Musician Moana Maniapoto hosts a new current affairs show on Māori TV, Te Ao with Moana. The lifelong activist says radical change is still needed for the sakes of Māori and the environment.
1 You've done four shows of Te Ao with Moana so far. How's it going?
It's challenging, very intense, exciting and nerve-wracking. It was a big surprise when Māori TV asked me. I'm very conscious I'm not a journalist. But Māori journalists are few and far between - many have moved on to jobs for ministers, agencies or iwi - so I try to get over my imposter syndrome. I've always been interested in current affairs and politics. I have a law degree, write columns for our online magazine E-Tangata and make documentaries with my partner Toby Mills. I'm learning on the job. Got a lovely team around me too.
2 You interviewed Oranga Tamariki boss Grainne Moss on last Tuesday's show? How did that go?
It's a very sensitive and tough issue. There's a lot of anger and pain out there. Māori want to be resourced and empowered at the front end, to reach families in the community and prevent them from even interacting with Oranga Tamariki. Not simply 'Māorifying' the service delivery end. Don't bring Māori in to do the uplift more sensitively - try and stop those from happening. That's about genuine Māori empowerment at all levels and across all sectors. Big picture stuff
3 What did you think of what Grainne had to say?
She's very passionate and committed, but while the legislation states Oranga Tamariki has to be consistent with the Treaty of Waitangi, at the end of the day she's not answerable to Māori. There needs to be a formal, independent Māori body to hold them accountable because s*** they've had long enough, haven't they? I know they're working in a really difficult area, but if you keep doing the same old-same old, it's not going to change. Maybe they should just be disbanded; give all the money to Māori providers and say 'Here, you sort it out'. There's a big hui on that this weekend.
4 How much can Māori achieve at the front end of such complex problems?
It's a big, big challenge because we're working in a context of 200 years of ongoing colonisation. There's layers to unravel. I just came back from Australia where I'm part of an international indigenous arts project marking the Cook anniversary. We talked about how colonised indigenous minorities worldwide are represented across all the negative statistics; you can't divorce that from colonisation. It's not because we're sick and rotten and bad. For generation after generation our land and our power have been taken and our traditional structures destabilised. That has a tangible impact.
5 What did you think of the recent Waitangi Tribunal report which found our health system is institutionally racist?
We've known this for years. Thirty years ago John Rangihau's report into our welfare system, Puao-te-ata-tu identified structural racism and ways forward, but it was shelved. A report last month found racism is embedded in every area of our criminal justice system. No surprise.
6 What would you like to see change?
A commitment to a treaty relationship where power is genuinely shared. We need revolutionary change - constitutional. A lot of work's already been done in this area; Moana Jackson's 2015 report Matike Mai involved over 250 hui nationwide. They came up with useful scenarios for how things could be rearranged based on relationships and values. I find values like manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga, rangatiratanga resonate more and more with pakeha who understand that you have to join the dots, think big picture and long term, that we're actually on the same side. It's exciting. Young people are also good at envisaging different ways of doing things.
7 Maybe we have to wait for the next generation to make the big changes?
I think it's bloody disgusting that our generation might abdicate responsibility for climate crisis and say to our kids, "Oh you guys come up with an answer now we've we stuffed it up." My daughter's 10 - climate change is the biggest worry for her group of friends.
8 Do you think any radical change is likely under our current government?
There's potential with Kelvin Davis's new Māori Crown Relations portfolio. But if it's inside a crown agency then it's still beholden to only one party. If a Māori Crown Relations Super Ministry sat above all others, that might be interesting.
9 What's the biggest issue for you personally?
It can be difficult when you're Maori to figure out where to put your energy so you can make a difference. For some, it's exhausting. They're meant to know every Māori in NZ, everything about the language and culture, advise their workplace, organise the powhiri - all on top of their job. I interviewed Mike Smith the other day, he's been an activist for many years, but he's decided to just focus on climate change. Tonight I'll talk to Ricky Houghton and Tommy Wilson who are just trying to house and feed people. There's so many issues to deal with. My show is only TV and only half an hour but I want to make it slightly useful.
10 Have you settled on an interview style yet?
As a viewer, it drives me nuts when the person is constantly interrupted. You get to the end and think, "I still don't know what they were trying to say. I'm none the wiser." It's that gotcha mentality. I prefer to have a conversation. I'm not trying to prove anything. I just want to know. My favourite interviewers are Miriama Kamo, Kim Hill, Mihingarangi Forbes and Corin Dann.
11 Your documentary series The Negotiators screens on Māori TV later this year. What's it about?
It's looking at treaty settlements through the eyes of key negotiators. Many are just ordinary people who were filling a gap and ended up at the negotiation table against the full force of the Crown and its huge resources. Some of the stories are very touching. One man we interviewed has served for 34 years. The patience of that. It's been such an honour and education for me.
12 Your music often has a message. What was the theme of your recent nationwide tour?
My Name is Moana looked at environmental issues through music and storytelling. We divided the show up into decades from the 60s to the 2000s; each marked by a news item around people power movements. It was actually quite empowering to look back at all our protest movements. New Zealanders are quite a stroppy bunch. When push comes to shove, we do stick our hands up. I think we need to get angrier still. We are in crisis now.
• Moana Maniapoto (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Pikiao, Tūhourangi-Ngāti Wahiao) hosts Te Ao with Moana on Māori TV, Tuesdays at 8pm