Q&A with Lil Anderson of Te Arawhiti

SHENAGH GLEISNER talks to Lil Anderson of Te Arawhiti about what public servants are doing and what they can do to change Māori Crown relations.

What message does the new Public Service Act give to public servants about Crown Māori relations?

The Act reinforces all of the important reasons why we want to work in the service of others and puts those reasons up in lights so the public knows what to expect from all of us and can hold us to account.

Importantly for me, the Act explicitly requires us to reflect Te Tiriti in our everyday work. It sets clear expectations in relation to developing and maintaining capability to engage with Māori. It encourages us to reflect the culture, aspirations, and values of the communities we serve, particularly Māori.

It asks us to be open to doing things in a different way. It does not tolerate silos or narrow views but tells us that the public wants and needs us to join up more often and better. 

What will public servants do differently as a result of the Act?

There are four things:

  1. Be prepared to work differently – COVID-19 showed us the beauty and the beast of technology. It kept us connected to each other and to the public we serve at a time when we really needed it. But it also showed us how important kanohi ki te kanohi really is and how much we miss it once we start to get Zoom or Zui fatigue.
  2. Serving the public where they live –  We saw during COVID that from Wellington, our key role was to support our regional public servants, iwi, and local government. It saw decisions being shifted to regions. It saw local leadership working together in ways that Treaty settlements have tried to create for over 25 years. These ways of working should continue. 
  3. Working across and together is the new norm – The COVID response saw the formation of the C4C Governance Group with 11 chief executives from across the system working to support regions and New Zealanders in the response and recovery. The model works so well it will continue for at least the next two years. The Act asks us to look more towards these types of models as well as joint ventures, boards, and system leadership. 
  4. The public service must support the Crown’s relationship with Māori under Te Tiriti – As you can imagine, this is the feature I am the most excited about. It leaves nowhere to hide and tells each of us that being a public servant from 2020 onwards means that you understand the history of our country and you understand what Te Tiriti means and why it is important. What I really like is that unlike some acts, it does not stop at a Treaty clause, it enshrines the Māori Crown relationship and tells us we must build capability.

    What are some practical steps public servants should be taking to make the Public Service Act, in relation to Crown Māori relations, come to life?

    Again, there are a few things – mostly dependent on your starting point. The overarching step for all of us is to acknowledge its importance. Tell people – tell your staff and your workmates that it is important. 

    Acknowledge where you are on your journey across the bridge and don’t think its too late to start learning. If your starting point is as someone who hasn’t wanted to take a step across the bridge – maybe look to understand why that is and address the things that are preventing you from doing so.  This is no longer a choice in a modern public service.

    When you get past the willingness, it really is about the fundamentals – do you know about our history, not just from 1840. Do you know what the Treaty says and what followed its signing? What significant events led us to this point in the Māori Crown relationship? 

    Understanding te reo Māori, not just because you want to be able to deliver your pepeha or mihi but because language connects. Wherever you start, take a step forward and keep going. 

    Think about how I can apply what I learn to my everyday work. How can I incorporate more te reo? How do I change the way I engage with Māori and how do we do this as an organisation? Does what I know change the lens through which I view my policy work? What would partnership look like in our work?

    Let’s talk about the positive vision. Imagine we are three years in the future. Paint us a vivid picture of what would delight you.

    It is a multi-faceted vision:

    • Treaty settlements are complete or nearly complete, and takutai moana issues are being addressed – this is an important foundation for the Māori Crown relationship.
    • Our words have mana – our commitments are being honoured and we are operating above a “list of things to do to honour a Treaty settlement”, but through engagement and partnering, we are doing these things anyway.
    • Across the public sector, every agency has a capability-building programme and each staff member has committed to their journey across the bridge.
    • Our journey as a public service is starting to show a difference in the timeliness, depth, and outcomes of engagement with Māori and includes policies that reflect this change – we know who to engage with, and the when, why and how is tailored to need.
    • The examples of partnership across the public service outnumber the contracts for services we have with Māori.
    • The system shares responsibility for the Māori Crown relationship – it’s not just left to Te Arawhiti.

    Tell me about some of the good examples of practice in current departments.

    Capability Building:

    • The Ministry of Justice’s comprehensive capability plan called Te Kokenga was launched and implemented this year. Te Kokenga is one pillar of the Ministry’s Te Haerenga Māori Strategy. The strategy aligns with the competencies in our Māori Crown Relations Capability Framework, including te reo Māori, tikanga, Treaty of Waitangi, and New Zealand history.
    • The Ministry for the Environment has developed and also launched their Te Ao Hurihuri – Transformational Gains capability strategy earlier this year. Having used our Māori Crown Relations Capability Framework as a guide, they have also worked closely with Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (Māori Language Commission) to commence their te reo Maōri learnings. They too are in the early stages of implementing their strategy.

