Regardless of who’s saying what in the Beehive, many people are getting on with doing good things for their communities, and asserting their rangatiratanga. Pictured: Te Puāwaitanga Winterburn (mother) and Wharehuia Te Tokoihi (father) holding their son Tūteongenui. (Photo supplied)

As we here at E-Tangata get ready to take a summer break, we’re conscious that, this year, the concept of a “silly season” where nothing much happens and feel-good stories take centre stage, seems especially at odds with the reality of our world. 

Gaza continues to be “a graveyard for children”, as the secretary-general of the UN has said — and the horrors of that conflict reverberate here in several ways, as Professor Joanna Kidman writes here.

As well, the new government’s coalition agreements signal a worrying change in direction for Māori-government relations, with real life (and death) consequences for many in our communities. The new government is walking back progress toward power-sharing, te reo Māori promotion, a focused Pacific ministry, and equity initiatives. Also in the spotlight is the status of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles in law.

Yet none of the things currently causing discussion and division, like a referendum on the Treaty and claims of Māori privilege, are at all new. We’ve been here before, as Jamie Tahana sets out so clearly in his column this week. 

This can be both comforting (because progress isn’t always linear, and we will go forward again), and depressing (because it seems that the case must be made over and over again, despite the weight of evidence and history and scholarship).

Over the course of this year alone, we’ve published commentary and thinking from writers addressing the history of such claims and positions. We’ve also heard from many who are getting on with doing good things for their Māori and Pasifika communities, and asserting their rangatiratanga, regardless of who’s saying what in the Beehive.

It’s not the usual summer fare, perhaps, but here’s a selection from 2023, to revisit or get you started. 


The new government is walking back progress toward power-sharing, te reo Māori promotion, a focused Pacific ministry, and equity initiatives. Also in the spotlight is the status of the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles in law. (Photo: RNZ / Rick Monro)

Why co-governance works

 “Do you believe that our rangatira would, in effect, say to an unknown woman in England: ‘We no longer want to look after our children, our language, our resources and lands. We want you to do that for us because you’ll do a better job than we can do’? It’s more likely that our rangatira said: ‘We’re happy to share what we have with you. We will look after you, and we expect you to reciprocate.’ That’s an act of rangatiratanga based on manaaki and aroha. That is the essence of co-governance. As Bishop Manu Bennett said: ‘The Treaty is a promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other.’ — Bill Hamilton: Co-governance is good for us

A Treaty referendum isn’t a new idea

“If a referendum is intended to be the vehicle to abolish the Treaty by weight of numbers — in a sense the domination of the minority by the majority — then, as a solution to the discomfort some people feel about Māori aspirations, it would, I predict, be no solution at all. Rather, it would be like clamping the lid on a boiling kettle, leaving the pressure to continue building up until the inevitable explosion occurs.” — Paul Temm, writing in 1990: What if the Treaty had been honoured?


Are the courts already turning away from the principles of the Treaty?

“There are signs that court judgments are indeed referring back to the agreement’s actual words rather than its perceived principles. In some recent decisions, judges have said the rangatiratanga guaranteed to Māori is the most important aspect to be considered. So that’s a much more text-consistent approach than what we’ve had since 1987. I think that’s because judges and lawyers are now becoming much more aware of the view that’s always been held in te ao Māori, which is that Te Tiriti is the paramount text.” — David Williams: The Treaty in English or Māori is still our best way forward


The myth of Māori privilege

“In the first hundred years of colonisation, the notion of Māori privilege aided and abetted the taking of Māori land and resources. Now it’s deployed to constrain Māori aspirations and to maintain the power imbalance. Even though most of the land and resources are now gone from Māori control, the idea hasn’t lost its utility.” — Peter Meihana: The pervasive myth of Māori privilege

“I was 12 when I first heard the shocking and sad story about what happened to the Ngāti Apakura pā and kāinga at Rangiaowhia. My father was dictating whakapapa, and my mother was explaining it, as I wrote it down for them. When she relayed the story of Te Mamae, I was stunned and didn’t know whether or not to believe it. I realised then what a deep injustice had been done to Ngāti Apakura. We were robbed of our history and our place in the world.” — Hazel Wanders Rangiaowhia: Voices from the embers


Dr Vanisi Prescott, once consigned to “the dumb class” at school, entered Auckland medical school through MAPAS, the Māori and Pacific Admission Scheme. She’s pictured with her family, at the Royal College of General Practitioners Fellowship graduation, July 2023, Auckland. (Photo supplied)

