Richard Duley replies to Hone Harawira's open letter to the Prime Minister on the eve of the water hui.

Gidday Hone

I hope when you guys were down at Turangawaewae, the korero wasn't just about who owns the water, but also about guardianship, and how we can make sure this taonga is preserved for all of us and our children.

There has been so much talk lately about who owns what, about assets, about who has a mandate to sell off our land, rights to the water, the infrastructure built up by previous generations for the good of us all. About who should get a cut of the action when it goes ahead. Maybe we need to worry less about ownership, or where someone's ancestors came from, and more about how we guard and protect these most precious things, and our people, for future generations.

When I was a younger bloke, when we were rafting down the rivers, fishing and hunting in the bush, through the central North Island, my mates and I never thought about owning our environment, but were consumed by it.


Now I'm older and more sedate, we anchor for the night off Moturua Island in the Bay of Islands. When I swim ashore in the early morning and walk along the beach, the feeling of utter peace doesn't come from thinking about owning the foreshore, but from soaking up the simple beauty of it.

When I occasionally fly in over the Kawekas back to Hawkes Bay where I was brought up, or drive over the Turangakumu summit, I get a lump in my throat and can't get enough of the vista out of the window when I first see down the Mohaka River Valley.

When my wife and I get home after work, crack a beer or wine and soak up the view from our deck out over the few acres we have our names on the title of, we don't own them, they own us.

A few years ago, we took our family to Britain and Europe for an experience of a lifetime. It's where our motley crew of antecedents came from originally.

Maybe even one or two of yours came from there, Hone, not that it matters. We stood on the Ile de la Cite, in Paris (I think you've been there too, Hone), and were stunned by the beauty of Notre Dame.

But we were visitors; it wasn't home, our turangawaewae. Perhaps we were closest to that, in the winter rain on Chunuk Bair, in Gallipoli, Turkey, and saw the names of our whanau and so many others on the monument. The rain wasn't the only moisture running down our faces.

I know a great many people throughout New Zealand feel like this, regardless of their skin colour, ancestry or their length of tenure in this land.

Maybe we need more people who are owned by the land sitting around the table when far-reaching decisions are being made and fewer who are concerned with their rights to flog it off, to profit from it and their desire to own it. I don't believe any particular group has a monopoly on this sense of stewardship.

Anyway, since we're in the same neck of the woods, call in some time when you're coming through Kawakawa and we can have a cup of tea and a chat.


- Richard Duley, Kawakawa.

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