May 15, 2021

Maori News & Indigenous Views

“I am not here to plead for your Partnership. I am here to embolden our people and to say ‘kia kaha'” (full-text)

11 min read


Members of the public continued to make their voices heard on the current Te Arawa Partnership Proposal that is before the Rotorua Lakes Council.  There were almost 2000 submission received in total, representing a the highest number of submission received on a single issue, with close to 200 people opting to speak in person to the Councillors directly.

Former Te Arawa Standing Committee member and founder of, Potaua Biasiny-Tule spoke about Te Arawa’s connection to the area and their right to create a meaningful and authentic relationship with the Council.

This is the full-text of what he presented:

He honore he koreria he maunga rongo ki te whenua he whakaaro pai ki nga tangata katoa
He mihi atu ki te Atua ki te runga rawa. Tena koe. Nau mai e nga hua e hora nei te hara mai na e koe.
E nga tupuna o taua whenua, o taua hapu, o taua whanau – tena koutou. He mihi aroha ki a tatou katoa.
E te mate ki nga mate, tena koutou. Hei whai kororia ki tou Wairua me to haere ki hawaiki nui hawaiki roa hawaiki pamamao. Haere haere haere atu ra. Kei te mana whenua I tenei rohe – a Ngati Whakaue te koromatua, tena koutou. Hei tu whakaora me tou kaha me tou humarie.

Te Arawa waka, Te Arawa tangata, tena koutou.

E Rau Rangatira ma, e Koro ma, e kui ma, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

To the Chair, your worship Mayor Chadwick tena koe otira tena koutou ki to whanau.

To our esteemed Councillors, tena koutou and thank you for the herculean effort you have put in since not only the beginning of this process but with all of your combined personal efforts over the many years. Tena koutou.

To the people of Rotorua – kia ora koutou.

And may I make special mention of the many new additions to our community – to Eru & Veronica White and to Dennis & Iwa Tule White, congratulations on growing our local population by 2. I hear there’s a royal baby just been born as well, which is good for our 2 new nephews to know that they have a small baby girl cousin in Buckingham Palace. Tena koutou.

We have kept the fires of occupation roaring in this rohe for 30 generations. For almost 1000 years, our ancestors have lived, loved, raised children, grown crops, made shelter, created living shrines and protected sacred spaces.

When Tamatekapua came to Aotearoa to start a new life, he knew that he had to forever turn his back on our old lands and look to starting fresh.

When Ihenga walked from Maketu and discovered the lakes of Rotoiti and Rotorua, he sensed that these lands would offer opportunity and challenge. So much so that his daughter was taken from him down at Ohinemutu. That first lose of life so many, many years ago, began the cycle of birth, life and death for our people in these lands.

My ancestors have lived all around Rotorua and gave special names of meaning to every spring, every creek, every stream, every river and every lake. We have the 2 sentinels of Ngongotaha and Whakapoungakau. We have Tihi o Tonga and Waerenga. We have Moerangi and Pukepoto. We have the Utuhina and the Puarenga. We have the Ohau and the Awahou. We have Pohutu and we have Te Puia. My ancestors are buried in special places all over these lands to affirm our connection with the past and to act as markers for the future. The placenta of tens of thousands of tamariki intrinsically tie their birth with these lands. We are tanagata whenua. We hold mana whenua.

For many centuries, other tribes attempted to take these lands away from us.

We were attacked from the Coast and we were attacked from Forests. They came from the Far North and they came from the deep South, all with their eyes on stomping out our fire and igniting their own in these lands of Te Waiariki.

Well, they failed.

For centuries, my ancestors joined together and defeated wave after wave of intruders. Everyone has tried to take the prize – which is these lands, waters and resources – and failed.

[quote_center]So when Henry the 8th was cutting off heads in England, we were here defending our lands.  When Joan of Arc was communing with God and inspiring her nation to fight back, our wahine rangatira were developing indigenous strategies to keep their hapu alive.[/quote_center]

When the Indians and the South Americans and the Russians were fighting over land, power and resources, we were here planting gardens.

When Genghis Kahn humbled Europe and created a new dynasty in China, we were here raising children.

When Magellan sailed the seas, we were sailing Te Moana nui a Kiwa a Toi.

When Chaka Zulu ran with his people on the plains of Africa, we were here organizing ourselves.

