Later this month, I, alongside some of my Ngāti Whātua ki Tāmaki relations, will seek the mandate of our people in our bi-annual elections. It is a process which occurs alongside our annual general meeting, where some of the board who at the conclusion of a four-year term, need to again seek the support of our people.
It is an essential process that gives each trustee a mandate from our people. It provides an anonymous process that allows us to read the level of support we collectively have across our iwi. Wholesale change at elections invariably means people are not happy, and it is time for a new direction, or there has been consequence for poor performance or decisions.
The national elections last month, and the final outcome confirmed late last week, have been a powerful opportunity to reflect on the mood of the country and closer to home, of Māoridom.
No one among the many who I spoke to across Māoridom leading up to the election had any inkling of the tsunami which was brewing around the Māori seats. While there was a very real expectation of a change for the Labour government, most expected things to remain the same in the Māori electorates, with perhaps co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer taking out the Te Tai Hauāuru seat.
Instead, we were all shocked by results that saw stalwarts like former Hauraki-Waikato MP Nanaia Mahuta, and Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis losing their seats. It was a Te Pāti Māori tide that swept them away.
It is clear the country has called for a change but the results have not been definitive enough to know exactly how much and how far that change needs to go. In the next few days and perhaps weeks, we will learn what this means as National, Act, and now NZ First arm-wrestle to work on an agreement that satisfies each of them enough to form a government.
Some across the commentariat are predicting dire consequences for Māori in the months and years ahead, no matter the outcome. There is a sense that many of the gains of recent years will be lost. Interestingly, the result across the Māori electorate does not reflect a community particularly enamoured by the supposed gains for Māori under Labour. Nor does it reflect an electorate that was intent on doing all it could to stop a National-Act government. To send a clear message surely it would have been to continue to stick with Labour.
It is disappointing that there is very real fear among some in our community at the prospect of change. For many Māori there is good cause to fear change, as change in recent generations has led to catastrophic consequences to our way of lives and communities.
However, there is a need for considered voices from our leaders and efforts to calm these fears. There is a need to remind our political leaders, if they don’t already understand this, that Māori are an essential part of our nation and our many and diverse communities. Our success is their success, our progress benefits all.
Our communities are younger, poorer, and in need of greater partnership and focus in helping lift health and wellbeing outcomes. Increasingly our young population, which currently makes up around 16 per cent of the nation, will swell the numbers of our productive workforce, the next generation of workers. A failure to address the training and education needs and outcomes for our young will impact directly on our national productivity, and our ability to support our retired primarily Pākehā whānau, numbers that will only grow in the years ahead.
My experience is that all governments, irrespective of their shades across the red-blue spectrum, soon grasp the importance of working with, and in bringing Māori along on the journey in leadership.
Every six to nine years we see a change of government, and every time, despite the dire predictions, the sun rises the next day, and the very real challenges and opportunities of life continue.
What does not change is the realisation that there is much work required, and much to do. My Ngati Whātua people are ready to work with whoever is required in the next government to support the needs and wants of our people. We will continue to work alongside the many like-minded people and organisations that share our passion for our whenua, harbours and most importantly the tangata of central Tāmaki Makaurau.
We seek outcomes that ensure the rising tide lifts all waka. Later this month, my people will vote for this outcome, in our trustee elections, and in doing so will provide our leaders with the mandate, to continue to respond accordingly.
Ngarimu Blair is the deputy chair of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Trust.