community development maori

Rejoicing in who we are

Pita Tipene

Pita Tipene is of Ngāti Hine and Ngāpuhi and has an educational background having taught in Tai Tokerau secondary schools and worked in a number of regional and national administrative roles in the education sector. His is the current chairman of the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust and has a number of other governance roles amongst his people including Deputy Chair of Te Runanga o Ngāti Hine, is on the Waitangi National Trust, and the Federation of Maori Authorities.


Sam: Welcome to Sustainable Lens: Resilience on Radio. A weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher, who’s not here tonight and me, Samuel Mann.  Shane is not here tonight because I’m in Northland, in Kawakawa in the offices of Pita Tipene of Ngāti Hine.


Sam: Ngāti Hine, that’s the Hapū isn’t it?


Pita: Ngāti Hine is the Iwi.  Ngāti Te Tarawa the people who live in the valley of Motatau and surrounding valleys. It’s where I was raised. It’s the Hapū and part of the greater confederation of Hapū of Ngāpuhi here in Tai Tokerau Northland.


Sam: It’s a very active group. I’m seeing forestry and health centres and things?


Pita: Yeah we like to think that we’re very active on a whole number of fronts. We’re being left with a legacy of hundreds or thousands of years that people like me need to keep up with. We’re always focused on kaupapa. What’s the word for kaupapa? The various aspects that our ancestors have left for us. We remain focused on them principally. Our vision statement which Maori is Mau Ngāti Hine ano Ngāti Hine ekororo, which if you were to ask me what it means in English, it’s all about self-determination and self-reliance.


Sam: At this point I normally ask people where they grew up, but you’ve just answered it. Let’s just check. You grew up here?


Pita: I did. I grew up in Motatau, which is a small in valley in the inland valleys. I was schooled here in Motatau primary school till I was 14.  Then I went away to boarding school in Auckland. From there I went to university, and then I became a teacher and taught in Northland schools at Whāngārei Boys High and Bay of Islands College. Then I went into working with schools in Northland and eventually it led me into doing more local education work with the hapū, with the tribe. It has since led to a more political role.


Sam: Let’s go more slowly through that shall we? What was it like growing up?


Pita: It was fantastic growing up. When I look back I can see clearly, but when I was growing up I couldn’t see it. In hindsight we had the most wonderful parents and extended family. We were raised on a dairy farm. My job was to help milk cows, make fences and do all the other things you would otherwise do on a farm. We always had lots of food. We may not have been well off as some people would view prosperity, but certainly looking back we were surrounded with love and everything that we needed in life. Particularly the values I think that have led us to being what we are now.


Sam: What are those values?


Pita: Particularly Māori values. Looking after other members in our family, looking after the land, working hard, being industrious, making sure that we’re working with the rest of the community, and honesty, truthfulness, all of those virtues that you beg were to surround the world, I think.


Sam: I imagine that the dairy farms then weren’t as intensive as dairy farms are now.


Pita: Certainly not. Every family, of which they would have been 50 families in our local community, had between 20 to maybe 80 cows. The milking sheds were very small. We produced cream not milk. We raised calves for the following years and pigs and every other kind of animal. That allowed our family to be self-sustainable, but it also allowed us to support other people in the community and particularly the marae, which was the focal point of the whole community where deaths were mourned and weddings, birthdays and every other celebration was held. We had to put our shoulder to the wheel by providing labour through everything else for the community good.


Sam: Does this still exist?


Pita: Yes it still very much does exist, although I think, and when I talked about legacy, our ancestor Kawiti who died in 1854, he was renowned here in Northland for leading the war against the English, the treaty of Waitangi having been signed in 1840. Five years later Kawiti and Hōne Heke led the war known … generally now it’s the Northern wars against the forces of the English. During those tumultuous times he made a number of prophesies. One of the lines he uttered was “kei poi pakeha koutou” which means you must not be assimilated in your ways into the English culture, which means retain your land as a basis for you to stand on. Retain your culture and your language and ensure that you stay together as a people and keep up your culture in order to sustain yourself over the long term.


Sam: Land, culture, language, how closely linked are those for you?


Pita: They are so closely intertwined. You can’t really divide them. Ngāti Hine is a tribe that is probably more well off than many others in that we retained most of our land. The land blocks if you go through places like Motatau and Matawaia which adjoin each other. All of that land is still owned by our families. That allows us to have a place to stand, to practice our culture. In 1975 a national research project was held about the state of Māori language in New Zealand. It was led by Dr. Richard Benton. The results of the survey said that there were only three places in New Zealand where today Māori was still spoken as an everyday language of conversation.


Those being Ngāti Hine, Tuhoe – that you would know – and Te Kawa in the very far north. When you look at what all those places have in common, they are a little bit more isolated than most places and it’s allowed the culture to be retained and to flourish.


