News from home / Politics
Written by: John Jones, Gisborne Herald
1 May 2015

Selwyn Parata has served his apprenticeship for the role of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou chairman, and now looks forward to implementing a leadership style that engages and inspires the wealth of Ngati Porou talent. 

Selwyn Parata has a clear vision of the leadership he will bring to one of the most important roles in this district, chairmanship of Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou Trust Board.He wants to create a board culture that encourages robust debate informed by good information, and places a premium on trust, confidence and respect.

"We need to understand our role as governors, recognising and utilising the strengths, skills and expertise of board members, but also the many talented people we have in our subsidiaries, our companies and among our staff; a culture that recognises and supports complementary leadership roles operating at all levels whanau, hapu, marae, taurahere and iwi."

Selwyn is a staunch advocate of strong hapu and marae leadership and their role in maintaining oversight and authority for their own operations, including their takutaimoana (foreshore and seabed), natural resources and customary fisheries.He is keen to investigate how to leverage the commercial nous and market positioning of the runanganui's subsidiaries to support hapu, marae and whanau establish viable economic bases for themselves.

He plans to be proactive in recruiting the breadth and depth of talent among the 90,000-plus Natis throughout Aotearoa and the world, by establishing a range of forums including virtual policy and planning forums that Natis can contribute to irrespective of where they live, and by improving the runanganui's current communication platforms.

Beyond that Selwyn lists some key priorities:

Ngati Porou reo me ona tikanga

"We should be looking at ways in which we front-load our investment in te reo ake o Ngati Porou," he says."The revival and survival of Ngati Porou reo is an urgent priority, as our resource pool of fluent speakers diminishes. The passing of many Ngati Porou reo stalwarts like my own mother, uncle Api and uncle Koro emphasises the increasing fragility of our reo. The good news is that we have been prolific writers and therefore have a lot of written material."

The runanganui is working with Toitu Ngati Porou to develop an integrated Ngati Porou Reo strategy, using the three existing reo strategies as a baseline.

Growing and future-proofing our economic base

"The runanganui's economic success should not not be measured on just the size of its balance sheet but on the number of Ngati Porou businesses that flourish, the new jobs created at home, the lift in the household incomes of our whanau and a reboot in the confidence, entrepreneurship and 'work ethic' that was a feature of our hapu communities not so long ago, in my lifetime."

Education Ensuring that Ngati Porou, wherever they may be, are able to access quality education.

"We have been building the pathways for matauranga and education excellence in Ngati Porou and among Ngati Porou. We now need to lift our own performance in providing the necessary leadership and attention to connect and support people along those pathways.That may be as basic as ensuring that all our children are at school, because that is our responsibility as parents and whanau."

Environmental resource management

"One of our highest environmental priorities is supporting nga hapu o Ngati Porou to confirm their rights and interests in freshwater, and identify the most appropriate mechanisms to give effect to these rights and interests. As a member of the Iwi Leaders' Group on freshwater, I have been involved in the development and promotion of Te Mana o te Wai, a values framework to guide the Crown, iwi and the New Zealand public in how we view, relate to and use freshwater.

"On the ground at home, I have facilitated over 12 hapu cluster hui on this subject since October last year. Ngati Porou have adopted Te Mana o Te Wai and aligned it with our Toitu Ngati Porou framework, which is the framework we used for our negotiations for the takutaimoana. It asserts the mana whakahaere and kaitiakatanga of nga hapu o Ngati Porou over the puna, wai and whenua in their rohe and our mana motuhake in negotiating our rights and interests with the Crown and in the pursuit of co-governance and co-management arrangements with the local council."

Selwyn had been deputising for Api Mahuika in national iwi forums and meetings with senior ministers for the past couple of years. He has been involved with the runanganui and its predecessor the runanga throughout its history; its conception at the 1985 Ngati Porou Hui Taumata, its formative years as a fledgling organisation "existing on the smell of an oily rag and the wits of its people", emerging as a $45 million pre-settlement organisation, to its current position as an employer of over 250 local people with a balance sheet of $180 million.

The Treaty of Waitangi claim settlements have left the iwi with considerable financial resources, he says. "The challenge is trying to get the right balance between growing the assets for future generations while investing in the current generation. Without investing in the home folk that keep our home fires burning and our whanau who burn their nati candles in the cities, there might not be a cultural home to come back to or a reason to do so. We could become financially-rich but culturally-bereft, so we want to make sure that we keep the 'Porou in our Nati and are both financially and culturally rich'."

