Your own kids may be inclined at times to be less respectful to you than you may feel is appropriate. Mānuka Hēnare has had a taste of that. He didn’t set about serious university study until he was in his 40s — as a mature student. A really mature student.
And, because he couldn’t afford to go at it full-time, he spent 20 years picking off a couple of degrees and then nailing his PhD. Respectful children might applaud such a dad for his tenacity and commitment. For his brains too.
By contrast, Mānuka has heard them suggest he’s been a slow learner.You can make up your own mind as you follow this conversation he had with Dale.
Kia ora, Mānuka. Like many others when hearing that Hēnare surname, I’ve assumed that you have a strong northern connection. And we’re spot on there, aren’t we? But I understand now that you’re a townie, too. Maybe even a city slicker.
Well, we have strong North Hokianga connections. The family name is Puku — and we’re Ngāti Hauā and Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa and Ngāti Kahu. We’re connected to the Hokai, Waru, Terei and Taylor families — names that are well known up there and in Auckland.
Our ancestor was Hēnare Te Puku. Then there was Waru Te Puku, Terei Te Puku and so forth. In those days, people took their Christian name as they became adults and that became their new surname. So, from Hokai Te Puku came the Hokai family. From Waru Te Puku came the Waru family — and from Hēnare Te Puku came our Hēnare family of the North Hokianga.
So you’ll be linked to Pio Terei’s whānau? That’s the Pio we keep seeing on TV.
Oh, very close. And, because of all his work in broadcasting, including Radio Waatea, I imagine you’ll have heard the story about the Mill Hill Catholic missionaries who arrived in the 19th century.
They had a strong following in Pawarenga. But, over in Whangape, where we came from, we were all Anglicans except for a little group of Catholics. And, in their sermons, the Mill Hill fathers would point to us in Whangape and would warn that we’d all go to hell if we didn’t join the Catholics and follow the way of Jesus Christ.
I know your faith has played an important part in your life — and we’ll return to that shortly — but what was your upbringing? Were you a country kid or a city boy?
I’m one of the first generation of urban-born Māori. We were born in the heart of Auckland, up at the top Vincent Street — like all of the families from the Hokianga. They shifted down into houses in Hobson Street or Vincent Street, and all of that area. That was the centre of Auckland’s Māori community. Then there was the Māori Community Centre close by, down there at Victoria Park.
Eventually, in the mid-1940s, we bought one of the first state houses in Mt Roskill. I was born in St Helen’s, raised in the city, but constantly was going back to Whangape, often on the back of a truck, which they wouldn’t allow these days.
Having a ride back to the metropolis of Whangape?
Well, Whangape had a racecourse in those days. And one footy field. So we were big-time. Don’t laugh.
Okay. I won’t. But we haven’t quite dealt with your name, have we?
No. We haven’t. You see my father, Harry Arnold, was a Scot who married my mother, Ellen Henry, and they named me Alvin Arnold when I was born in 1942. My dad, who’d been a labourer and truck driver, died when he was still in his 50s.
For a good while, I was often referred to as Mānuka, a nickname, which had been my grandfather’s name. But I got the idea that I should formally change my name from Alvin Arnold to Mānuka Hēnare — which I did, but there are people who knew me in the 1960s and early ‘70s who still call me Alvin.
You mentioned that Anglican-Catholic split back in the Hokianga. When did that take place?
That was back in the 1920s. We were Anglicans then but, because of a dispute in Whangape, the Hēnare whãnau and several others, including the Hokai, Waru and Terei families, went over to Pawarenga and we became Catholics. But the Murray whanãu and many others on the Whangape side stayed as Anglicans.
When we look at it now we may see it as a really small matter to cause such a big family split. But in those days it was a question of mana — and somebody had made an insulting remark about one of our a young women.
But we’ve been Christians from 1827, and moving from one church to another was precisely that — staying Christians but moving within the Christian family. And, seeing I was in a strongly Catholic family, I was raised that way.
Many of us know you as a man with a fair bit of academic muscle, including a PhD. How did you set off down that path?
My first schools were Dominion Road Primary and Wesley Primary. Then I was sent to St Joseph’s Convent in Takapuna — or St Joseph’s Orphanage, as it was known then. That was the result of a family split.