    Engagement and Partnership:

    • An important partnership between Māori and the Crown is Te Ahu o Tūranga (Manawatū Gorge Replacement). Te Arawhiti has been invited to sit alongside the four iwi associated with the project (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Tāmaki-nui-ā-Rua, Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga/Ngāti Kauwhata, Rangitāne ki Tamaki nui a Rua, and Rangitāne ō Manawatū) and Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) to understand the benefits of early and strong engagement between iwi and a Crown agency. Te Ahu a Tūranga project is aimed at building a viable, long-term replacement for the gorge. There has been significant interest from iwi about the gorge replacement as the change in traffic patterns has impacted the Manawatū region significantly, with a loss of economic opportunities for the Woodville community and the iwi in the rohe. This partnership could also be held up as a model for future infrastructure projects.
    • Te Whānau a Rangiwhakaahu – we supported the hapū with discussions between the Ministry of Education and Land Information New Zealand relating to opportunities on ancestral land in Matapōuri.
    • Raukawa Settlement Trust – we supported engagement between Raukawa, the Ministry of Justice, and Oranga Tamariki on a model of care partnership.
    • Te Hāhi o Rātana – we supported Rātana in its aspirations to establish modular housing initiatives by working with Kāinga Ora and Housing and Urban Development.

    What are the most powerful drivers of good practice that you see in the departments who are doing well?

    • Having strong and willing leadership that supports staff in building their capability in Māori–Crown relations.
    • Working alongside Māori in a kanohi ki te kanohi and rangatira ki te rangatira way.
    • Recognising that, if you are working alongside Māori on a specific kaupapa, a relationship is not a one-off event – just like any relationship you hold with others.
    • Creating and maintaining a successful relationship involves building the trust and respect of your partner, which may take several hui of just having a kōrero.

    What seems to slow down or undermine progress? What are the biggest barriers to progress?

    • Not having leadership buy-in through a lack of understanding or not valuing the Māori–Crown relationship.
    • Lacking capability in Māori Crown relations, as the heavy lifting can then fall on the shoulders of a few within an organisation who, more often than not, are not appropriately valued for their skillset or become burnt out as they are constantly called on to carry out significant mahi.
    • Not having dedicated training or resources in an organisation to carry out this mahi.
    • Not going early or not being broad and inclusive in engagement.

    Can you think of ways that public servants could overcome these barriers?

    The Public Service Act 2020 provides a legislative mechanism that all public servants can draw on to strengthen the Crown’s relationships with Māori. For example:

    • The Public Service Commissioner and chief executives are accountable to their Minister for upholding their responsibility to support the Crown’s relationships with Māori.
    • Both individual and organisational capability can be improved by strongly committing to the competencies under the Māori Crown Relations Capability Framework. Where organisations are less convinced, individual public servants can play a role by creating critical mass within agencies to put the importance of this kaupapa on the agenda.
    • An important step in overcoming these barriers is to conduct baseline surveys of staff and review the organisation on both an individual and organisational level. This helps organisations understand what the capability issues are that require a priority focus and develop a plan to improve those areas. The organisation can then monitor their progress in these areas annually.

    The Act aims to improve the capability of public servants to improve outcomes for Māori. Surely improved capability could help, but it could also be insufficient. What more needs to be done to achieve the vision?

    Improved capability and engagement are a means to an end. Stopping there defeats the purpose.  All of this is about improving the daily lives of Māori wherever they live. As public servants, we all have the ability to influence policy, practice, process, and implementation. The point of building capability is to ensure that, in doing so, our lens changes and leads to the Crown as a Treaty partner crafting better policy, making better informed decisions, implementing decisions alongside our communities, and engaging and partnering as second nature. It also requires the work of agencies like Te Puni Kōkiri in supporting Māori capacity. What naturally follows from a process that is co-designed is better outcomes for Māori whether they are social, economic, environmental, or cultural. 

    Can you give us some ideas of where public servants can turn to get help to make a difference for Māori?

    • Ask the Public Service Capability Team Te Arawhiti for assistance.
    • Look at the tools and resources on the website of Te Arawhiti to guide you.
    • Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori can assist and has resources around te reo Māori.
    • The Public Service Commission can guide organisations around leadership expectations.
    • Te Puni Kōkiri (Ministry of Māori Development) can guide agencies around empowering Māori and helping them build their capability to interact with government.