Tuesday 7 August 2012

A different perspective

Many of you probably already read Morgan Godfrey's blog Maui St so you've probably seen this but just in case here is a post that got my interest.

In the past I've made it pretty clear in the past that I quite like Morgan's blog. He is young and keen, sometimes a little over-zealous but usually focussed and insightful. The young student has been blogging for awhile and has had the foresight to engage another two writers to spread the sound of the voice.

Back in June Morgan added former MP Kelvin Davis and former Green Party candidate Jack Tautokai McDonald as contributors to the blog.

At the end of last week Kelvin published this post containing his opinion about who had been the best and the worst Maori MP. A couple of notable additions and a brief discussion on what makes someone Maori, the post was insightful and well-written, so check it out.

I particularly liked his summation of Shane Jones.

"Shane Jones has had a Bill drawn from the ballot "Ombudsmen (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill," buggered if I know what that's about, but I have every faith in Shane's ability to turn the most tedious of kaupapa into an epic yarn worthy of a Pulitzer."

Thursday 2 August 2012

Praise where praise is due

Ok, so if you haven’t guessed I’m not the sort of blogger who can produce a post every day or even every couple of days. I’ve tried but finding time and space or even the inclination is sometimes a little tougher than I thought it would be but boy have there been some interesting issues concerning Maori in the media over the past couple of weeks.

Well really it is just one issue that has been constantly evolving. It is the thing that everyone is talking about, I’m sure, and every major media outlet has produced at least one story about the water rights issue since it was announced that the Maori Council had requested an urgent hearing with the Waitangi Tribunal. It is, to borrow the words from a cousin, the hot topic of this time.

However I have already discussed this issue on this blog and, as I’ve already said, the story is constantly moving forward so I wanted to dedicate this post to another subject.

So I came across this story reading through my google alerts and I couldn’t help but think wow.

The story is about a $1million fund set up by the Primary Industries ministry that will be used in co-investment in projects by Maori. The story got me to thinking about something that an old man once said to me.

Somewhere in my travels I was told that Maori land, which is collectively owned by a Maori grouping, makes up only 5 per cent of the country but that at least 95 per cent of that land is underutilised. Bear in mind that I have not researched this information but simply quoting something that the old man said to me, but even so that seems like heck of a lot of waste.

I know much of this land will not be prime farming acres but the prospect that there could be $1 million out there for people to use to get this resource producing something, anything sounds amazing.

However, and I know this sounds cynical, I’m almost sitting here waiting for some media outlet to pick up this story and try the (non-Maori) outrage angle.

I can just see another Louis Crimp or Phil Foster being trotted out to criticise the fund as unfair towards non-Maori.

But here’s the thing Radio New Zealand, because of its focus and nature, simply just state the facts. Very rarely is opinion allowed within the online snaps and I really enjoy this in a world of sensationalism and biased reporting.

Radio New Zealand is often the source which has the most diverse Maori news and it should be commended for its work. I’m not a big radio listener preferring to listen to my own music most of the time but I am glad that I am able to get updates online. I only wish that their online presence was a little bit smoother so that I could feel as though there was a human behind the updates.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Oh, Tuku?

It almost feels like I’ve been out of the loop. So much is going on that involves the media and Maori and I’ve been too busy to even keep up with it at any respectable rate.

But what I do know is that John Key, finally, has stepped into a big pile of shit. And the funniest thing is that he didn’t even see it coming because that’s how little regard he gave to Maori.
While I haven’t caught many of the interviews I did see Shane Taurima’s talk with the prime minister on  TV1’s Q+A programme on Sunday morning and it was fair to say Key wasn’t his usual unflappable self.
And I, for one, am not disappointed the veneer is starting to rub off a little. They say never to trust a politician and I have always tended to believe them especially when it comes in smooth packages.
Ever since he came into office Key has had a bit of a magic run. He appeals to middle New Zealand – mostly a white crowd that include farmers, small business owners and mum and dad investors. He has been well-liked and seemed to possess the ability to pass off his slight geekyness as the kind of lovable bumblings of a good-soul.
He has definitely played the game well.There is no doubt that Key got National back into power with his charisma.

But don’t underestimate him. He was good enough to form relationships with the powerful including a group of Maori leaders he thought would help him get his plan to sale of the country’s china.
Unfortunately for him, I think he may have miscalculated.

