māori voices on the Epidemic Response Committee of which he chairs. Although he agreed it was important and that more Māori voices needed to be heard, he blamed a ‘busy agenda’. This demonstrates a very clear undervaluing of mātauranga Māori and a lack of understanding of the Treaty partnership. What appears to be happening is a familiar course of action and one that occurred after the Kaikōura earthquakes. Initially there is praise for the work that iwi and Māori organisations do in these times, however later when it comes to having a seat at the decision making table moving forward, Māori are more often than not side lined. Pākehā voices, usually male, Pākehā concerns and narratives are privileged.
Here is an opportunity to reshape our approach. We must make our strategic priorities reflective of an equitable and authentic Treaty partnership. Mana whenua should not remain side lined or invisible. Māori experience in disaster management and mobilisation, resilience and recovery should not be undervalued. Māori voices should and need to be heard at all levels of decision making as we move forward. Now is not the time to be far apart, but to be close together, to stand as one.