My earlier column about ramifications from the Ihumatao land dispute has drawn some interesting responses which l welcome, not least being the insightful comments from my old friend and ex schoolmate Don Hutana.

His was a well constructed critique of my own opinion piece and left the readers with an opportunity to compare the two contributions based on the different backgrounds of the authors.

As a follow up, l would like to expand on a couple of the issues Don and I raised in our respective opinion pieces. I believe the time is right for them to be debated in the context of their anticipated introduction to our school curriculum and as such, should concern us all. We need to get it right if the plans are implemented.

I have long been an advocate for the compulsory teaching of te reo in our primary schools.

Understanding the language means you are at least half way to understanding the culture and in a society like ours where the native tongue of so many could so easily be spoken freely by the majority, it really is a no brainer.


nd because the learning process is such an effortless part of a child's education, the experience should be at least as positive as having to deal with the idiosyncrasies the English language poses for some.

For most of our kids, it will be an enjoyable part of their time in the junior classes and should be of benefit in later life as they reach adulthood in the multicultural society they will call "home".

Finally, if there are objections to the compulsory aspect of the teaching, there is no requirement for anybody to utter so much as a syllable once their primary school days are over. However, l can't imagine anyone not welcoming the ability to understand proceedings at functions where te reo is spoken exclusively.

That unfortunate experience of ignorance is one l have to endure regularly at public events in my own community and it continues to be one of embarrassment as it is for others of my generation including many of my Māori friends and colleagues.

So, at least one way of bringing our two main cultures together is relatively easy to prescribe.

I'm not so sure the other current topic of conversation - the rewriting of the nation's history manual for our schools - will be so easy to address.

For me, it isn't about whether there is a need - that is obvious!

It is more about who we entrust this task to and how much of our history do we include so that anybody studying the Kiwi civilisation in the future will be sure that everything they read is the unadulterated truth of what happened - warts and all.


There is no question that earlier generations of New Zealanders, my own included, have been fed some disgraceful sanitised versions of our heritage and the sooner we put it all back together in a form that clearly tells the stories as and when they occurred, the better.

I'm not saying it can't or shouldn't be done!

But l have some serious misgivings about the outcome if the responsibility to rewrite our history is put in the hands of those who see it primarily as an opportunity to redress the balance by being selective in the way they deliver their version of the truth.

Our experiences here in the Tairawhiti (East Coast, North Island) leading up to the Te Ha Celebrations, which are only a month away, suggests we have good reason for being concerned that my fears about this process are justified.

While the event will come and go, eventually being consigned itself to history, the exaggerated or distorted tales presented at the event will remain as part of our nation's official record.

I'm not sure we should be allowing that to happen but sadly, it looks as if it might.
I hope that our selection of the authors to rewrite our history for use in our schools ensures a repeat of these errors is avoided. If it doesn't, we have only ourselves to blame.

bull; Clive Bibby is a fourth-generation member of a CHB farming family who has been living in Tolaga Bay for the past 40 years. He is a social commentator, community worker and heritage consultant.