26 June 2019

A journey sixty years in the making…

Ko wai au? Who am I?
I was born in 1959 and grew up in the Tararua District. There are some things that have not changed in my time. We still love the All Blacks and look forward to spring, but just about everything else has evolved significantly. Some good, others not so much.

I grew up in a white family, with Māori neighbours, who we got on with really well (at least from our point of view). We showed respect for them as people living in a white man’s world. The better they fitted into our world the more respected they were. We never talked about their culture or showed any real interest.

My father Bill was a bit of an oddity as he loved the Māori language, the vowels, the softness of the words, and he had a strong fondness for a Māori woman he met in Rotorua, on honeymoon, named Guide Rangi. She was a famous tourist hostess and they kept in touch. He was also very close to our immediate neighbour, Gladys Simmens, a powerhouse Māori woman. I called in there a lot as a kid.

We liked playing with poi at school, that was fun. We sang “Po Kari Kari Anna” (Pōkarekare Ana), which was a nice song. In class we were taught that Hōne Hēke cut down the flagpole – that was bad. That there were Māori wars, and that we won. In the 1960’s and 1970’s when I was being schooled, Māori were happy with their lot, or so I, and most other Pākehā thought.

As individuals we knew they were different to us, funny and quirky, irreverent, naughty sometimes, and often fabulous sportspeople and that was all cool. Collectively though, Māori were invisible. Little or no language, or culture that I could see.

My first consciousness of the emergence of their culture was from a good friend of my sister Pip, Elaine Tua. When Elaine was in her teens she did three things. She went on an American school exchange program, coming back with a wonderful new accent . She changed her name to Hiria, and she began to learn to speak her native language, te reo. This was a big deal. It caused much conversation between people and some consternation from her father, as he was concerned that she would not be taught the language correctly.

It’s fascinating and a little confronting as a Pākehā to look back at a time (1971, not that long ago), and think this young Māori woman caused so much disturbance in our rural town just by learning her language.

Ko wai tātou? Who are we?
The next disturbance I recall was in 1975 when Whina Cooper led a land march to Parliament. About 5000 marchers arrived at Parliament and presented a petition signed by 60,000 people to Prime Minister Bill Rowling. The primary aim of this hīkoi (march) was to protest ongoing Māori land alienation. Bastion Point occupation came soon after.

The response from my family was one of surprise and indignation. “What the hell were these maoris so upset about?” They had been happy for like, forever, and surely these were just rabble rousers amongst the Māori population? My mother would say, “These Māori should be at work, rather than on a march.” Of course, she thought many were just dole bludgers. Not once did I hear a discussion that they might have had any valid claims.

Whina Cooper, that diminutive woman, became a Dame – honoured by the Queen of England. What a great outcome.

Also in this period was the beginnings of the Waitangi Tribunal, which saw its first settlement in 1978 with some of Ngāti Whātua, largely in response to the protest at Bastion Point. I was in my teens at this point and only mildly interested. I never once wondered about what might have been the cause of all this fuss and believed things would go back to normal again. Ha, the ignorance of privilege.

In 1980 our neighbour, and my parents’ long-time friend, Gladys Simmens, died after a 10-year extended battle with cancer. It was November and on the day of her funeral there was an intense local storm. The creek that ran behind Gladys’ home flooded higher than anyone could remember, and it was the only creek that flooded. My father said, ‘Well that’s fitting for a great wahine passing away’. I had never heard him use that word before. I had never realised how attached he was to her. It was kind of spooky for me.

A confronting experience
Nothing much changed for me and my relationship with Māori, until my early thirties when I was farming just south of Kaikohe, in Northland, with my young family. We lived 30 minutes out of town and were in the minority, being Pākehā. There were only two Pākehā families at the school and we were cool with that.

