Racism, equity and courageous conversations by Ana Morrison #ArawaPartnership

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Rotorua residents have spent four days sharing their perspectives on the current Te Arawa Partnership Proposal that is before the Rotorua Lakes Council.  With almost 2000 submissions received in total, close to 200 people have choose to speak directly to the Council.

Ngāti Whakaue leader Ana Morrison, spoke on behalf of herself and as Chairperson of the Ngati Whakaue Assets Trust.

This is the full-text of what she presented:

Rau rangatira ma, tena koutou katoa. E te Pitau Whakarei o tenei waka, kei te mihi. Otira ra ki a tatou katoa, kua whakakao mai nei ki tenei kaupapa, nga mihi mahana ki a koutou.

[pull_quote_right]Our vision is for a meaningful and effective partnership that will enable Te Arawa, the Council and the Community to move forward together (tatau tatau) and grow a more prosperous, cohesive, and equitable Rotorua. [/pull_quote_right]My name is Ana Morrison, I present my submission today in my personal capacity and also in my capacity as Chairperson of the Ngati Whakaue Assets Trust – an iwi commercial entity established as a result of the CNI Settlement. I am before you today to represent the interests of the beneficiaries (of which I am one) as well as the interests of future generations of beneficiaries.

The images you see on the screen are the faces of the people in your community – the people at grassroots who are often disengaged from the workings of local government and whose voice is often missing from your deliberations. They like myself and Whakaue Assets Trust support the Partnership Model [NB: I ran a PPT that had all the ‪#‎ArawaPartnership‬ images]

Our vision is for a meaningful and effective partnership that will enable Te Arawa, the Council and the Community to move forward together (tatau tatau) and grow a more prosperous, cohesive, and equitable Rotorua. A good partnership requires mutual respect, shared aims and courageous conversations. Te Arawa is ready and willing for such a relationship and we encourage the Council to approve the Te Arawa Partnership Model so we can work together for the benefit of Rotorua.

I have taken the time to read the submissions of the people who have presented before me today, and a number of negative themes emerge.

Firstly, Fear and a Lack of Trust of Te Arawa Intentions:

There is a palpable and irrational fear of Te Arawa self interest, and that this Partnership threatens race relations, and would divide our community.

Te Arawa have always worked in the best interests of Rotorua – our whenua is buried in this land, our ancestors perished defending this land, our ahi ka has never been extinguished and it never will. We have a link to the land and to this community on a level that is deeper than just another “interest group” – a term which has been used to describe Te Arawa in a number of the submissions received. This term sounds like we have a choice in the matter and as if it were a hobby group or social circle. There is no choice for Te Arawa – as manawhenua it is our obligation to work collaboratively to ensure Rotorua prospers. We have intergenerational ‘skin in the game’ and our commitment and contribution to the Rotorua community is the only constant that can be assured.

[quote_center]This kaupapa has exposed how deep the anti-Maori sentiment runs in Rotorua. I am hugely dismayed by this and genuinely surprised at the intensity of the vitriol.[/quote_center]

Ridiculous comments questioning Te Arawa’s ability to put forward skilled and capable people are out of order and inflammatory, but most importantly factually incorrect. There is a saying that FEAR = false evidence appearing real. This rings true here, given my iwi Ngati Whakaue are in the top 4 iwi nationally for NCEA achievement and the 20 odd years of tertiary investment by Ngati Whakaue Education Endowment Trust Board means we have a very very deep pool of talent to choose from. Perhaps this is what people fear – skilled, articulate, globally experienced Te Arawa who can navigate Te Ao Maori and Te Ao Pakeha and who can represent interests of Te Arawa, Maori, and Pakeha due to their bicultural competency.

