Tommy Kapai: 3WI move a step closer to harness collective clout

By Tommy Kapai

When a great writer hands you a pen and says to you "The pen is mightier than the sword boy! It's your turn to keep our people in the paper for all of the right reasons" you don't accept that challenge lightly.

Almost 12 years ago, I was sitting at a local marae Nga Whetu o Te Rangi, when esteemed kaumatua Monty Ohio said these exact words to me and ever since then I have tried to honour his wish. The symbolic gesture of him passing me a pen from his top pocket has been a guiding light in my writing and in Maoridom the passing of a tono from one generation to another is indeed an honour.

Yesterday, as I sat with many others at Whetu o Te Rangi Marae to witness the Ngati Pukenga Deed of Settlement signing, I kept thinking of Monty and how proud he would have been of his iwi, and how the pen has proved once again to be mightier than the sword.

Both days of the weekend have signalled new beginnings and a brighter future for all three iwi of Tauranga Moana and the catch-cry of 3WI will hopefully be heard a lot more across the motu in the weeks and years ahead.

Ngati Pukenga are the second of the three iwi in Tauranga Moana to the reach the Deed of Settlement signing stage and, with Ngaiterangi soon to follow, the opportunities for the 3WI to harness the collective clout are almost boundless.

Just to back the weekend waka up a day - on Saturday, the pouka attended by the Maori King Tuheitia and a large contingency of Tainui supporters at Tutereinga Marae was a significant stepping stone for the three iwi of Tauranga Moana. The open dialogue between Tainui and the three iwi of Tauranga signals the re-opening of the once prosperous trading channels that existed back in the day when Tainui had a direct line across the Wairere Track of the Kaimai Ranges to what was seen as the summer supermarket of Tauranga Moana.

The significant $3 billion inland port project planned by Tainui as a feeder into the Port of Tauranga will once again open up myriad economic opportunities for the three iwi and this was just one of the opportunities discussed at the poukai on Saturday.

What some may see as a treaty trough of disproportionate recompense, many Maori here in Tauranga see as an opportunity to focus on the future by creating an economic base that will support its people for generations to come. In my time, I am quietly confident we will see the GDP of the 3WI in Tauranga grow to equal that of the other corporate "big boys" in town such as Zespri, Ports of Tauranga and Quayside Holdings.

For this to happen, Maori will have to discern the difference in the set of skills required to sit around a boardroom table from those needed to sit on the paepae of our marae. The good news is we have a whole new generation of capable "bro-fessionals", who already sit on many of the local boards. But it will take a willingness from both sides, the old and the new generation.

If we can find a way to put aside our tribal patch protection safeguards - which have been in place for 500 years, to look after each tribe's interests when daily threats of their existence were a reality, then we will see the true potential of tangata whenua of Tauranga Moana unleashed.

Not just in business but across all sectors, including health, education and sport. Oh for the day when we have a 3WI Rugby Academy and surely the time is near where our health system will come under one collective korowai - instead of the fragmented, patch-protected, competitively funding fiasco it is today. All of these kaupapa (co papa) can benefit when we downsize duplication and increase potential for our people.

If ever there was a time for Maori to prosper in this bay that has plenty it is now and the last weekend has heralded a new beginning for the 3WI of Tauranga Moana. As High Court Justice Rangatira Joe Williams said in his korero: "This is a great day for Ngati Pukenga and a great day for Tauranga Moana - and it's all about moving forward."

Justice Joe Wlliams also added that if singing was a signal by the crown to their commitment then this was a sentiment echoed in their waiata Nga Whakamoemiti. Something I am sure my mate and pen pal Monty Ohia would surely agree with.

Tommy Kapai is a Tauranga author and writer.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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