Tāhuhu kōrero

The Genesis and Gestation of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa

Ko te amorangi ki mua, ko te hāpai o ki muri

In Aotearoa during 1986 the first Maori Governor-General, Bishop Sir Paul Reeves was in place; David Lange was Prime Minister; State-Owned Enterprises were created; Goods and Services tax was introduced at the rate of 10%; the Quota Management System was established; Pope John Paul II came and went; the Royal Commission on the Electoral System recommended the adoption of MMP; and George Nepia died. Out in the wider world, the space shuttle Challenger exploded; the first ever computer virus began to spread; Halley’s comet came and went; the People Power Revolution in the Philippines took place; and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster happened in the Ukraine. Near the end of that memorable year, Te Roopu A Iwi o Te Rarawa was established and later incorporated as a Charitable Trust, which in 1988, morphed into Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa.

From the beginning, the vision and passion of every marae delegate and executive member has been to rebuild and represent a strong, healthy, independent and happy people. To do so with integrity and effectiveness has been a massive task. At the start, two employees shared one salary and relied on myriads of volunteers in the face of stiff competition for the right to represent. In the end, it was done by using whatever means seemed best at any given time, and always with the planned outcome in mind.

Foremost amongst the highlights has been the pride in being Te Rarawa; the establishment of Te Oranga as one of the most effective social service providers in the country; the delivery of real and measurable improvements in the health, educational and housing outcomes of our people; and a credible reputation in environmental management. As a result, Te Rarawa has earned respect for being a people who prefer to use diplomacy, but will not hesitate to take action if all else fails.

A frank review of our past must include an acknowledgement of the challenges represented by the initial battles to be the recognized and mandated iwi authority for Te Rarawa. It is a mark of the strength and discipline of Te Rarawatanga that the strained relationships which resulted have largely been patched-up, but we must never take ourselves for granted.

Very few of the movers and shakers of 1986 are still around. Even the Rūnanga is barely recognizable from what it was then. We are now the recognized and mandated Iwi Authority of ourselves. That has been built on the backs of men and women who believed that being Te Rarawa was an asset, many of whom have since died. How can they be adequately thanked?

Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa: A Brief Organisational History

Te Rarawa traces its beginning to the time of Tarutaru and back to the waka Tinana and Māmari. It was under the steadfast leadership of Tarutaru – particularly in conflicts with Ngāti Whātua, that the founding tūpuna of Te Rarawa rallied together as an iwi.

In modern times, Te Rarawa hapū and marae are formally represented by Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa. Legally constituted in 1988, the Rūnanga began its formal life two years earlier at Te-Roopu-a-Iwi o Te Rarawa. The first minutes of the Roopu are dated 21 October 1986, but those involved at the time recall a series of hui leading up to that point. For example, Ossie Peri and Ted Pomare chaired a seminar on Matua Whāngai immediately before the appointment of the inaugural Roopu.

Initially, the focus of the Roopu was on Matua Whāngai, a government-supported, yet community-based strategy for delivering social services. As part of the strategy, Te Rarawa spread an initial pūtea of $14,000 very thinly to resource an iwi registration process, including the determination of iwi boundaries, the development of marae profiles, and lists of resource people. Importantly, Matua Whāngai was one of many spurs for advancing the broader kaupapa of ‘devolution’, the re-orienting of government resources away from negative spending and towards iwi development.

These developments occurred at an important and challenging time when Maori policy, government direction, and national and global economies were rapidly changing. The government had embarked on a major restructuring of the public service and welfare system. Protest helped draw public attention to the Treaty of Waitangi; legislative change allowed the Waitangi Tribunal to consider claims dating back to 1840; and court action sought to protect claimants’ interests in State-owned Enterprises. The government talked about ‘partnership principles’ of the Treaty, and endorsement of iwi structures. Locally, the Waitangi Tribunal began hearing the Muriwhenua Fishing claims. It was in that dynamic and politically charged environment that the Roopu laid the foundations for developments beyond the core activities of Matua Whāngai.

By mid-1987, Te Rarawa had developed a clear view that it ought to legally structure itself and plan for long-term and robust iwi self-management. A kaikokiri group was appointed to spearhead activities. Its members were Haki Campbell, Malcolm Peri, Pā Henare Tate, Paul White, Gloria Herbert, Ossie Peri and Waddy Wadsworth. The group convened a pivotal hui-a-iwi at Waipuna Marae which led directly to the 1988 legal constitution of Te Rūnanga o Te Rarawa under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957.

