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Victoria University of Wellington Law Review

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Waetford, Tane --- "Nga Tai Matatu: Tides of Maori Endurance" [2005] VUWLawRw 44; (2005) 36(4) Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 871


Tane Waetford[*]

Mason Durie Ngâ Tai Matatû: Tides of Mâori Endurance (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2005) (288 pages).

Mâori have faced many challenges that have threatened their way of life and tested their ability to adapt to new and changing circumstances. Ngâ Tai Matatû: Tides of Mâori Endurance examines the many events that have shaped and influenced Mâori life and analyses the way in which Mâori have responded to such challenges.[1] The analysis provides a valuable insight into Mâori aspirations and values and provides a framework for future development. The book considers the way forward for Mâori by looking at the position of Mâori at the beginning of the third millennium and the challenges that lie ahead.

The author compares Mâori progress with tidal patterns. It is common within Mâoridom to use metaphors or parables in either written or oral communication, consistent with contextual learning. The metaphor in this instance is appropriate. Like the tides, progress has been uneven and inconsistent.[2] The comparison, however, also provides a sense of endurance. The book focuses on the enduring qualities of durability and resilience, which have ensured the survival of Mâori culture and identity

Ngâ Tai Matatû: Tides of Mâori Endurance provides a carefully structured overview of Mâori history, identifying some of the key challenges and events that have shaped Mâori development. Perhaps the biggest challenge for the early Mâori was the migration to Aotearoa.[3] Their survival depended on the adaptability of tikanga (custom) and mana whenua (property rights).[4] Large migration numbers necessitated rules of property and tenure, as well as the development of relational customs between whânau, hapû, iwi, and inter-tribal relations. Adaptability and survival skills were further tested with the arrival of European trade and colonisation. Radical changes to the political and social scene led to such responses as the Kingitanga movement, Paremata Mâori (Mâori Parliament), Mâori health initiatives, Mâori educational institutions and political involvement. More recently, Mâori have had to deal with issues such as urban transitions and globalisation.

The author presents comprehensive research and analysis throughout the book, drawing on published evidence. Chapter two, for example, looks at changing population trends and demographic patterns.[5] The analysis provides an interesting look at how the population, composition and identity of Mâori have evolved over the years. The Mâori population in the twenty-first century is more numerous that at any other time. This expansion has brought with it greater challenges of diversity, cultural cohesion and homogeneity. The author however foresees outcomes such as improved health and higher levels of educational attainment as well as a fresh spirit of vitality, innovation, creativity and accomplishment.[6]

Ngâ Tai Matatû: Tides of Mâori Endurance considers many of the current issues that face Mâori, and provides comprehensive research and analysis.[7] It considers the way in which Mâori have responded to previous challenges, and proposes a number of models and frameworks to deal with current and future challenges.[8] As reflected in the title, Mâori have demonstrated a durability and resilience that has ensured the survival of their culture and their identity. In the concluding chapter the author builds on this theme by proposing a framework for future development and growth. From the themes and case studies of Ngâ Tai Matatû the author identifies four domains – te tai atua (spiritual), te tai tângata (human), te tai tini (resource) and te tai ao (global). [9] Future growth and success depends on the ability of Mâori to find the right balance between these domains. Durie then employs a fifth domain – te tai hono (navigational). This domain provides the link between the various domains and recognises the challenges for leadership and longer-term planning.

[*] Kaitakawaenga Mâori, Faculty of Law, Victoria University of Wellington.

[1] Mason Durie Ngâ Tai Matatû: Tides of Mâori Endurance (Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 2005).

[2] Durie, above n 1, viii.

[3] See Durie, above n 1, ch 1.

[4] Durie, above n 1, 9.

[5] See Durie, above n 1, 35, table 2.2.

[6] Durie, above n 1, 52.

[7] See for example Durie, above n 1, 136 "Scientific Research".

[8] See for example Durie, above n 1, 148, fig 6.2.

[9] Durie, above n 1, 236, table 10.1.

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