Sam: You saw a pathway that led you out of those valleys. You wanted to be a teacher. What prompted that?


Pita: I didn’t want to be a teacher. I was led down that path. I could have taken a number of paths, but there were little things in life that lead you down a particular path. One of those being in about 1973, I was a 12 year old some trainee teachers came from Auckland to teach in our school. They carried out a few tests of the students. When they took me aside and looked at the results of my tests, they made it pretty clear that I was … what I thought they were saying was is that I was above average. They made it very clear that I needed to figure myself to go to university and follow that path of learning and it really made a difference in my life.


I felt, “Well, maybe I do have some ability!” I didn’t really think that I had. That encouraged me. Somewhat all of my family went to boarding school and there are 10 of us. I’m number eight out of 10. I was sent to St. Stephen School just south of Auckland. Spent five years there and got all of the qualifications that were then available.


Sam: I talked to Chris Sarra from the Stronger Smarter Institute in Australia. He talked about the impact on him, an event that he particularly remembered was a teacher that was handing back an exam and said, “Sarra got 75%, must have been an easy test.” Two things that that did to him is one: It stopped him trying any harder because 75% must be good, but second, it made him realize that what teachers do and say is as important as what they teach.  About the expectations, that we need to raise the expectations. Every teacher needs to believe in every kid. It’s a similar thing to what those trainee teachers did for you is believed in you.


Pita: That’s not to take away anything from the teachers who taught me every day. I think they all had their particular ways. They all seemed to care. Some used the care, some used the stick. It all came together and worked. I think they were all trying to get the same results, which were to get me to try harder. Those were some of the methods that used to channel me on to a more positive pathway.


Sam: You eventually trained yourself to be a teacher?


Pita: Yeah. I went to university. Did a degree that focused on Te reo Māori as a major and also geography. Eventually I became a Te Reo Māori language teacher and a geography teacher. When you get into those environments and the people around you are all dedicated to achieving their goals, you get swept along as well.


Sam: Why geography?


Pita: I think geography because my geography teacher at St. Stephens was a very good teacher. She really gave me some impetus with the subject particularly given that it’s about people and it’s about land. I think I’ve always had a passion for people and land in terms of a social approach. It was very much my cup of tea.


Sam: Then you went to teacher training?


Pita: I did.  At first I came back here to the township of Moerewa. By then my wife and I had had a child, so I needed some money. I worked in a local freezing works for two years. I worked on the mutton chain.   In those days we got paid some big money. That helped us get established before I went back to training … teacher training in Auckland. Then began teaching in earnest at schools.


Sam: You taught in a variety of schools?


Pita: Not really. I only taught in two, but then I became an advisor to schools for Māori language. I travelled the length and breadth of all of the schools north of Auckland.


Sam: Eventually you found your way moving from that to you said to more local education?


Pita: Yeah to local education for Ngāti Hine and working with the local schools in this particular area. I have a passion for our people of Ngāti Hine. I wanted to focus my work on our own people which led me to getting into more political aspects of what Ngāti Hine was trying to achieve, which as I’ve said earlier was self-determination and self-reliance.


Sam: Why?


Pita: My father who died in 1979, I was 18 and was still in my last year in secondary school, had said to me prior to dying, passing away that…


Haere ki te wharewananga, ka reira koe ka matau ai, engari me hoki mai koe ki te kainga, konei koe ka mohio.


…which when translated means go away to university for there you will find knowledge and you will also get some qualifications, but ensure that you come home because here you will acquire … how would I describe it? Wisdom and common sense. To answer your question …


Sam: Did you understand what that meant then?


Pita: Not really. I’m still not sure that I understand it now to be honest. Ngāti Hine, we have our own customs than most. He was saying don’t ever lose the essence of what we are as a people because otherwise we could be anybody in the world. You will stand as a person based on those very cultural aspects and most that we have here in our unique valleys of Ngāti Hine. I’m still searching.


Sam: Tell me about the work you were doing when you said you were trying to focus on the local education, focusing on the local people. What were you doing on a day to day basis? What does that mean?


Pita: At first it was getting an education strategy for Ngāti Hine, but it’s grown into much more than that which is an overall strategy for Ngāti Hine, using our whānau, our families, our marae our cultural centres and our hapū to be self-sustainable. Above all things one of the focal points for us is to ensure that Ngāti Hine retains its sovereignty. As far as we’re concerned, our Rangatira or chief who signed the treaty of Waitangi with Governor Hopson in 1840, he uttered some words at that time and they were taken down, which basically said, “When everyone else signed on February the sixth 1840, he refused to sign because he said his chiefly authority would be undermined and he would no longer be able to do the things that he wanted to do.”