At times, it appeared that no resources would devolve with the services that iwi were expected to deliver. The exasperation can be detected in the minutes, which note that the Iwi Transition Agency, which replaced Maori Affairs, would inform, advise, assist and hui, but had ‘NO MONEY FOR RESOURCING THE IWI’.

Vigorous debate within Te Rarawa helped to navigate complex and ever-changing circumstances, although it often meant a lot of late nights, followed by much hard work. Some things were consistently clear, marae-based representation, though recently changed in detail, has been the constant basis of the Rūnanga’s structure. Whanau development, health, housing, education, training, and Te Rarawatanga were the chosen areas of focus, practically from the beginning. Many of the seeds sown in the 80s are now bearing fruit - even the idea of a Te Rarawa Festival was recorded, amongst other targets, at a hui in August 1988. Other practices have become virtual traditions - the third Wednesday of the month has been the designated meeting day of the Rūnanga ever since Wednesday 18 February 1987.

Throughout the 1990s, The Rūnanga found its rhythm and grew from strength to strength. An instrumental series of planning and development hui were held to consider administration and structure, housing, land development, iwi capacity, and claims. The hui were augmented by various research and development projects. From 1990, the Rūnanga arranged its work into portfolios. Initially, these included Matua Whāngai, justice, health, education, fisheries, training and employment. They were soon expanded to include housing, social services, te-ao-kōwhatu (kuia and kaumātua), communication, conservation, rangatahi, and the Tino Rangatiratanga Unit. There was plenty of other work to keep delegates busy, and special committees were formed to handle a multitude of issues. Relationships were forged and formalized with trust boards, local authorities, government agencies and other iwi. Funds and accommodation were sought out.

The large goals of iwi development have continued to both challenge and motivate the Rūnanga over the years. From modest beginnings and built by the voluntary energies of the iwi, the Rūnanga has transformed to the point where it currently employs more than sixty staff across a range of areas that reflect its original goals. Much has changed, and much has remained the same.

In retrospect - Rūnanga meetings in the 1980s

As the Rūnanga refines its meetings moving forward, it is worth reflecting on how meetings were run in the early days. We held our meetings in the evenings so that those who worked could attend. As many people were coming directly from work or travelling from further afield to get to the hui, we would start each meeting with dinner. We generally had a car load from Auckland and Whangarei, as well as 30 or 40 from our local communities, with the meeting finishing most nights after midnight.

Starting time was 6.00 pm. Everyone would wait (and wait) out front until most of the people had arrived. We didn’t want to risk anyone missing the pōwhiri. About 6.30pm we would be called on to the marae and then we would enjoy and endure the whaikōrero - two or three speakers from the haukāinga and four or five from the visitors. There was an impressive front row in those days, Uncle Simon Snowden, Uncle Sonny Petricevich, Uncle Fred Clark and Uncle Steve Paparoa. Then there would be a few late arrivals, and a few more words of welcome from the taumata.

A banquet dinner would then be served and by the time the slower eaters had completed the formalities it would be past 8.00 pm. Back into the whare-hui and John Campbell would bring the hui to order with a brief mihimihi to those that had arrived during dinner. The minutes would be read out by Aunty Pearl Arano. Many questions and points of clarification would be made and eventually we would move onto matters arising. This could take several hours as the minutes of the last meeting provided a fertile ground for anyone and everyone to recall the discussions from a different perspective and to introduce new matters.

Next would be the financial report that Auntie Liza Blair would read to the meeting. She kept meticulous records, and everything could be (and was) accounted for down to the last cent. By this time, it might be 11.00 pm. A few people might have moved off, but majority would hang in for the duration of the meeting. This issue of the day would be debated. Whether it was the writing of a constitution for the Rūnanga we were about to form, or Matua Whāngai, or papakainga housing, or the devolution of the Maori Affairs Department, each issue was given its time. Auntie Anne Brett was always there with a kete to raffle for the new whare being built at Waiparera. Auntie Ani Wihone would tell us about the marae that was going to be built at Rangikohu. Whaea Gloria Herbert would bring a voice of reason when we were getting off track. The meeting would close after midnight and even later. A cup of tea for those who had yet to travel would always be provided. The weary ringawera would turn out the lights some time later and those who had to travel would wend their way home through the fog.

And then one day someone said, “why can’t we have our meetings during the day?” There only a few workers that came to the meetings anyway, and those that wanted to, could find a way to get there during the day. So, the meetings switched to daytime with a 9.00am start, and the late-night endurance sessions ended.