Merepeka Raukawa-Tait: Why the council needs Te Arawa

Te Arawa's Te Poroa Malcolm (left) and Anaru Rangiheuea signed the Deed of Settlement to settle historical Treaty of Waitangi claims at Te Pakira Marae at Whakarewarewa in 2006.
Te Arawa's Te Poroa Malcolm (left) and Anaru Rangiheuea signed the Deed of Settlement to settle historical Treaty of Waitangi claims at Te Pakira Marae at Whakarewarewa in 2006.

These are exciting times for Te Arawa. Treaty of Waitangi settlements concluded, being negotiated or in the pipeline. You sense a buzz about the place. Te Arawa holds significant assets, including forests, farms, commercial property, geothermal resource, lakebed and springs. They are drawing up plans now for the long-term development and use of their assets.

This week, another tribal leader and businessman returned from an overseas fact-finding visit that will no doubt lead to some innovative development and use of an asset.

I have seen a number of their business strategic plans. They are audacious and breathtaking in scope. Various entities have local, domestic and offshore investments too.

Te Arawa appears to have set their waka firmly in the direction of the faraway horizon. They're gearing up. They are looking to create inter-generational wealth, growth and development.

Everything I have seen and heard reflects this desire.

Thankfully, they are putting equal emphasis on their people development. I have sometimes observed, with settlement monies, people can get left out. It's so much more exciting developing assets and businesses than turning minds, and hearts, to the difficult task of people development.

They can be a handful. They are so often hard work. And that work is not for everyone. But Te Arawa know that asset and people development go hand in hand.

They are making quality education for their children a priority and young tribal members are being encouraged to take part in a number of youth leadership programmes.

Overseas high flyers are being coaxed into coming home to add their business experience to that of the home team.

There is now a database of Te Arawa professionals living overseas who are regularly updated on work opportunities coming up at home. Interesting, but not surprising when you look at Te Arawa's history, they are going about their business in a quiet, understated way. I often smile when I hear people say, "Te Arawa is a sleeping giant, about to awake".

Not so. Te Arawa has always been awake, it's just that they see no need "to big note" about what they're up to. Their business is their business. They know what they're doing and where they're going. It's the Te Arawa way and I like their style. Always have.

As for a meaningful relationship with the Rotorua District Council. This would be helpful, but let's be honest, Te Arawa doesn't need the Rotorua District Council. It's the other way around.

And it may seem odd but I can understand that some people will feel threatened and get spooked when an alliance, arrangement or meaningful relationship with Maori gets proposed. Can't possibly be in the public's interest. Will only serve Maori interests.

Looking at what we have seen masquerading as relationships, quality decision-making and leadership in this country over many decades, then of course a number of good citizens will believe that Maori leadership will be similar to Pakeha in their thinking and behaviour.

Self-serving, avaricious and greedy. What we have been fortunate enough to see here in Rotorua, starting with the gifting of land, by Ngati Whakaue, on which our beautiful city is built, is outstanding Maori leadership. Te Arawa's leaders have demonstrated time and again, an attitude of sharing, caring and the inclusion of all people who choose to live within their tribal area.

Am I surprised at their generosity of spirit? Not really. Theo always said as tangata whenua he had added responsibilities. He had to care for those who shared his home. No matter where they came from it was his responsibility to make them feel comfortable and welcome. This is what Te Arawa have been doing for over 150 years. Establishing and maintaining positive relationships.

Merepeka lives in Rotorua. She writes, speaks and broadcasts to thwart the spread of political correctness.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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