Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Chief Executive Arihia Bennett delivers a keynote speech at Connections Conference 2022 in Christchurch.
First, check your perspective.
And then check your baggage at the door.
That’s the message from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu Chief Executive Arihia Bennett for organisations tasked with ensuring their operations adopt a bi-cultural approach.
Bennett is unapologetic when it comes to Ngai Tahu’s expectations from the sport and recreation bodies whose representatives gathered in Ōtautahi, Christchurch for Connections 2022.
“I’d love you to ask yourself what your own attitude towards mana Māori is,” Bennett said.
“We want more meaningful demonstration of our values woven into our sport.
“You need to get with the programme and build a sense of knowledge and understanding.
“We must move with a growing, diverse community, and a society that wants better inclusiveness.”
The story of Ngai Tahu’s journey post the iwi’s landmark settlement with the Crown in 1998 has largely been one of success.
The iwi has increased its asset base from $170m to $1.7 billion and holds interests in a diverse portfolio of businesses. It has also maintained a strong social focus, with the wellbeing of whānau a relentless goal.
With society facing a myriad of challenges, this was no time for leaders to take their eye off the ball, Bennett said.
“We must be not only grounded in our past, but match fit for the present.
“Just because there has been a settlement one cannot sit back on the couch in those comfy slippers. Instead, we have to be on our toes, nurturing our culture, our values, our practises and our customs. Protecting our Ngai Tahu nationhood - our land, the water, its environment. And growing our people, while constantly innovating and looking ahead.
“There is not a day goes by when we aren’t constantly ensuring we are preserving and protecting our settlement. That also means working in a challenging and sometimes confronting way with a bias or perspective. It also means that we are challenging the Crown at different times.”
Fresh water is a current area of contention, with Ngai Tahu undertaking litigation against the Crown “looking at what we believe the Crown hasn’t undertaken to protect our waterways”, says Bennett.
“There is a misconception there, because a lot of people think we are going out to try to get it for ourselves. We are not. We are saying to the Crown ‘you have not looked after the waterways, you have not looked after the sustenance and development of our waterways so we can bring back our mahinga kai, go back to our recreations the way we used to be’.
“We are very forthright and clear about that.”
The goal was to achieve a better waterway system for all communities.
“We have a place to actually ensure that our society does flourish. And to do that you have got to have good water.”