On Thursday morning we woke up to the news that Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa and Ngati Porou was flooded and roads blocked including Napier to Wairoa roads, isolating Gisborne and Wairoa.
This brought in the focus about the issues of the Three Waters reform – Three Waters that this Government is pursuing and my role in being on the national working group.
In our history and tradition, we ask three important questions when we meet for the first time or when we introduce anything new into our communities or into our whānau.
Those questions are Ko wai? nō wai? and mō wai?. The most visible portrayal of these three questions is when opening a new whare, but it's also intrinsic in our greeting of each other.
Ko wai? Means who are you? What is your whakapapa? What are the wai or the waters that birthed you? What is your matriarchal lineage? Whose womb did you emerge from? What is your whakapapa on your mother's side and your father's side? Who are your grandparents? And what is your name?.
Suddenly we start to lock a person into a tapestry of whānau, especially back to parents and grandparents and tipuna. From this question, we start making connections.
No wai? Means where are you from? Which waters sustained your whānau, your hapū, your iwi and your waka? What was the spring, the lake, the river or the seas that sustained your community?. From there we start connecting the personal whakapapa to a place and a time that we can all connect back to.
The third question is mō wai? Based on your watery origins, the question asks what you stand for and asks how you will protect these waters that you move through your life and asks how you will pass on your legacy to the next generation through the womb of the mother to the womb of the land Papatuanuku, to the wombs of the future.
Ko wai? nō wai? mō wai?
My participation in the Three Waters national group has been to ask these questions of ourselves as a country as these are the initial three waters that we as Māori subscribe to and we are kaitiaki of.
As we track our way through the Pacific and into Asia we find there's a resonance throughout these Islands and throughout these continents. Hawaiki for example has the word 'awa'/river in it.
Savaii in Samoa has 'ava' and 'vai' which is water. Hawaii also has awa and in Indonesia they have Java which has their version of water 'ava'. In Sarawak, a Malaysian state on Borneo they have 'awa'.
So we see that we can run but we can't hide from our whakapapa and our duty to protect through kaitiakitanga, the waters of yesterday, the waters of our nannies, the waters of our hapū and generations yet to come.
We also need to protect our rivers, our underground water sources, our springs and our marine environments. We must protect our waters for the wellbeing of all humanity. That's our job as Ngāti Kahungunu. It's reflected in hapū whakapapa and hapū origins.
For example, Mangaroa, Korongata, Matariki, all have their origins in the stars, the Milky Way which we also refer to as Te Awa o Te Atua which is the name of the land bocks through Bridge Pa and Paki Paki.
Our duty to protect not just three waters but all the waters is indelible in our whakapapa as in Kahungunu. We must ensure the right of all people to have pure drinking water without chemicals or pollutants.
We must ensure the mauri of rivers is maintained to a healthy standard for fish and plant life as well as health and recreation and also to ensure there's enough quantity for economic purposes.
We must ensure that wastewater and stormwater are treated before they're discharged into our marine environments.
The floods are reminders to us from the gods of yesterday that we haven't been good stewards of our waters and we have to lift our game.
Ko wai, nō wai, mō wai, these are the questions.
Tihei Kahungunu, Mauri Ora Takitimu.