I came across a good article by Valmaine Toki entitled “Culture – The Foundation of Maori Governance” in February’s edition of NZ Lawyer.
Many Maori organisations are explicitly driven by tikanga, kawa, and values (for example in employment, tangihanga and cultural leave policies) that take into account the aspirations of whanau, hapu, and iwi. Cultural considerations will sometimes take precedence over purely economic factors. For instance, many coastal iwi will adopt a provision to enable Maori to fish for their quota. In many instances, this quota package can be leased for a greater commercial value, however, the cultural or tikanga value of undertaking the fishing themselves will override the commercial gain.
Maori organisations may also have a Maori dimension in procedure such as the use of Te Reo (language), mihi (greet), karakia (prayer), koha (donation), hospitality for manuhiri (visitors), manaakitanga (care for), whanaungatanga (relative), kotahi tanga (one), consensus decision making, and regular consultation hui. These elements should support the general principles of good governance. Subsequently, it is important to have people with expertise in tikanga and kawa on the Board.
Valmaine goes on to argue that the current legal structures do not adequately meet the needs of Māori Iwi and Hapū entities. Despite this criticism, I believe that there is flexibility in our legal system for more creative and Māori-specific organisational structures. The great risk is in being the first organisation to try something new.
There are a lot of exciting initiatives making their way through the pipeline in relation to Māori governance and I hope to be able to write about these in greater detail in the future. In the meantime, I am interested in hearing your thoughts on what we can do to enhance Māori governance.