Opinion by Moana Maniapoto
We get lots of requests for interviews — but we were more than a little surprised when, out of the blue, we were contacted by representatives of Prince Harry. