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Te Hui-aa-Motu, the national unity hui at Turangawaewae: Some Pākehā reflections

Updated: Jan 31

Early last Saturday morning Anna Shepherd and I set out for Turangawaewae Marae for Hui-aa-Motu. Driving along River Rd, we joined the cars, vans, buses, bikes on the same hikoi.  Anna and I as Pākehā talked lots about whether we should go. Was the hui just for Māori iwi and hapū? What are our responsibilities as Tiriti partners, especially with the tripartite coalition Government? And the desire to feel, hear, and gain some inspiration from Māori for the Tiriti challenges to come.  

Respects to Waikato Tainui for the organisation of the whole day, the thoughtful preparations for parking and the carts to take us up the hill if we wanted a lift, the way traffic and people were managed as numbers outside grew and grew, the visible presence and sense of care that was evident throughout the day for the food, water and frozen juicies as the day got hotter, to the extra chairs provided and the handling of rubbish. There was always someone on hand with a smile and to help as needed.  

The greetings, laughter, and talk as we waited for the pōwhiri. People gathered in groups large and small from all areas of the Motu, from iwi and hapū, political parties, academia, unions, media, activists, public servants, and whānau, to name a few. Then we moved inside, taking care to stay as a group, and finding a seat under the shade of one of the many marquees set up inside the grounds where screens and speaker systems meant we could follow the speakers.

From the opening speakers to the wrapping up by Kiingi Tuheitia the message was of Kotahitanga, coming together in unity to achieve Mana Motuhake - self-determination. We were reminded by Dayle Takitimu that there was no cession of sovereignty, in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. “The Treaty is not unclear; it calls for full, exclusive, and undisturbed Māori possession of our lands, estates, forests, fisheries, and other taonga” she said[1].  

Even with my limited understanding of te reo, the message to ‘leave Te Tiriti/the Treaty and Te Reo alone’ was loud and clear. In the Taakiritia te Tiriti me te Taiao: Treaty & Environment focus forum the panel members spoke about the need to promote knowledge and understanding about He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (1835 Declaration of Independence) and Te Tirit o Waitangi.  Recent research pointed to how few people had even limited knowledge of the Treaty in Aotearoa. Learning our local histories of colonisation, and how, informed by the doctrine of discovery, colonising views of white supremacy were evident in the current government talk about the Treaty.   Annette Sykes energised the crowd by calling for a commitment to move together to resist and challenge the government to uphold Māori rights and access to power. Mereana Pitman spoke of the Ngati Kahungungu intention to engage with hapū in a programme conscientisation about Te Tiriti.  

I think Pākehā often mistake sameness for Unity whereas Hui aa Motu was a display of diversity coming together to explore unity in 2024.  To sit within the strength of Maoridom on Saturday brought back memories of the experience of walking across the Auckland Harbour bridge with the Māori Land March in 1975, where there was also a sense of coming together in unity for a clear purpose. The te ahi kā and mauri of that movement has carried through the struggles and occupations to reclaim Takaparawhau/Bastion Point by Ngāti Whātua, Te Kōpua/Raglan golf course by the Tainui people of Whāingaroa, for example, the revival of te reo Māori and growth of Kohanga reo and Kura, the 2004 foreshore and seabed hikoi, and was present in the hui at Turangawaewae.

It was a momentous day, to be amongst the 10,000, hear and feel the depth and breadth of knowledge and commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, te reo Māori, and to the building of Kotahitanga and Mana Motuhake within hapū and whānau to grow the mauri and oranga of their people.  It was not the “moan session” that Shane Jones predicted but rather a positive move to strengthen the voice and presence of Māori throughout the motu.

I have come away for Hui-aa-motu with a renewed sense of purpose and energy to continue to work for justice alongside Māori in ways that Māori prefer, and to build the knowledge and understanding with Pākehā and Tauiwi of He Whakaputanga  and Te Tiriti o Waitangi to guide a better future for Aotearoa.   There is much work still to do to ensure that Pākehā systems no longer operate in ways that perpetuate colonisation and oppress but rather that Māori are recognised as co-governors in the kawanatanga relationship described in and Te Triti o Waitangi. Further, that resource decisions across all aspects of the lives of people and the environment are shared between Māori and the Crown/Government in ways that reflect the intent of He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

To quote the late activist and teacher Mitzi Nairn “I want to be one of the Pākehā Māori thought they were getting when they signed Tiriti”.  


Rose Black, Pākehā member of STIR

26 January 2024

[1] Ten memorable quotes from te hui aa motu, Tommy de Silva,



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