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Te Mana, Te Kāwanatanga: The Politics of Self Determination

by Mason Durie, Oxford University Press

Haami Piripi
Te Rarawa

Professor Mason Durie of Ngati Kauwhata and Rangitane Iwi is Professor and head of the Department of Māori studies at Massey University. He has also been director of the Māori Health Research Unit at Massey (Te Pumanawa Hauora). As a psychiatric health researcher and Māori mental health expert he has contributed enormously to the wider appreciation of Māori health concepts. His influence on health policy in New Zealand has led to an increased understanding of the critical importance of social, economic, political and cultural determinates of Māori health.

His latest book "Te Mana, Te Kawanatanga The Politics of Self Determination" draws together an abbreviated chronological history of British and State interactions with Māori. In particular he discusses significant developments and events of the recent past and provides a pragmatic analysis of the factors and issues influencing the ability for Māori to gain future autonomy. In the context of his focus on Māori self-determination, this work is a logical progression from his previous writings which have focussed more specifically on the health sector. He has written about Māori models of health provision, effective purchasing frameworks for Māori Health Services and provided a broader examination of the historical and political context of Māori health. In his previous book "Whaiora — Māori Health Development" it is clear that to improve Māori health in any real sense, more aspects of Tino Rangatiratanga must be addressed first.

In his analysis of the interface between the Crown and Māori there are two broad themes. The first is about the role of the state in either facilitating or blocking Māori development. The other is about the capacity of Māori to take advantage of windows of opportunity in a situation of change to realise aspirations for cultural, social and economic advancement. Professor Durie views self-determination in terms of advancement for all Māori through social equity, economic self-sufficiency and cultural affirmation, with an additional goal of nurturing the physical, social and cultural environment for future generations.

The first chapter of this book is a brief historical overview of Māori development where he establishes the traditional foundations of Māori authority and recounts early moves to establish a Māori nationhood culminating in the Māori Declaration of Independence (1835). This embodiment of Māori Sovereignty (in itself a progression from individual tribal Sovereignties) was superceded by the (1840) Tiriti o Waitangi. He goes on to further discuss the interaction between Māori autonomy and the growing power of the state in seven areas:

  • Participation in environmental protection and management
  • Cultural identity and heritage
  • Social policy
  • Land issues
  • Fisheries
  • Te Tiriti o Waitangi

Professor Durie’s writing style is organised and succinct, and provides an easily read account of recent history from a Māori academic perspective. The New Zealand public are more used to hearing about such issues from the press and it is refreshing to have a very readable account with more depth and context than is usually afforded by political and media commentators,

The chapter on environmental resources, for example begins with a descriptive framework for understanding Māori values and beliefs about the natural world. It then goes on to briefly describe the history and significance of claims to the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal regarding the Motunui Outfall, the Kaituna River, the Manukau Harbour and the Mangonui sewerage scheme.

The discussion continues about the benefits and limitations of the Resource Management Act and the areas of cognisance or conflict with Crown Conservation policies. The chapter also traverses more generic issues about water rights, mineral ownership and management, forests, flora and fauna and the context in which decisions about resources are made. In his discussion he establishes the educative role that Māori environmental concerns have had in shaping the current conservation ethic and developing a more sophisticated intergenerational view of natural resource management in New Zealand.

The following chapters track the historical development of a Māori identity including demographic features to produce a forceful enlightenment about the potential of harnessing the bloc vote of Māori in order to achieve constitutional, legislative and policy reform.

The chapters on Mana Whenua and Moana background the current debates relating to land and fisheries issues and Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal claims. The analysis of property rights, political representation, language and the role of broadcasting is an inside view of the debate providing enlightenment to public sector analysts on the complexity of the issues involved.

In applying the Treaty of Waitangi, Professor Durie explores the roles and processes for Treaty settlements. He further discusses representation, and benchmarks in major claim resolutions, and provides a concise summary of the pertinent issues.

The following chapter "Mana Motuhake, Autonomy, Governance and Nationhood" examines terms and concepts of Sovereignty, Tino Rangatiratanga and self-determination, looking at options for a type of state within which Māori self-determination might best be expressed as a nation. In this chapter we finally get to see some of the thinking of Professor Mason Durie articulated as a dichotomy between the (1840) version of Sovereignty and the latest information superhighway version of international collectives. The state of sovereignty, it becomes clear, is constantly in flux, changing and reforming with each twist of economic and sectoral reform.

