Māori Kāhui consider Asia engagement

Māori members of the Leadership Network gathered at Owae Marae in Taranaki last year to discuss Māori engagement with Asia, provide consultation and feedback to the Foundation and welcome the teina (younger members) of Te Kāhui. Adam McConnochie reflects on the weekend and some of the key discussions points that arose.

“Kua tawhiti kē tō haerenga mai, kia kore e haere tonu. He tino nui rawa o ōu mahi, kia kore e mahi nui tonu. 
You have come too far, not to go further. You have done too much, not to do more.”

Sir James Hēnere’s whakataukī was mentioned several times at a recent Foundation hui in Taranaki. The whakataukī expresses where we feel the Foundation is at our journey to better represent Māori and put kaupapa Māori at the forefront of our work.

Members of Te Kahui talk about the hui and their asperations for the Leadership Network and the Foundation

The hui brought together Māori members of the Leadership Network, Te Kāhui Māori, for the first of what will be an annual hui.

The purpose of the hui was to reflect on progress made and discuss next steps for the Foundation’s engagement with Te Ao Māori. It also aimed to integrate recently joined Kāhui members and to understand the Foundation’s role in driving Māori engagement with Asia in a post-Covid world.

Te Kāhui began informally in 2017 during a visit to Taheke Marae in Rotorua where the Foundation's engagement with Māori was delved into.

Since then, Te Kāhui have counselled and sat alongside the Foundation as it was gifted a Māori expression, published research on Māori engagement with Asia and initiated regular te reo lessons for staff.

To gather (after several date changes due to Covid) was a further step in the Foundation’s engagement with the Māori world.

However, before we could do this we needed to understand where we were and to learn what was unique about Taranaki.

We started by viewing a special showing of Tātarakihi - The Children of Parihaka at the Govett Brewster. This documentary is a taonga and was accompanied by Maata Wharehoka from the Parihaka Trust who also played a leading role in the documentary.

The Kahui and Foundation staff sitting in front of the wharenui

The next morning we were welcomed onto Owae Marae in Waitara, filing past the watchful eye of Maui Pomere.

History is never far away in Waitara. To sit in the area where the Taranaki Wars began, meet the descendants of the non-violent pioneers at Parihaka and hear the stories of prophets Te Whiti and Tohu was to live and breathe the history of Aotearoa.

History was both present and remembered in a way that is unusual in Pākehā settings. Tītokowaru, arguably New Zealand’s best general, was with us at Owae but is barely remembered by most of New Zealand.

The Kahui , Foundation staff and marae elders sitting infront of the wharenui

After pōwhiri, whakawhanaungatanga and stories from the kaumātua, it was down to mahi.

There was a feeling among the group that the Foundation was entering the second phase of its engagement with Māori - the foundations had been laid and it was time to build up.

Tikanga Māori is more embedded in the day-to-day work of the Foundation; representation, albeit it from a low base, is up with 10 percent of the network now identifying as Māori; and Māori voices are increasingly heard throughout the Foundation's various programmes. The Te Ao Māori Hui in Waitangi in 2019 was a great example of this progress, with Kāhui proud of the role they played.

But more work is required. Governance, representation and Foundation staff confidence and competency in Te Ao/te reo Māori are all areas to keep working on.

The kōrero was at times challenging but the passion for the network and the ambition for Māori in Asia was clear.

Energised by the folk in the room, enriched by the manaakitanga of Owae Marae and empowered by the Foundation to keep moving forward it was a weekend to remember.