If one thing is clear in contemporary Aotearoa New Zealand, it is this. Many Maori have lost all faith in the governmental mechanisms that exist to further their cause, to facilitate their progress and to ensure that Maori are able to retain some Mana as a socially and economically progressive indigenous people. When we talk about Tino Rangatiratanga or sovereignty, especially at an individual or focal level, we talk about the ability for any given individual to achieve his or her social, economic and cultural destiny given the means and resources they have access to in order to achieve this.
When we look at addressing social issues and how different local or national bodies are attempting to tackle these issues, the Hamilton City Council presents an interesting case study. There has been a marked increase in the presence of homeless individuals and inner city crime in the Hamilton City CBD. Through this article, I hope to link and give relevance to the link between government initiatives and the true journey towards self determination at an individual level – through more carefully examining the interdependent link between the individual and various societal/governmental strategies and models of development/progress.
First things first. We all acknowledge that implementing council bylaws to reduce this type of ‘anti social’ behaviour requires a certain level of increased policing and enforcement. However enforcement has one key consequence; it increases any given individuals interaction with the justice system. This further precipitates a negative relationship with the state while then further deteriorating an individual’s view of oneself. When we speak about an inter-departmental approach to social issues, for many of those who regularly come in contact with social services in New Zealand, this means a decentralised amalgamation of various agencies that have a varying number of roles and processes. To the average person looking for help, it is this very beauracracy that can often mean it is easier to sit on the backburner and deal with issues at an individual level, rather than battle their way through a myriad of tedious application forms and follow up meetings.
All of this highlights the benefits in taking a more centralised, multi-departmental approach that centres around effective community consultation and efficient processes. This in turn promotes a fully united and interdependent approach to solving key community social issues. The Peoples Project/Central City Safety Plan is the Hamilton City Councils answer to increasing crime and homelessness in the Hamilton CBD as well as cumulative calls from city residents that they are feeling increasingly unsafe in the City Centre. A main precept of this of this plan is fusing several government agencies, including; Work and Income, the Police and various Mental Health Providers – in a centralised building site in the cities most central location – Garden Place.
The strategy also involves increasing the activeness of various dedicated task forces within the central city boundaries including, but not limited to, the cities current CitySafe working group and also an increased presence from Maori Wardens within the central city, especially at what is considered ‘peak’ times. These types of groups are the eyes and ears of the Councils working endevours. It is also extremely important to acknowledge the important work of front line homeless shelters and those involved in actively working with those who have nowhere else to go. It is these individuals and organisations that know these problems best. It is in the council’s best interests to continually grow and build on relationships with these front line social progress organisations.
How are other organisations attempting to tackle social problems? The Maori Parties Whanau Ora scheme is worth having a look at. One of the Maori Parties key claims to fame, is the establishment and implementation of the Whanau Ora. Tariana Turia once outlined her vision for Maori in New Zealand as;
‘that our people are restored to being strong and independent people so that they can contribute to their own well being, and therefore contribute to this country. So this country can be far more united than it is today.’
Whanau Ora at its core, to me anyway, promotes a collective, community and whanau based approach to social redress. It emphasises the keystone principles of the Maori health model Te Whare Tapa Wha (spiritual, physical, mental and family health) and ensures that each of these principles is addressed at an individual level, with a focus on healthy inter-dependent relationships that provide a basis for strong, progressive individuals.
Whanau Ora represents the new age of social progress models. The combined interdepartmental approach mixed with a focus on holistic improvement and centralised strategy and engagement, shows that the Hamilton City Council and its approach to reducing central Hamilton city crime can be closely correlated to the goals and ideals of the Whanau Ora Strategy. Creating strong, empowered individuals means that we have a strong society. Maori culture has a focus on the collective; in my view, it is the collective approach that will see us through to a more prospering, powerful and enriched generation of Maori social progress.