And then when Tasman, Cook and many others found their way to Aotearoa, we were here. Actually, my kuia used to joke that we told them where to park their waka (Cook you can park there, geees I told that fulla Tasman not to park over there…)

So just to set the record straight, our people were creating history and herstory long before the western world sought to rule over us.

When the first missionaries came to Rotorua, they found tribes to which they held high regard. Stafford talks about the relationships formed between such men as Thomas Chapman and our Rangatira.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed up 1835, one of my tupuna Potatau Te Wherowhero signed it as confirmation of his mana and a perceived recognition of independence for all of our tribes.

Some 5 years later, the colonial agenda grew in strength and confidence as the Te Treaty of Waitangi was signed.

It is not well known that a Tauranga copy of the Treaty was brought here to Ohinemutu where our Rangatia, Tohunga and Hapu all discussed and debated its merits. People came from Taupo from Maketu, from Tauranga, from Waikato, to see what we would do. After a long nights deliberation where the korero went back and forward, it was decided that we would sleep on the decision. The next morning, it was found that the document had been removed, preempting any decision, and therein confirming the fact that we here in Te Arawa did not sign.

What we did do was signal to all that while these lands would be protected by us, peaceful settlement was imminent and that we needed to better accommodate our international manuhiri. We gave them warmth, food, healing, some even got a wife or 2 (lol), but many stayed and then we started that new dynamic of whakapapa linkages.

For it was some 20 years earlier when Nga Puhi made their infamous Musket Raids. When Ngapuhi got the gun, carnage followed. Our people were quickly overwhelmed and many whanau killed on Mokoia Island. It was then that we realized 2 things – that we needed to better understand the technologies of the world, and that our old world had moved on. That was part of the reason Tapsell and Tupaea attempted to work alongside each other in 1830, and then into the wars of Te Tumu and the subsequent peace between hapu and iwi in those times.

You see – peace is another form of partnership that we take seriously. This comes after countless debates, conflicts and battles and is sealed with the gifting of land, the bestowment of pounamu, the sharing of whakapapa and the marriage of 2 maunga.

When the New Zealand Wars began, we found ourselves on the side of the Crown and fought both to protect our lands but also to prove to the King of our ability, loyalty and fidelity. We did this in good faith and this was duly recognized with many awards bestowed upon our tupuna by the Gilbert Mair in the name of the King.

That changed when Mount Tarawera erupted in 1886, which saw the focus of travel and tourism move from the mountain to the geothermal activity here in Rotorua. Tuhourangi were offered many lands by whanau all over the country but the whenua of Whakarewarewa was most like their homes that had been destroyed. And we have become closer with that arrangement.

3 years earlier, the Crown had imposed the Thermal Springs Act which in essence stole our taonga and created a town. Added to that was the Fenton Agreement which talked a lot about what we had to give up and “share”. As we all know, those promises were never delivered upon so that agreement was seen as another Crown license to steal things Maori.

We were called many times over to serve – the Boer War, World War 1, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, Malaya and even today, Timor, Afghanistan and Syria. We have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country and this city many, many times. And when our old people came home, they found that their lands had been taken and added to the soldiers ballot. So while we served and helped the empire win, we ourselves came home as losers.

The Spanish Flu decimated both Pakeha and Maori alike, which again demonstrated that it is in times of crisis when we overlook the politics of the day and just get in to help one another.

Then the town became a borough in 1922 and then a city in 1962 and for all of our contribution, sacrifice and effort, we still have not had a Maori mayor. Even when we were the majority, we were not allowed to fully participate.

And this is what annoys me about this so-called democracy being pushed by Reynold and his co-conspirators because what I see is a network of the Old Boys Network desperately trying to hold on to power. This fight is as racial as it is cultural and intergenerational. We can see it with how many young Pakeha submitted and chose to speak – I only counted 1 – yet young Te Arawa are here to speak alongside and with the support of our koroua and kuia. It is like you oldies don’t want to give the keys to the car to your young people, let alone share the power of politics with Maori.

But that is their kaupapa – I am not here to plead for partnership – I am here to remind you that our indigenous rights to these whenua have not been extinguished. You may think that you can bully us on the newspaper, speak poorly of Maori and mispronounce our words with every breathe, but I am here to say that if you do not like the way we are then move. Use one of 4 convenient roads built and get your arse out of town because I am happy to say, those colonizing attitudes of last century will die with the old racists that bully us today.

