Maori Development:

The Power of the Network


[Article reprinted and revised from "Te Putatara", November 1988]


The bureaucracy or hierarchy is a means of concentrating power in the hands of a few. It is typical in New Zealand. Its power is less than the sum of its parts, but nevertheless the amount of power it bestows on its chosen few can be enormous.

The power of the network is much greater than the power of the bureaucracy.

A network is an empowering organisation. A network is many times greater than the sum of all its parts, and in a network power is shared equally by its members. The network cannot be destroyed by destroying a single leader, for its heart is everywhere. A bureaucracy is only as strong as its weakest link.

The whanau, the hapu, and the iwi are networks which have survived and adapted over many centuries. Their strength has been amply demonstrated over the last 150 years under a determined assault by the Pakeha to destroy the power of the Maori.

As well as attempting to destroy the economic base of the Maori by the acquisition of lands and fisheries, the settlers attempted to defeat the networks by destroying the many centres of spiritual, intellectual, and warrior leadership. They attempted to "de-tribalise" by separating the people from their true leaders. Then in areas where that did not succeed, they attempted to buy and install an aristocratic type of Maori leadership with the status of the British upper class. The currency was gold and titles, petty prestige.

Thus would they attack and control the source of our strength, our whanaungatanga; our whanau, hapu and iwi networks. Thus would they subvert our true leadership and convert the Maori networks into Pakeha hierarchies; brown bureaucracies.

But we have not succumbed. That the Pakeha retains a deep-seated fear of the Maori to this day is testimony to the power of the iwi networks to withstand both armed attacks, and the intellectual and bureaucratic attack in all its guises.

Whilst the Maori is now numerically small compared to the Pakeha, we are still much, much stronger. That is the strength of our culture and of the network.

The Pakeha has different hierarchies for work, play, education, family life, and politics. The whanau, hapu and iwi are networks which can provide all. That is another of the strengths of Maoridom.

And the Pakeha cannot see into the Maori networks, and cannot read the Maori mind. Yet the Maori sees into the hierarchies, and into the minds of the Pakeha. That is great strength.

Our weakness is trying to emulate the Pakeha, his hierarchies, and his power games.

To keep our advantage for a thousand years and more we need to minimise weakness, and to build upon strength. A great house is built from the bottom up. Empower the networks by starting at the whanau, and at the marae, and strengthening the ties that bind us.

Build the networks and forget the power games. A thousand dollars spent on networking will reap a greater harvest than a million on business dreams, and get rich quick schemes.

Do not forget those who have already been captured by the Pakeha; by his hierarchies, by his cities, by his gold and titles, and by his false promises. They too must be reclaimed to the fold.

May the force be with you, your whanau, your hapu, your iwi: we are tangata whenua, and we and the land shall survive.

Kia kaha, kia manawanui,
na Ross Himona.