The cross-disciplinary ethos that pervades much of the thinking at the Transit of Venus Forum very much chimes with Maori norms, said Apirana Mahuika, chairman of of Te Runanga o Ngati Porou. “I am multi-sectored in everything I do,” he said.
In the second panel discussion of Thursday morning at the forum in Gisborne, Richard Brooking, chair of the Eastland Community Trust, introduced a discussion of “science and the emerging economy”.
A wide-ranging session touched on many issues in the interface between Maori, the Maori economy and the science world – from the misconceptions relating to the impact of the settlement process (far from synonymous with “the Maori economy”, said Brooking) to th
e role of tikanga Maori in scientific process and ethics.
Mahuika took issue with that “emerging” from the outset. The Maori economy was
being grown, he said. It was not simply emerging. What’s more, “one size fits all does not apply to Maori – it is different iwi to iwi” – whatever you might read in the “mainstream Pakeha media”.
He pointed to the success of Ngati Porou’s fishing industry – a product of collective thinking and collaboration.
But the iwi’s efforts were not confined to matters of land and sea. One day, he said, “I hope we build a vehicle, like a Toyota. It may be a pipe dream, but I think we can do it.”
The roadmap to Maori Motors was plotted by Kristen Kohere-Soutar, who presented a summary of the findings of the 2011 Berl study of the Maori economy, science and innovation. The potential was huge, she said, as was the likely deleterious impact of doing nothing.
Broadly speaking, she said, the challenges for Maori economy echoed those of the wider economy – to diversify beyond the commodity reliance.
She noted the “long and systemic challenges” that faced Maori in the education system. And the distance to travel, she noted, is bluntly expressed in the number of Maori entries in recent innovation awards: nil.
Hope Tupara, chair of Te Runanga o Turanganui-a-Kiwa (which comprises three iwi), identified a series of stumbling blocks she had encountered in building relationships with institutions. Her remarks on difficulties in engagements with Crown Research Institutes struck a chord with many in the room.
There needed to be a shift in the way CRIs operate, said Tupara, in terms of their approach to iwi organisations. Invited by Shaun Hendy to elaborate in the question session, Tupara said: “One thing we would probably prefer is if someone came and talked directly to us – that would be a good start.”
The convention, rather, was typically “let’s get this Maori person in this institution, and get them to talk to us – that puts that person in quite a vulnerable position – they’re on their own.”
Charles Royal lamented the “wastage of Maori creative potential” – something that everyone, Maori included, needed to take some responsibility for.
The Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, a centre of research excellence at the University of Auckland, Royal spoke further on Matauranga Maori, or traditional Maori knowledge (see more from Royal here) – a framework from which Maori can bring to western science an ethical foundation, along with a better appreciation of the importance of relationships with one and another and with nature.
Follow the live webcast of the forum here.