What we were not so cool about was the unbelievable poverty that surrounded us. It was pervasive and showed up in many forms. It was incredibly uncomfortable for me, as I had never been close to poverty before and seen its impact. The drug trade was alive and well, with marijuana grown throughout the forestry blocks around us. I remember seeing a ute loaded with freshly harvested marijuana being driven to town in the middle of the afternoon in plain view, with a large Māori fella sitting on it to keep it down. He was smoking a joint and very content. It was the wild west and I think maybe it still is up there today.

Our oldest child, Gabby (6 years at the time), stayed over at a friend’s place and had a fabulous time. Two weeks later at the same house, a thug from one of the gangs turned up to settle a dispute and the mother killed him with an axe. She was a woman I respected and liked and was intelligent with a great sense of humour. My naivety was being shaken to the core. This was the reality of poverty like I had never seen, and Māori were stuck fast in its clutches. There were a number of other instances like this, which culminated in the family deciding to sell the farm and move away from this part of the world. We had options and took them. The locals didn’t have that luxury.

Taking on Te Reo
My time in Northland had an impact on me and when we relocated to Taupō, I enrolled in a Te Reo class. I wanted to get a better understanding of Māoridom and learning the language would help (I thought). It was 1994 and classes like these were getting underway throughout the country. I was the only ‘honky’ there and was not overly welcome, but that has never deterred me before. I was keen-as, for like my father Bill, I too loved the sound of the spoken language.

The real test was yet to come. I could not, for the life of me, pronounce the words. For those who don’t know, I was born with a hearing loss. Without the skills of a brilliant elocution teacher, who painstakingly taught me to speak English at the age of 10 to 12 years, I would have struggled to get ahead as an adult. However, this was a whole new ball game learning Māori. Those soft vowels, they just disappeared in my ears. There was no ‘one-on-one’ elocution teacher. In fact, the tutors were happy to see me give up and bugger off. I turned my back on the language, slightly pissed off.

Over the next 20 years I became more aware of the fact that Māori weren’t happy with their lot, and that there was a Waitangi Tribunal that was settling land claims. But in reality, I was more interested in my own family life, and farming. This is not unique, as Māori culture or language is not a big part of private enterprise across most industries in New Zealand, something which still needs to be sorted.

My lesson in history
It wasn’t until I began Collective Intelligence and we began attracting a number of young, smart Māori leaders who proudly championed their culture into our community, that my world views were challenged (albeit in a very gentle way). Riria Te Kanawa, her husband Che Wilson, and Liana Poutu joined up at a similar time. They were all well-versed in their culture and were incredibly generous with their time to educate us on their ancestors’ journey. I was immediately struck by the fact that I had no idea of New Zealand’s full history and gained an appreciation of the difficulty and time it took for iwi to go through a Waitangi Tribunal settlement.

Fortunately we had a facilitator at the time, Megan Rose, who encouraged me to attend a two-day Treaty education workshop run by Robert Consedine. The course was called Healing our History – also the name of a book he wrote with his daughter Joanna Consedine.

It was a stunning two days, due to Consedine’s experience with Treaty work over many years. He gave a global perspective of what was going on in the world when the Treaty was signed and did not make anyone feel embarrassed or vilified by the events that make up our shared history. I gained a far better perspective of how our country has been shaped, and came away not only enlightened, but with a new sense of personal identity.

I had an understanding prior to this workshop of how little iwi were being recompensed by the Crown (just 1 to 2%), for the land that had been confiscated in the mid 1800’s. This really brought home to me the impact on Māori as a people. It was incredibly uncomfortable to examine and understand the effect colonisation has had on iwi, hapū, and whānau. I started to understand why Dame Whina Cooper led the hīkoi…and why our jails are overly full of Māori.

We learnt that early colonial governments drafted land laws after land laws to try and break down iwi, and to get a hold of the land needed to settle the one million immigrants shipped in over 60 years from 1840 to 1900. During that same period, the Māori population plummeted due to disease and land wars.

