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Friday, 15 February 2013

The house that Wepiha built 2

Ok so a German reporter, her photographer and two Maori entrepreneurs walk onto a marae in Whakatane and are greeted by a woman demanding money.
Sounds like the start of a bad joke, right?

Well no, unfortunately it is a brief description of what happened when my cousin William Stewart tried to take some of international manuhiri to visit the Mataatua Wharenui.
William owns a fledgling tourism company based in Whakatane called Nativ ConnectioNZ with two of our other cousins, Briton Williams and Leslie Manuel.

Their aim is to offer international tourists insights into indigenous Aotearoa by exploring traditional Maori concepts and customs through a series of unique and personal Maori experiences. In other words they offer a range of tourist products that include guided walking tours where the boys tell tribal stories and other anecdotes at some of the most beautiful points in Whakatane, the opportunity to put down your own hangi and then share that meal in an intimate back-yard setting and a chance to share in that warm fuzzy feeling that most Maori feel when they go home.
The foundation of the products is the Maori belief in the responsibility of manaakitanga.

It is an idea that the cousins have been working on for a number of years, with a range of skills and experiences they would quietly mull over the vision whenever they had a chance to get together.
Finally last year they got to launch their idea after securing a contract to cook a hangi for 600 Australian cyclists passing through Whakatane on their way to Rotorua as part of 5 day tour of the North Island.

The event was a success and the cousins used the money they made from the venture to launch Nativ ConnectioNZ: Real Maori Experiences.
At the time William was working as a consultant for the runanga applying the expertise he had gleaned from the four years at Tourism New Zealand working as a Media Advisor.

As part of his contract with the runanga William managed the project team that were charged wth the respnsibility of delivering a “world class” market-aligned visitor experience at Mataatua Wharenui. 

The project team, which included very highly regarded Wellington consultancies Leuthart & Co and Click Suite, had written a strategy for how the $1 million visitor experience at Mataatua wharenui should be rolled into market and it was obvious that they had a clear vision of what was needed for the experience to be commercially succesful.
In addition to creating a world class product William also believed that the visitor experience would provide much needed employment for the iwi and provide the runanga with a strong platform from which to grow a commercial tourism portfolio.

However when the proverbial hit the fan, it became obvious that there were those within the runanga who did not share William’s vision and therefore his future at the organisation was uncertain, so he pitched an offer as a compromise.
In the offer he outlined what he believed were the negatives that the runanga faced in terms of the visitor experience including the tension between allowing the wharenui to earn its keep and the belief by some that it should be accessible to the iwi 365 years days a year and also the expensive upkeep of the wharenui.

With an annual operation expense of almost $170,000 recorded in 2012, William acknowledged the runanga’s reluctance to commit anymore tribal funds to the complex.
So he suggested the runanga could ‘lease’ the facility to NATIVConnectioNZ Ltd between 9am to 10am 364 days per year, with the exception of Christmas day, to conduct a one hour Mataatua experience.

He said his company would be willing to pay $100+GST for each hourly engagement, which would put it in par with current conference charge outs of $1000 per day.

According to William the benefits of the suggestion were that the wharenui would then be available to the iwi to use for the rest of the day from 10am, the runanga had the opportunity to earn the passive income of $36,400 and the $1 million tourism investment would be able to be marketed as it was planned by the project team.
It was also understood that should demand for the product increase then Nativ ConnectioNZ would be keen to apply for an additional hour between 6pm and 7pm, taking the possible income to more than $70,000.

The offer was initially made to the runanga through accountant Murray Haines and then to  NAGHL through Graham Pryor. At that stage William was hopeful that he would be able to make a presentation to the board so that they could consider the offer.
However as each board meeting came and went William and the Native ConnectioNZ boys failed to get admitted on the agenda.

Finally frustrated at the lack of traction in just getting time to present their idea, they went to the Ngati Hokopu Hapu meeting in November with their proposal.
Their goal was to seek Ngati Hokopu’s support in getting time on the agenda at the next board meeting.

To add weight to their grievance they also shared a story about how in the previous week they had hosted a German magazine to promote their business.

As part of the day they took the group that included the German reporter to the wharenui to take in the light show and tour.
When the group arrived at the wharenui there was some time until the morning show began and so William and Les decided to introduce their guests to their direct ancestor Toihau, who sits front centre as the Pou Mua, to explain and authenticate their connection to the house, the land and the people of the area.

Just as William was explaining his and Leslie’s conncetion to Toihau, the Marae general manager rounded the corner demanding to know if the group were paying customers.
Rather than introducing herself to the visitors, she continued to tell William off for not seeking permission from the runanga to enter the marae grounds.

