Response to the NZ Labour Party’s discussion paper The Future of Work: the Māori economy

Posted By TEU on Jan 27, 2016 |

The Tertiary Education Union Te Hautū Kahurangi o Aotearoa welcomes this opportunity to respond to the New Zealand Labour Party’s three discussion papers regarding Māori economy prepared for the Future of Work project.

TEU is the largest union and professional association representing academic and general staff in the tertiary education sector (in universities, institutes of technology/polytechnics, wānanga, private training establishments, and REAPs). As an organisation, TEU works to implement Te Tiriti o Waitangi in our policies and practices, through our organisational structure, day-to-day activities and governance model. Māori represent 9 percent of the total TEU membership. They work in a range of teaching, learning, research and support roles across the sector, and many are closely involved with iwi and hapū development, Māori urban authorities and other Māori organisations. Many of our Pākēhā members are also deeply committed to working with Māori students, other staff, organisation and iwi and hapū in their daily work. It is from this knowledge base, expertise and commitment that we comment on the three discussion papers provided for the Future of Work project.

General comments about the three discussion papers

The three discussion papers provided for the Future of Work project (impacts on educational achievement and economic prosperity in South Auckland, how global trends and shifts are likely to impact on the Māori economy, and a case study of Waikato-Tainui educational and economic aspirations post-settlement) each raise important issues or challenges that need to be addressed if all Māori whānau, hapū and iwi are going to have the means to fully participate in our future society and economy – from the far north to the deep south.

In general, the issues and challenges raised are not new, although the writers do clearly articulate the interconnectedness of these and the responsibilities of both Tiriti partners in addressing them. What is clear from the three papers and the many preceding reports, reviews, strategies and policies directed at whānau Māori, hapū and iwi is that Māori must be able to exercise tino rangatiratanga, shaping and leading strategies, and as appropriate working with government and others.

What are the opportunities for the Māori economy?

The three discussion papers identify many of the opportunities that exist for the Māori economy, including a young demographic, a diverse post-settlement asset base (for some), and the potential of collectively owned lands (especially with regard to climate credits).

We also believe the Māori economy has the opportunity to be at the forefront of sustainable outcomes – for our environment and for people, because many of the economic decisions made have a much broader ambit than profit (as Chris Karamea points out). When concepts of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga are central to the decisions that are made about asset development, management and disbursement, then the chances of creating opportunity for whānau and of protecting land, water and air are much greater.

What are the challenges for Māori with regard to the future of work?

  • Claims processes (which consume a great deal of resources and time) or post-settlement issues including managing asset bases or a lack of assets
  • Narrow asset base (for some) which leaves iwi/hapū vulnerable to the vagaries of global markets. Some iwi/hapū are asset rich and cash poor, which makes developing their asset base to provide opportunities for whānau Māori a difficult task
  • Leadership in governance and management – including aligning the principles of manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga and other tikanga and kawa to employment practices, environmental sustainability and so forth
  • Intergenerational poverty and inequality (between Māori and others, and within Māoridom). This includes disparities of income and opportunity between rural and urban Māori, exacerbated by a lack of synergy in many cases between local and central government
  • Low skills and low levels of education for a disproportionate number of individuals and whānau Māori, compounded by tertiary education policies that have limited access for specific groups (or that mean significant debt), and the need for better alignment between tertiary education providers to ensure ease of ‘staircasing’ for qualification pathways
  • Lack of connection to iwi/hapū and vice versa. This disengagement means skills and knowledge that may be beneficial to iwi/hapū/whānau Māori may not be able to be utilised, particularly when individuals leave New Zealand. As well disengagement weakens the foundations of iwi/hapū today and for future generations

What policy solutions should the Labour Party investigate?

At the centre of all policy development should be the understanding that iwi never ceded authority (tino rangatiratanga) to the Crown.[1] Accepting and understanding this will lead to a different policy development process and more importantly, a different implementation process, should the Labour Party form the next government.

This policy development and implementation process needs to inform all the sectors of influence and engagement the Crown works within; it requires a shift in thinking and action and processes leading to genuine sharing of power and privilege (co-governance and co-management). It is not an easy task, but is a crucial change if we are to address deep-rooted inequities amongst Māori and the many others who are struggling in our increasingly individualised, market-driven society.

Iwi/hapū Māori are faced with challenges with such a shift also. Dr Sara-Jane Tiakiwai and Chris Karamea allude to this in their respective papers – the quality of leadership in management and governance; the tension between pure economic returns and kaitiakitanga of people and the environment; inequity within Māoridom and the difficulty of ensuring that wealth generation reaches those most in need (who may often be dislocated from their iwi). However as Dr Tiakiwai notes in her paper the long history of struggle before claims settlement means that benefits may take time to accrue, and the kind of positive outcomes iwi/hapū are seeking may be some way down the track. This is one of the reasons (other than the Crown’s clear responsibilities under Te Tiriti o Waitangi) why the continued involvement and resources of government are needed. The dire situation many Māori live in day-to-day is a direct result of successive government policies and actions for which they have a responsibility to redress.

As we noted above, this action must take place in the context of the Waitangi Tribunal decision regarding non-ceding of tino rangatiratanga – that is a genuine partnership relationship, portrayed by robust co-governance and co-management models and practices. We firmly believe that if the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi are truly integrated into how we govern this country, then all of the other principles we (as a union and as citizens) hold dear will also be firmly entrenched.

We must note our concern about public-private partnerships in education as proposed by Bernadine Vester. Our concern obviously is not with iwi/hapū or Māori organisations working with public education providers, but rather private companies having such a role. There is much research and literature that critiques such partnerships in education, and of course we have the example of Serco in the justice sector (and the charter school model). We implore the Labour Party to carefully examine the pitfalls of this model and to instead focus attention on how the public education sector can more meaningfully engage with iwi/hapū, Māori organisations and whānau Māori in a genuine partnership relationship.

However Bernadine Vester’s paper does raise the important point that the ‘linguistic and cultural diversity of Auckland needs to be better acknowledged in the leadership and staffing of schools’. We would of course extend this to all schools, regardless of their demographic profile, as all who live in this country need to understand it’s social, historical and cultural foundations.

In terms of specific policy solutions, we would summarise priorities as follows:

  1. Policy development and implementation based on an agreed Tiriti partnership relationship between iwi/hapū and the Crown
  1. Agreement on overarching sustainability priorities, recognising that the destruction of water, land and air means the destruction of humans and all other species
  1. Inequality (rather than child poverty which inadequately addresses widening income inequality) with specific focus being given to taxation and distribution of wealth and income
  1. Housing including working with iwi/hapū to develop affordable housing options
  1. Health including strengthening and supporting Whānau Ora models, with the end goal being widespread implementation by Māori for Māori, with a particular focus on isolated communities
  1. Education including tertiary education with a specific focus on engaging with whānau Māori, aligning compulsory education, higher education and vocational education with iwi/hapū development and advancement needs and aspirations and forming strategic relationships with iwi and hapū with clear understandings of respective responsibilities
  1. Better alignment of Māori research and innovation funding to iwi/hapū aspirations (as noted in Sarah-Jane Tiakiwai’s paper) – in particular models of decision-making that move beyond ‘Māori responsiveness’ to co-governance as the means for making decisions about funding allocations.


  1. The recent Waitangi Tribunal decision He Whakaputanga me Te Tiriti states that “The rangatira who signed Te Tiriti did not cede their sovereignty. That is, they did not cede their authority to make and enforce law over their people or their territories. Rather, they agreed to share power and authority with the Governor. They agreed to a relationship: one in which they and Hobson were to be equal – equal while having different roles and different spheres of influence”.
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