[pull_quote_left]On a personal level, I am raising my children to be strong in both their worldviews and cultural identities – Maori and Pakeha, and to be global citizens who respect and seek to understand cultural differences. [/pull_quote_left]On a personal level, I am raising my children to be strong in both their worldviews and cultural identities – Maori and Pakeha, and to be global citizens who respect and seek to understand cultural differences. What are these people role modelling for their children and grandchildren? That difference is complex and something to be feared? That homogeneity is the preferred option? What a negligent approach in this day and age – an age where diversity (be it gender, ethnicity, age, or cultural) is widely acknowledged as an enabler for better decision-making and innovation. We need to build decision-making forums that are diverse, connected, lead with purpose and integrity. Good governance requires that people bring unique lenses, mindsets and differing skills to a decision-making forum. This is what the Te Arawa Partnership Model offers us. Rotorua and race relations will be better for it.

A shared vision that is born out of a meaningful partnership would in my view negate this perceived threat of community division. There is a saying that that a head full of fears has no space for dreams. Let’s dream big Rotorua. We are only constrained if we choose to fear positive change.

Secondly, Allegations that Unelected Representatives Lack Accountability and this Leads to Corruption:

Despite honest attempts by Council to be close to Maori and iwi communities, it has never truly hit the mark, for a myriad of reasons, including mistrust, lack of commitment, inadequate forums, or just not knowing how to access these communities with empathy and understanding. For the Te Arawa appointees, working with iwi and Maori communities is core business. What once was hard for Council to achieve, can now be guided by people who are experts in iwi and Maori communities.

What once was inaccessible for Council, can now be opened up in a way that produces results for the whole community. This is only part of the value of having manawhenua representatives participate as decision makers in council deliberations.

In this way, the Partnership Model should not be feared as producing community dysfunction, of causing undue influence, nor abrogating rights. In fact, it is being implemented successfully in other cities as we sit here debating its worth.

A colleague of mine on the Auckland Independent Maori Statutory Board has described to me how Maori appointees on Auckland Council sub-committees add the following value:

  • Maori appointees provide an independent and apolitical perspective, thereby reducing political group-think.
  • Maori appointees invariably advocate for interests that are common between Maori and socio-economically vulnerable members of the community.
  • The risk of disproportionate power over decisons is nil given the voting makeup.
  • The Maori appointees bring a different and new set of skills and networks that have strategic and economic value. This provides Council with opportunities to consider interests, options, and implications they may not have otherwise considered.
  • Finally, it has enhanced the relationship between tangata whenua and tauiwi within a Treaty relationship context.

I challenge those that state that that the Te Arawa Partnership Model will lead to corruption to provide valid evidence of this.

As a Council you will know that corruption is a symptom of poor governance, and within Local Government there are comprehensive and effective mechanisms in place for ensuring prudent and transparent use of local authority resources and for preventing and combating corruption by elected members and officers and appointees.

The legislative provision and machinery are both comprehensive and rate highly for integrity. That whole paragraph comes directly from a Local Government Report in 2014 called Fitness For Purpose – New Zealand Local Government Securing Integrity And Good Governance Within A Bipartite Constitution. The Report then goes on to describe specific mechanisms which provide greater transparency, participation and accountability – such as RMA Panels, appointment to subcommittees – all things that help support good governance, thereby reducing the risk of corruption. Therefore the allegations of corruption are unfounded and should be disregarded as scaremongering.

Thirdly, the Prioritisation of Equality over Equity:

A number of submissions treat the terms equity and equality interchangeably. Equity, involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. And the assumption that we all come into this world equal is incorrect. Rotorua is experiencing increasing socio-economic inequity, which to those whom it doesn’t affect is unseen and unheard. The Te Arawa Partnership Model can provide a greater opportunity for the interests of the under-represented to be heard and considered within a decision-making forum.

Thank you for the opportunity to present today. I’d like to finish with an acknowledgment of support for the Council in being brave enough to finally have this conversation. We need your courageous leadership to spearhead the positive transformation our community needs.

In the words of Mark Twain:

[quote_center]With courage you will dare to take risks,
Have the strength to be compassionate,
And the wisdom to be humble.
Courage is the foundation of integrity.[/quote_center]

Kia kaha koutou, Kia kaha tatau

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