New advisory board expected at Ratana Pa
Momentum is gathering for a new pan-tribal advisory body to the Maori King Tuheitia as tribal leaders from Waikato head to Ratana.
King Tuheitia and a Waikato contingent travel to the heart of the Ratana faithful near Whanganui today and will quicken the pace around the re-establishment of the Tekau-maa-rua.
The original Tekau-maa-rua (Council of 12) was set up by the second Maori King Tawhiao and made up of Waikato tribal elders.
The name was removed from use by the late Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu due to internal ructions but was brought back into fashion last November in a renewed push for Maori self-determination.
This time, it will enlist a Kahui Rangatira (leadership group) to appoint members from around the country to advise the king. Auckland University of Technology professor Paul Moon said opening membership to all iwi was "a very smart move" on the part of the Kingitanga.
"On the one hand, it means the advice would be slightly more independent and less likely to be swayed by internal partisan issues," he said.
"But on the other hand, it may go some way towards achieving the age old desire of the king movement which is to spread its influence and respect beyond its current boundaries."
The Kingitanga was like a "first-aid kit" that iwi went to in times of crisis, Dr Moon said, but influencing them had been problematic in the past.
Iwi around the country had already begun the push for their own autonomy and the advisory group would have to spell out a specific function to be of any benefit, he said.
"While this may strengthen the movement among other iwi, it might give an impression of widening the net, the question is what is the net used for?"
"It's definitely a smart move and not only because of the timing of the events of Ratana, but because this is an election year and it draws into focus again some of those issues."
Te Arawa leader Sir Toby Curtis supported the move, but said it would need to be moulded to fit modern Maori society.
"I think what what was viable back in the days of Tawhiao will have to be re-examined to meet current day practices and expectations," he said. The pan-tribal nature of the group would be seen as both political and non-political, but had the potential to benefit Maori society, Sir Toby said.
"It can become a strong sounding-board for a lot of issues that effect Maoridom and they can make comment as a unified group," he said.
Organisations like the New Zealand Maori Council, Maori Women's Welfare League and Iwi Chairs Forum already exist and have been included in talks, and Sir Toby said another one won't hurt.
"I think this will be another mechanism to assist, in terms of satisfying Maori ventures into the future," he said.
"This one I think will be very much steeped in Maori focus."