Two years ago, Reserve Bank assistant governor Christian Hawkesby told a group of directors that an understanding of te Ao Māori values must be a core competency as it will shape the economic environment of Aotearoa for years to come.
“When I say that the future is Māori, I’m not just talking about Māori people, Māori businesses or Māori jobs. Perhaps one of the most powerful ways in which Māori will shape the future of Aotearoa New Zealand is through Māori values.”
Whereas sustainable and impact investing were once niche strategies, the future lies in a virtuous circle of economic prosperity, environmental sustainability, financial inclusion and cultural diversity. In other words, what’s good for Māori is good for Aotearoa.
The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has launched a national campaign which amplifies this message, seeking to reinforce tino rangatiratanga while reminding whānau that “our future is Māori” – that by Māori, for Māori, about Māori approaches work.
Gone are the days of services and programmes done to and on behalf of Māori. This is the time for Māori to be able to shape their own future, free from the constraints of fastidious contract specifications which dictate how high they should jump. Contrary to some views, that future is not to put a band-aid on system sores; to become the Uber service when government agencies pack up and leave town.
One of the Ngāti Rangi principles is Ko te anga whakamua ki āpōpō: We understand that decisions must be future focused.
When I was first appointed to the role of Pou Ārahi, that future looked bleak. The closure of the ski field, followed in close succession by the closure of Chateau Tongariro, racked up a tally of more than 850 jobs slashed in the hospitality and tourism sector. The Ohakune courthouse closure in September created further pressure with court appearances requiring leave from work and a road-ready vehicle. An unprecedented annual rainfall was great for restoring our river flow but not so good for morale. In the wake of Covid-fatigue, new solutions were required.
Another source of inspiration as Ngāti Rangi is “Me karioi te noho: We understand that we, as Ngāti Rangi, are here forever”. We needed to draw on collective ownership – understanding that local solutions are always best. We also were committed to our next generations, knowing that intergenerational transmission is key to continuity.
Into the abyss entered Whiria Nga Hua.
Whiria Nga Hua is driven by whānau for whānau; within the tribal landscape of Ngāti Rangi. The funding invests in ideas to improve a broad range of wellbeing outcomes for whānau, hapū, hapori and iwi. The impact has been nothing short of sensational. From January 1, 2023, we have been investing in 33 whānau – who came to us with their dreams; the change they wanted to see; the success they wanted to be.
The majority of successful applicants (55 per cent) are in the 30-40 years age range, with three applications championed by whānau over the age of 60. Just over half of the applicants whakapapa to Ngāti Rangi; our intention was always to invest in the broader community in which Ngāti Rangi finds home.
Whiria Nga Hua has invested in rangatahi – in tangihanga skills, hunting and gathering, chainsaw experience, lawn-mowing and driver’s licences. There have been carpentry skills and butchery courses – each rangatahi will take home two entire animals turned into various cuts of meat.
Māori history in schools has been a source of motivation for some applicants, including age-specific podcasts, vlogs and kaumātua stories; puzzles, books, literacy programmes, calendars, posters; flash cards; labels for clothing and games.
We have initiatives based at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Rangi: designing a star compass according to korero tuku iho; capturing and preserving oral histories.
A Rongoa cove has been built at Ohakune Kindergarten; wahine Māori are being supported through wananga, creativity workshops, journal circles and maramataka Māori.
There are champions of Xtreme HipHop, CrossFit, tennis and swimming for mums and bubs. There have been hui for whakawatea and traditional Māori healing. The Putiputi Foundation provides pre-menstrual and menstrual teenagers with a gift pack. Musicians have been fostered; rangatahi are being supported to release their own single; there have been kapa haka wananga; support for Te Kahui Kaumatua; creation of jewellery; screenprinting enterprises; handmade earrings; candles; firewood delivery in Karioi.
Our local legend, Dame Tariana Turia, knew the future was within our own hands when 20 years ago she first convinced government to support Whānau Ora as part of core health policy (He Korowai Oranga). Her challenge to government then and now was to place their faith in families. Two decades later, we see the vibrancy and resilience, the aspiration and the hope, that occurs when you invest directly in whānau.
Whānau Ora works. We see that with Whiria Ngā Hua. We see that with rangatahi returning to school; with new businesses being established; with healing taking place. This is not just about designing logos and webpages; it is about belief; about optimism; building a future fit for all our mokopuna to thrive.
Our first wave of Whiria Nga Hua has created ripples across the region, with Whiria Nga Hua recently being launched in Whanganui and further afield in Tokoroa. For us at home, we are working every hour possible to support the first wave of whānau entrepreneurs while at the same time planning for the Whiria Nga Hua No 2.
Our vision demands that we be ambitious. Kia mura ai te ora o Ngāti Rangi ki tua o te 1000 tau: Ngāti Rangi continues to vibrantly exist in 1000 years.
Whiria Nga Hua is but one step on that pathway. The best is yet to come.
* Helen Leahy is Pou Ārahi of Nga Waihua o Paerangi (formerly Ngāti Rangi Trust).