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Maori and the State: Crown-Māori relations in New Zealand/Aotearoa, 1950-2000

The Hui Taumata

The Hui Taumata

On a formal level, this hui reflected the longstanding Labour concern with ‘equality’, and highlighted ‘underdevelopment’ in Maori society. Delegates noted that, for all the past government policies aimed at addressing such matters, Maori were featuring ever more prominently in negative social indicators, particularly those suggesting both widespread welfare dependency and that they continued to miss out, as a people, on the better educational and employment opportunities. The solution primarily lay not just in more or better departmental initiatives, nor only in greater or more appropriately targeted resources going to Maoridom. Instead, the delegates declared, Maori needed ‘to determine their own future in their own way with the appropriate resources’. They were united in their desire to do so, believing that – for a number of converging reasons – the Crown might finally be prepared to pay fundamental respect to rangatiratanga.

To this end, the Hui Taumata issued a communiqué demanding ‘better targeted support from government but delivered by Maori organisations’.page 203 Its request for ‘integrated cultural, social and economic development’ went counter to the emerging thrust of government policies for the country, but its call for ‘greater Maori autonomy, and Maori self-determination’ indicated to government that possibilities existed for forging new arrangements with the Maori leadership which might suit both the Crown and the Maori people. In the words of a member of the organising team, delegates made ‘a clear call’: ‘Give us the power – give us the resources’. After a decade of this, they believed, welfarist funding to assist Maori reach parity with pakeha would no longer be needed.

When a second such summit was held 21 years later, one of the original participants, Parekura Horomia, who had become Minister of Maori Affairs, recalled that the first conference’s message had been unequivocal: ‘Maori had to be empowered to initiate, design and deliver their own solutions’. The first Hui Taumata’s underlying theme, then, was to find ways for Maori to obtain ‘supreme control over their lives, their assets and resources’. But how to embody in practical policy the call for Maori control of Maori resources, and the attainment of Maori objectives on Maori terms? Delegates proposed building on recent tribal revitalisation by further ‘strengthening the Maori tribal system to provide an environment for new social and economic initiatives’. This should be done in conjunction with the launch of a ‘Decade of Maori Development’.

The name of the Hui Taumata’s official communiqué, He Kawenata, embodied its high status as a covenant. It became both ‘an inspiration’ throughout Maoridom and a guide to officials. One of the planners of the conference, Ngatata Love, later recorded the feeling of many at the time: the Hui Taumata marked a turning point ‘from being told what to do to establishing quietly a determination to take control of our destiny. There was a spirit that came out of it that energised people’. Integration policies had been so entrenched within the body politic that Tu Tangata, although an encouraging start, had not resulted in anywhere near sufficient shared power. Hui Taumata delegates were adamant that more autonomist spaces needed to be created both within the state machinery and outside of it. There was a recommendation from the hui, for example, that one of the existing teachers’ training colleges be turned into a Maori community college operating under kaupapa Maori philosophy.14

In December 1984, the Maori Economic Development Commission was established to act on the hui’s recommendations, especially to find ways of redirecting the ‘negative funding’ of state welfare services into channels providing more ‘positive’ and self-reliant outcomes. The commission decided that ‘iwi could autonomously deliver economic and social benefits for their people without resources having to be state-controlled’. Tribal governancepage 204 groups, in particular, could take up a great deal of the responsibility and accountability for better targeting of Crown-provided resources – re-devolving to sub-tribal entities where necessary. Maori collectivities would strengthen as their people were empowered, and this would lead to economic as well as social and political gains.

Most importantly, Maori would eventually be running their own affairs without the need for any state intervention or assistance. In these ways, the self-reliance lost as a result of both general colonisation and specific state policies would be restored in new form. This would also have the advantage for the government of exonerating it from welfarist spending, and would purportedly vindicate its de-statising policies. In the process of transferring resources to Maori organisations, the Crown expected that ‘modern’ (western) concepts of representative leadership and techniques of business efficiency would be needed. But these could be grafted onto traditional organisational structures, in the interests of both their acceptability and the achievement of maximal results.

From a Maori perspective, the key idea during the rapid developments of 1984 was, in the words of Tamati Reedy, to ‘return to the mauri of the tribal base’ by developing the strength of iwi, hapu and whanau structures. These, he noted, had long been downplayed by government and, indeed, had not long ago been expected to wither away. Now, however, they were seen as the major organisations to ‘underpin any move towards self-determination’. The next two or three years saw the canvassing of many other ideas on the means of effecting a fundamental transfer of governance and resources to Maori. But the focus on iwi as the primary vehicle had been championed by the DMA in response to listening to the Hui Taumata, and significant devolution to tribal structures soon emerged as the principle most favoured by the great majority of the leaders of the interested parties. This implied an initial active promotion by the Crown of tribal identity and development.15

14 Williams, The Too-Hard Basket, pp 14–5 (p 14 for ‘determine their own future’ and ‘better targeted support’ quotes); Butterworth and Young, Maori Affairs, pp 117–8 (p 118 for ‘strengthening the Maori tribal system’ quote); Patete, Devolution, pp 7–8; Durie, Whaiora, p 53 (for ‘integrated cultural’ and ‘greater Māori’ quotes); Keenan, Danny, ‘The Treaty is Always Speaking? Government Reporting on Maori Aspirations and Treaty Meanings’, in Dalley, Bronwyn and Tennant, Margaret (eds), Past Judgement: Social Policy in New Zealand History, Dunedin, 2004, p 210 (for ‘a clear call’ and ‘Give us the power’ quotes); Horomia, Parekura, ‘Speech notes prepared for the Hui Taumata 2005’, 1 March 2005, http://www.beehive.govt.nz/node/22330 [accessed June 2008] (for ‘Maori had to be empowered’ quote); Melbourne, Hineani, Maori Sovereignty: The Maori Perspective, Auckland, 1995, p 81 (for ‘supreme control over their lives’ quote); Venter, Nick, ‘A Maori agenda’, Dominion Post, 26 Feb 2005 (for ‘being told what to do’ quote); Herzog, ‘Toward’, p 131; van Meijl, ‘Community development’, p 203.

15 Patete, Devolution, p 9 (for ‘iwi could autonomously’ quote); Ritchie, Tribal Development, p 16; Butterworth, ‘Breaking the Grip’, pp 2–3, 37; Butterworth and Young, Maori Affairs, pp 118–20 (including ‘return to the mauri’ and ‘underpin’ quotes); Reedy, ‘Foreword’, p 3.