Friday, April 04, 2014

What should be done?

Good question Gina!

The first, and somewhat glib, position should be the government fulfils its obligations as Treaty partner and accepts Maori into a decision-making role with regards to ALL government funded, influenced and driven research.

That would solve this current situation.

Tain’t gonna happen of course, not anytime soon. But they should do it.

A more realistic – if still somewhat fanciful – solution would be for iwi to invest the requisite money and support for Maori research in all its diverse glory! This would raise the spectre of iwi versus iwi authorities.

For the latter there are research centres such as the Ngai Tahu Research Centre at the University of Canterbury and the Waikato-Tainui centre at Hopuhopu.

Iwi authorities often ‘default’ to government-supported research through such organisations as the CRI’s et cetera who need Maori boxes ticked. All valid but not covering all we need. And some iwi authorities - Tainui and Ngai Tahu leading the way - have the corporate heft for considerable leverage in research.

But many iwi authorities and most iwi are much smaller and can’t be expected to have the critical mass for truly good research (let’s cut the continual rhetorical reference to ‘excellence’ and settle for above average, which is what I mean by ‘good’). I suspect most iwi would need to collaborate with their neighbours (e.g., research collectives for Taranaki, Tai Rawhiti, Te Tau Ihu, Tai Tokerau and so on). This would be tricky but regional collectives have traditional linkages and bounded research interests (e.g., ecosystems and water catchments as fundamental fields of study).

I doubt iwi are in a position to enact this in a timeline that would maintain Ngā Pae’s momentum. But they should begin to do it…

The Universities should of course better support Maori research in a manner befitting the academic culture and histories they carry. Hmmm, okay, the Universities still carry an Imperial racism but we can make a very strong business case (bear with…) by which investing in Maori students, academics, and communities brings in more students, more researchers, and more research funding.

Again, the Universities have defaulted to such programmes as Ngā Pae o te Maramatanga’s doctoral support and Manu Ao academic leadership course. Plus most struggle to fulfil their Treaty obligations and I’m not gonna hold my breath. But they should do it…

We need to acknowledge that corporate players have an important role for modern research funding and some large corporations support important research programmes. While I know of scholarships available from players such as Genesis and Meridian, outside of the primary sector (mining, fishing, and agriculture) I’m not aware of corporate dollars being invested into long-term Indigenous relationships.

And there are significant ethical issues around such relationships of course! Given the ever decreasing tax load carried by corporations, they should accept greater philanthropic roles.

Yeah right, as the billboard sez...

So funding – a key challenge particularly for the social sciences - should be an amalgamation of government, iwi, and corporate dollars. Government is down-sizing its contribution (I still think they can be shamed into putting something in place after next election). Iwi and corporations need to increase their contributions. That strings will be attached is for later and ongoing debates…

What is to follow Ngā Pae? A National institute? If so, please not Auckland. It has to be Wellington, central to Maori katoa and the home of politics, the game we’ve not played well in this current funding crisis.

But can any single organisation cover what Maori research needs? In trying to be all things to all Maori do we run the risk of superficiality? We all chafe against review by non-specialists; this is at the guts of complaints about the Royal Society process. Is it still possible to talk of a National Maori anything?

I think it is possible.

But we’re not having a true korero about this. We’ve missed the boat for inclusive Maori research for the next ten years through poorly thought out, poorly executed National Science Challenges.

Maori involvement is limited – often just a handful – and the timelines are surreal!

The next ten years is a holding pattern. We tread water. Endurance is a prerequisite to resilience.

So what should happen?
  1. Maori take a claim to the Waitangi Tribunal demanding the right to help frame research in our own country.
  2. Government provides interim funding to maintain the momentum and networks that Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga have put in place.
  3. Maori hold a series of hui to establish a hapu and iwi based research platform. Corporations are put on notice that to be socially responsible businesses they will need to support research for and by mana whenua.
  4. Universities, CRIs and polytechnics financially support Maori researchers, including postgraduates, and enable research with those Maori communities located within their regions. These communities include Nga Maata Waka/Taura here. And Ngati Kangaru (oaky, that's tricky but we should figure out a way to make it happen!).

Anyways Gina, thanks for the challenge. I'm not a decision-maker in any of this, in fact other than Stephen Joyce, I'm not sure who does make the call. Maori are reacting to this and are yet to have the power or inclination to be proactive. Hard rains gonna fall...

Presentations at the recent Ngā Pae research hui:


GinaScott said...

Wow, I'm so glad you answered this. There is a lot to think about in this post! I haven't heard many people talk about it in terms of the long term objectives. Thanks!

Simon Lambert said...

Of course I answered :) It was a good question and made me think. I think we've lost the battle (over Nga Pae) but we're committed to the war. Ka whawhai tonu as we say! I'm truly concerned we're not pulled together (by whom is the obvious question) and sorting out a long-term approach. Everyone is so busy day by day, even hour by hour. Divide and conquer was always the colonial approach. Our fragmentation does our descendants a disservice.

Simon Lambert

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