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OPINION: Pae Ora Tiriti Futures

By Nā Chris Webber

Whāia te iti kahurangi, ki te tuohu koe, me he maunga teitei

Seek the treasure that you value most dearly, if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

Chris Webber

As our nation’s waka approaches more turbulent waters, I asked Kapiti Coast attendees at Whakarongotai Marae’s Waitangi Day celebration on Saturday ‘what does our world most need right now?’. Peace, love and Te Tiriti was the answer - a lofty mountain worth striving for. Aotearoa is blessed with mātauranga drawn from centuries of interaction in our unique environment. Such treasures inform collective thinking for today’s challenges - principles, lessons and aspirations with everyone on the same waka. 

As Tiriti principles, hauora and taonga Māori appear first in line to be ’tossed as excess weight’ by the new government - the question remains how all hands, on deck might see the waka through the storm. Regardless of who’s making what calls - the message is for all hands-on deck to keep striving for Pae Ora - healthy futures for Māori and its components Mauri Ora, Whanau Ora and Wai Ora.

As Pae Ora infrastructure (such as Te Aka Whai Ora) looks to be dismantled by the Government, it may fall to our personal and collective efforts to embed (or not) Pae Ora in the same way Whanau Ora has flourished. Like whanau ora, Pae Ora as a concept is borne of mātauranga and whakapapa that breathes life into our Tiriti partnership worth treasuring. The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Act 2022 and agencies involved have relied on partnership in localities in any case, so the opportunity is to continue lifting where we all stand to in the way we continue towards the vision of Pae Ora.

Such sentiments are reflected by many of our great Māori leaders - whether honouring Te Tiriti or embedding the initiatives it invites. To paraphrase a few in my own words -  ‘Just keep doing it so our kids grow up used to it’, ‘don’t compromise your stance - know what you’re doing or stay out of the way’, ‘do it together so everyone’s on board’ and ‘involve the whanau - give them the responsibility to maintain things’. Being open to working together may highlight the pathway previously unseen.

One pathway illuminated in vision by Ta Mason Durie at the 2020 Future of Māori Health forum (before Te Aka Whai Ora came and went) was the suggestion of Te Runanga Whakapiki Mauri - an independent umbrella for kaupapa Māori organisations (KMOs) dedicated to progression of hauora.

If the destination of Pae Ora is kept in mind as a Tiriti response for all people, perhaps the energies arising this year can be harnessed to help our waka reach the shores of the promised land where there are healthy futures for all. They might even have resolved the Tiriti principles debate by then. Mauri Ora!

(Chris Webber is from Kapiti Coast ART Confederation tribes Āti Awa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Toarangatira, a member of the HPF Māori advisory group and Massey University senior lecturer in Māori health.)