In 1983 this wharenui, Tutahi Tonu, was opened. It is situated in the heart of Epsom, on what was then the site of Auckland Teachers College. At the time my father, Tarutaru Rankin, was head of Maori studies and he was instrumental in its conception and development.
Last week it closed its doors.
Tutahi Tonu was a step forward for Maori, for our curriculum, for our teaching capabilities and resources.
Education was my father’s form and vehicle to fulfil his commitment to service to his people, his communities and although he would never say this, to our nation.
He believed that there was a place in our curriculum for Maori, both te reo and tikanga. Tutahi Tonu was a physical embodiment of his inspirational dream. A place to stand, a place to gather, a place to sing and most importantly a place to immerse oneself in te reo and tikanga.
Beyond that, its adornments were multicultural. Polynesian, European nationalities and over time other cultures’ adornments were added, offering a fair representation of our society within the walls of a wharenui.
His dream embraced and was guided by values of respect, tolerance, integrity, commitment, hard work, ingenuity and most of all whanaungatanga.
There were many people who facilitated the development of Tutahi Tonu.
His father, whose life and endeavours were about leadership and service, his wife, Kahumai Rankin nee Ngata, who supported and afforded his pursuit, his hapū, iwi, mentors who had guided and nurtured his development and endeavour, his life-long experiences fixing anything that was broken with whatever was available and his many interactions with different people Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika and other nationalities. All of these things helped define who he was and what he stood for.
And then there are those who were physically involved in making that inspirational dream a reality. A young master carver, Mark Klaracich, who ended up living at our home in Hamlin Rd in the blue Bryan Jackson caravan which had been home to many students and others who needed temporary accommodation over the years. Mark was truly gifted.
There were many students who committed hours of time working on tukutuku, kowhaiwhai and supporting and caring for the many who came. It was a fun place to be and listening to these people recount their stories over the past few months has been a blessing for me.
On Sunday, November 19, 2023 at a dawn service, Tutahi Tonu as I know it, was blessed for the last time at this site, in this form. After 40 years of contributing to the education of teachers and students in things Māori, it was closed.
Its adornments will be relocated to a site on the University of Auckland campus.
Some five days later, New Zealanders welcomed in our 42nd Prime Minister Christopher Luxon. The announcement of his government’s policies underscored the naming of this day. Black Friday.
I, for one am saddened by the policies adopted by Luxon’s government. Its policies that touch and concern Maori in particular are an affront to me.
For many years my good friend John Tamihere has spoken often about the challenges facing Māori. Poverty, health, incarceration, education, shelter, accessibility to services, lack of support, etc. Based on Luxon’s policies things are not about to improve for Maori.
Aucklanders may be interested in an article published by the Waitangi Tribunal on The Founding of Auckland. For those who consider The Treaty of Waitangi an unnecessary document of little relevance to today’s society consider the following, an example of the contribution that, in this instance, Ngati Whatua made to this nation.
To those who consider that Treaty settlements process costly, I say this.
Our government paid out $1.775 billion to take control of South Canterbury Finance (SCF) following its collapse.
As at 2018, 73 Treaty settlements have been negotiated and concluded. Our government has paid out $2.24 billion. These settlements were for true grievances, of land that had been confiscated, of hurt and harm suffered through the indignity of these losses. The failure of SCF was nothing like that, it was purely a lack of commercial prudence by a few seeking personal gain.
No reira ki aku hoa maha Maori, Pakeha o nga hau e wha, kia ora koutou katoa.
Ka whakapuaki ahau ki a koe i nga ahuatanga o toku ngakau me nga mea e whakaaetia ana e toku hinengaro ki te whakatakoto kupu. He uaua ki ahau te tango i te rori i kowhiria e o tatou mangai pooti.
Therefore to my many friends Māori, Pākehā from across the four winds I bid you all well.
I share with you what my heart feels and what my mind permits to put into words. It’s hard for me to absorb the road chosen by our elected representatives.
Brian Rankin (Ngāti Porou) had a career in law, finance, banking, corporate property management and consulting. He is a descendant of Hone Heke Rankin of Ngapuhi through his father and is a great-grandson of Sir Apirana Ngata through his mother.