From the CEO

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

What’s in store for Pēpi

The new year has quickly moved into gear as whānau are back into the swing of the school routine and Easter eggs are already in the supermarket. The new government is embedding itself, and all eyes are on the Prime Minister and the pending arrival of a new baby. It’s a bit of light relief for the many who will marvel in this child’s journey via the magazine tabloids, which are sure to report on the Prime Minister’s every move.

My attention is drawn to upcoming changes for parents as they prepare to welcome a pēpi into the whānau. First is the increase to paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 22 weeks from July onwards, and to 26 weeks from 2020 (I ask myself, “Where was that 27 years ago?”). We may think that this is transformational – however, we still lag behind other countries. Regardless of where we stand in the world, this has to be a positive for beginning the bonding relationship between parents and their pēpi.

Keeping the household income afloat is the next thing that parents are always mindful of when raising a whānau. It’s no secret that with annual rising costs of home rentals, transport, health, and education needs, stressors within whānau can escalate very quickly. One such issue is highlighted by the “dampness in your home” question in the recent census 2018. This is a sad reality for some whānau, and leads to further health costs, especially during the winter months. I am reminded of the home insulation programme that Hokonui Rūnanga has led for many years to alleviate this.

Te Rūnanga has focused on improving household wellbeing through a myriad of programmes such as Whai Rawa, shared equity home ownership, and supporting whānau to innovate their own economic business outcomes through the Tribal Economies programmes. However, it’s still a struggle for those at the lower end of the income scale, so we have to get smarter and be more relevant across our wider tribal membership. We are about to take another leap by investigating customised health insurance options, Takiaūe (funeral) assistance, easier access to necessary surgical procedures, and further education assistance where whānau don’t have to jump through hurdles to gain access.

I often receive letters from whānau who proudly celebrate the achievements of their tamariki in arts, culture, sport, and academia. Sometimes this involves regional or even national representation. The downside is when whānau cannot afford those extra costs, and are too whakamā to ask for support. My view is that we need to enable easier access to sponsorship, instead of whānau needing to ring the CEO as a last resort. In some cases whānau can’t afford the basic equipment, uniforms, or resources. As an iwi we are in the business of enabling whānau self-determination, so we must remember that this is a clear case of “not a hand out” but “a hand up”.

Giving our pēpi the best start possible is a no-brainer, and we should be throwing all our resources into growing our tamariki wherever we can. The return on investment has to be positive. If we’re lucky, our tamariki may even take care of us in our twilight years!