Tuesday, 22 October 2013

A Difficult Transition: Maori Abandon Enchanment For Transparency

Driving The Transition: The large iwi-based corporations - epitomised by Ngai Tahu's impressive corporate structure, headed by Mark Solomon (above) are driving the transition from tribal traditionalism to the rational bureaucratic norms of secular society. The journey was difficult and uncomfortable for the Pakeha's ancestors, it will be no less so for Maori.

IF WINSTON PETERS did not exist, Pakeha New Zealand would have to invent him. Very few politicians are willing to risk the opprobrium which inevitably accompanies serious criticism of things Maori. But as a Maori himself, Mr Peters enjoys a sort of immunity from “sickly white liberal” prosecution. It’s as well that he does. Otherwise, holding Maori individuals and institutions to account for the expenditure of public funds would be even more difficult than it is.
 
And Mr Peters willingness to point the finger at his own people’s shortcomings would appear to be catching. Over the past month we have witnessed two important examples of Maori journalists exposing what they claim to be serious problems with the management of significant amounts of public money by Maori trusts.
 
The first of these expos├ęs involved accusations of mismanagement against senior figures within the Kohanga Reo movement. It was Maori Television’s Annabelle-Lee Harris and Mihingarangi Forbes who broke the story. In an item entitled “Feathering the Nest”, the Native Affairs programme drew attention to unusual patterns of credit card expenditure and a number of large unreceipted donations.
 
Considerable effort was devoted to thwarting the Native Affairs investigation – not least an unsuccessful attempt to secure a court injunction against the programme’s broadcast.
 
As a result of Native Affairs courageous journalism, the Ministers of Education and Maori Affairs have jointly demanded a full investigation of the alleged irregularities.
 
The second example involved what might be called a “whistle-blowing” broadcast alleging  serious instances of mismanagement at Tokoroa’s Maori radio station Raukawa FM. In an extraordinary sequence of events, the station manager, Rosina Hauiti, last month took to the airwaves with a long list of allegations against the station’s trustees. When the latter attempted to evict her from the building, Ms Hauiti barricaded herself against all-comers.
 
Though charges and counter-charges continue to fly, Ms Hauiti’s broadcast, like Ms Forbes, has produced the desired outcome – an official intervention. Te Mangai Paho, the station’s principal funder (to the tune of $384,100 per annum) has asked the accounting firm, Deloitte, to investigate Ms Hauiti’s allegations as part of their scheduled review of the trust board’s activities.
 
Speaking at the NZ First Party’s annual conference in Christchurch on Saturday, 19 October, the NZ First leader recalled the late 1980s and early 90s when many businesses engaged in “the greatest deceit” until dragged into line by improved systems of accountability.
 
Mr Peters said Maoridom had called for transparency in the past, but now fended off legitimate investigation with accusations of “Maori bashing”.
 
He claimed that: “Certain ones have gone back to that behaviour, where to challenge them was to challenge their mana, their breeding, any concocted excuse to get out of their responsibility to their own people and the taxpayer. It means that honest Maori, who are the great bulk of Maori, are imaged in the worst possible light, and it cheats them of a certain future.”
 
This newfound willingness to hold itself to account signals that a profound sociological shift is underway in Maoridom. Max Weber, the nineteenth century “father” of modern sociology, would have immediately recognised the processes at work.
 
As Maori capitalism develops (most obviously in the form of the large iwi-based corporation) it is producing scores of tertiary-educated, highly-skilled young graduates. Increasingly, these young Maori professionals are unwilling to tolerate either the business inefficiencies generated by traditional practices, or the injustices so often associated with charismatic leadership. They are past making excuses for, or (even worse) covering up the behaviour of those who will not budge from the old ways.
 
Weber, himself, described the process as a progression from the pre-modern to the modern: “The fate of our times is characterised by rationalisation and intellectualisation and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world’.”
 
The Maori Party’s co-leader, Tariana Turia, is emblematic of Maori who still dwell in the “enchanted” realms of Maoridom. Early on in her political career she spoke openly about having a constant invisible companion: a spirit guardian who protected her from harm and guided her through important decisions.
 
Suffice to say this is not the sort of leadership-style, or decision-making process, the big iwi corporates’ young professionals are being taught at the Auckland Business School. Nor are they encouraged to regard the keeping of accurate records and being able to account for all items of expenditure as responsibilities fit only for lesser breeds. When dealing with shareholders – or taxpayers – neither inherited rank nor charismatic power is entitled to a free pass.
 
The transition from tribal traditionalism to the rational bureaucratic norms of secular society has largely been accomplished in the nations from which Pakeha New Zealand's forebears originated. It was not an easy or a comfortable journey. Nor will it be for Maori – as the recent examples cited above attest.
 
Transparency and enchantment do not dwell in the same house.
 
This essay was originally published in The Press of Tuesday, 22 October 2013.

11 comments:

Warren Fabling said...

Chris: Would you explain this thing called '
Maori-dom'? What is it? How does it work? No other tribe will interfere with another's business or internal 'management & or even dare to deign it is a member of this 'so-called' maoridom to which you continually refer?

In our mind it is yet another useless & incoherent construct - developed by whom (?) & for whatever purpose.

