Weekly column by Kāpiti mayor K Gurunathan
While my basic familiarity with marae protocols goes back to the late 1970s, I have never experienced a close-up, te kanohi te kanohi or eye-to-eye encounter with the wero or challenge. It happened on Friday, during a pōwhiri held by Ngāti Toa Rangatira at their turangawaewae, Takapūwāhia Marae in Porirua. As we, the visitors, stood at the gateway the three warriors brandishing spears skip-hopped across the courtyard complete with war cries.
The challenge to determine friend or foe was directed straight at me, I was flanked by KCDC chief executive Wayne Maxwell and our protocol guide, KCDC iwi liaisons manager, Kahu Ropata. The delivery of the challenge was not only powerful but primeval. In trying to rationalise the impact of this primeval power later, I think these warriors had tapped into a deeper ancient energy source. Hindu philosophers and yogi mystics know this source as the kundalini.
The energy of consciousness that rises through the spine into the early brain formation, the basal ganglia. Evolutionary biologist recognise the human brain to have an older consciousness defined as our reptilian brain, the source of the fight or flight trigger. This supports the flash of memory I experienced under that full-on aggressive challenge on Friday.
The scene from the 2018 sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom where actor Chris Pratt faces three Velociraptors came to mind, except there was no Chris Pratt. My comfort was in knowing this was part of a controlled and refined set of protocols by Ngāti Toa and we were safe. But I got a glimpse of the terrifying warriors of old embraced by the karanga of the hosts that called us forth, while beckoning their ancestors from the spiritual world to meet the living.
Council was at the Takapuwhaia Marae to observe the launch of maramataka, the Māori lunar calendar that shapes their customary cycle of planting, harvesting, hunting and fishing. It is part of Matariki, the winter solstice that starts the Māori New Year. Kāpiti has three iwi with established mana whenua status. They take turn hosting this annual launch. It's funded by KCDC through Te Whakaminenga o Kapiti, its Māori Liaisons Committee. The calendar provides an opportunity to each iwi to highlight the history that legitimises their mana whenua status.
This year's maramataka recounts the story of Ngāti Toa Rangatira's birth as a sovereign tribe and its journey south from Kawhia, led by their fighting chief Te Rauparaha, to the Wellington region and the north of the South Island. It comes at a time when the 25-year history of Te Whakaminenga is feeling the pressure of change. A time when the triennial review of the MOU that underpins council's Treaty partnership is overdue. Council is also scheduled to progress the next Long Term Plan which, under the Local Government Act, requires council to provide Māori the capacity to engage.
The pressure for change has the potential to reset council's relationship with its mana whenua partners. This will see the increased ability of council to meet its Treaty obligations as interpreted through the RMA and LGA.
And what about the 2012 Takamore case where the Supreme Court specifically recognised Māori tikanga was part of the country's common law as opposed to statue law? Did the worshippers of ye olde English common law continuing to be the "civilised" backbone of New Zealand's common law happen to read Martin Van Beynen's article on Stuff (July 9, 2020) on the potential of the Supreme Court making another landmark decision to further entrench Māori customary tikanga into New Zealand law. It's around whether the appeal by Peter Ellis against his 1993 child abuse conviction can continue after his death.
Tikanga holds that a person's mana continues through the extended family after that person's death. Van Beynen notes: "Such a decision could potentially send NZ law in a new uncharted direction". Judges, as agents of change, it seems, will be the avenue though which tikanga will seep into New Zealand law. Van Beynen balances the article with a view from lawyer Stephen Franks who thinks this will set a dangerous trend undermining democracy and the rule of law.
We should await the view from the Velociraptor elites of the intelligentsia, the high bench of the Supreme Court.