Why we shouldn’t dismantle MAPAS and other equity initiatives

“I often think back to when I was sitting in the learning assistance class and feeling like a complete failure — like I’d never go anywhere. I compare that with the satisfaction and reward I’ve found in my career today. I work a lot now with Pasifika families and students and I can’t emphasise enough how important that is. As a doctor, patient, and family member, I’ve seen the difference it makes when the person you’re seeing looks like you and shares your background.” — Vanisi Prescott: Doctor from the dumb class

“It was the most beautiful thing to learn not only the language of maths and chemistry, but also the language I so desperately needed to explain why our whānau are dying before their time.” — Chloe Fergusson-Tibble: As a doctor, being Māori is my superpower

“The changes we made for the students, and for Māori, ripple way beyond what happens in the institution. It changes their whānau trajectory, and that changes what happens in their hapū and their iwi, and then in our wider communities.” — Elana Curtis: We want to see them fly

“I’m a firm believer that getting it right for Māori means we’ll get it right for everyone. People sometimes tell me they don’t want a Māori-based health service. So I spell out the facts: You can access it. Māori don’t develop these services and then bar non-Māori. You do have access. There is no bar. I ask them: ‘Wouldn’t you prefer a health sector that’s more tuned into your whānau, and that sees you as a whole person and not just as a series of body parts?’ And they go: ‘Yeah, that’d be awesome.’ Well, that’s what we’re aiming for.” — Jacquie Kidd: We need to get whanaungatanga right

“One of the beautiful things that I’ve seen in my work is that when you implement equity structures into health systems, then Māori do just as well as non-Māori. Pākehā don’t start doing badly — everyone starts doing well.” — Maxine Ronald: Why do we have to keep explaining the ethnicity gap

“We know that any hopes of academic development must work alongside the needs of our students’ families — there simply isn’t any point in investing in a great science programme if we’re going to ignore what’s happening at home.” — Soana Pamaka: The system won’t shift to help our kids

“I’m a firm believer that getting it right for Māori means we’ll get it right for everyone.” Jacquie Kidd, associate professor at AUT, at home, Napier, New Zealand, Tuesday, 20 June 2023. Photo by John Cowpland / alphapix


In Aotearoa history, the law has been a weapon

 “From ancient times right down until now, Ngāti Pāhauwera have been and are the guardians of the river. That is why we are fighting for our river. We are weeping for our lands and for our river.” — Canon Wi Huata ‘We are weeping for our river’

“The impact of losing the land and our pā has been great. Our people have suffered enormously. Those who call Ngāti Manu ‘the landless ones’ don’t understand the history of how it happened.” — Arapeta Hamilton Slice by slice the fish will be returned

“Our journey of justice and restitution has now been going on for more than 180 years. It is underpinned by our hope for a different reality, and the courage to ask some important questions. What would the lives of our families look like had the Crown adhered to its side of the bargain in 1845 and fulfilled its obligations as our trustee?” — Kerensa Johnston The Nelson Tenths: A story of unmet obligations

Understanding gangs

“Justin Taia is 50 years old and a Black Power member. His criminal record has been described as ‘appalling’ by one judge. It includes violent assaults on family members and a neighbour. What that record doesn’t show is the gut-churning context.” — I hope telling my story will set me free.

“The report bemoans the lack of evidence about the experience of women and children in our nation’s gangs and indeed suggests that we should reframe the ‘problem’ as one of marginalised whānau best addressed by a public health approach.” — Denis O’Reilly: Waiting for the sober talk on gangs.


The complexity behind plans to expand the RSE scheme for Pacific seasonal workers

“We have to ask if this scheme is a sustainable model for the home countries. Because the demand from New Zealand only grows. Tonga is now bringing in school leavers . . . They’re expected to do the same work. The concern that New Zealand has, and most employers have, is will they be able to do the work? The concern that Tonga should have is: ‘Can we afford to send our young people away?’” — Sefita Hao’uli: RSE How can we make sure everyone wins?

