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My place, my people.

Tōku ohooho (my awakening)

For the past 25 years, minus a few in Wellington, we’ve lived in Mission Bay. From our house Bastion Point (Takaparawhau) is visible; a green and beautiful promontory in the heart of Auckland. For most of those 25 years, that’s all it was to me - a park to stroll and enjoy the magnificent views of our Hauraki Gulf.

A pākehā child of the '60s, I clearly remember the 1977/78 occupation, a nightly news item that was pivotal in NZ’s modern history but with which I felt no connection. Fast forward 40 years, as an adult New Zealander. I felt regretful and, if I’m honest, embarrassed that I knew so little about New Zealand’s, and therefore my, Māori history.

I started to learn Te Reo (Māori language).

Then a little over two years ago I received a gift, a taonga. That taonga was membership of the Board of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia. Whai Maia is the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei hapū’s post settlement tribal development entity that is responsible for advancing the wellbeing and aspirations of hapū (sub-tribe) members.

Its mahi (work) is broad, encompassing health, education, housing, employment, culture and the environment.

My induction pack included a copy of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s Treaty claim grievance summary and Sir Hugh Kawharu’s 2001 Hillary lecture about Ngāti Whātua’s perspective on land and identity in Tāmaki. These documents brought me understanding and deep respect for those who fought and sacrificed to restore their land and mana for their hapū, and are still doing so today, through their children and grandchildren.

This work continues, on many fronts, to enhance the wellbeing and self-determination of the Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei people – there is much opportunity, much potential. Underpinning this mahi are deeply embedded values, including rangatiratanga (positive leadership), manaakitanga (hospitality), kaitiakitanga (intergenerational sustainability) and ahi kā – upholding the unique and important role that Ōrākei papakainga maintains across Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland.

Uplifting Māori uplifts us all. We have a precious taonga in our midst.

I encourage more Aucklanders to learn about Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s story. To learn is to understand. Understanding brings opportunity for partnerships towards shared goals and broadening the base of Aucklanders supporting ahi kā. There is much more to discover and hold dear about Takaparawhau than its green parkland and views.

Mauri ora.
Mel Hewitson

Mel Hewitson is an Independent Director of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei Whai Maia, Simplicity NZ, Trust Investments Management and the Domain Name Commission. She is Deputy Chair of Foundation North and a Trustee of Auckland Foundation. She has previously held leadership roles with the Financial Markets Authority, ANZ Bank and institutional investment managers.


Photo by Mel Hewitson: Parakore (zero waste to landfill initiative), Waitangi Day in Ōkahu Bay.