Some Thoughts On

The Future of Ngati Kahungunu

(A paper presented to the Ngati Kahungunu Constitutional Review Committee,
11 November 1998)


By Ross Himona






In studying the needs of Ngati Kahungunu all too often we look only at structures without first determining the needs of the iwi.

In this short paper I propose to briefly examine the needs of the iwi, and to present some guidelines and principles, and some approaches to a structure. If we get the kaupapa right then everything else follows.



Peace and Prosperity


What is it that we need in Ngati Kahungunu? It is surely prosperity for all, within our own cultural setting, within our own rangatiratanga.

And there is an ancient adage that without peace there is no prosperity. So we have first of all to seek after peace. This is something we have not achieved with the Runanganui concept, or the Ngati Kahungunu Iwi Inc concept, or the Corporate Iwi concept. Nor have ever we sought it, I propose. Rather, we have sought after power and influence over each other, whilst paying lip service to the authentic needs of the people.

We have sought after divisive rewards, instead of those that lead to peace and prosperity for all.





There are two types of power; power over others and the inner power one exercises over oneself. Inner power is a spiritual power that has no need to be exercised over others. It is an expression of rangatiratanga tuturu. The one is an illegitimate power, the other legitimate or authentic.

The structures we have inflicted upon ourselves in Ngati Kahungunu are built upon the notion of illegitimate power over others, not on the development of authentic inner power in our people. We must reverse that situation, and empower our people. That in itself is a challenge, for the people see illegitimate power role modeled all around them, and will likely seek to follow that course also.

This is a challenge of leadership and education. It leads us to ponder on the type of structure we need, the type of education we need, and the type of leadership that will recognise and strive to meet these authentic needs.



Tapu vs Noa


In our Ngati Kahungunu politics we have long confused the functions of leadership and management, and the functions of rangatiratanga and tohungatanga. We have long confused the functions of the paepae tapu and of the kauta.

So much so that we have come to see the Corporate Runanga or Corporate Runanganui or Corporate Executive as the paepae tapu, instead of the kauta. And we have bitterly fought over who will be the tohunga and the ringawera, mistaking those functions for those of the rangatira. On the marae and in the hapu the role of tohunga falls to those who are best trained and suited to the job at hand; they are self-selecting through their aptitude, their training and their competence. And the job of ringawera goes to those who are most skilled for those roles, and also to those who are learning to take their places both on the paepae and in the kauta. The ringawera supports the whole functionality of the marae.

The job of rangatira goes to those in whom the whanau, hapu and iwi place their temporary long term or short term confidence, depending on performance. The very best of rangatira are those with the aptitude, training and competence of the tohunga, and the next best are those who recognise their limitations but seek always to consult with the tohunga. It has ever been so.

Management is noa, management is the kauta. A Board of Directors or an Executive or any other corporate structure is noa; it is not the paepae tapu.

The paepae tapu is on the marae. A runanga should be the paepae tapu, held on the marae. A corporate structure should be just that, noa, and should not be confused with runanga or paepae. The corporate structure, at whatever level, is there to serve the runanga (i.e. the iwi), not to supplant it.

So we need two levels of structure. The one in which the authentic voice of the people may be heard in the exercise of the authentic power that is theirs, their rangatiratanga; and the other in which the very best of our tohunga and ringawera bring their qualifications and skills and experience and labour to implement the authentic and collective desires of the iwi.



Priorities: Kai vs Taonga


There is a school of thought that says that the role of Corporate Iwi is to develop a sound economic base so that the benefits eventually trickle down to the iwi. This is a model adopted by most Corporate Iwi, including Ngati Kahungunu. There is another school of thought, the community development school, that holds that the iwi must be developed from the bottom up; the successful model adopted these last 23 years by Ngati Raukawa ki Te Tonga under the leadership of Whatarangi Winiata.

We should look at what comes first, kai or taonga. Then there can be no doubt; before a whanau or hapu or iwi becomes prosperous and acquires many taonga the people must be fed. But the people must learn to feed themselves, ably led by their rangatira and tohunga. The first function of a rangatira is to feed the people, NOT to make or acquire taonga. And if the people are not fed, the term of the rangatira will be short indeed.

The people are not fed by the taonga building efforts of some distant corporate entity, they are fed by their own collective efforts led by their rangatira and tohunga at whanau and hapu level.

In Te Ao Maori we seem to have abdicated the role of providing kai for the iwi at this level in favour of the Pakeha. Who then really commands the hearts and minds of our people? It is the Pakeha; i.e. the freezing works and the social welfare department.

The next question revolves around how we avoid enslaving our own people as the freezing works and the government have done. The development concept of Corporate Iwi often seeks only to replace, not to remove.



A Set of Iwi Development Principles


The guidelines and principles that follow have been developed from those adopted by the Community Development Society International, an organisation for community development professionals. Worldwide they have been found to be the essential guidelines and principles for community development. In Ngati Kahungunu we have ignored most of them.

The essential ingredient of this proven approach is that we must refrain from doing things to or for the iwi, and we must do things with the iwi. It is an inclusive model rather than the exclusive approach that we have followed in Ngati Kahungunu for many years.

We should understand that whanau is the basic building block of hapu and iwi, and that:

  • whanau, hapu and iwi are complex and multi-dimensional, and not one is the same as another
  • the human dimension, which is capable of growth and development, is the most critical aspect of whanau, hapu and iwi. He aha te mea nui .…..
  • development of each whanau, hapu and iwi can be fostered through improvement of individual, organizational, and problem-solving knowledge and skills
  • those involved in the development of whanau, hapu and iwi must be proactive, providing leadership to the leaders and the led across the whole spectrum of whanau, hapu and iwi development.
  • those involved in the profession of whanau, hapu and iwi development integrate knowledge from many disciplines with community development theory, research, teaching and practice; these important and interdependent functions are vital.
  • adherence to the following set of Principles of Good Practice is essential to sound whanau, hapu and iwi development

    Principles of Good Practice

    • Promote active AND representative iwi participation so that they may meaningfully influence decisions that affect their lives.

