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Three kete, or woven flax bags, on a brown background, representing the three kete of knowledge in Māori lore.
(Image: The Spinoff)

PoliticsSeptember 14, 2020

Aotearoa 2040 and the future of tino rangatiratanga

Three kete, or woven flax bags, on a brown background, representing the three kete of knowledge in Māori lore.
(Image: The Spinoff)

In her last column, Laura O’Connell Rapira suggested how the government could be a better Treaty partner. This week, she reimagines completely new power structures.

Between 2012 and 2015, Margaret Mutu and Moana Jackson convened 252 hui with Māori to imagine the future of Aotearoa in 2040, 200 years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

They summarised what they heard in a report called Matike Mai, which outlines a vision for constitutional transformation in Aotearoa. It says that by 2040, we should have a new political system in which Māori and the government share power, resources and responsibility for the care of this land and all of the people in it. Matike Mai suggests six different models as to how this might work but in all of them, Māori make decisions for Māori.

Last week, I wrote five recommendations for how the next government can be an honourable Treaty partner. This week, I propose steps for how they can go even further and move us toward the aspirations of Matike Mai.

Re-indigenise the health system

Last year, I saw Tā Mason Durie present at the Hauora Māori Health Leadership Summit. Durie is most famous for articulating a Māori model of holistic health, Te Whare Tapa Whā, which likens wellbeing to the four walls of a wharenui. Each wall represents an element of hauora and all four need to be healthy in order to be well. Those elements are taha tinana (physical), taha hinengaro (emotional and mental), taha wairua (spiritual and culture) and taha whānau (social and family). It’s a model of holistic health that has benefits for everyone, regardless of background.

In Durie’s presentation, he talked about the progress that had been made by, and for, Māori over the last four decades across education and health. He described the 1980s as the decade that laid the foundations, where we pioneered Māori frameworks and services like Te Wheke, Te Whānau o Waipareira, kōhanga reo and kura kaupapa.

The 1990s were the decade of Māori assertion. In 1993, the passage of the long-awaited Ture Whenua Māori (Land) Act gave Māori more security for what remained of Māori land. We had the first of the Treaty breach reparations and Māori health, education and social services started to expand.

The early 2000s was the decade of Māori confirmation. Māori rights, perspectives and quests for self-determination were steadily evolving while kaupapa Māori health and social research reached new heights. In 2002, the research centre Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga was established and the Māori workforce multiplied several times over across health, education, and social services.

The 2010s are the decade of Māori affirmation. New Zealand endorsed the UN Declaration Rights of Indigenous Peoples. There were more Māori graduates from wānanga or university than ever before. The number of Māori in government grew and so did whānau-centred services and approaches like Whānau Ora.

Huge progress has been made by so many people, which brings us to 2020 and the decade yet to come. In Durie’s view, the next 10 years need to be focused on delivering a major shift in the ways that kaupapa Māori services are funded, delivered and managed. In other words, he says we need a constitutional transformation in our health system to move us away from prioritising Eurocentric cultural norms and knowledge with total government control, to Māori-centred cultural norms and knowledge, with Māori decision making.

In a two-year-long systemic review of our health system, a new and independent Māori health authority with commissioning powers was supported by 10 out of 12 health experts. A Māori health authority would have the autonomy to determine how to spend Māori health dollars most appropriately for Māori. The review found that without a fundamental change and urgent steps to address racism, healthcare in New Zealand will not be in a good state for future generations.

The Waitangi Tribunal also recommends a standalone Māori health authority.

In a country where I, as a Māori, can reasonably expect to die seven years earlier than my Pākehā partner, it is time for a radical overhaul of our health system.

Decolonise justice

In 2019, Ināia Tonu Nei was released into the world. It was the latest in a long line of reports that have been released by Māori calling for a complete overhaul of our justice system. It calls for us to abolish prisons by February 2040 and outlines a series of government actions that need to be taken between now and then for that to happen.

The report makes 19 recommendations that must start now, including the need for the government to establish a Mana Ōrite model of partnership in which Māori share power and resources with decision-makers at all levels in the Ministry of Justice, corrections, police, children and social services.

Recently, JustSpeak released a blueprint for justice transformation that says the government needs to prioritise building communities and not prisons, decolonising the justice system and ensuring every whānau and community has what they need to thrive.

They’ve also analysed each political party’s policies in relation to their commitment to Te Tiriti partnerships, pathways to decarceration, resources for prevention and community wellbeing and investing in models of alternative justice.

In a country with a punitive thirst for locking up Māori and stealing Māori children, we must vote for parties that want to radically transform our justice system.

I’ve chosen to focus on health and justice but you could equally apply this lens to education, housing and our environment. Māori have different ways of being, doing and knowing but, right now, we are not able to live our lives fully as Māori. My fear is, this will remain the case until the government, and its voters, learn to share their power and trust Māori to lead our own solutions.

Keep going!