From the CEO

Chief Executive Officer,
Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu
Arihia Bennett

Recently I was out visiting kaumātua to deliver kōura sent up from the deep south. The thing about these deliveries is that it’s not like a courier dropping the parcel and rushing down the drive to get to the next destination. These visits are special, and they take time as there is a richness in the experience itself as the stories begin to flow. That is not to take away anything from the mouth-watering delicacy of the kōura, but putting the two together is indeed unforgettable.

One visit was with a kaumātua who was full of great delight as she easily reminisced about her time in the Māori Women’s Welfare League. While only one of the smaller branches of the league, the vibrancy of this group of taua coming together regularly to support wahine in raising their tamariki crystallised their own friendship and closeness as a rōpū. They didn’t seek to be in the limelight or grandstand, instead choosing to focus their mahi on young mothers and their pēpi through immunisation, along with a myriad of other whānau support activities such as gardening, cooking and household budgeting. They also quietly started Te Tikanga Rua Reo movement, which went on to have a great domino effect throughout the region.

I recalled some of these moments myself as my mother was part of this rōpū of wāhine, and at times they would hold their branch meetings at home. As an interloper (to provide the afternoon tea) I found myself signed up as a member mainly to support these staunch wāhine māreikura to drive their kaupapa. What a fascinating experience – once the formal league meeting was concluded – when the real “meeting” took place. As a collective these women brought together a strength of community history, knowledge and information. The depth was undeniable as it was all based on locally lived experiences … and who was going to argue with that?

As Aunty and I sat and reflected on some of these moments there was a sadness as many of our women have now passed on – Aunty Pat, Aunty Carol, Aunty Hilary, Aunty Pani – but they have left a legacy as staunch community drivers of whānau support, and those who remain are champions of the cause. While we all navigate the politics of iwi or Urban Authorities, there can be no denying that the Māori Women’s Welfare League is the bastion and beacon of whānau rangatiratanga, and long may it continue!

In recent weeks I’ve heard the term “māreikura”. To me it is majestic, magnetic, matriarchal and a dedication to all our mothers, no matter the circumstances. On this occasion I want to devote my attention to our Dame Aroha Hōhipera Reriti-Crofts DNZM CBE JP (28 August 1938–20 May 2022) who epitomised māreikura leadership.

E te māreikura, moe mai rā e te Taua