Which meant his tribe would not be able to do the things that they wanted to do. He didn’t sign. Although he signed a little bit later on and that’s famous in itself because even though he signed a long time after everyone else, his name was recorded as the first one because he signed above everyone else. Then five years later it precipitated a full scale war where many, many people were killed in this area. The upshot was is that the Governor pardoned Kawiti, pardoned is the word, and Ngāti Hine retained all of its land and still retains it now.


Above all things we want to retain our land. In fact we want to get our land back into our hands as a basis for our people to stand and grow and sustain themselves which is why I put my name up for election on a Ngāti Hine forestry trust. I’m now the chairman after being a trustee on there for the last 12 years. I’m also the deputy chairman for Ngāti Hine Whānau which is a tribal authority. At the base of the tribal authority are all 13 of marae. Membership or representation on the runanga, the tribal council has its membership through each of the marae. When I talk about Sovereignty, we prosecuted a case to the Waitangi Tribunal.


An independent inquiry set up here through statute of New Zealand. We prosecuted a case against the government, against the crown in 2010 and 2011. We had not ceded our sovereignty to the New Zealand Government and that in fact they had … achieved sovereignty in an underhand way. We spent five weeks of giving evidence. In 2014 the Waitangi Tribunal came back and upheld our case and said, “Yes there is a strong case that the hapū, including Ngāti Hine, have not ceded sovereignty.” In 2016 and beyond, we’ve got to look at what that means for us as a tribe here in this area and how in fact we will get back the authority that was once ours in this area knowing full well that we only make up maybe 40% of the population in this area.


Sam: What would you like it to mean?


Pita: I think it means that, in my mind, that the lands of Ngāti Hine are back in our … under our administration and that we are administering governance as we see it. Sovereignty, when people talk about sovereignty, they invariably start talking about sovereignty in terms of political sovereignty. You get sovereignty that manifests itself through economic sovereignty, and when you look at some of the other tribes throughout New Zealand who’ve settled their treaty grievances against the government, say Ngāi Tahu in the South Island and Waikato Tainui, they got treaty settlement packages of 175 million in 1995.


Their books last year, they’d grown that well over a billion dollars. It comes down to having that economic muscle to do the things that you want to do in your area.


Sam: What do you want to do?


Pita: Ultimately we want to ensure that our people have the wellbeing and prosperity that they deserve. That is their right because every statistic at the moment will tell you that we are an impoverished people even though they have wealth in their own ways as I did when I was a child. We’ve got to work on improved wellbeing because our health statistics are terrible, and prosperity to have a high standard of living. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re cash rich. In terms of prosperity we want to have options in this world. We want our children to stand anywhere in the world with confidence and competence.


If they’re to do that, they need a tool-box full of all the skills they can stand on good stead anywhere in the world. Above all things they must have their language and their culture that belongs to Ngāti Hine.


Sam: Pull all those things together you’re involved in several different aspects of it whether the trust, or however you’re managing it, in health and forest and education? They are all contributing to the same bigger picture?


Pita: They’re all contributing to the same aspiration, which is about self-reliance. I think key to that is education. I think that as much as you and I are both having a cup of tea, that’s an English Breakfast and it’s a manifestation of colonisation. That we have been well and truly colonised, and it’s what our ancestor Kawiti said in 1846 about being assimilated. I guess we … when I say education above all things, you can have skills like technological skills but we need to liberate our minds from our colonial past. At the same time, and this may sound very, very selfish, but just like any culture we want to take the best of what’s on offer while retaining all of the strengths that we have as a unique people.


Sam: What do you see as the future for this area? You haven’t mentioned tourism.  What’s the role of that in this area?


Pita: All of the economic areas that we have some strong resources, land, people, skills, the beauty of the Bay of Islands, all of those are attributes that would be foolish not to harness.  Tourism is one of those areas. I talk to people who administer the mini-cruise ships that are now coming into the Bay of Islands. If I put it this way in the 1820s and 30s, the Bay of Islands was full of ships that came in for wailing and what have you. When the sailors came to the Bay of Islands after several months at sea they wanted certain things. Our local chiefs used to provide them with all of the things that a sailor might want.


That’s no different in 2016 when large cruise ships with anything between 2,000 and 5,000 passengers come in. They’re all wanting something different and Ngāti Hine needs to pull its shoulder to the wheel to help provide opportunities for tourists to come inland and also make use of the money that they have in their wallets. Just like anything else we’re looking for prosperity in a number of ways and tourism is one of them.


Sam: We’re in Kawakawa, which is famous for two things:  Hundertwasser toilets and a train line down the middle of the road.  Maybe that’s why it’s so famous with my family.


Pita: What’s probably not known very much is we have the final Pā which is the defensive fort.  Ruapekapeka … the battle of Ruapekapeka 1845/46 it’s a place that people get a chill running up their spine when they go there because although the palisades, defences have been taken down, the ditches and the defensive ramparts are all still there and the  stories are still there. You’ve got the Waiomio caves. You’ve got a whole lot of marae. You can go anywhere in the world but the only place that you’re going to meet Māori, feel their customs and see their customs and experience those things are in places like Ngāti Hine.