Born at Waipiro Bay, Selwyn (58) is the eldest child of Ron Parata and Hiria Reedy. He has nine siblings and is the grandson of prominent East Coast orator and historian, Arnold Reedy. Through his mother he affiliates to the Ngarimu, Reedy, White, Kaua and Lockwood whanau and on his father's side he is of Ngai Tahu descent from Puketeraki, highlander country, and on his paternal grandmother's side, of Scots descent from Inverness, the gateway to the Highlands.

He was educated at Manutahi Primary School, Ngata Memorial College and St Stephen's. Selwyn worked in various jobs here, in Auckland and in the Wairarapa before being appointed the Department of Maori Affairs' cultural officer for Tairawhiti at age 25. Since then he has remained with the department now called Te Puni Kokiri where he is a pouwhakahaere, cultural adviser to ministers of the Crown and the department.

Maori culture in all its facets has been a major part of his life, from growing up in  Ruatoria, going to St Stephen's, his work and the many roles he has played on marae up and down the Coast and throughout the country. "I was fortunate to have been nurtured by my aunties and uncles throughout Ngati Porou, including my Ngarimu nannies and papas, uncle Api (Mahuika), uncle Koro (Dewes) and aunty Ngoi (Pewhairangi). I had the privilege of being well schooled by many people who, in my eyes, were 'masters of Ngati Porou reo, tikanga, waiata, whakapapa and history'."

As the chairman of Te Matatini, Selwyn has just overseen a very successful national kapa haka festival in Christchurch, boasting the largest number of performing groups ever and attracting huge crowds of "serial kapa haka followers" and "newbies", including hundreds of international visitors.

"The whole festival was outstanding, the manaaki from Ngai Tahu, the quality of the performances, the fantastic venue and of course the overall winners, our tuakana and neighbours Te Whanau a Apanui," he says.

"In acknowledging their win, I also believe the festival was the ultimate winner, in terms of the reo being spoken in the dialects of the many iwi in attendance , the passion and enthusiasm of young people for kapa haka and the helpful, 'can do' attitude of all the volunteers.

Prominent in the Anglican Church, Selwyn is the chairman of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the Bishopric of New Zealand trust board and a member of the General Synod standing committee. He is also chairman of the Whareponga and Hiruharama marae, places he calls "paradise on earth".

Rugby is one of his all-time passions and during the East Coast club rugby season you will find him on the side-line cheering on his "beloved club Hikurangi" and later in the rugby season keeping tabs on his favourite team Ngati Porou East Coast... "in that order".

Selwyn is married to Amohaere Houkamau, a former chief executive of the runanga who is now a senior adviser to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Bill English. Amohaere is also the chairwoman of Toitu Ngati Porou. "Amo works in Wellington during the week and comes home most weekends. We live in Gisborne, but still have our family home in Ruatoria and we try and get up the Coast as much as we can."

The couple have four children, Awhina who is married and lives in London, Ngarimu who is studying for an engineering degree in Christchurch, Rapaea who works in the runanganui reo unit and Te Muiora who lives and works in Wellington.

"I deem it a privilege to be chairman of the runanganui and I acknowledge the complementary skills, style and knowledge that deputy chairman Rei Kohere brings with him. I was the deputy for 15 years and with Rei was part of Te Haeata, the Ngati Porou Treaty settlement negotiation team."

Selwyn is optimistic about the future for Ngati Porou, the second largest iwi in the country.

"Ngati Porou has much to be proud of, however we cannot afford to live off the deeds of our elders and ancestors. We must all make our own mark and contribution to Ngati Porou growth and development.

"I want to be part of a leadership team that builds a pathway for the next generation that is aspirational, inspirational and achievable, a pathway founded on the principles contained in ' E tipu e Rea', each generation expressing in their own unique way what it is to be Ngati Porou 'he iwi moke he iwi whanoke'."

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Simple but serious question, is it possible to recieve the dates of meetings for the runanga? I'd like to come to meetings just to see what everything is about. I live in Ruatorea too btw. Cheers!

Kia ora. TRONPnui board meetings are usually held on the third Monday of every month, however the hui are not open to the public. Non-board member attendance (including staff) are there by invitation only. However thank you for your interest, and if you would like to know more about what happens at the meetings, please contact one of two Rohenga Tipuna reps, who represent your interests at the board table. They will be able to brief you about what happens around the Board table. Also in addition in November each year we have a TRONPNui AGM which is a hui all Ngati Porou Iwi members are welcome to attend, and you can put any patai directly to the board yourself.

Ka tika rawa atu ko koe tenei Selwyn. ka nui te koa.