Insulted and saddened the boys chose to usher their manuhiri from the marae and they returned to William’s home on Harvey Street to wait for the hangi to finish cooking.
After the meal William offered to take the group back to the wharenui so they could see the light show. However the group chose not to go back to the wharenui saying they did not feel welcome at the marae and preferred to stay at William’s home.

The story shocked Ngati Hokopu and at that time it was undertaken that hapu representative Charlie Bluett would approach runanga chairman Te Kei Merito to request a time at the next board meeting for William and his lads to make their presentation.
Mr Merito’s response was that while he supported the communication he wanted to be able to present a charter for the Mataatua wharenui before William’s proposal could be considered.

That charter was presented at the December meeting and since then the board now meet on a bi-monthly basis.
It has been seven months since William first made the proposal to the runanga and still he has not been given time to present his company’s case to the board.

And while they have all but accepted that they are not going to be able to gain access to the wharenui, William and his lads have continued to slog it out in order to get Nativ ConnectioNZ up and running with the goal of providing jobs for not only themselves but also for others.
They have come with alternative products including using the museum in Whakatane to try and illustrate some of our proud history.

They have hosted a swag of tourists, operators, film crews and other manuhiri trying to get their product out there.
And they have been innovative in their approach to sharing some of our proud tikanga and stories often calling on friends, family and other contacts to ensure their business is a success.

As a result I have been fortunate enough to be part of many of the tours as an extra pair of hands.
Whether it is watching the German reporter put down his own hangi in a hole that has been heated by a gas torch and a leaf blower or collecting pipis with the British backpacker and the girl from Switzerland or even waking up at 5.30am to cook smoked fish and white sauce with the Kahawai that was caught the day before by the American and Canadian – the experiences have been amazing.

The whole approach to opening up your home and delivering on our ancestral reponsibility to manaaki manuhiri reminds me that our culture is beautiful and unique.
It is just a pity that the boys’ cannot use the wharenui to showcase that ethos.

Meanwhile runanga chief executive Enid Ratāhi-Pryor is set to attend the Ngati Hokopu hapu meeting this weekend and along with all of the other questions I have already sentto  her, I would also like to know why my cousins still haven’t been given a chance to pitch their idea to the board?
Next week I plan to give an account of the Ngati Hokopu meeting that is to be held on Sunday at 11am at Wairaka Marae. Perhaps I will see you there?

Ma te wa.



  1. I understand where your cousin is coming from, he has helped the runanga (as many have), he has a business that attracts international business and community revenue.

    We are a proud people and we should be able to showcase our mana, whenua etc etc however, just like other businesses, your cousin will need to wait his turn to be given permission.

    I would be offended if someone I knew rocked up to my home with strangers to share the history of our family without our permission. Their reason is that they cannot wait for the permission to come from the people RESPONSIBLE for the over-all running of the premisses and they believe they can do this because the strangers are willing to pay them a little fee which at this stage does not benefit the home in question.

    Your cousins embarrassment is obvious in your blog.

    The GM was within her responsibility to question them, however her professionalism was lacking and so was her manaaki tangata. Never-the-less the Runanga are also trying to run a business. A not so successful business from these blogs.

    I assume the runanga have alot on their hui agenda that are prioritised according to what is more important at the time. I believe your cousins proposal is a good one. Perhaps rallying other hapu to encourage the initiatives of Nativ ConnectioNZ could boost its priority on the hui agenda.

    I do hope the boys' will be given the opportunity to "use the wharenui to showcase that ethos" But for every person who jumps the line with a good idea, another person has to wait longer with a better idea.

    Onwards and Upwards - Together we can make this a better place

  2. Firstly, tēnā koe e hoa ^^, you make some very good points in your korero while presenting a pretty balanced view. As do you too, cousin.

    I just thought I would clarify a few facts around the incident we had with the GM at TMT:

    1) We had secured the German media through a senior tourism industry contact that had referred us. The reporter and her photographer arranged to make a special trip to Whakatāne to

    2) Because of the international coverage we would eventually receive from the reporter's stories, we hosted them free of charge. The payback is the increased awareness in Germany - one of New Zealand's key international tourism markets.

    3) We pass Te Manuka Tutahi on our walking tour but, up until then, we hadn't gone in at all, so as not to 'ruffle any feathers' while we thought our proposal was being considered. Because of the manuhiri we had on this day, we tried to cut Mataatua in on the promotion as well. We were even going to pay the $29.50 each for our manuhiri to experience it.

    4) We arrived from at TMT at 10.30am and were greeted by the GM who was at the rear of the complex. I asked if they were open, to which advised that the staff member was just opening the doors.