Sam: What would you do for the money? Would you mine?


Pita: Mine minerals?


Sam: Yeah.


Pita: Depending we always look at things on a case by case basis. If there is any possibility of it being detrimental to the environment then the answer would be no. If they could be extracted in a way that’s safe for all concerned and we’ve got proof for that, yeah we’d consider it.


Sam: With any of those economic activities, there is a balance. The forestry will be having an impact on the water quality. It’s almost impossible to avoid. Do you have a world view about how those things are managed, those tensions are managed?


Pita: Certainly from a Ngāti Hine forestry trust I am the chairman. Our people as shareholders make it very, very clear that they’re not happy with the Pinus radiata  we have over our lands. We’ve therefore come up with a strategy of what we call a mosaic approach. We will return the land to its natural cover, natural vegetation, but there’ll be an intergenerational approach but we need to start now. We’re looking at manuka as a way of retaining some cash flow. We’re forced to re-plant pine again in some areas. In the mosaic approach means we’ll look at native trees allowing to regenerate on some blocks.


Actually planting some ourselves to ensure that we’re starting the mosaic approach. Eventually we don’t want to have Pinus radiata out there on our lands. Although I think we need a lot more science around the environmental questions that are posed. Much of it is perception. We need the science.


Sam: You’re encouraging people to go off to university to get science?


Pita: Yeah, certainly. We’re really, really keen to get our people involved in all aspects of the work that we’re doing. We haven’t got … We’re probably a little bit better off. I’m not being arrogant about this. We’re probably a little bit better off than some of the other Hapū and Iwi tribes in Northland, but still we’re nowhere near the capacity and capability. We need to achieve the vision in a quick way.


Sam: Still quite a lot of those logs getting shipped off to Korea or wherever it is.


Pita: Yeah. We’re not pleased with it which is why our forestry trust is providing some leadership for all similar sized trusts in Northland to come together because we know that critical mass is needed if we’re going to control the value chain. That’s what it’s all about really in the end. One thing is to understand the value chain because for far too long people like me have been passive managers of their own land. All of our block had been leased out to a foreign company. They had the stumpage rights so eventually although we got an annual lease, they took the logs, and had control over the logs. The majority of them would have been sent overseas.


Some would have supplied the domestic mills, which give our local people jobs. In the end we want greater value add. We haven’t got the capital to provide the startup for any value added mills. We just need to get into a position where we can collectively, and so far we’ve got over 50,000 hectares of trusts and other entities who have created a coalition on Northland of mighty land owners. We can now say to potential investors, “We can supply you with certainty over a long period because we have 50,000 hectares plus of Pinus radiata. If you’re willing to invest, we will enter into some partnership to ensure that everyone benefits, including our local communities,” because we don’t want to continually see logs being shipped off overseas and then returned as a table that you and I are now sitting around.


Sam: Not just paper mills, you’re trying to build the furniture?


Pita: Aye too, but boutique industries where small towns and communities can work together with a collective strategy.


Sam: You’re about to lose your railway?


Pita: By all accounts.


Sam: Not the steam one, the real one.


Pita: Yeah. They call it mothballing which is the same thing. The moment you mothball something it will deteriorate. We need a government that is going to invest in our local community and our region. I think they are but for political reasons that anything else.


Sam: As far as that is the … back to the geography in both of us being able to see the whole system as a system and as separate bits. Is probably what leads to things like closing railways because the railway is not paying for itself but we’re having to invest so much money on the road. Those two things don’t ever get on the same bit of paper.


Pita: I think there’s a bit of siloed thinking. One thing that I can commend the government for is that I think they bring a more holistic strategy to their approach. Different ministries and agencies within the government are really only interested in their own imperatives and the KPIs that each of the CEOs have on their contracts. That forces them to think in isolated ways.


Sam: I’m told you have grandchildren. When they have grandchildren how do you want them to be living how do you see them living?


Pita: It’s like when I said to you when we first started this interview, do you want me to speak in English? I want them to be able to speak in English because it’s a fantastic global language but I also want them to speak to their Māori or te reo Ngāti Hine. I want them to … I suppose I’m trying to articulate what our mission is all about which is to allow them to be strong Ngāti Hine people based on their own language and culture.  Stand anywhere in the world with all the other skills that they need to do that as well. I want them to be proud of who they are because I think in general subliminally that our people are … think of themselves as second class citizens. We’re slowly but truly breaking out of that mould.


Sam: For not knowing their background detail, I don’t think that anybody I’ve spoken to in the last couple of days is not proud of who they are. Maybe you think something different because you’re closer to it. You’ve seen behind the curtain.