The move from the Maori Council to seek an urgent hearing with the Waitangi Tribunal was just the climax point things needed. And it came right at the best possible moment.

While Key and his ministers have tried to say that they have a mandate to sell the four state-owned power companies, it was pretty obvious that even among those who vote blue there are some uncomfortable with the policy.

Because at the end of the day Kiwi’s like Kiwi-owned.

And no matter what kind of economic argument is put forward or what kind of legislation is enacted to try and protect the country, New Zealander’s will never want to lose what essentially binds us together and that is the land and the water.

Key says no-one owns the water, and he may well be right, but many out there have come around to the idea that if Maori can claim rights over it then that may stop any sales, or at least delay it long enough. And that makes the discussion of Maori rights a whole lot more palatable than it has ever been before.

So interesting is this situation that it could almost be the death-nail for National’s stint in power and the way we think about Maori rights. 
The National Party's mates certainly haven’t stepped up very well. The Maori Party have been far too slow and indecisive and the Iwi Leaders Group is under too much pressure to have any real sway.

And as each story gathers and another media report is consumed by potential mum and dad investors slowly the foundations that the policy rest on are surely destabilised.

Because seriously, even if Key and his cronies pass legislation and float 49 per cent of the companies who is going to want to buy those shares with this controversy hanging over them?

And the best part about the whole thing is that it isn't going anywhere anytime soon. The legal proceedings that are bound to come will tie things up indefinitely and give great fodder for the country's journalists.

So far the media have done a pretty good job, coverage of the issue has been pretty good and wide-ranging.

But here’s the thing, personally I want to hear from the man who last year was publically touting the sale of assets as potentially beneficial to Maori. The man who once boasted that one of his skills was that John Key would take his calls, the man who put forward an idea that iwi could be given shares in the SOEs in future settlement deals, the man who has been at the coal-face and is fully immersed in the world of the Iwi Leaders Group.

And, unfortunately, Tukoroirangi Morgan has been unusually quiet.

Meanwhile, it is Maori language week so remember it is cool to korero.

Ma te wa.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

The Upper Crust

I’ve been meaning to sit down and write this post since I caught Marae Investigates last weekend. Unfortunately, or fortunately, it is school holidays and hanging with my kid beats sitting in front of a computer but finally I have found a quiet moment and the inclination to put pen to paper… Or thoughts to Word.

What got me thinking was a story featured on the Sunday morning programme that focussed on a “Maori Ministerial party” trip to China. Once again the story was presented in an ok manner but it got me to thinking about a few conversations I have had with a couple of the whanau recently and that led me to wanting to talk about the idea of Maori Aristocracy.

I know this means that once again I am going to discuss an issue rather than the media’s treatment of it despite clearly outlining the purpose of this blog when I first started but please indulge me, again.

Maori Aristocracy? I hear you ask. Yeah I did the same thing when I first heard the term, probably even laughed a little but don’t let the use of an old English term throw you - there is indeed a class system operating within modern-day Maoridom, something that has always been a little bit disconcerting to me.

The trip, made with Maori Affairs minister Dr Pita Sharples, was an opportunity for a contingent made up of chief executives and chairpeople of some of the biggest Maori businesses to talk trade and development with people in China.

Reporter Jodi Ihaka accompanied the party and along with producing a series of stories from the trip, she also blogged about it.

But her words did little to settle some doubts that have been clanging around in my head.

During her story Ihaka said she could not reveal how much the business deals could be worth for the group because “commercial sensitivity”

“We can reveal that there was singing and dancing.”

Weak really because what I really want to know is the exact thing that they won’t talk about. And funny how people always quote commercial sensitivity when it comes to the money thing.

Yet in her blog Ihaka said collectively the contingent represented 36.9 billion dollars of Maori wealth.

 Te Puni Kokiri chief executive Leith Comer says Maori add value to New Zealand Inc and that was made internationally clear during the Rugby World Cup. From the opening ceremony to the closing, Maori were all over it.  So, building on that success and taking Maori Inc to the world is part of what the plan for this trip to China and Hong Kong.   I'm told it's about branding Maori as players.

“I'm also told the mission will benefit all of New Zealand.  The mission is of some benefit for the chief executives and chairpersons of some of the biggest Maori businesses in New Zealand who come on these missions because they were asked to by the Minister or because they want to do business with China.

“Collectively they represent 36.9 billion dollars of Maori wealth.