    • Engage the iwi in problem diagnosis so that those affected may adequately understand the causes of their situations.

    • Help leaders of whanau, hapu and iwi understand the economic, social, political, environmental, and psychological impact associated with alternative solutions to the problem.

    • Assist whanau, hapu and iwi in designing and implementing a plan to solve agreed-upon problems by emphasizing shared leadership and active iwi participation in that process.

    • Disengage from any effort that is likely to adversely affect the disadvantaged segments of whanau, hapu and iwi.

    • Actively work to increase leadership capacity (skills, confidence, and aspirations) in the iwi.



Structural Considerations


From the short discourse above it seems obvious to me that we need to do four things in relations to structures:

  • To provide a means for the authentic voice of the people to be heard in the exercise of the authentic power that is theirs, their rangatiratanga.
  • To find a structure and a way to employ the very best of our tohunga and ringawera; their qualifications, skills, experience and labour, to implement the authentic and collective desires of the whanau, hapu and iwi.
  • To support and serve the people where they are and through their local leadership; in their whanau and hapu, and in urban and rural areas. To help the people feed themselves.
  • To underpin all this with long-term programmes that aim specifically to develop the required rangatiratanga and tohungatanga at whanau, hapu and iwi level. This is of course the concept of wananga.



Whanau & Hapu


There are historic, economic and peace-making reasons for developing a structure around whanau and hapu.

We have tried to force a unitary Ngati Kahungunu concept upon many peoples who were never unified in that way in the whole of their history. Some have claimed that the concept of Kahungunu ki te Wairoa, ki Heretaunga and ki Wairarapa is an authentic structure, yet it has its origins in the Native Affairs Department.

We have settled on a Taiwhenua structure which might be developed to serve whanau and hapu developmental needs, but we have used it to usurp the authentic representative rangatiratanga structures of the people, and in some cases to be the structure which is being economically developed, rather than whanau and hapu.

And we have ignored the rights of our many peoples to name themselves. We have in effect ignored the rangatiratanga of the very peoples we have claimed to represent.

There can be no peace in the rohe while that process continues, and therefore no prosperity for our peoples.

We all acknowledge that we are Ngati Kahungunu, but we seek to be more, be it Te Iwi o Ngai Te Whatuiapiti, Ngati Hinemanu, Ngati Rangiwhakaewa, Ngati Rakaipaaka, Ngati Pahauwera, or Ngai Tumapuhiarangi. We seek to be all that we are; in my own case as strongly identified with Kurahaupo as I am with Takitimu in my rohe from Tamaki-nui-a-Rua to Wairarapa. That is my right, and my right is not to have my whakapapa dictated by an iwi politician from another rohe, or even from within the same rohe.

Ngati Kahungunu Whanui is not a singular iwi. It is a loose confederation of iwi and hapu and the structure we adopt must reflect that reality, rather than a political ideology, or an idea created and imposed by Departments of Native and Maori Affairs, or by ill-informed Pakeha commentary from a colonial era.



Urban vs Rural


Sooner or later we will leave aside our present insistence that every person must affiliate with their 1840 defined hapu and/or marae. And in the process we will develop new hapu, and old hapu will wither, as it ever was in ancient times. My own generation is probably the last to be mostly brought up under that old regime. The next generations are mostly city born with city lifestyles, and the seasons of their lives, and their aspirations, are shaped by the places where they live, and by the ideas of the city.

We will always, I hope, whakapapa back to whenua and marae in the homelands, but our living realities have changed, and will continue to change dramatically.

I predict that unless we structure ourselves to cope with the new realities, we will be in danger of disintegration as an iwi outside our traditional rohe over the next five generations. We should look now to shape ourselves to preserve our identity in the cities, not just with distant memories of homeland, but with new structures that express the rangatiratanga of those people in the cities, where they are.



Social and Economic Units


Historically Ngati Kahungunu Whanui was not an operating unit for any purpose, for it was too numerous and too widespread to function as a single entity. In the modern context it's size and diversity logically dictate that it be little more than a political entity.

The manageable social and economic unit was the whanau and hapu, being anything from a few dozen people to a few hundred, and usually less than a thousand, depending on the quality of leadership and the availability of resources. This is also a modern day reality in both social and economic organisation. Even the large transnational corporate structures are now being broken down to business units of a thousand or less people for reasons of greater efficiency.





The very best of rangatiratanga and tohungatanga has nearly always originated in the wananga. The wananga is the central developmental institution in any iwi, and it's role is to preserve, protect and promulgate ancient knowledge, to seek out new knowledge, and to provide for the leadership and future well-being and prosperity of whanau, hapu and iwi.

It is the beginning of any development strategy for whanau, hapu and iwi, and it is a long-term investment that is absolutely essential for Ngati Kahungunu Whanui. We must look 25 years at least into the future.

This is the lesson to be learnt from a study of our own long histories, and also from the model developed and implemented by Whatarangi Winiata.





We must therefore:

  • provide a means for the authentic voice of the people to be heard in the exercise of the authentic power that is theirs, their rangatiratanga.
  • find a structure and a way to employ the very best of our tohunga and ringawera; their qualifications, skills, experience and labour, to implement the authentic and collective desires of the whanau, hapu and iwi.
  • support and serve the people where they are and through their local leadership; in their whanau and hapu, and in urban and rural areas. To help the people feed themselves.
  • underpin all this with long term programmes that aim specifically to develop the required rangatiratanga and tohungatanga at whanau, hapu and iwi level. The Wananga.