I went there for a year in 1954 — and that made a big impression on me because most of the children were Mãori kids from broken families and with all those kinds of histories. The Mercy nuns and the Irish priests who looked after us were firm but really loving. The 1950s were pretty stern times, so although we were caned, that wasn’t much different from getting a clip over the ear from someone in the family. We had no complaints.
When I reflect on the 1950s, I can see that they were violent times in New Zealand. But beatings and hitting children, whether Māori, Pākehā or anybody else, was a common form of behaviour. And I don’t see it as being exceptionally Māori at all.
After that year at St Joseph’s, I went to Marist Brothers in Vermont Street and then to St Paul’s College in Ponsonby, which used to be the old Sacred Heart College.
If there’s one school known especially for the sportsmen it’s produced, that’s St Paul’s, isn’t it? Especially top class rugby league players. The odd All Black too, like Bernie Fraser. But league players galore like Stacey Jones and Mark Graham, Jerome Ropati, and Joe and Nigel Vagana.
I was raised playing rugby league. That was the big game for us at Marist Brothers and when we were out in Mt Roskill. But, at St Paul’s, the winter game was rugby. I made the 1st XV as a lock or a prop. I was over 13 stone and 6ft 1in. And we had crackerjack cricket teams with some top-notch players like Seb Kohlhase (who opened the bowling with me) and Hec Schuster.
By this time, St Paul’s College, as far as I can recall, was close to half Māori with the rest of the students mainly Samoan and Tongan — and we stood out because we were the first generation of Māori and Pacific Islanders to be playing sports like cricket at that level.
Sport has always been a big part, a dominant part, of my life. And it was sport that kept me on at school, as it did for a number of my schoolmates. These days, though, I’m just a watcher.
So what came after your time at St Paul’s?
I became a labourer. I’d got School C but, in the 6th form, I failed all my UE exams. So an academic life wasn’t one of my options then. Not at all. But all the cuzzy bros those days seemed to be labouring or driving a truck for J.J. Craig or Winstones. So I joined them and used to queue up every morning to get a labouring job with them.
Then there was one of those quirky little things that happen in life. I’m standing in the queue one morning and the Pākehā fulla distributing the labouring jobs, he leans out and says: “Didn’t you go to 6th Form?”
I’m looking around and, yep, he’s talking to me. And he says: “What the hell are you doing here as a labourer?” And, before I knew it, I was given a job in the Winstones headquarters at the bottom of Queen Street. Without that man’s intervention, I don’t know where I’d be today. Maybe working in factory. Or truck driving, because I thought that was going to be my career.
But at Winstones, because I’d done 6th Form, I was put into a little group of clerical workers that helped set up the first computers in Winstones. It was a “work study” team focusing on new systems and on management thinking.
My six or seven years at Winstones were incredibly formative and that experience still shapes my thinking today — about organising yourselves and management and governance. Always seeking the next new idea and making use of it.
I acquired all of that stuff at Winstones because that company was never happy with what it was doing in any given year. It was always wanting to be better year by year. So I got imbued with that kind of strategic approach.
Then you had a spell with the Catholic Church.
Yes. When I was 26 or 27, I left Winstones and went and worked for the Catholic Church as a youth worker, and spent a couple of years working and mixing with young people in Hamilton, Kawerau, Whakatāne, Tauranga and Tokoroa. My job was to get young workers together, mainly Māori in those days, and have weekly meetings about the dignity of human work and about our faith.
Next, I landed a job with Corso, which set me off on a new career for the next 30 years where I was at first helping with Corso’s overseas aid in Asia and the South Pacific. I became a professional fundraiser — raising funds for development and social justice programmes. And then I carried on in that line of work for the Catholic Church. This time it was in the Wellington archdiocese where I was looking after their Catholic overseas aid committee.
And, along the way, no doubt, there was a family to attend to.
That’s true. Diane and I got married almost 50 years ago — and we have five children. But we both have had a commitment to overseas aid and social justice and regional development. So we’ve never left that area of interest.
