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Principles for Growing Together

28 August 2020
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Two years into our ‘Principles for Growing Together’ journey with DOC and we have already navigated enough potholes to put State Highway 38 to shame. A hui was held recently to hot-wire our relationship, understand the way we are each living our agreed principles for growing together and asking ourselves what true collaboration looks like while both at the steering wheel.

One of the biggest challenges Tūhoe face today is guarding against self-interest, for the benefit of the collective. This includes remembering our place in nature and putting the needs of Te Urewera above our own. Communal living with nature and each other was once our way of life but this has slowly been eroded by western values of individual entitlement, Te Kawa o Te Urewera is our way of bridging that disconnect.

The recovery of Tūhoe culture could be of interest to all people of Aotearoa as it helps shape a stronger sense of identity – our disconnection from nature means urban values have been adopted, and as such we have never been more insecure about our identity, and all humans hunger for this reconnection.

A big challenge for DOC is the absence of senior leadership driving the kaupapa, creating a gap in building our relationship and shared responsibility for Te Urewera. At an operational level, it is a time of great unlearning, with DOC questioning if they have the confidence and permission to think differently and participate in the redesign of caring for Te Urewera.

Through this bumpy ride, we are maintaining previous levels of DOC conservation and control standards, while at the same time re-establishing a Tūhoe approach to caring for Te Urewera. One of the ills of colonisation is the disconnection that grows when you are forced to no longer be responsible for the care of the whenua. So it will take some time for our confidence as kaitiaki to return, relearn traditional knowledge and pair this with innovative technology. Responsbility for our whenua is what drives commitment, conduct and behaviours in other words, creating good, confident and capable humans. Assigning responsibility out into Tūhoe communities for Te Urewera is key to reconnecting Tūhoe as responsible kaitiaki of Te Urewera.

How long it takes to get there is one of the key differences. Time is one of the biggest differences between Tūhoe and DOC. Tūhoe follow the rhythym of the seasons, not annually or in three-year political chunks. Tūhoe want to measure progress by the responsibilty, capability and manaaki we show as kaitiaki.

So the widest and deepest pothole is in sight and we need to figure out a way to navigate it safely: What if DOC insists on going through it, but Tūhoe want to go around it? Are the differences between us too great? Will we continue this collaboration with DOC or go it alone?  Either way, once we get our Tūhoe bus with full licensed drivers to steer this kaupapa, we need to ensure DOC stays in the passenger seat, keeping the seat warm so that when its DOC’s turn to take the wheel, they know what to do.

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