Māori communities hit hardest by the housing crisis are revolutionising approaches to housing research with the support of Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC).
Embedding an operational model based on Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership has bolstered BBHTCs ability to provide dedicated resource and support to marginalised communities.
The four inspirational women who lead the charge for the National Science Challenge, have entrenched equitable representation of Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti throughout their organisation.
The ripple effect is reshaping the landscape of housing research by highlighting the innovative approaches and meaningful impact of initiatives developed and led by Māori communities.
The wealth of knowledge and resource generated is also supporting diverse communities across the country to develop similar housing solutions.
The success and mana of the communities involved in BBHTC research projects was showcased at the National Maori Housing Conference hosted in Rotorua this year.
Speaking at the Conference, BBHTC, Co-Director (Tangata Whenua), Rihi Te Nana highlighted the enhanced awareness of the value added through kaupapa Māori research.
“We have suffered from research fatigue; we have always been in the space of having rangahau done to us and put upon us. This research demonstrates clearly, we are in a space of our own now.
We are all the kairangahau, our whakaaro and our rangahau embody the knowledge of our tūpuna. Our rangahau will help heal the past and forge better, brighter futures for te hunga rangatahi and our mokopuna.”
The determination and dedication of the four female leaders of BBHTC creates a highly functional working model of authentic Treaty partnership was celebrated in a dedicated panel interview on Radio New Zealand’s, Māpuna program recently.
Māpuna Feature – Te Tiriti o Waitangi in Action
Authentic Treaty partnership championed by Building Better Homes Towns and Cities was celebrated recently in a dedicated panel interview on Radio New Zealand’s, Māpuna program.
Gena Moses-Te Kani Co-Chair (Tangata Whenua), Hope Simonsen Co-Chair (Tangata Tiriti), Rihi Te Nana Co-Director (Tangata Whenua) and Ruth Berry Co-Director (Tangata Tiriti) shared openly and candidly the learnings, triumphs and challenges encountered on the co-governance journey.
Māpuna producer Tama Muru says the interview triggered a flurry of feedback which started in the first few minutes of the broadcast.
Early in the broadcast, Tama says most of the messages were ‘anti-co- governance’ and ‘Māori privilege’ but as the show progressed, he says the sentiment shifted drastically to positive messages of support, encouragement and pleas for support and guidance.
The messages of support and encouragement were heartening. It makes a difference knowing that there are others wanting to take the same path. The pleas for support and guidance remined us that if you don’t have supportive partners and organisations in place already it is that much harder to start, but that is not a reason not to start. The reality is that there is no manual, but we are now committed to sharing some of the ways, tools, techniques and learning that we have found useful, and maybe some of what we have found not so useful, so that we can help others, even a little bit.
Championing Meaningful Change
Through determination and dedication BBHTC have created another valuable resource and educational tool that can help support others on the same journey.
Four key focus areas have been highlighted in alignment with BBHTC values as fundamental first steps to bringing Treaty partnership to life in any organisation.
Gena Moses-Te Kani maintained an unrelenting focus on embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi from the very beginning of her involvement with the challenge. She refused to accept the limitations dictated by a colonial system and continued spear heading meaningful change.
“We initially had, basically a white male governance board, I was the only woman and there were only two Māori out of six or seven governors, which was an interesting place to start.”
She says confronting a system traditionally designed to dictate and preside over Māori was extremely challenging.
“The journey was interesting with my peers, it got to the point where we mooted it, the white men led the way. We ended up having to change our constitutional document with all the Universities to form the co-chair roles.”
She says entrenching Co-Director roles with shared authority and accountability was one of the biggest barriers to overcome.
“We were challenged right at the beginning with those roles, we were told it was impossible to ensure clear financial accountability, clear delineation of roles and responsibilities. But we were adamant, we knew it wasn’t right and we kept pushing forward.”
Reflecting on the process, Gena says mindsets clouded with doubt, apprehension, and a resistance to relinquishing control were the main obstacles.
“Fear of the unknown as opposed to actual facts is what slowed us down. We have done it, and it’s working amazingly well. It helped that we already had co-governing chairs and a dynamic model of leadership.
The clear and concise expectation of the co-leaders is another really important area to consider. The people that we chose for these roles knew outright, that their job was to work form a productive relationship and work together as equals make our vision a reality.”
Tangata Tiriti co-chair, Hope Simonsen has spent her entire career in the public and private housing sector. She brings an extensive knowledge and understanding of the inner workings of the housing system to the challenge and has been a longtime advocate for families in need of safe secure and affordable housing.