And, in the course of that work, I’ve come to see more clearly how Māori issues are global issues too. It’s land loss. Loss of language, as well. Colonisation and cultural domination.
And what’s happening to us and in the Pacific has also been happening to millions of people elsewhere, like in Africa and South East Asia.
I had the good fortune to travel to a lot of those countries looking at the aid programmes that we were funding from New Zealand. And all the time I was thinking about what the impact is going to be for Māori and how can we ensure that we don’t end up being the low income, poverty-stricken people that I was seeing in parts of Asia and throughout the Pacific.
One ingredient I notice in the course of your work and your teaching is the emphasis on culture — and how it needs to colour and shape all our decision-making. You always factor in that element.
Well, Dale, I learned a great deal about the power of culture in the Catholic Church and in Corso when I was engaged in movements, like the anti-apartheid and Peace in Vietnam movements. Culture was a major theme in all of them. And then I became aware that, in many of these discussions and negotiations, I was working with people who had degrees. They were really well informed. And they assumed that I had that academic background too.
So, when I was 43, with Diane’s help, I started studying at university part-time — I’ve only ever been a part time student — and, 20 years later, when I was 63, I finally finished my PhD. I stuck at it because I believe that effective leadership depends on learning. Leaders need to have an in-depth understanding of economics and politics and organisational theory.
And, for me, the academic studies supplemented the practical experience I’d had with the overseas aid programmes. Then, because of that experience, I got a lectureship at the Auckland University Business School. Pare Keiha and Ella Henry were part of a group who’d started the Māori programme there — and they were great mentors for me. I really am indebted to them.
Together we set up a Māori research centre which we named the Dame Mira Szaszy Research Centre. The aim has been to look into the future, identify what our people need, and see how we can plan for the next 20 or 50 years.
This follows on from the post-graduate diploma which Pare and Ella and others set up 25 years ago — and which has produced hundreds of graduates. Many of them are now tribal leaders, throughout Tai Tokerau, Tainui, Ngāti Maniapoto, over towards Hauraki and in Auckland itself.
And I’m now seeing the prospect of Māori, one day becoming the owners again of their land, their means of production, as we were for five thousand years.
That was taken away from us through colonisation. But today Māori are becoming the owners of our land again and of our means of production. So I see our role in the Business School as preparing people to be the managers and the governors of Māori business and development.
Earlier, we touched on the need to recognise the role that culture plays in a country’s development. But, here in Aotearoa, there’s another factor. And that’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi — and the need for all New Zealanders to understand it.
Forty years ago, the New Zealand Planning Council was set up to advise the government on economic and other planning. Out of that came the notion that there is a Māori economy and that we ought to know more about it. So that was one step.
Then, for me, there was another important step when, in 1988, I was in Kawakawa talking to Ta Hemi Hēnare of Ngāti Hine. He was in his late 70s at the time and I was raising the question of whether there was any way to record the knowledge that he’d been sharing with us for years. I realised later that was an insensitive question to put to a man of his age.
But he said: “Mānuka Hēnare, I have an even better idea. One day the Treaty of Waitangi is going to be a big constitutional issue. And the 1835 Declaration of Independence will become a major matter of historical importance to Mãori people. You should go to university and get a PhD on He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga.”
Ta Hemi knew that, when the issue of the Declaration came up, there could be some debate and concern about the lack of scholarship about the event. So he was pushing me towards that research.
And that’s how that happened, mate. Here I was in my 40s and thinking: “Oh God”. But I did what I was told. I started my university studies and completed the PhD on that 1835 Declaration and, in the meantime, started talking about He Whakaputanga me te Tiriti o Waitangi.
I’m now very proud of the fact that more and more Māori and Pākehā are conscious of that very important historical event when our people declared Nu Tireni to be a free and independent country. And more New Zealanders have become aware of how it shaped the Tiriti o Waitangi.
There’s a new level of political and economic thinking that’s going on now. And one aspect is the recognition that the Pākehā economy doesn’t enhance Māori life. That’s how I see it. So there’s work to be done to ensure that Māori businesses keep developing to ensure that a Māori economy is a Māori one. Without the Māori businesses, there can be no Māori economy — and no Māori prosperity.
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