Pita: I know quite a few Māori and Ngāti Hine who are not proud of who they are. I’m not necessarily talking as though, how can I say this? When I say that within themselves, they put themselves down because they see themselves as a second … that being Māori is not right so they purposely suppress themselves without even knowing it. Maybe subliminally there’s something in their makeup that’s telling them that they’re not up there and that anybody with white skin is. I go even further to say that many of the institutions that run this country and provide education, health and every other services institutionally racist towards Māori as well.


Sam: In expectation?


Pita: In expectation and in practice. I can give countless examples. All other things are changing for the good. There was a time not only women did not have the vote but Māori didn’t have the vote. That tells you what people were thinking of Māori and women. Things have obviously changed over time. There was also a time not long ago when Māori were led into more hands on subjects, practical things. They couldn’t do math and science. They had to go and do wood-turning and things like that. Although much has changed in our education system, there are still those subliminal aspects. You can hear it in people’s everyday language.


They say, “Oh I’ve got a lot of Māori in our harvesting group because they’re good at that work,” which tells you they are better for holding a chainsaw than being the manager.


Sam: Is there a short term effect for that or do we have to … is that long term? Is that getting the kids when they’re young believing that they can do it and taking them right through that chain? Can we be the ambulance of the ultimate cliff or do we have to …


Pita: Oh no the whole system needs change. When you look at it, our education system was brought over from where you come from, from England. Its very core is to retain power and authority in a certain class. Even in England the lower classes were suppressed and weren’t offered an education that would bring them up into and have abilities like the upper class would have. The system we have in New Zealand is still a carryover from that. Even though we’ve slowly but truly tried to change it.


Sam: You are changing it with things like the education trust?


Pita: Yes. Certainly. It’s why our grandchildren go to Kura Kaupapa where everything they’re taught is taught in Te Reo Māori. That’s really trying to break them out of the mould and unshackle them from colonial thinking.


Sam: This show is called “sustainable lens”. I don’t hear the term sustainable much around here and our mutual friend Philip Crawford describes that as because it’s more a way of living than a thing you do. You don’t do it anyway then green it. This is the way of being. What’s your take on sustainability and what you’re trying to achieve?


Pita: I think that sustainability is a term that’s thrown around a lot but understood. People don’t actually stop to think what it means, myself being one of those. I think it’s really akin to the word that I use that’s central to our vision statement which is self-reliance. We just need to sustain ourselves as people through the future. What that means is that as individuals, as families, as Māori, in our cultural sectors and as a tribe, we need to be able to rely on ourselves for food, and every other aspect that will ensure that we have well-being, that we’re healthy and that we have prosperity. I guess that manifests itself at the moment.


We would have the highest… some of the highest percentages or numbers of people that reliant to live everyday through benefits from the government. That’s really what we don’t want. Having real jobs, warm, safe, secure homes, really at the basis of sustaining ourselves, growing our own food to ensure that we are reliant on ourselves.


Sam: If and when you get a treaty settlement, if or when, how are you going to stop the calls for a big party? The ones that are for handing out cash? Because it sounds to me like you’re going to be wanting to invest in jobs and homes.


Pita: Yeah. The answer to your question will be when not if.  When it does come, we want to ensure that it’s being controlled by the people in each of the areas so that I’m not a great believer in the trickle-down theory.  While on one hand we need to keep some critical mass of funds that can be managed for the greater good. There really has to be some injection of real funds into the communities without breaking down the critical mass. It’s a fine balance between keeping generic pull to invest and distributing it amongst the people to get immediate change. Provide some impetus in the communities.


That’s going to be the trick as far as I’m concerned. I’m very, very conscious of the fact that treaty settlements are not the vision. There are already a number of initiatives that are happening in terms of economic and social improvement like Māori first re-collective like Te Matarau Education Trust that Phil Alexander Crawford is involved in.   We come in to give on a regional basis. To get our heads around the problems but more importantly to put in place the solutions of which the treaty settlement is all about.  If you can get millions of dollars them I would like it to be 1% of the general loss of land and other assets over the last couple of hundred years.


While that is always hugely frustrating, we need to use any cash settlement in any other part of the general settlement like the return of lands for the benefit of our people.


Sam: What’s the biggest success you’ve had in the last couple of years?


Pita: It’s a very good question. If you were … If I was to think of something tangible, it would be the sale of our forest within our general forests where we made a stumpage sale to foreign firm, foreign company. They paid cash up front, put it in the bank account. That’s something you can see easily its really tangible. There’s money in the bank. Our ancestors had grown trees for that very purpose and we managed it carefully. On another more general way I think it’s the ability of our people here in Ngāti Hine to come together on a regular basis and celebrate who we are because it’s the relationships that are more important and to celebrate success.


