One Sunday morning recently I set the scene for a hui at Waiokura Marae in Manaia where Ngā Ruahine met to consider where they want to be in 2119 as a people, as a community, and as an iwi.

Their aspirations were built around four pou, or themes, at this first meeting of many. Education, health, their seniors and their language.

There were 50 there first thing with numbers growing through the day, but the striking reality was the average age of those in attendance.

Of the first 50, probably fewer than five were over 60. The vast majority in their 40s and some in their 50s.


The rest young, but everyone was youthful. Most were first and second tier leaders in their iwi – the movers and shakers.

They brought with them university education, experience in the social sector and experience in governance and management. Having attended 500 or so meetings around New Zealand about community issues in the past 15 years, this phenomenon is reflected time and again.

Community leaders who turn up to talk about community issues - rather than business issues or business networking opportunities, or party meetings, political meetings local or central government, or self-promotional events – are overwhelmingly Māori. And they are young, though supported by their elders.

There has been repeated over many years that all the future Māori leaders from the 1940s served in the military overseas, and many did not return to raise the next generation of leaders, and so there was a deficit in Māori leadership over successive decades.

That statement does several things which, if they ever were factual, no longer apply.

Firstly, it ignores the leadership of women of which there have been many in the pre and post war era who have left a legacy of nationhood and leadership.

Secondly it relegates the over-representation of Māori in all negative social statistics to indigenous people not being able to lead themselves.

The fact that every investigation in the past 30 years has found that Māori failure in these areas is down to a failure of successive governments to adequately provide for this significant group in our population.


This failure is down to ignorance, paternalism, self-interest on behalf of the majority and, yes, racism either by ignorance, accident or malice.

But, just as represented by a local iwi meeting on a Sunday morning to talk about their future, Māori are pro-actively, methodically, and systematically addressing a problem that Pākehā have no real interest in discussing.

There will not have been a Pākehā community in New Zealand, or possibly the world, meeting last Sunday morning to consider 2119.

This could be because the vast majority of wealth is held by Pākehā and so we are less inclined to see a need to secure our future. Or maybe we see our only responsibility is to preserve our wealth to pass on to the upcoming generation, so they can take their turn at protecting the family "pot".

Pākehā seem to not see themselves so much as a community, but as a cluster of similarly interested people.

We might coagulate around sports and social clubs, churches and organisations or activities and amenities, but we are not so concerned about the need to enhance "community".

And yet all this is occurring whilst those traditional institutions of Pākehā social contact are dropping in membership and interest, our birth rate is declining, our sense of identity is eroding, and social connectedness is evaporating.

Māori leadership is alive and well. Young Māori are stepping up and making the sacrifices that come with taking an active role in community, whereas younger Pākehā people are sitting back.

An activist group of Pākehā has an average age of 70 plus – cite Grey Power, Rotary, ecumenical churches, - and most groups with younger Pākehā membership are based around their own ambitions for personal development rather than community good, or the community good element is a happy byproduct of taking personal responsibility. Golf clubs, play-centres, squash clubs, books clubs, business groups, and the like.

Iwi are full of young and aspirational leaders, many are tertiary-qualified and have experience in governance from an early age.

They are well travelled, articulate in at least two languages, are interested in education of the young and the old. They are givers to communities both Māori and Pākehā. They are well supported by more senior Māori who love watching their younger ones step up and, do not hold on to the seats of power protecting their patches, but are happy to let go to the new generations with contemporary skills and vision.

They know they are standing on the shoulders of giants and they are conscious of the path they are buildings for those that will follow.