I also came away feeling very proud of our country. A country where the Waitangi Tribunal was settling iwi claims, after lengthy negotiations, and relationships between Pākehā and Māori are improving. Iwi on the whole have done a sterling job in managing their assets and building long-term wealth for their whānau. While becoming more knowledgeable was uncomfortable, it was also comforting to gain perspective. It is also important for me to say that I am no authority on our history, but I am deeply interested.

What I have been intrigued with working with Collective Intelligence teams over the years, is that whenever Māori members have brought their culture into the room the experience for everyone deepens. This is the essence of this blog, along with a little background to my journey.

Māori understand the idea of ‘collective intelligence’ instinctively. It’s how they operate.

I have witnessed the Matariki Constellation model used in a meeting feedback process with stunning effectiveness. The use of karakia to deepen the connection between members, and impromptu waiata to celebrate. However, I am still clumsy when engaging with the culture, but learning every day. Learning can be ugly at times, and that’s okay.
Che Wilson pointed out something very important to me – that our process is always delivered with aroha. Aroha is a Pacific concept, meaning to direct your essence to someone else. Your potential within can be shared with others, which increases your mana. It’s a process to help you grow, and direct your care to others, and is often known as love.

2019: my time to do something more
So, for me in my 60th year, I feel a deepening love for the Māori people, their culture, their art, and essence. And I wanted to celebrate the journey I have been on in some way.

I am fortunate to have Bettina Anderson working alongside me in our office, who is dedicating herself to learning Te Reo two days a week in an immersion wānanga setting (she’s the one who has put all the macrons into the right places in this blog!). This gives me the chance to get that ‘one-on-one’ tuition again, and from a Pākehā woman who I can hear more easily. It will be very slow, but I will gain some te reo, finally.

Over the past 4 or 5 years I have also considered getting a moko (traditional tattoo) of some sort. This has been a hazy process and one that has come in and out of focus for me. In February this year it became something I wanted to do in 2019. No idea why now exactly, but it felt right.

I contacted my friend Che to guide me on how to go about this, and he connected me to Tipi Wehipeihana, a practitioner of toi moko (the art of tattooing). I met with Tipi and we discussed my journey. He agreed to tattoo a moko for me after lengthy discussion and a date was agreed. I felt incredibly privileged.

Apart from my wife Kate, I had not discussed this idea with anyone else. Once I had met Tipi I broached the subject with a couple of friends, who both had a very negative response to the idea. I was a bit surprised at the strength of their convictions and one suggested it was tokenism. Just like that, I lost confidence to proceed. I rang two men I respect for their counsel – Anake Goodall and of course, Che. Anake’s view was that as long as I was clear on why I was having it done, he was cool. He did not believe it was tokenism and stated that whatever reaction I got – the reaction was all about them. Che simply asked, “Is Tipi going to do it, because he will be the hardest to satisfy.”

So, on June 6th I sat down with Tipi at his home in Kuku to get my moko. What is interesting is that I got a choice on where on my body I could have the moko, but not on the design. That’s his job, to turn my story into art. I felt completely relaxed letting this craftsman do his thing on my forearm.

My moko is a moko whakapuru, which shields the arm and talks to my upbringing and journey of life. A journey which has taught me compassion towards te Ao Māori and a life in which I have gained a deeper understanding, and appreciation, about the impact of colonisation on my friends and their people.

The design is in puhoro fashion, which show the waves of the ocean.

I love it.

Today I stand up, alongside the first people of this land, doing my best to learn and grow my understanding. At times I’m totally awkward and uncomfortable with it, but as I’m evolving, I’m OK with that.

Arohanui (much love)

Ian Harvey (Harv)


Subscribe to Harv's Blog

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts by Harv.

Call Us

06 280 0938


Email Us




Members Area

Forgot your password?

Login not working?

Clear your Browser Cache:
Windows: Press Ctrl+F5
macOS/OSX: Press Command + R

Learn More

Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content