We hold festivals where our people come back from wherever they may live in the world mostly from Auckland. We celebrate who we are on our local marae. It’s over a couple of days and it’s just fantastic to see people on the stage and the food it’s cooked and everything else that are part of festivals. The people rejoice in who they are.  In a more intangible way there are some real success stories like that. In another couple of months for instance we’ve invited all of our people and their literally could be hundreds who kayak down our local river from the three bridges north of this town down to the Opua Wharf.


It’s a 13k trip and we start the river will be hopefully wide enough to fit a kayak. What was once our state highway number one we went … we plied the river now there’s nobody who knows the river. By getting down in a kayak, we can see some of the environmental issues that we’re faced with. Spiritually we are very much part of the river and the river is very much part of us.  In terms of successes you can measure them in ways like that. Other things, I’m the chairman at our Motatau Marae. It took us five years to rebuild our dining room, kitchen, ablution block. It was a huge community to gather together I would say three million dollars fund raising and acquiring grounds.


In the end it’s a magnificent building. It serves our people well. More importantly the journey of collecting the money and building was absolutely fantastic.


Sam: That’s similar to that ‘rejoicing in who they are’ stuff, isn’t it?


Pita: It always is. That’s the best stuff. The money you can go and get that and put it in the bank and use it wisely but it’s the people relationships that are more important. It always comes down to the fact that we like to express ourselves as a people in our own unique ways.


Sam: We’re writing a book of these conversations. We’re calling it Tomorrow’s Heroes as if we’re writing it 20 years in the future looking back at the work that people are doing now, people such as yourself and whether or not you want to put yourself on that pedal stall and describe yourself as a hero, I’ll do that for you. What is your super power? What is it you’re bringing to this good fight?


Pita: Nothing special at all that I bring. Probably the only thing that I bring is perseverance. I have no real skills but I’ll always keep my shoulder to the wheel. It gets really challenging at times. Putting your head above the parapets means a lot of people want to have a go at you. Those people are in the minority. The majority of people I think appreciate the work that we’re all doing. I’m very much a people person. I’m part of a team.


Sam: Do describe yourself as an activist?


Pita: In my own funny little way. I’m not and out activist but I like to say things absolutely plainly. I like to be forthright so people don’t misunderstand me.


Sam: What motivates you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?


Pita: Both my past and my future. As I said we have a legacy of a number of people. My parents for a start, grandparents, our rangitira Kawiti and Sir James Henare and Tau Henare, you could name quite a few people. In the end it’s all of them together who have left messages for us to pursue a goal of self-reliance. I just want to be part of that journey and to provide any leadership that I can. At the same time it’s going to be lovely to have our grandchildren living nearby so I pretty much see them every day. If I can take them to the kura to their school every morning, that’s a bonus. The conversations I have with them and the values that I try to install in them is a real motivation in itself.


Sam: Is that in terms of motivation in terms pure in the goal of self-reliance is it? What’s the driver there? Is that an obligation?


Pita: It really is an obligation. One of the sayings of Sir James Henare who was my dad’s first cousin who said “ma to werawera o tou rae te mahi o to iwi ka tu tangata ai koe” which means by the sweat of your brow and working for your people will you find … only then you will find fulfilment. You will not find it in cash; you will not find it anywhere else. You will find it in working for your people.


Sam: You have to stick your head above the parapet as you said to achieve that.


Pita: Yeah, somebody has to. There’s a lot of reluctance by some to do that. They don’t want to be in that world but I realise that I have to amongst a number of others.


Sam: What challenges are you looking forward to in the next couple of years?


Pita: I’m looking forward to our tribe Ngāti Hine withdrawing from Te Rūnanga-Ā-Iwi O Ngāpuhi. That’s provided for in legislation. We’re working through that we’re down to the last parts of the complaints which will allow Ngāti Hine to govern itself without any interference. Also to bring about a treaty settlement that’s a fair as possible because it’s never going to be fair. That’s got a whole lot of challenges in itself. About all things it’s about my own family. You can’t really look anywhere else and think you’re going to play a part if you can’t get your own house in order particularly around the grand children and making sure that they’re able to be raised in an environment that’s safe and secure.


Sam: How close have you managed to pull off the community-land-people connection that you had growing up for your family? Have you tried?


Pita: Yeah to a certain extent. I look back and I think I’ve got a few regrets in how we raised our own children. You get a second chance when your grandchildren are around. Most people try to learn from your mistakes. There was a lifestyle in my 20s and 30s that was pursuing other things. Seeing that I’m absolutely proud of our children and that they are great people doing really well.


Sam: They’ve got the same passion?


Pita: At this stage of life yes. Some of these things grow on you. I was on a totally different drive when I was a 20 and a 30 year old. As some of the leaders in our own small communities start to pass away and you start looking around and you realise that you really have to step up and fill the bridge. It grows on you. Like many of my relatives they say “wow learning about our genealogy is a fantastic thing. Now I know what our parents were trying to tell us”.


