GUEST BLOG: Ani Mikaere – Tikanga & Trade


The panel on a Tiriti-compliant strategy for Aotearoa at the October 2018 hui on What an Alternative and Progressive Trade Strategy for New Zealand Should Look Like reminded us of the uniqueness of our challenges and opportunities.

Ani Mikaere, Ngāti Raukawa, Te Wananga o Raukawa, sets out a values and tikanga based vision.


Jane Kelsey (chair): Ani, we were talking about the other day about what the principles of tikanga might be that could underpin a different way of doing these kinds of agreements and relationships, and how transformation might occur. In particular, the really different model of thinking about law from a tikanga based approach.

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Ani: [He mihi] I can only really come to the topic of tikanga and values, or maybe more so kaupapa, from my own experience as someone who is part of Ngati Raukawa, and we have a particular history, and as someone who has worked at te Wananga o Raukawa for a number of years.


I want to describe to you the kind of organisation we are, which strives to be a tikanga-based organisation. At first glance that might seem a little odd. Why would we need to strive – surely it would come naturally to us, wouldn’t it? Around 98% of our staff are Maori, probably a similar proportion of students are Maori, we teach tikanga Maori, te reo Maori, so you would think it would come naturally to us to be a tikanga-based institution. But the fact is that after nearly 200 years of being ‘educated’ and cajoled and bullied and told we should behave differently, we have had to face a slightly unpleasant truth that our default setting is probably not tikanga any more. It’s more like the law of the coloniser. So if we want to be a tikanga-based institution, what our tikanga used to do automatically, we now have to be quite careful and deliberate about doing.


When I said our experience of the past 30 to 40 years might be relevant to the discussion today is because I get the sense that for many people now there’s a certain way of going about doing trade and doing business, and a certain way of operating that has become normalised. At this hui we are trying to create a new normal, a different normal, a completely different approach. Within Ngati Raukawa and te Wananga o Raukawa we set about trying to change our default setting – that’s what I call it. I sense that’s what you are trying to do here too in trying to change the default setting and what that might look like.


When I think back on our experience there were certain things we had to do to make the transition possible. And in the panel before this I could hear some things coming through that sounded familiar to me. One of the first things we did was we came up with a vision. A clear vision of what we wanted. Then the time had to be taken to ensure that was shared. So when I hear from Annie Newman about Te Ohu Whakawhanaunga to advance the living wage it seems that’s the kind of process that’s going on there. Once we had a widely shared vision, then we committed to some shared principles that would underpin the way we would operate. And then we had to figure out how we would create tikanga or practices that would express those fundamental principles or kaupapa. Now the practices can change over time, but the kaupapa or fundamental principles haven’t. They might, but so far they have stood us in good stead. But we also need to constantly review ourselves to make sure that we’re not going back to the old default settings. We have to be prepared to call one another out if we think we are doing that. It’s a process that’s not for the faint-hearted. But it can be achieved.


What I would say is, we have been on a journey for the past 40 years, back from the brink of what some might call cultural extinction. I wouldn’t say we are perfect, or that we’ve come close to achieving our goals, but we have made progress and it’s because that was the process we went through. It was great to hear people in the previous panel talking about building that shared vision and getting people to commit to it. Then the next steps will be to come up with those principles. We have 10 principles or kaupapa that underpin everything we do. We take it really seriously. If we are doing something and we can’t explain how this particular practice is expressing a kaupapa then that process won’t fly, we can’t do it. I don’t have enough time to talk about all the principles; maybe we can get back to them all later.


One of them is rangatiratanga. It’s about authority, but more importantly it’s about how authority is exercised. About 20 years ago Bishop Manuhuia Bennett had this a wonderful series of statements about the characteristics of the rangatira.  He kai o te rangatira he korero – the food of the rangatira is talk. That doesn’t just mean that leaders are eloquent, although they often are, they know the power of the word to persuade. More importantly, a rangatira keeps their word – so if you say something, you keep to that. So that’s about integrity and honesty.


The second part of his korero was te tohu o te rangatira he manaaki – the mark of a rangatira is the ability to look after people. That’s actually about acknowledging and respecting everyone around you, and enhancing their mana, and to understand that mana is not a finite resource. If Annette and I are in a relationship, the more mana she has the less I have? That’s not how it works. I am expected to behave in a way that respects Annette, enhances her mana, and in doing that it actually enhances my own mana. So it’s a win win.


The third and final part of rangatiratanga is te mahi a te rangatira he whakatiri te iwi. That’s about kotahitanga, social cohesion. You exercise your authority in a way that pulls people together, makes people collectively strong. There’s a whole lot of other principles, but that will have to do for now.


Question: I respect the majority of the korero has been around tangata whenua. As a trade union organiser I am out each day trying to improve people’s lives against the corporate hegemony. I’m interested to get a response around your focus on he tangata: how do the people benefit from your approach. I think that’s a great conversation to have.


Ani: Again, if you get the principles right and a commitment that everything you do has to tie back to those principles, the people will be looked after in a 100 different ways – which I haven’t had time to go into. You’ve really got to start with that shared vision, and shared commitment and the rest follows. It sounds a bit simple, but it’s actually really hard work and you have to do that first.


Jane: Following on from what Margaret Mutu said as well, when we talk to officials in the other zone of these agreements, it’s as if there is no conceivable alternative that is viable and can happen. You have both been talking about realities that are working today that are living alternatives in this place. But they are invisible in that other zone.