National | Education

Waihaere Mason’s New Year’s honour a recognition for all Māori

“We cannot do everything but what we do, we will do it well."

It's a whakataukī that Waihaere Mason, who was recently appointed Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori and education as part of the New Year’s Honours, lives by.

Mason (Ngāti Kuia, Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō, Ngāti Koata, Ngāti Toa Rangatira, Rangitāne o Wairau, Ngāti Rārua, Te Ātiawa o Te Waipounamu) says the appointment is “humbling as others have done the mahi for it to be accepted”.

“As Māori we have to show tenacity to get through the system that is clearly established around a hierarchical structure of control i.e the glass ceiling syndrome.

“Ignorance doesn’t mean lacking intelligence - it just means not knowing.”

He has been a member of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia for a long time, serving mostly as Chairperson since 1999. He has had an impact on improvements in a variety of fields, including social justice, Māori health, education, local government, conservation, and marae wellbeing.

“My attitude is that we do all that we can to influence others to achieve to the best of their ability. It is by example that should give confidence to others that it can be done,” he says.

Though education is part of Mason’s recognition for the appointment, he references education, through his rūnanga, that Māori have learned to give Māori independence.

“The establishment of our iwi entity, Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Kuia, certainly grew the knowledge base where we are now able to join the real world – doing things for ourselves. We have three rōpū in hauora, mātauranga, and pūtea that are setting an example for others in ensuring positive growth. I have been told this by other Iwi leaders.

“That’s education to me, not just the formal institutional system that tends to dominate thinking on the matter.

"We must be totally inclusive in all that we do. We don’t need to get national attention to ensure growth but encourage exponential growth in small but secure steps."

Some of Mason’s accolades and involvements include being part of various settlement negotiations in the past two decades, including the settlement for Water Space in 2015 and Ngāti Kuia negotiating settlements through the Waitangi Tribunal in 2010. He has been a member and supporter of Te Tauihi Komiti including the Māori Rugby Board since 2019, 28th Māori Battalion Pou Mana and Tū Pono – Family Violence.

He was also a project manager as part of the rebuild of Te Hora Marae in 2016.

Mason was first made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2014.