Sam: If you could wave a magic wand and have a miracle occur when you wake up tomorrow morning, what would you like it to be?


Pita: It’s really to achieve the vision that our people in this area and I’m not just talking about Ngāti Hine, I’m talking about the surrounding tribes. The aspect that our ancestors were trying to achieve. I would like New Zealand to be a bilingual country. That you and I could speak Māori, speak te reo Māori as competently as we’re now speaking English. All of us like it’s just a normal way of life. That we’re not having to fight to have Māori as a way of living. I just think that little New Zealand doesn’t see that. What I see is a thing that we should be aspiring to. Certainly our politicians don’t either because they reflect middle New Zealand.


In a wider sense I want New Zealand to be a bi-cultural country. I mean bi-cultural not multi-cultural.


Sam: What’s the smallest thing that we could do that would make the biggest difference towards that?


Pita: For me it’s working with my own family getting my own house in order.


Sam: One question to end with then, do you have any advice for our listeners?


Pita: These really needs a lot more thought… I think that we’re all seeking to be a global community and to be truly global we need to both cultivate, strengthen and enhance the small villages that we have throughout the world. To retain that uniqueness and unity through diversity as a key. That’s what I believe in – as long as we can accept and understand the differences just looking what’s happening in other parts of the word that divergence of culture is leading to a lot of loss of life and some real anxieties in some parts of the world and we’re not … we’ve got obviously anxieties and challenges in our own community but be contrast we know some of the other things that are happening in other parts of the world.


Sam: Thank you very much for spending some time!


Pita: It’s my privilege. It’s really important that I reflect on some of the things that have happened in my life because I never get asked questions like these.


Sam: More than happy to oblige. You’ve been listening to Sustainable Lens: Resilience on Radio. A weekly show on sustainability topics brought to you by Otago Polytechnic. The show is co-hosted by Shane Gallagher and me Samuel Mann. We are broadcast on Otago Access Radio and podcast on On we’re building an archive of conversations with people from many different fields who are applying their skills to a sustainable future. In our conversations we try to find out what motivates them and what it means to see the world through a sustainable perspective through their sustainable lens.


Tonight’s Sustainable Lens, he might not describe it that way, but let’s do that anyway was that of Pita Tipene from NgaÌ„ti Hine. You can follow our links on to find us on Facebook, to keep in touch and you can listen to Sustainable Lens on all poddy places as well. That was Sustainable Lens. I’m Samuel Mann. I hope you’ve enjoyed the show.




communication community computing education maori

Virtual marae

Dee O'Carroll

It’s cold pressing your nose against the screen

Dr Acushla Dee O’Carroll  (Ngaruahine Rangi, Ngāti Ruanui, Te Ä€ti Awa) is a Senior Research Officer at AUT University.  She recently completed her PhD Kanohi ki te kanohi – a thing of the past? An examination of Māori use of social networking sites and the implications for Māori culture and society.  Dr O’Carroll’s research explores the tensions that Māori face as they negotiate virtual spaces and navigate new territories of social networks, highlighting the pressures on kanohi ki te kanohi practice (face to face). We ask if there can really be a virtual marae?  and what are the implications of this on tuakiritanga (cultural identity) and tikanga (customary practices).  What impacts are facebook and twitter having on indigenous ways of communicating? and should marae develop social media policies?

Dee was at Otago Polytechnic as part of the Ako Aoteroa funded National Project in Learners and mobile devices (#NPF14LMD): A framework for enhanced learning and institutional change.



education maori

Living and learning as the environment

David McKay

Sustainability is a way of thinking and a way of being. It’s a way of embodiment, it has nothing to do with study, it has nothing to do with opinion, it has to be with way that you be, that you are.

David McKay is a researcher at University of Otago’s CSAFE. His recently completed PhD thesis considers the relationships between Māori cultural perspectives and environmental education policy or practice.

Talking points

As a science and technology based society we tend to assume that technology can solve everything and tend to overlook that we are a biological species and part of the environment rather than separate to it

We tend to overlook the gap between cause and effect in nature that tends to be from twenty and fifty years. So If I do something I won’t know the consequences for about 50 years, in management we tend to manage for about five years…

Fifty year management plans start to acknowledge the ecological gap

(David Orr) teachers need to be specialised generalists

Our problems started when we began to think we were bigger than nature, we got too big for our boots.

The environment doesn’t have a crisis, humans have a crisis.

It’s a bit like a learner surfer – a grommet – out in the big surf and not noticed that all the experienced surfers have gone in before the waves start dumping , in our society we’ve got an invisible wave building, we don’t know how big it is going to be, we don’t know when it is going to crash,but there’s nothing surer than it’s going to crash – there’s going to be consequences for the history that we have, its just a matter of whether we survive or not. That’s why I’m interested in resilience.

