It was a day to gather and discuss the current political climate, but many were looking far into the future.
Te hui aa motu was a monumental moment in the history of Aotearoa. Not since the foreshore and seabed protests in 2004 have Māori and their allies come together in such large numbers to present a united face in opposition to government policy. Te Kiingitanga initially estimated that 3,000 people would be in attendance at Tuurangawaewae marae, but in reality, there were more like 10,000 attendees.
Across the hui were several overarching ideas. Firstly, while there was no concrete consensus on how to hold the government to account for some kaupapa, attendees universally agreed that doing so is of the utmost importance. As such, te hui aa motu served as a call for continued mobilisation. “This is just day one,” said a kaikōrero during the afternoon’s plenary session. The kōrero from te hui aa motu will continue at Rātana and Waitangi. Another critical point was agreement that colonisation is not just historical, but it still oppresses Māori today. The last key kōrero was fleshing out what kotahitanga and mana motuhake means (more on that later).
While there were many speakers (literally too many for one person to witness), several points stood out throughout the hui. In particular, the rangatahi forum was future-focused and a call for ongoing efforts in unity.
1. “Come on, mighty men, sing some songs – we’re not at a funeral, it’s a party!” – a Turangawaewae kaitiaki to manuhiri before the pōwhiri.
Hearing this upon arrival set the day’s tone. Despite the serious kaupapa, holding the government to account, the mood was excited activation, not mourning lost progress.
2. “There was no cession of sovereignty at Waitangi on the sixth of February 1840; that is a fact from the crown’s own expert tribunal… those who believe otherwise are Treaty illiterate.” – said lawyer Dayle Takitimu during the opening proceedings.
Her perspective was repeated throughout the hui. She mentioned that despite the Waitangi Tribunal agreeing with that specific point, the current government appears not to.
3. “The Treaty is not unclear; it calls for full, exclusive, and undisturbed Māori possession of our lands, estates, forests, fisheries, and other taonga,” said Takitumu.
To further her point, Takitimu utilised the Treaty’s English text.
4. “I believe as a Pākehā New Zealander that the Treaty speaks for itself… it is an embodiment of how we should build a nation together.” – former National party prime minister Jenny Shipley.
New Zealand’s first female prime minister’s notion of togetherness was at odds with the actions of her former party in agreeing to support a Treaty principles redefinition bill to its first reading (though National has said it has no intention to support Act’s bill beyond a first reading).
5. “Nationhood cannot be sustained on the continuation of the oppression of people – in particular the oppression of indigenous peoples.” – Te Whānau a Apanui CEO Tekou Rikirangi Gage.
Gage’s comment during the national identity/unity session referenced Māori still being oppressed by the coloniser, and was spoken with the news of Act’s Treaty bill – which included a suggestion to rewrite three principles of the Treaty to extending tino rangatiratanga/chieftainship to all New Zealanders – still fresh in attendees’ minds.
6. “Think of mana motuhake not as a destination but more as the vehicle to get there.” – Piripi Winiata, MC of the rangatahi forum.
Winiata suggested mana motuhake’s essence, self-determination, is understood, and he believes rangatahi should focus on enacting sovereignty in their daily lives to contribute towards Māori emancipation.
7. “This kaupapa is not for us; it’s for our children and our children’s children. Our tamariki and mokopuna are watching us.” – Archbishop Don Tamihere after the pōwhiri.
Te hui aa motu was marketed as a future-focused event, which was proved by the hundreds of tamariki and mokopuna who were present.
8. “Our challenge is what are we going to do for the next generation?” – Mariama from Hokianga.
The event being future-focused was best captured when Ngāpuhi uri Mariama, a rangatahi forum kaikōrero, asked this question – showing that the young people of today are already considering next generation (see also: School Strikes for Climate).
9. “We need to find rest for ourselves because what are we going to offer to the next generation if we’re burnt out?” – an audience member at the rangatahi forum.
Yet another hint that this hui was simply the starting point for many. Where other forums may have been dealing with the most recent political events, the rangatahi forum frequently returned to the question of sustainability and endurance, inviting those listening to consider how they’ll maintain their hauora to ensure they can effectively play their role towards achieving mana motuhake.
10. “Why did we have to wait for Act to muck around with the Treaty for us to come together?” – another audience member at the rangatahi forum.
A sentiment shared by many, te hui aa motu was a success on all fronts despite its inception. While many of the topics were tough, and Māori present felt the weight of potential policies coming to pass, it was a day filled with joy, laughter and unity.
This is Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ On Air.