Also, in the final chapter Professor Durie explores some distinctions between tribal identity and generic Māori identity. These issues are of extreme relevance to the social policy arena and have come to the fore with the recent challenges by urban Māori organisations over the allocation of Treaty rights and benefits of claim settlements.

Some have argued Tino Rangatiratanga makes most sense at a tribal level, while others suggest that it is impossible to revive an exclusively tribal society. Sir Peter Tapsell is quoted saying that, "it has suited Pākehā people to leave us with a spirit of tribalism". Professor Durie concludes the two are not incompatable: "Māori society is complex and it is both simplistic and misleading to suggest that Māori interests can be totally accommodated within one constitutional framework only".

Professor Durie advocates a return to a unified Māori nation state as proposed by the 1835 Declaration of Independence and explores the constitutional elements required for such a concept. While he believes that there is a measure of agreement about the existence of a Māori nation, there is not unanimity among Māori about the need for a national Māori body. The political to-and-fro has resulted in confusion amongst both Māori and Government agencies. It would also have been useful to have gone on to discuss the impact of this phenomena on the quality of service delivery by social service agencies.

Professor Durie continues: "Leaving aside the need to strike a balance between tribal independence and collective Māori authority, the question is whether Māori aspirations for autonomy can be met within the existing frameworks or whether fresh constitutional arrangements are needed."

On one hand he argues that the exercise of Tino Rangatiratanga at national and international level is "compromised because there is no effective Māori politic, and in its absence, policy making for and on behalf of Māori, is assumed by the Crown". On the other hand he observes that, "with significant rulings on Treaty issues... and with the emergence of bicultural jurisprudence and a strategically placed presence in Parliament, Mäori appear to be searching for a place within the Nation State of Aotearoa New Zealand rather than apart from it."

He summarises his own position by re-emphasising that Māori self-determination cannot be measured by the constitutional arrangement for governance or the level of Māori autonomy alone. The focus must be on whether the goals of self-determination in terms of advancement of Māori people are being realised. To achieve this he outlines a five-point plan that includes forward planning, a comprehensive Treaty of Waitangi policy, Māori governance over Māori resources, a Māori assembly and deliberate strategies for constitutional change.

Balanced against this is his acknowledgement of the prevailing political forces and potential exploitation of Māori aspirations for autonomy by proponents of the new right agenda. For instance, in his description of the birth of the decade of Māori development, "positive Māori development with its focus on tribal responsibilities for health, education, welfare, economic progress and greater autonomy, fitted quite comfortably with the free market philosophy of a minimal state, non-government provision of services, economic self-sufficiency and privatisation. There is no doubt that the Hui Taumata captured the attention of politicians, but there was parallel concern that the Hui Taumata itself had been captured by the architects of a free market economy and the monetarist theories of the ‘New’ Right" (p.11).

He argues that assimilating the functions of the Department of Māori Affairs and the move towards mainstreaming has had its losses, and that the goal to achieve an integrated and holistic approach to development in a context of well meaning but fragmented sectoral approach will become social policy’s biggest challenge.

Unfortunately the demise of the Department of Māori Affairs is not elaborated upon by Professor Durie and in this respect the significance of this important coup in the march of the "New Right" is downplayed.

There are, however, important debates that provide direction and clarity in determining any policy development concerning Māori, It is an extended argument for the right to self- determination and a stocktake of progress, rather than a strategic plan for autonomy, and in that sense leaves some hard questions unanswered, Professor Durie is a master of the summary table and punctuates every chapter with key points in table form. The layout and length of the book make it easy reading and overall an essential text for social policy practitioners.

Na reira kei te mihi kite rangatira ki te kaihautu o te kaupapa, a Meihana Durie me ona maramatanga i taka nei ki a tatou katoa o Niu Tireni nei.

Cover photo of Social Policy Journal


Social Policy Journal of New Zealand: Issue 12

Te Mana, Te Kāwanatanga: The Politics of Self Determination by Mason Durie

Jul 1999

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