We used to have worms on the footpaths after rains, that doesn’t happen any more, but no one is literate enough of the environment to stop and wonder why. That’s an indicator, worms are in soils that are healthy, if there are no worms than our soils aren’t healthy – we manicure everything, nuke our gardens lawns and parks to control what we call pests…the trouble is they’re not discriminate, they kill the pests they kill the worms… and if the chemicals we put in the garden are doing in the worms in the garden it’s doing in you as well.

No one wants to hear what really needs to be said and done because it’s telling that naughty kid that they can’t play with the stick anymore. Same consequences, just more serious than breaking windows – we’re talking about survival and continuance here. We break this environment, evolution is going to carry on with or without us, what we’re playing with is whether we are going to be a part of that or not.

When the consequences are there, it’s too late. 20-50 years of damage and symptoms building up, it’s going to take at least that to undo it.

Environmental Education, Education for Sustainability, it doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s common sense

What does make sense is learning for survival and continuance with integrity

Understandings of environmental education amongst practitioners

There’s nothing in the (environmental education) literature that anything like matches up with the “old ways”.

People interpret the curriculum in a western point of view rather than a holistic view

Could we come up with a multi-cultural paradigm?

For many people the environment is something magical, out there, away from where we are. This totally overlooks that not only are we – you and me – in the environment right now, we are the environment.

Engagement and connection is what’s missing.

We haven’t lost the connection…we’ve forgotten it. We just forgotten that we are part of all that is. we haven’t lost anything, we’re not disconnected, we’ve forgotten what we are.

We are inextricably interconnected, interrelated and interdependent on all that is.

We lose sight of this simplicity – and that’s what we need to rediscover.

Elders tend to speak less, but more cryptically. When they do speak it’s a good idea to listen.

It is part of multi-culture that it is cryptic, there are levels of understanding of the same message. Education is about readiness, if you are up to getting the message then so be it, if you’re not then nothing is wasted.

A taonga said to me “you pakeha fellas, You measure the readiness of our young people by them giving the right answer – what the system wants – we measure readiness by our young people by them asking the right questions, and that is a different thing entirely”.

A very important to learning in traditional Māori ways is critical thinking and individual identity, and having the mana and self confidence to be yourself, and stand to your rights and ask those questions and if it doesn’t match up, to disagree.

Living and learning as the environment or as part of, rather than in the environment, about the environment or even for the environment.

People coming from cooperative societies (the marae)… walking with feet very firmly in both worlds, and that’s something awesome.

In many cultural worlds time has no meaning…but timing is everything.

(David interviewees were) aghast at the thought that anyone could think the other way – how could you not understand that you are related to everything – we are all stardust.

Learning is about actualising the potential of being the best of the best of who you can be, and because it is about being the best of who you can be, and we can never be the same, we can never be taught the same things. In a crisis we all know something a bit different, we all know each others’ strengths and we can all work together very strongly…makes a very strong and resilient community.


  • Whakapapa, more than genealogy – it’s about learning about relationships/li>
  • Self identity
  • Survival skills
  • Community cohesion
  • Transferal and continuance
  • Everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner. Learning is a life journey

    I don’t agree that you have to go to pristine areas – ‘the hills are alive with sound of music’ – no, it’s about understanding that we are biological beings and part of ecology. Pure and simple, if you don’t get that then there is no such thing as sustainability.

    We’re learning for well being, and if you’re well then you can be resilient, a little bit of flexibility and adaptability, and then you can survive, and then you can continue.

    It’s like the car accident mentality – it can’t possibly happen to me”, well it is happening, except it’s not an accident, we are causing the disaster.

    Activist? Not really. Educator. I have a reputation for saying what needs to be said, and not necessarily politely. But frankly we haven’t got time to be polite.

    Challenges: Help shift the paradigm.

    Advice: Get out on streets rather than facebook.


    David Orr
    Educating as if the earth matters

    Soil erosion rate is about 10 times faster than the rest of the world (PCE report)

    Matauranga taio:
    Guidelines for Environmental Education in NZ

    education maori

    Dr Khyla Russell

    Khyla Russell

    Dr Khyla Russell is Kaitohutohu to Te Kura Matatini ki Otago – Otago Polytechnic. In this interview she talks about her role, and the partnership between the institution and the Ara-i-Te-uru Papatipu Runaka. In the second part of the interview she describes her research into Kai Tahu perceptions of the landscape. What are the sustainability implications of an awareness that “we whakapapa to the landscape”?

    Shane’s number of the week: 183 Billion. That’s the 183 Billion US dollars estimated to adapt Africa’s roads to climate change. Shane describes several reports that clearly show the impact of climate change – this cost far outweighs what it would take to work to avoid climate change.