Māori co-governance in New Zealand is nothing to fear, says the Deputy Chair of the Auckland-based hapū Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei.
The subject is shaping up to be a central debate ahead of next year’s election, with the ACT Party campaigning for a referendum on the issue.
Speaking to Q+A’s Jack Tame, Ngarimu Blair, says the hapū has been co-governing Bastion Point and its surrounds with Auckland Council for decades with great success.
“Look at our track record as Māori. In every part of the country, Māori opened the doors for settlement.”
Blair says Māori “didn’t do to well” out of efforts to house and feed settlers historically, but that they have come back to the negotiating table to “humbly settle for two cents on the dollar.”
However, he understands that there is concern about the perceived loss of assets and control by local communities through the Three Waters reform.
“At the end of the day, all Kiwis will own them [water services] still and they will be protected from private sale and privatisation.
“I guess that’s our great opportunity as New Zealanders is to understand our history a bit better and to remove those fears.”
Blair also says there is potential to use a Māori solution to solve a Kiwi problem over housing.
He says the core issue is land value and having more of a leasehold-type situation, where people own the houses but the land itself is passed down through generations, is something the Government should look at.
“I don’t think that’s been fully explored enough yet outside of a Māori context.”
Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is today worth around $1.5 billion but Blair says they are only getting back to where they were before 1840.
“We are inching our way back to that standing on our own two feet and I’m absolutely certain in a few generations we’ll get there.”
However, he agrees that there has been a “huge” regeneration of te reo and participation in Te Ao Māori across Aotearoa in recent times.
“Many Māori can’t get places on te reo courses now because they’re filled with Pakeha,” he jokes, adding that it’s a “healthy problem to have”.
When it comes to culture, Blair believes that the Covid pandemic has actually helped.
"I think people wanted a deeper connection. Everyone got to slow down and stop, they connected with the environment.
“It kind of felt like a tide had turned. Finally, our people were ready to learn the language and reconnect with themselves.”