Killing Native Affairs – iwi leaders rally with the big guns: access, money & management

It’s a busy period if you’re part of te Ao Māori with lots of important kaupapa happening. Today the Te Kōhanga Reo National Trust and kōhanga reo from throughout the motu met at Turangawaewae at the request of King Tuheitia. Mana had it’s highly anticipated weekend of fighting about whether to partner with the Internet Party. Tau Henare is leaving Parliament. Iwi leaders are salivating at the opportunity to get their hands on the money through Te Matawai, a proposed structure to hand them Te Mangai Paho and Māori Television. We’re all waiting to see if Paora Maxwell will be a good or a bad bet at the head of Māori Television. Here in Tauranga Moana we’re on the mad rush to the 150th commemorations of Pukehinahina. In human interest stories, CNN insulted Māori culture by mocking the kaiwero who greeted the British royalty (not quite sure why they’re here to be honest). In fact it’s very hard to keep up.

I suspect this rush might be the intention of those who iwi leaders presume to speak for us as tāngata whenua. I suspect that, because our leaders, in all their iterations, are spending an inordinate amount of time lately telling us to shut up, stop asking questions, and stop sticking our noses into things. And front of the queue in their shitlist is Native Affairs.

Native Affairs dared to challenge the hand that feeds, our iwi leaders, our tall wonderful tōtara, our brown elite. So the establishment have responded, and Native Affairs and their organsation Māori Television are being attacked on three fronts.

First Front: Exclusion

Native Affairs were excluded from the Kōhanga Reo hui this week. They weren’t invited, and when they turned up, they were denied access. I haven’t heard what the official reason is yet, but it will probably be, they weren’t invited. The actual reason is obvious: the board and their advisor Derek Fox consider Native Affairs to blame for this whole affair. They have been betrayed; the board is the aggrieved party.

This approach is disturbing because it is blithely weilding power with no sense that with power comes accountability. Lack of accountability isn’t the problem; sticky beaks asking for accountability are the problem. Does this sound like Fiji to anyone? Under the deified reign of our current stock of iwi leaders, I predict this will become more common. If Native Affairs are going to stick up for the common people in Maoridom, watch as our leaders exclude them from the movers and shakers in Maoridom.

Second Front: Dulling the Blade

Paora Maxwell has been put in place despite the disquiet of Māori Television staff. Two thirds of the 150 staff signed a petition against his appointment. He is a close personal friend of Georgina Te Heuheu. He left TVNZ under a cloud (I’m not sure if it was a fluffy cloud or a thunderous storm cloud). He gives all the impression of being bad news. It may be nothing so blunt as reining in investigative journalism, but I feel more confident it will be intended to dull Māori Television with visionless leadership that staff can’t bear to work under. It’s much easier than attacking the brilliant investigative journalists in the channel; just make it unbearably boring and lifeless to work there.

Third Front: Move the Money

Following up Paora, Pita Sharples suggested handing Te Mangai Paho and Māori Television over to an unaccountable board of eight iwi leaders, lock stock and barrel. Again, Māori broadcasters and community based leaders like Hone Harawira are disturbed by the suggestion. The brown elite are insulted at their distrust. As Naida Glavish points out, “iwi like Ngai Tahu, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Tainui and Ngāti Whatua and others are demonstrating daily that they have the financial and management nous to achieve goals for their people.” Apparently she said this without smirking.

The primary argument for Te Matawai is retention and development of te reo Māori. Iwi claim to be the most appropriate, nay, the only leaders with the moral authority, skill and desire to ensure te reo Māori flourishes. But te reo Māori isn’t a business. It can’t be saved by “financial and management nous.” It can only be saved by people learning it, then by people speaking it in their homes, and the mana for its diversity and richness belongs to hapu, not iwi.

And who, pray tell, would be on the board of Te Matawai? We have a shortlist already: Ngai Tahu (because they’re corporate and have got Hana); Ngāti Porou (because most of our te reo dictionaries come from there and Tā Apirana); Te Arawa (because of Koro Toby and Whaea Cathy); Tainui (because corporate and King Tuheitia);and  Ngāti Whatua (because  Whaea Naida said so; because Auckland?). That’s five. Three seats to go: Te Atiawa, Tuwharetoa, Kahungunu or Ngapuhi. There won’t be a seat for Tauranga Moana. Our te reo Māori will be their te reo Māori. Where do you expect Te Mangai Paho will direct its funding with those iwi at the table? And who will be allowed to tell these stories with iwi at the board table?

Am I suggesting the Crown is a better governor? That we lack the skills and abilities to guide our own destiny? Not at all. But I am saying that those with the skills and abilities in te Ao Māori to create an outstanding media and build our te reo Māori in our communities are not the same as those with the power and resources. And those with the power and the resources are proving to be corrupt and unaccountable governors.

These three attacks are not coincidental in their timing or intent. I am not suggesting our iwi leaders are sitting at a table making dastardly plans to destroy all those who would seek to oppose them… actually, now I think of it, I am suggesting that. It’s call the Iwi Leaders Forum and it has deliberately sought to remove mana from any other group or forum that has spoken for and represented Māori.

In case this wasn’t clear: I don’t trust the Iwi Leaders Forum or their intent. I don’t trust their accountability. And I despise how they stand on the mana of our collective whakapapa to give legitmacy to brown adventure capitalism. We need to protect those who would shine a light on our iwi leaders, such as Native Affairs. E ara e hika e!


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