“Individually - they represent success, money and moving Maori to a much better place than we are now.   Maori economic interests are everywhere but they mostly represent New Zealand's five biggest export earners such as dairy, tourism, meat, wood and seafood.

“The China mission if they choose to accept it also enables them to collaborate with each other.

“June McCabe, Matt Te Pou, James Wheeler, Jamie Tuuta, Whatarangi Peehi-Murphy, Pania Tyson-Nathan, Kauahi Ngapora and Te Horipo Karaitiana.

“These are big names in big Maori business representing:

 “Federation of Maori Authorities, Wakatu Inc, Central North Island Iwi Holdings, NZ Maori Tourism, Poutama Trust, Ngai Tahu Seafoods, Whale Watch Kaikoura and New Zealand Manuka.

 “The opportunities for iwi Maori are endless.  Already one iwi is talking business with another.”

Ihaka clearly trumpeted the trip as a good idea and while it is heartening to hear about Maori success stories the idea of this group reeks of a select few getting a leg up from their mate/cuzzy Dr Pita Sharples.

And it got me to thinking about how you get an invitation to join such a contingent. Well I’m guessing you need to be part of the “Maori Aristocracy” to get anywhere near a trip like this.

And I am not talking about the old school notion of aristocrats where you would assume that that the group are members with rangatira blood, this it would seem is a new breed.

As I have already said Maori have always had a class system, back in the day there were the chiefs, their family and the slaves. But this has nothing to do with whakapapa, it is more about the people you know.

I mean it helps if you have the right surname but to be included in this elite group you need to have credentials, preferably the ones that add letters to the end of your name and zero’s to your pay packet. You also need to know how to network or brown-nose (depending on how you see it).

Nothing wrong with that huh? Hardwork and dedication will always be rewarded.

Well yes but the problem with such a group is the same problem that the Iwi Leaders Group face and that is that belonging is pretty subjective.

For me talk is cheap and I do not need you to tell me what you have done in the past – your actions should speak clearly enough.

Mana-munching and nepotism never sit well with me and while I am glad that there are Maori out there spreading their wings I do not think that you should be given special treatment simply because you say that you have done something special. In time the people will judge your achievements and only they can give you the mana.

So strike your deals, line your pockets but remember when all is said and done the people will know what you left behind.

Meanwhile what is encouraging is that TV1 news are using the resource they have in their Maori news programming and featuring stories from programmes such as Marae Investigates and Te Karere have produced. This is wonderful.

These sorts of programmes have uncovered some interesting issues including a complaint from a Taranaki woman who had been placed in the care of a convicted rapist during her childhood.

And I am glad that there are Maori reporters and programmes out there that are endeavouring to tell our people’s stories even if some of the elements do not sit well with me personally.

Monday 25 June 2012

A question of race?

Today I wanted to highlight a debate in the New Zealand Herald that I think has had the correct media treatment applied.

The New Zealand Herald is one of the best newspapers in the country and this clearly shows why.

The debate was about the operation of quota systems in medicine schools to allow a certain of number of Maori to train as doctors. It was kicked off, this time, by former ACT leader Rodney Hide in this opinion.

In it Hide said he was prompted to write the opinion after receiving a phone call from Dr Ranginui Walker during a radio show.

Hide said he “had been complaining about the two standards of entry to medical school: one for Maori and one for everyone else”.

“The (Auckland) university dropped the bar to a B-bursary for Maori. Everyone else needed an A-bursary or better. Once into medical school, though, Maori students had to perform and pass like everyone else.”

He also spoke of an adjustment to the selection scheme that allowed students’ suitability based on elements other than just academic success.

“They were no longer strictly academic. It counted if students did kapa haka, went to the marae, played sports or practised music.

 “Walker explained that gave Pakeha students "a bit of an edge over Asian students who are totally, single-mindedly focused on academic excellence and had nothing else to offer the profession.”

Later he admonished processes that use quota systems and other “touchy-feely criteria” to select candidates.

“The colour of a student's skin now counts for entry to medical school, as well as academic record and ability. It shouldn't.

“The legendary George Nepia wasn't selected for the 1928 All Blacks tour of South Africa. He was left out for a simple reason: he was brown. That was wrong. Maori players first toured South Africa as All Blacks in 1970. They toured as "honorary whites". That was disgusting.

“I was brought up with the ideal that we should judge people by what they do - it's wrong to judge people by their race, colour or creed. Everyone should be free to play; selection should be based on merit.