    5) When myself, Mita Manuel and our 2 guests arrived in Te Hono, we asked the staff member when the next tour would start. He advised that tour was on at 12pm. I told him we would return then.

    6) On the way out, I went to introduce them to Toihau, a principal tupuna of Ngāti Hokopū who sits in the centre of the mahau, of whom Mita and I are direct descendents.

    7) About 2 minutes into my talk at the front of the house, the GM approached and asked what we were doing. I said we were just introducing our manuhiri to our tupuna and then we would move on. She the asked "Are these paying customers?", to which I replied that yes, we would pay when we came back to do the experience but we certainly wouldn't be paying to introduce our manuhiri to our tupuna before we left. She then asked if they were our paying customers and when I explained that they were media on a complementary experience with us, she scolded that all media visits had to come through her. Feeling the immediate embarrassment from my manuhiri, I asked if we could talk about the matter at another time, which seemed to suffice, and she trotted off.

    8) Our manuhiri were shocked and embarrassed. I asked them later in our tour whether they would like to go back and catch. Mataatua, because it is awesome experience to which they replied they would rather not due to what happened earlier.

    We took the two German media there with the full intent of paying for them to do the Mataatua experience. So not only would they have got the ticket price, they would have featured, probably more than our walk, in the article.

    I fully respect that they are TRYING to run a business down there and for that reason we stayed away, preferring to let our proposal run its course, whatever that may be. However, this time we did go there to try and cut Mataatua in on a valuable piece of promotion - we were even going to pay for it.

    If the GM had a problem with us quickly introducing our manuhiri before we left, it would have been courteous for her to pull me aside and discuss it quietly - not come out and demand to know if any money was being exchanged. That's not manaaki manuhiri - she insulted our guests and stamped all over one of the most basic marae tikanga - me manaakihia ngā manuhir i ngā wā katoa? It was disgraceful and certainly not the behaviour of someone charged with running a marae that ALL of Ngāti Awa want to be proud of.

    Since then, we have not set foot back on the place for fear this might happen again. If the new CE and her team of guessers want to use the wharenui as a palace from which rule, empire build and plunder through iwi money - so be it. We've moved on.

    1. The only plundering of iwi money has been by all of the excess Runanga staff we did not need, all of the consultants like you we needed even less and by the stupid investments in Gonet and McBurnie. I challenge you to disclose all of the money you have been paid by the Runanga. All of our board member fees are revealed in the annual report. Tell the people then how much of their money you have had, then let them decide about words like plunder. I also hope the CEO dumps her plans to relocate the Runanga and revitalise that area. It won't be long before Pakehas own all the houses around Wairaka they own most of them now. Like I always said the wharenui should have been put up in Rangitaiki. We know how to look after our land and marae. We buy land up rather than sell it.

    2. Yeah like all of the money paid to that Stowell guy for doing up the Runanga offices with way expensive carpet that can't be cleaned. He was paid tens of thousands. Just go into Sharon Tutua's old office and take a look. It's a joke. Then once they realised all of the money that had been blown Jeremy gets in that well known carpet layer John Hohapata! Go figure. Must be their love of fine horses together. At the end of the day it's the iwi who pay for this reckless behaviour. No accountability.

    3. Challenge? It's hardly a challenge when you are too cowardly to leave your name. Got all the big calls but got no balls.

      See the comments in Learning To Fish, listed what I was paid there.

      Yep, our hapu would have had no problem with rebuilding the house out at Rangitaiki, we didn't want it in Wairaka, but Hirini and Co were adamant that it go there. Even Sir Hirini - a noted and prominent leader of your Rangitaiki hapu didn't want it build it out there. And this from one of your chiefs?

      It's sad to see that instead of addressing the issues, you want to take pot shots at our hapu. About the level of integrity I'd expect from someone too scared to leave their name though.

      But if you're going to get nasty, at least get it right. If you actually did some research instead of being an anonymous keyboard warrior, you would know that only a relatively small proportion of the "traditional" Wairaka families who whakapapa to Ngāti Hokopu have actually sold out and moved out - 80% of us are still here.

      You can't compare Rangitaiki land to Wairaka land - the economics of land valuations and utility rates make them like apples and oranges. Wairaka is PRIME residential land. We live 5 mins from the CBD, next to the boat ramp and have all of the conveniences of town living close at hand. This makes our land very attractive to pakehas.

      Rangitaiki land is rural land, reclaimed from swamps, miles from anywhere and, to your average pakeha, about as convenient and attractive as gout unless you want a farm.