If placed within the context of your story the use of this construct 'maoridom' - per se - simply does not fit.

Why? Because you describe & refer to:
'large iwi-based corporations'.

In our view that ain't 'maori-dom' & will never be.

That is Ngai Tahu or Kai Tahu at its best. And its results & progress should be viewed in that light & no other.

I do not understand that you describe Maori 'abandon enchanment (? what is this?).

Sweeping unproven catch-all & stereotypical phrases are also without merit & are not useful or complimentary.

Chris Trotter said...

Perhaps, Warren, but in that case you should take it up with the most common users of the term - Maori themselves.

Adding the suffix "-dom" in English generally denotes the users intention of signifying something larger, more all-embracing and exercising greater authority than a single individual or group - e.g. "Christendom", "officialdom", "serfdom".

In this context, the suffix is added to signify the Maori cultural world; all those for whom the possession Maori ethnicity is a matter of importance; that part of New Zealand society for whom matters Maori matter, and about which they can speak with some authority.

Reference to "large Maori corporations" is not a reference to Ngai Tahu alone, but also to Tainui, and all the other corporate structures which have arisen to manage and invest the financial element of Treaty settlements.

The meaning of "enchantment" is instanced in the text. The word is also contained in the quote from Weber.

Beyond these clarifications, I'm afraid I cannot further aid your comprehension of the posting.

Richard Christie said...

I find this a rather peculiar observation from you:

Early on in her political career she spoke openly about having a constant invisible companion: a spirit guardian who protected her from harm and guided her through important decisions.

How is this practice different to deferring to the Christian God so many people openly profess to have daily conversations with?

Jigsaw said...

A very mild and I would say extremely timid criticism of a lot of pretty awful things that have been going on for a long time. To excuse the misuse of public money with such faint damning is feeble. The large corporate iwi-for that is what they are and their connection with the tribes from which they take their names is tenuous in the extreme. Ngai Tahu have now had five settlements-at least the last three 'full and final'-the ammount that they have had is considerably more than they will admit-what happened to the 10,000 pounds a year they got for more than 30 years? They are now claiming a top-up that was negotiated by Chris Finlayson when he worked for them. It has been estimated that they may in fact recieve an extra $250 million on top of what they already have go in the 1996 settlement. You deal so gently with material like this Chris which I feel you must be aware of-and if you are not aware then you should be! No government of either left of right has really put the full facts before the people of this country.
You avoid mentioning the tensions that exist between tribes which is hardly surprising considering that for the last 40 years all governments have encouraged tribalism-probably the most undemocratic system of all.
I don't understand your use of 'Maoridom' either.

peter petterson said...

Good thought provoking post. There has been a great change in Maori thinking, precipitated by the actions or inactions of the Maori Party.

Anonymous said...

Those who sneer at Maori Treaty settlements always seem to forget that their whole economic base was stripped away by means both fair and foul, mostly foul. And also that they are in fact taking advantage of legal agreements negotiated with the Crown. To sneer at this is to sneer at the basis of our laws. And I guarantee their peculation is no worse than that undertaken by those of lighter skin. Including a dentist of my acquaintance who regularly ripped off ACC. On could ask then, why do all you Colonel Blimps blag on about it in such a po-faced way when you ignore its cousin, White big business tax rip-offs and the like.

Anonymous said...

Many young educated Maori are comfortable in the "enchanted" world and capitalist world. You can demand accountability and still hold "spiritual" views. As a person said above, what's the difference between "spiritual" Maori and "Christian" Pakeha?

Barry said...

Chris, I think you should be honest and call part-maoris PART-maoris, not "Maori". Also, I think you should stop using that ugly word Pakeha. Thank you

Anonymous said...

I see the old tropes are appearing. Blimps indeed.

finbar lochlin said...

Chris.Best left Moari, politics and Maori, self determination to Maori,as no matter your care or intent you will come a cropper.

Myself, i have lived with Maori, and brought up my Maori kids,but i keep well out of their IWI politics, and their IWI internal divisions,not out of fear of rebuke or personal harm,yet a harm that sadly in most cases comes to the fore, understanding that decades of living within the culture is not for one of a limp wrist personality.But what it gets down to in the end in all eventuality of the arguement,who are you,you are not one of us,what do you know.

CarbonGuilty said...

Democracy requires accountability and the rule of law, not the rule of the men with guns or women with mystical 'mana' behind the men who rule.
So what you describe is hopeful, in that Maori may be giving up the last of their undemocratic culture and not thinking with their blood so much. That is progress but I do not think it a result so much of education or financial success. It is more fundamental and comes from the bedroom. Maori today are as much Pakeha as Maori, often more, both racially and cultrally. How many people who identify as Maori have more than one or two Maori great-grandparents? So really most are culturally Maori at best as the racial link is going or almost gone. And NZ culture is overwhemingly the same as Pakeha culture, despite that having a Maori name. So Maori are bi-cultural at best but more and more, no different from Pakeha. That is a good thing for all and means the state should give up its pretence that we are two partnership cultures. We are not and so the Treaty is dead, now bury it. Democracy has seen to it. After all it was not between democractic parties. It was between an imperial superpower and a collection of warring tribes, both ruled by whom? The men with guns and the women behid them. Thak heavens that is history.