• Posted on: 12/05/2022
  • 2 minutes to read
  • Tagged with: PSA Te Runanga

Unuhia te rito o te harakeke                                                              
kei hea te kōmako e kō
ki mai ki āhau e aha te mea nui
o tēnei ao
māku e ki atū
he tangata
he tangata
he tangata

Pluck out the heart of the flax
where will the bellbird sing?
tell me what is the most important
thing in this world
I will tell you
it is people
it is people
it is people

Ko Ngatokimatawhaorua te waka
Ko Nukutawhiti te tangata
Ko Tāwhitirahi me Whangatauatia nga maunga
Ko Te Awapoka me Te Wainui nga awa
Ko Te Oneroa a Toohe te moana
Ko Ngāti Kaha, Ngāti Kuri, Ngāti Waiora, Whanau Moana, Ngai Takato, Ngāti Ueoneone, me Ngati Kairewa nga hapū
Ko Te Aupōuri, Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu, ara me Ngāpuhi-nui-tonu ngā iwi

The whakatauki above was expressed by Meringāroto as she was about to be married to Puhipi.

They were both ancestors of mine, and the whakatauki alerted her people of impending danger from another iwi.

It has inspired me to be confident when challenging inequity as I walk through life.

After leaving the far north at the age of 17, I moved to the South Island to begin an apprenticeship through the Māori trade training schemes in the 1970s.

I have since worked as an engineer, a school teacher, and an evaluator in the Education Review Office.

I served as a trustee of Te Rūnanga mo Te Aupouri a few years ago, progressing our treaty claims and settlement process.

These experiences – in particular my career as a teacher of history and Māori studies – made me keenly aware of how historical injustices can inform current inequities.

This awareness also informed my belief in the power of unionism; the need to support those that are struggling, and the importance of providing them with a living wage so they can live with dignity and thrive.

My union journey began as a delegate in the Engineers Union, and continued as a teacher with NZEI and PPTA. Later, I became a PSA delegate and a Māori enterprise delegate at ERO.

I joined the Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina a few years ago, and was humbled to be asked to become the new PSA kaumātua in 2021. 

I would like to acknowledge the outstanding leadership of former kaumātua Kiwhare Mihaka who sadly passed away last November. His shoes will be difficult to fill.

I also want to acknowledge kuia Georgina Kerr for encouraging me to take up this position, and the support I have received from many elders, leaders and union comrades over the years.

Nō reira kia kotahi te hoe o te waka, kai u te haere ki mua

Let’s paddle this waka in union together to ensure we go forward

Ngā manaakitanga kia koutou

John Witana