      Now while the Rangitaiki is centre of the universe for many, the plain fact of the matter is that the Wairaka land is worth far more per acre and is much more attractive to the endless line of pakehas (and Maori) that want to buy in down here. Demand drives valuations up and the higher valuations drive the rates up. Sadly, for some families it means they simply can't afford to live there.

      Before you start running your mouth, perhaps you should consider the facts above and you will realise that it is relatively easy to hold on to whenua - when there is little demand for it and the rates stay cheap. Like I say, 80% of us are still here despite the ever increasing pressures that come with residential land in demand.

      We don't need the runanga to 'revitalise' the area for us, we've done perfectly well down there for the last 100+ years, so don't see why we need them there now? Maybe you should get your rep to ask them to establish this "Ngati Awa Cultural Precinct" in Rangitaiki. We already got our community 'revitalised' with TMT, it's only fair that you get the next shot, nē?

    4. We'd love a cultural precinct in Te Teko. The Rangitaiki hapu are the richest in land in all of Ngati Awa. We didn't sell out. We've still got it. That's how we can support our marae. We even gave money to the Whakatane marae including Wairaka. Tens of thousands of dollars. We've also bought houses in Wairaka. If we didn't Pakehas would have. Funny that you say 80% live there yet the turn out for your marae 100 year was modest. Why was that? If you didn't want the wharenui where it is, how come none of your hapu reps voted against it when it came to the crunch?

    5. No wonder the iwi is going broke. Whanau the Runanga should sell everything it owns or convert it to shares or both then distribute to hapu. Then hapu can decide their own futures. If they want to do deals and joint ventures ka pai tena. If they want to pay their relations $150K good luck. I reckon about $5 million per hapu and Tamaki and Poneke get nothing. Hapu can group togther with there assets if they want. Rangitaiki would get $40 million the 8 hapu staying tight. Pukeko $15 million plus $10 million from Patuwai and Maumoana if they worked as a 5. Hokopu three to get $15 million and Paroa plus Tawera $20 million. Put that to hapu and see if they bite. The farm is worth about $15M so that goes to Hokopu. Rangitaiki can take Matahina plus Ngakauroa. Pukeko the schools and courthouse etc shared with Taiwhakaea Rotoehu East to Western hapu plus Bulls farm or cash to make up the difference. Let hapu be the deciders of their own destiny. Like how it was before raupatu. Leave a $10 million trust fund in the centre to fund a stripped down runanga of four staff to keep the register, website, archives, Mataatua and as an iwi forum. Interest only to be spent. Wharenui as a marae only. No pay for board members like before but give them a kai it's cheaper. Then no more $1.5M Runanga, NAGHL or DNA. Hapu can do their own RMA. I'm sure the hapu would get along a lot better too.

    6. Tautoko! This is a great idea. Bring it sooner the better. Pukeko are their own iwi already and are the main owner of the farm sorry

    7. That's what you think. Hokopu owns it outright.

    8. Any ngati awa kupapa hapu should get nothing

    9. Yep let the hapu decide

      Rangi Keepa

  3. Tena koe William mo o whakamaramatanga e pa ana ki taua ra. I will re-iterate that your proposal is a good one. I believe it will benefit the wider community and I wish you the very best in your venture.
    It is a pity that the runanga has not come to the party. Either way kia kaha, kia manawanui

    Kia Karla... I look forward to your next update.

    1. Aroha mai e hoa, kātahi anō ahau kia kite atu i tō pānui ki runga nei. Heoi ano, he whakahokinga mihi tēnei kia koe mō āu manaakitanga ki tā mātou kaupapa pākihi.

      Ngā mihi!

  4. Kia Ora Karla,

    Thank you for your insightful and considered blog. As a descendant living outside the rohe (albiet just up the road) it is valuable to have access to whakaaro and korero from our tribal home. Through information comes accountability and our leaders can benefit from robust input from those they serve - the iwi, hapu and whanau. William too is my cousin so I am aware of the mamae around Mataatua House. I share the concerns voiced that one would need permission from a bureaucracy to tell our own stories. That surely is not tikanga Maori. Having just completed a tourism series showcasing on Maori television, it is obvious that being Maori is an asset that can be utilised for a wide benefit including employment and education. I agree there needs to be protocols put in place to ensure that our tipuna whare is not disrespected but those in charge of that, need to understand the fundamentals of respect and manaaki tangata. Thanks again Karla, keep it coming...

    1. Another expert on tikanga Maori. What stories?

  5. If you ever looked at hapu boundaries before the land confiscation you would find. Taiwhakaia, Hikakino and Te Rangihouhiri were the biggest losers of land but also identity. This should come in to consideration if $$ and property's were to be split.