Learning ropes of leadership

By Laurel Stowell

As a child Turama Hawira was bundled with a gaggle of cuzzies on to the back of a Bedford truck and they were expected to entertain Maori Anglican congregations with kapa haka after his father's Sunday services at churches and marae.

He and the other children sat through the services and shared the luncheon, then they got up and performed. They got to know the people and places of their wider region, and they had fun too.

"It was a real cool childhood," he said.

He was one of a group chosen as a potential future leader. He didn't know why at the time, but now thinks it was because of his kinship links inside and outside Wanganui. There are plenty. Turama is affiliated to Nga Rauru, Whanganui, Nga Wairiki of Ngati Apa and Ngati Tuwharetoa.

His family moved from Mangaweka to Tuhiariki, near the top of the Parapara, when he was 7 years old. His father, Tom Hawira, was the unpaid Anglican Minita a Iwi for Waimarino and most of the Whanganui River settlements.

He was also the 1976 Maori Farmer of the Year, the last independent farmer to win that title, and the family still has his cup.

Ruka Broughton, Matthew Mareikura, John Tahuparae and Archie Taiaroa were the "young guns" of Whanganui Maoridom in the 1980s. They had wide tribal links and were all trained in the whare wananga (schools of higher learning). They recognised the need for ongoing leadership within their area and chose a group of young people for formal and informal training in language and culture.

Their call was not to be ignored, Turama said.

"We did lots of tribal wananga under the eyes of those mentors. They called, you jumped."

He began being formally tutored at the age of 7, by his uncle Ruka Broughton. He was a pupil at Raetihi Primary School and then a boarder at the private St Stephen's School for Maori boys, in the Bombay Hills south of Auckland. He had never been to Auckland before.

"For a country boy, that was like an opening to a whole new world."

He made lifelong friends and was head boy in his final year, 1980.

After that he followed his uncle Ruka to Victoria University, studied Maori and law and spent the holidays doing research for his uncle's thesis on Nga Rauru history. He said he didn't do too well in law, but got involved in the university's fledgling Te Herenga Waka Marae, and in the formation of what became Te Wananga o Raukawa, one of New Zealand's Maori universities.

Returning to Wanganui, he's since had a whole series of jobs, mainly drawing on his expertise with Maori tikanga (customary practices).

He worked for the Department of Social Welfare as a cultural adviser, and helped with the formation of Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority. He was a Maori Access tutor, and taught at Raetihi and at St Augustine's College. He was a lecturer on Te Wananga o Raukawa's Marae-based courses, and most recently managed Taimaru Rangatahi, a 12-month total immersion Maori language programme for teenagers learning Whanganuitanga (Whanganui customary practices).

But that only lists the mainstream stuff. The Aotea/Kurahaupo region has always had a Maori education system running in parallel, he said. It has become more public with institutions such as Te Puna Matauranga o Whanganui - Whanganui's iwi education authority.

Turama graduated from the Whanganui taiaha school of learning with Matthew Mareikura, and the Tuwharetoa equivalent. And a loose group under the umbrella of the Opotiki-based Te Wananga o Awanuiarangi started having traditional wananga (learning sessions) at Whanganui River Marae, and then in Wellington as well. Those weekends focused on history, oral traditions and marae protocol.

"They attracted people far and wide to come home."

His family also formed a strong bond with fellow Polynesians on the Hawaiian Islands, and made visits back and forth. The tattoo on his right forearm is a mark of that.

At Nga Rauru's AGM in July, Turama became the iwi's tumuwhakarae (leader). Nga Rauru people choose their leader every three years, with each of the 12 marae having one vote for their favourite candidate.

Directing his energy toward his Nga Rauru side was no trouble for Turama.

"Part of the teaching that we received was to ensure that we knew not only our own hapu links but all the others outside the tribal region."

His new job is a big one, but for him it's just part of fulfilling ancestral responsibility.

"I was mentored by particular people. It's now my turn to step up to the plate in a role of leadership to ensure that the next generation comes through."

Nga Rauru received its treaty settlement in 2005. It has a tribal board, Te Kahui o Rauru, composed of two representatives from each of its 12 marae. Fourteen out of the 24 are new since July, and are receiving training. Their three-year strategic plan is in its final year and Turama and the board will soon need to formulate a new one.

He now works from an office of 10 people in Wanganui's Victoria Ave, alongside Nga Rauru CEO Esther Tinirau.

They would like to create a hub for Nga Rauru in the unused Waverley High School, using it for offices and as premises for two tribal businesses. The school became surplus to Government requirements in 2007 - too late to be part of their treaty claim. The tribe have asked for it anyway, and Minister for Treaty Settlement Negotiations Chris Finlayson is taking their request seriously.

Waverley was suffering amid the general provincial downturn, Turama said, and the iwi could help.

"Rauru is here to stay, and we are willing to invest in our community."

The other matters Nga Rauru brought to its annual post settlement talk with the Crown were funding to upgrade tribal marae and the state of Waitotara Conservation Area.

Every year the tribe gives out interest from its treaty settlement fund to upgrade two marae. It looks to add to that with grants from the Lotteries Commission. If the Lotteries applications are declined it has to let costly resource consents expire. It is pushing for a better system.

As for Waitotara Conservation Area, Turama said it was on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile the Government department charged with conserving it is undergoing another restructure, in an effort to make scarce funds go further.

Nga Rauru has an overall conservation plan for land and water in its rohe (area). It wants more input into Taranaki Regional Council decisions on resource consents. And it wants to train its own conservation corps to do work the Conservation Department can no longer undertake.

The tribe has two boards handling finance. Te Pataka o Rauru makes decisions about investing its treaty settlement money, guided by Te Kahui o Rauru. It was very cautious at first, but had become "a wee bit braver" and was now investing in minimum to medium risk things - definitely no sports teams.

Another group, Te Pataka o Tangaroa, has put the Nga Rauru fisheries quota into an iwi collective and gets an annual cut for its share.

The iwi's main business so far is Kiitahi Nursery & Landcare, which grows native plants for riparian planting by Taranaki Regional Council.

It has four to eight staff, and is based at Wai o Turi Marae, near Patea. It needs more space to expand.

A focus for 2013 will be building a business, called Te Wai Koiora, that trains tribal members in water conservation.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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