If you don’t like it, plan to be buried elsewhere, because quite frankly, we have been here for 10000 years and have that ability to say that at times, we host you and if you are playing up and then bei, you gotta boot it.

And that brings me to the Te Arawa Partnership. What I have enjoyed is the debate on our side of the fence. For years, I have heard Pakeha say “ you Maori are quite tribal and not united”. Well in this instance, we are. It is you Pakeha who are not happy. It is you Pakeha who have all the money, have all the positions and the power and cry that you might now have to share. You see – even when we had the resources, the power and the people, we still managed to share. And some say that our aroha always gets used against us – but that’s just us – we have an open heart and believe in good karma.

When I was on the Te Arawa Standing Committee, I came in to both honour the work of my bro Hawea Vercoe and to learn more about politics. I have a Bachelors in Political Science from Canterbury University, have worked in Parliament and the Waitangi Tribunal and have traveled overseas, so my aim was to listen and to learn. What I saw was our people had been reduced to seat holders with a rubber stamp where Camp Kevin could do as he pleased.

When I stood in 2010 to be a member of TASC, my dad said for me to try my best and not to be a big rock like my Elders, but to be that small stone. I didn’t know that that meant until we started fighting the Council. It started with the Chair, then the Agenda, then flying a Flag on Waitangi Day, then the Council cut down a sacred tree to Ngati Pikiao, then our fees got chopped (we are the lowest paid committee on council, I might add) then some Councillors almost said no the the Fordlands park, then there was Karenga Park, then the Rotoma Waster Water Treatment scheme. It seemed like every single hui the Council had found a new way to dispossess us. We all still remember the confiscation of lands for the airport.

So what I did was I became that rock and I put myself in the shoe of Council, so everywhere they went, I was right there putting them off balance.

And then the Eastern Arterial confiscation happened and I tried to speak with every councilor to at least speak to the 3 hapu. Every single one of you acted dispassionately and said there was nothing you could do. You pointed to the process and said it was out of your hands. That was what democracy meant to me. Moumou. So I picked that rock up from out of the councils shoe and like David, I hurled that rock at councils head. And it struck. And while we didn’t bring down the giant, you did finally wake up to the local people – I would like to mihi to the people of Hurungaterangi, Uenukukopako and Te Roro o Te Rangi for their unity, ability and generosity.

And that’s what this is. A wake up. Not so much for you, but for us. My Maori whanau are waiting to see how our Iwi are doing so that they can go home to their rohe and ignite the same fire in their councils because this racism is everywhere, but everywhere it is dying.

What I like about the new model is that we as Te Arawa are excited about it. Yes it is complex but we are intelligent. Yes it does require funding, but we can work on that.

As Koro Anarua Rangiheua said, it is now time to move on from the Te Arawa Standing Committee and on to something more substantive. We on TASC did an amazing job and I want to acknowledge past members, especially Councillor Maureen Waaka and Councillor Trevor Maxwell who taught me so much about council processes and to my fellow colleagues today. It wasn’t us who failed. It was the Council.

[quote_box_left]I am not here to plead for your Partnership. I am here to embolden our people and to say kia kaha[/quote_box_left]But like I said, I am not here to plead for your Partnership. I am here to embolden our people and to say kia kaha, we looked after their ancestors yesterday like we will look after their descendants today. We are not afraid of change when it is respectful and when it is inclusive. Gone are the days of smoke filled rooms and old boy deals. Sorry Pro-Dems – your time is nearly up.

There is so much more to discuss, especially around the model itself and I don’t want to take up any more of your time other than to say that the United Nations affirms our rights as indigenous people, our political system has had Maori seats for nearly 150 years and today, Te Arawa deserve the rights to speak voice to our issues, our concerns and our matters at all tables of decision-making.

So on behalf of my father John Tule and mother Karen Tule, my 5 brothers, 3 sisters, my wife and our combined 25 tamariki, we wholeheartedly support the Te Arawa Partnership proposal and we look forward to how Rotorua responds to the wishes of our whanau, hapu and iwi.

Tena koutou tena koutou tena koutou katoa.

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