“Auckland University's policy turns that ideal upside down. Skin colour counts. For Walker, the correct mix of colour is more important than having the best class.

“But race, colour, creed shouldn't worry us. We shouldn't care if doctors are yellow, white or brown. All we should care about is that they are good at the job. And that should be the university's sole concern. It is wrong that the university discriminates on skin colour. It is wrong that it is attempting a correct colour mix. The university should treat all applicants equally: that means being blind to race.”

In response the Herald published this column from Craig Riddell, the president of the Auckland University Medical Students' Association who also happens to be Maori.

Riddell used the opinion piece to cleanly and effectively deconstruct Hide’s argument against quota systems.

He argued that through quota schemes there is a better chance of training “doctors who are culturally fluent and not merely culturally aware”.

“Strong interpersonal skills and commitment to extra-curricular activities mean more rounded people and potentially better doctors.

“…The University of Auckland's actions towards these goals are laudable, not lamentable.

“Maori and Pacific students are not the only group with different admission standards. Similar logic underpins the Regional-Rural Admissions Scheme, which provides places for rural students to enter medicine based on an assessment of their connection to their local community.”

Like Michael Laws, Paul Holmes and countless others before I suspect Rodney Hide knows that the race card always draws a large amount of attention and for a former politician struggling to find their relevance that is like gold.

But the fact that by the time I came across the opinion piece (a week after it was first published) and debate on it had already been closed because of the standard of comments shows that this sort of sensationalist opinion-writing always attracts the radicals.

I do not think that we should completely avoid articles that are against Maori however I do believe in the right of response and I think the Herald did a wonderful job by giving Riddell a chance to respond to Hide’s statements. Ka pai.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Coming home

When I first started this blog I was clear that I wanted to use it to discuss the media’s treatment of certain stories rather than focussing on the issues being discussed in the articles.

However yesterday morning I was reading the local news sites over my morning coffee when I came across this story. From a reporting point of view there is nothing wrong with the story itself, reporter Yvonne Tahana has done a fine job with balancing the different sides of the discussion.

However my problem with it is the actual issue and I felt compelled to write about it. So here are my thoughts, please indulge me.

I do not doubt Professor Paul Tapsell but when he talks about the demise of the roll of the marae in Maori communities I question whether his research basis was broad enough to make such sweeping comments.

While he is planning further research Professor Tapsell says in the article that he believes after monitoring death notices within his own iwi, Ngati Whakaue of Rotorua, over the past year that an increasing number of families are choosing to keep bodies at home.

He says he hopes it doesn't signal the demise of tribal marae as a Maori institution and remembers keeping bodies at home never happened when he was a boy.

“Any talk of it and kaumatua were down to the home in a "flash" with young people to help them carry the deceased to the marae.

“Now bodies don't make it back from Australia, let alone a couple of kilometres down the road, he said.

"Without the death ritual of tangihanga we're losing the real reason of why we have marae. It's about linking the dead with the living [and] with those yet to be born.”

But I think the view that marae are only used for tangi is missing the point. Marae have never just been for tangi. Marae were, and continue to be, used for birthdays, weddings, wananga, hui and a number of other events. In many communities the Marae is still the central hub and it will continue to remain that way as long as those who whakapapa to it can still identify with it.

I am pretty confident that my own marae will never die because there were many of us that were fortunate enough to grow up calling Wairaka home. As always there is a core lot of people who keep its heart beating, the ahi kaa burning, but the call home is always there for those of us who are no longer able to live there and we will continue to instil that same sense of turangawaewae in our own children.
Over the years the personnel who have kept that place ticking has changed, a trend that will continue to be so in the future but that is the point. Just like Professor Tapsell said the marae links us to the past and the also the future and so my boy will grow up knowing where his feet stand and one day, when he is ready, he will give back.

The problem for me is that the article makes no mention about the shift of Maori from their papakainga to the centres for work and the impact that this has had not only on the marae but on their children and grandchildren.

There are many Maori who no longer identify with their marae. Also other cultural influences are changing how people want to grieve for their loved ones. And while that is a personal choice I feel sorry for them because the aroha that exists in a marae is beyond beautiful and a marae will only die if the people let it.

If you haven’t been back to your marae lately I urge you not to wait until the next tangi, just do it.