Her lived experience in embedding co-governance offers a valuable and exceedingly rare factual insight into the co governance journey from a non-Māori perspective. She says the partnership model has strengthened their ability to collectively identify, support and drive positive change across the housing sector.
She hopes sharing the facts and promoting the truth will contribute to debunking the false claims of ignorant narratives in the public arena.
“’It’s time for everyone to face the facts, the reality is that Māori make up 50 percent of whanau on the public housing register and the largest proportion of our homeless population.
Those families are not there because they chose to be, they are there because of a broken system that has been allowed to continue failing them for too long what is currently in place is not supporting everyone, it isn’t working for Māori, we have to do things differently or nothing will change.”
Sharing responsibility equally in leadership and governance also provides a highly effective and efficient business model that fosters ongoing dedicated focus to representing your world view well.
“We share conversations collectively; we take the time to understand each other’s perspectives and we support each other in this relationship. For example, Gena and I will alternate the chairing of meetings, what that does for me is provide me time and ability to focus on being at the table, purely as a representative of Tangata Tiriti, in the same sense it gives Gena breathing space and a dedicated opportunity to focus solely on representing te ao Māori at the table.”
Tangata Tiriti co-director, Ruth Berry says taking time to build, strengthen, sustain and nurture healthy relationships is fundamental to Treaty partnership.
Ruth says productive and positive relationships are built on trust, understanding, collaboration and compromise and without a dedicated commitment to this a partnership approach will fail.
“Rihi and I pushed quite hard to make sure we were able to build our own relationship first. We are really different people but we are on the same page when it comes to values and when it comes to aspirations for this challenge.”
Ruth says starting a co-governance journey means checking egos at the door and accepting the fact that there is a lot of stuff you don’t know on either side of the spectrum.
“We needed to take that time to understand each other, understand the way we each work and engage how each other thinks and we got to a stage of almost finishing each other sentences.”
All relationships encounter difficulty or differences of opinion from time to time, but working together to navigate and support each other through those challenges is key.
“It’s a lot of what I call the ‘micro slow down to go fast’, sometimes you have to slow down to go fast rather than just push to finish things by deadline. I’m all about ideas and Rihi is very goal focused.
Goals just don’t do it for me and sometimes we have to actually slow down and stop and have the conversation and figure out what the issue may be when we can’t agree on something.”
The outcome of an approach that values the worldviews of others had led to a shift in the way BBHTC research partners are able to apply kaupapa Māori frameworks.
“An example of this is the Mauri ora framework, rather than a typical framework which traditionally comes from a scientific perspective where it was normal to fudge a te ao Māori perspective into it.
What we have seen come to fruition is that kaupapa Māori frameworks are leading the charge and the westernized models, ideals and frameworks are now being shoved into it.”
The wellbeing of our people, our communities, our iwi our hapu our whanau and our mokopuna is at the forefront of kaupapa Maori led solutions.
Tangata Whenua co-director Rihi Te Nana has always been a relentless champion of mātauranga Māori and Te Tiriti o Waitangi partnership. She is connected to communities that have created innovative housing solutions that treasure the cultural identity of whānau supporting their ability to thrive.
She believes co-leadership plays a vital role in broadening awareness and enhancing appreciation of kaupapa Māori rangahau while providing communities with the tools they need if they want to establish solutions of their own.
“One of the successes in research is where policy makers from Kāinga Ora or MHUD are now looking at our research to inform their policy development, a big goal for researchers is to impact the way in which this country and its policies are being constructed.”
Rihi says making sure the community has access to the research outcomes and resources created is the first priority.
“We need to build awareness in our communities as well, our Marae across the country looking into potential housing solutions, they need to be aware of what we have and we need to present it to them in a way that’s engaging and interesting.”
Rihi says creating the knowledge was the first step of the overall challenge, she says the new challenge is making sure it has impact.
“The goal for a researcher in yesteryear, used to be a publication and your PBRF and our goal is that somebody is reading it from a community, or a community has picked up the book about homelessness at Te Puea and they are using it and thinking about that in their own communities.”
We also want this research to guide and influence policy makers to reshape the way the future of our country is created.
“We held an online seminar recently with MHUD representatives who were totally blown away by research generated by our partners, now they use our research to inform their decision making.
Impacting change and creating a future where everyone no matter who they are or where they are from has access to safe, secure and affordable homes.