“When I got home after my first full season, Jabez didn’t recogise me. He was scared of me and I struggled to hold him because he didn’t know who I was. That’s something we all go through as RSE workers. We have to learn how to live apart from our families, which is a completely foreign and isolating way of life for us, especially when everything we know is rooted in our families and communities.” — Pete Bumseng: Why we’re on the RSE scheme


“It was a transformational decision to get my face inscribed.” Te Awekotuku, emeritus professor of Waikato University. (Photo: Tracey Scott)

No matter what happens in politics, people are living their rangatiratanga and tikanga

“We have a 700-year plan to have the entire farm in natives and to be able to sustainably fell native trees as a form of income — and we think that’s far better for the land, far better for the environment. Don’t just talk about something. Do it. If you can lead by example and achieve something, that’s a far better way of taking people with you.” — Kevin Prime: We have a 700-year plan

“Perhaps one hundred years from now, every child born to Raukawa will know our oriori and be singing it as they grow. My hope is that it will feed the minds and hearts of our tamariki with their rich history. Far from being just a lullaby, it will wake our babies up to who they are and where they come from.” — Paraone Gloyne: Oriori feed the hearts and minds of our babies

“All the tricky beats of birth, life and death are explained in a body of mātauranga Māori that is staggering in its breadth. The complexity of it all is made simple by codes of behaviour we call tikanga. It’s taken thousands of years to provide such a worthwhile guide to the grift of life.” — Tainui Stephens: Matua? Moi?

“Our tūpuna traditionally used woven caskets, or they wrapped tūpāpaku in cloth dyed with paru and kokowai. Not only are these things cost-effective, but they wrap our loved ones in elements of our whenua. It cares for them, and it cares for Papatūānuku.” — Sharday Cable-Ranapia: Turning to tikanga when someone dies

“If you draw on everything that we’ve experienced as Māori, and you carry and wear that as a cloak, then you’ll be strong and the future will be great.” — Rewi Spraggon: Feeding the multitudes

“The Māori karanga sound is designed to activate the sorrow that you hold inside yourself. It opens the cavern inside yourself and lets it come out in tears. That’s the function — that’s the purpose.” — Te Raina Ferris: Karanga is the voice that resides in your womb

“It’s so empowering for Māori that there are things that we can do to help ourselves without relying on a purely western approach. Because, let’s face it, western science and medicine haven’t always helped our people.” — Makarena Dudley: Bringing te ao Māori to dementia

“It was a transformational decision to get my face inscribed . . . I was encouraged by an incredibly strong, butch-as, androgynous woman called George, who worked as a security guard. She took the kauae on the death of her mother. And yet it in no way diminished who she is as an enormously powerful, dazzling, androgynous, lesbian, butch woman.” — Ngahuia Te Awekotuku: Never give up girl

“My story is one of absence, loss, and sometimes sadness. Still, I refuse to let it be a story of despair.” — Aroha Gilling: You can’t hide big and brown

“We don’t get paid for the mahi of the whales. It’s all tikanga. It’s not a commercial operation. We’re not motivated by money. We’re motivated by the mana. We’re there to honour the atua and the tuākana according to our cultural traditions.” — Te Kaurinui Parata: Honouring the atua and the tuakana


Taranaki. (Illustration by Cat O’Neil)

Pākeha allies are doing the work too

“The contradictions in our present are multiple. As Pākehā, we see ourselves as a fair people who nonetheless took a country via a rip-off. We are courageous fighters overseas who have benefited from a dirty war at home. We are proud of our Treaty but we accept its daily dishonouring. For individuals, there is a plaintive confusion: ‘I’m a good person and I’ve never stolen anything.’” — Catherine Delahunty: Moving past the Pākehā backlash

“As Pākehā, longing to speak to the spiritual cost of disconnection feels as dangerous as it is necessary. There is a real tightrope to walk — one foot acknowledging that Pākehā are in receipt of great material advantage as a result of colonising this land, and another foot (which feels a whole lot more ginger) that wants to venture that colonisation, and its associated practices, has fundamentally hurt us as well.” — Sarah Hopkinson: The white tears of Taranaki


Mālō and soifua to all our readers. Ka nui te mihi ki a koutou katoa.

Thanks for being with us through 2023, and we look forward to seeing you back here in 2024, on the first Sunday of February, when we’ll return with fresh offerings.

 And if you feel moved to do so, we’d love to hear from you, too, on what stories have touched or informed you, and what you’d like to see more of next year. Just write to us at or leave a comment here.

Much aroha to you all from the E-Tangata whānau.

© E-Tangata, 2023

Thank you for reading E-Tangata. If you like our focus on Māori and Pasifika stories, interviews, and commentary, we need your help. Our content takes skill, long hours and hard work. But we're a small team and not-for-profit, so we need the support of our readers to keep going.

If you support our kaupapa and want to see us continue, please consider making a one-off donation or contributing $5 or $10 a month.