Monday 11 June 2012

Songs from the Inside

Ok, so I’m back.
It’s been a while since the last one and to tell the truth I have no other excuse than I've just been too lazy. However that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been areas that I wanted to discuss on here, there have been plenty but too often I would finding myself just staring at a blank page or worse - lurking on Facebook.
Anyway today I wanted to talk about a series that was aired on Maori Television, Songs from the Inside. Last night was the final in the 13-part series and while it wasn’t technically a story in the media it was story-telling at its best.

It was also about an issue that impacts deeply on Maori.
According to statistics Maori, at May 2011, made up 51.2 per cent of the prison population. Maori are, clearly, over-represented and it is a problem that has been the subject of many a report, debate, media report. However, despite such Government policies as whanau ora, we are no nearer to solving the issue.
In fact it seems things are just getting worse and as I sat there watching the last episode I was reminded of something that a good friend always used to say: “give them something to lose…”

And I started to wonder.
As a reporter I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to see and hear some of the stories in Waikeria Prison’s Maori Focus Unit, Te Ao Marama. I wrote a story from my first visit to the unit and it one that will probably stay with me forever.

I hung it on a group of inmates graduating from a taonga puoro course offered. The course looked to rehabilitate by reconnecting the inmates with their Maori roots.

The reason for the story was to discuss the idea of privatising some parts of the prison system and whether Maori organisations could run those facilities. I didn’t ever get my answer but as part of my research I interviewed Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples and he said that it could be idea for the future.

He based his statement around the success of some of the country’s Maori Focus Units, such as that seen at Te Ao Marama, and said at the time statistics showed that those prisoners who had been through the untis were 7 per cent less likely to reoffend than those who stayed in the general prison population.

He said he believed this was the case because these sorts of units look to reconnect Maori prisoners with their roots. After my experience at Te Ao Marama I could see that it was definitely a possibility – the men on the course suddenly had a reason to lift their heads up.

And the Songs from the Inside series also seemed to show the same promise.

The series was directed by New Zealand actor Julian Arahanga and follows four well-known Maori musicians on their journey to help prisoners serving time at Arohata and Rimutaka prisons.

Over the past 13 weeks the programme has shown Anika Moa, Maisey Rika, Ruia Aperahama and Warren Maxwell working with 10 prisoners in the step-by-step music programme to write and produce their own material.
The programme was developed by Evan Rhys Davis, who had tutored a pilot scheme of the course at the Spring Hill prison in Waikato a couple of years ago. It is hoped that inmates will be helped by developing a postive, creative outlet. 
Last night they unveiled the finish products and I was blown away. The musicianship behind the songs was unbelievable and the talent from the inmates as well as evidence of the sure hands belonging to the professional song-makers clearly showed through.
However it wasn’t just the songs that touched me – the brutal honesty in some of the stories coupled with the signs that this programme might have affected a positive change in the inmates was inspiring.

One of the male-participants summed it up perfectly.
Tama, who was interviewed the day before he was released, said the programme had given him something to hold on to.

“If it wasn’t for this production and this unit I probably would have tried anything to stay in here, it’s been my home for so long.”
It is a sad statement and I could almost hear Gaye’s voice saying “just low hanging fruit but just give them something to lose”.

And perhaps I am naive but I want to believe that Tama has been so inspired that he is going to follow a different path on the outside - because what is the point of locking someone up if there is no rehabilitation?

Sure these people have made some bad decisions but they are still New Zealanders and one day they will be released. Hopefully they never end up going back to prison. Hopefully they go on to make their lives better because in turn they will then make their families’ lives better and if their families are living better lives then our country will be better for it - don't you think?

They are, after all, somebody’s mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter. They are the “low-hanging fruit” at the moment but they could go on to do something far greater than they ever imagined, than any of us probably ever imagined, they just need to make the changes and take the chance.

Or at least that is what this series gave: the sense of promise.

The series was beautifully shot, the final programme simply amazing with the recordings of each song portrayed through a series of images that also told a story, and I have no other option but to commend Arahanga, Evans and Maori Television.

There is no way that our mainstream channels would have ever invested the time and money in a series like this and I am so glad that we have Maori Television because while people continue to discuss The GC and the depiction of Maori in it as well as whether it was a good investment of taxpayer funding, there is another side of the story out there that is also just as relevant and should be talked about just as much.

Ka pai to mahi Julian.

And if you haven't seen it check out the series here.