Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wai 262 - Mātauranga Māori

Since I have already provided some comment on the Te Reo chapter of Ko Aotearoa Tēnei, which was released prior to the publication of the complete report, I will continue my commentary by going straight on to Chapter Six.

The sixth chapter of the Waitangi Tribunal’s report on the Wai 262 inquiry is titled ‘When the Crown Controls Mātauranga Māori’.  This chapter addresses government policy and practice across a range of agencies that are responsible for the protection, preservation, and/or transmission of mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).  The Tribunal considers the role of culture and heritage agencies (the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Creative New Zealand, the Museum of New Zealand – Te Papa Tongarewa, Television New Zealand, Archives New Zealand, and the National Library); education agencies (the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority); research, science and technology agencies (the Ministry of Research Science and Technology and major funding bodies such as the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Health Research Council); and Te Puni Kōkiri.  The Tribunal notes that, for each of these agencies, “mātauranga Māori is at the heart of what they do”.

The Tribunal’s analytical framework is based on the central premise that the protection of mātauranga Māori is a shared responsibility.  That is, the Crown has a clear obligation to protect mātauranga Māori under Article 2 of the Treaty and Māori, as kaitiaki of their own mātauranga, must also provide leadership in this area.  The Tribunal notes that there are various considerations which must be balanced in determining the most appropriate approach to the protection and management of mātauranga Māori.  For example, the Tribunal notes that the practicalities of protecting the physical integrity of fragile taonga may sometimes need to be balanced against the principle of kaitiaki control.  Similarly, rules to protect kaitiaki control of access to iwi or hapū-based material held, perhaps, by Archives New Zealand, should also take into account the effect that this may have on distancing Māori from that mātauranga.

As in other parts of this report, the Tribunal seeks then to lay down general principles that may be applied to particular circumstances on a case-by-case basis.  The key principles that the Tribunal suggests ought to guide the management of mātauranga Māori are:
  • Crown co-ordination
  • appropriate prioritization
  • sufficient resourcing, and
  • shared objective setting.

In relation to the culture and heritage agencies, the Tribunal finds that current levels of co-ordination are insufficient, noting specific matters such as uncertainty  of co-operation between TVNZ and Māori Television over Māori programming, “an area where competition seems counter-productive to the cause of preserving te reo and mātauranga Māori”. 

In the case of both the culture and heritage agencies and the education agencies, the Tribunal finds that much better engagement with Māori in these sectors is required.  In relation to both sectors, the Tribunal recommends formalizing partnerships between the relevant Crown agencies and Māori, through, amongst other measures, the establishment of electoral colleges.  In the case of the culture and heritage sector, the Tribunal suggests that an electoral college might be comprised of various Māori cultural groups (Toi Māori Aotearoa/Māori artists association, Te Rōpū Whakahau/Māori librarians collective, Te Matatini Society, iwi organisations, etc) who could appoint representatives to “sit at a partnership table with the Crown”.  The membership of the proposed electoral college in the education sector might include the Kōhanga National Trust, Te Rūnanganui o Ngā Kura Kaupapa, and Te Tau Ihu o Ngā Wānanga.  In both cases, the intention is to establish a mechanism to facilitate true partnership between Māori and the Crown in setting objectives in these sectors.

The Tribunal expresses particular concern about the priority accorded to mātauranga Māori amongst the research, science and technology agencies.  The Tribunal notes the Vision Mātauranga document which provides a policy framework for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology (now the Ministry of Research, Science and Innovation) to promote mātauranga Māori in the science sector.  However, the Tribunal points to the lack of emphasis on mātauranga Māori within the Ministry’s planning and strategy documents and recommends that the science sector agencies make mātauranga Māori a strategic priority in its own right.  The Tribunal also recommends the establishment of a Māori purchase agent in the research and science sector to “boost Māori research capacity and fund the preservation of mātauranga Māori and research that explores the interface between mātauranga and modern applications”.

The Tribunal makes a number of other specific recommendations in each sector and also includes recommendations for Te Puni Kōkiri to establish better mechanisms for partnership and shared decision-making in areas directly concerned with mātauranga Māori.  Overall, the Tribunal notes that while many of the agencies working in this area have Māori advisory groups or similar, there are very few instances in which Māori have real decision-making power.  As in other parts of the report, the Tribunal recommends that, for the Crown to act consistently with Treaty principles, Crown agencies must “step up and create real forms of partnership with Māori communities” and that the Crown must “adjust its mind-set and accept that it represents Māori too”.