OPINION: Since the new year began I have attended three whanau-oriented hui and I made sure I took at least one of my kids to each of them.
One was a family reunion that was held at Taumutu for the descendants of Hori Kerei Taiaroa.
This particular ancestor was the member of parliament for Southern Maori for the last three decades of the nineteenth century.
He had a family home at Otakou on the Otago Peninsula as well as one at Taumutu called Awhitu House.
Like most family reunions, they offer a chance connect with wider family and learn about ancestors and this gathering also allowed for the descendants to familiarise themselves with ancestral lands.
The second hui I attended was a family-focussed Maori language hui at Arowhenua Marae just south of Temuka.
This happens during the summer school holidays every year and it is generally well supported by over 100 attendees, many of whom are children. The focus is on adults learning advanced te reo whilst the children are involved in their own activity programme for the week.
The focus is on enjoyment and fun and is a way of supporting those families that are committed to speaking Maori.
The final hui was held this week and deliberately targeted Ngai Tahu teenagers. It follows a pretty structured format and encourages the youngsters to learn about some tribal history, cultural activities like food gathering and putting a hangi down, and also provides an opportunity to listen to tribal leaders.
They connect with each other and hopefully build some enduring relationships but perhaps most importantly it is a chance for us to create pathways that allow even greater engagement with the Ngai Tahu structure when the time is right.
This initiative is called Manawa Hou - the Replenishing Heart and at its core is the idea of succession planning.
When it comes to reporting what Ngai Tahu is up to it generally comes down to brief sound bites and short paragraphs focussed on politics or financial performance. The commercial success of Ngai Tahu has been at the core of their contemporary credibility.
In the eyes of most New Zealanders I suspect that Ngai Tahu would not be regarded very highly at all if they were not growing their asset base and making wise investments. But for Ngai Tahu the commercial success is a means to an end.
It has allowed us to invest in our culture and our people with the hope that those unique aspects that make up Ngai Tahu will endure in to the future. For that to occur we need great leadership operating across the tribal spectrum.
Not surprisingly, for Maori leaders to have a followership there are certain expectations the people have of them. There is a traditional "list" of attributes that were considered required competencies for a chief.
It was couched in nineteenth century terms and was very male- oriented but even in modern terms there some core qualities one ideally looks for in a tribal leader whether they are male or female.
They must be able to display confidence and competence in a cultural setting.
They need to need to be able engage in Maori arts.
They are expected to be familiar with their tribal history and traditions.
Maori leaders should be able to speak on behalf of the people and represent their interests.
They need to understand the business and the politics of their world and lead progressive decision-making.
They should be able to provide for their people. This used to mean food gathering or defending territory, whereas nowadays business success and wise investments are critical.
This is by no means an exhaustive list and each leader does not have to be paramount in every setting or with every competency but they do need to have an ability in each of these areas if they are to take on key leadership roles.
That is what we are trying to achieve with these initiatives that are targeting families and youth.
Over time we want ensure that future generations are served well by modern leaders who are able to continue to create success, keep the language and culture alive and evolving, contribute to good decision making be it at a marae community level or within the corporate setting.
The young people we see at these events come from across the spectrum. Some of them are the children or grandchildren of already acknowledged leaders. Others are very new to Ngai Tahu and currently may not even know where their marae is or who their Ngai Tahu ancestors were, but if we do our job right soon they will.
Our reputation for wise commercial investment is satisfying and important but we also want a strong reputation for investing in cultural and human capital as well
This is succession planning. This what it means to replenish the heart.
- The Press