Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 25 May 2016

Understanding and cooperation

Most Northlanders would have trouble finding Matawaia on a map, let alone have any reason to go there. The tiny settlement is a dot in the vast hill country between State Highway 1 and Mangakahia Road and is more likely to be glimpsed from an aeroplane than seen close up. But for Ngati Hine, Matawaia and nearby Motatau are strongholds in a rohe that covers a large area of Northland. And while many of these communities might feel hidden and forgotten, these are not words you would use to describe Ngati Hine.

It has produced notable leaders - the most famous being Sir James Clendon Tau Henare - built successful forestry and horticulture businesses, been a trailblazer in environmentally-friendly building design and exported a wealth of artistic talent to the world including Hollywood actress Rena Owen and international opera singer Kawiti Waetford. Quite simply,

Ngati Hine has become a major player in our District and a force to be reckoned with - even in the kitchen. The husband and wife duo who won Maori Television's recent cooking series Marae Kai Masters were Anthony and Kathy Dunn from Matawaia Marae. So, it was a privilege and an honour to make the long journey out to Matawaia Marae earlier this month to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Te Runanga o Ngati Hine.

This historic document outlines our willingness to cooperate with each other at a strategic level and commits us to meeting at least four times a year and to developing a work programme that supports shared strategic objectives. It also makes provisions for Ngati Hine to contribute to Council policy-making and to advise Council on matters affecting its rohe.

The agreement marks a new era of cooperation with Ngati Hine and is another milestone for the Council's relations with Maori. We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Te Runanga o Te Rarawa last year and plan to enter into similar agreements with other willing iwi/hapu in the next three years as part of a wider programme of work aimed at improving the way we engage with communities.

Of course, agreements are just words on paper if there isn't a genuine commitment to making the relationship work. There also needs to be trust, respect and a willingness to listen and understand. I want to reassure Ngati Hine and the wider community that there is that commitment.

We have been demonstrating this in communities across the Far North for the last three years and are already seeing the benefits of this approach. This is progress we can celebrate; not just as a district, but as a nation. Here's to understanding and cooperation. Mauri ora!


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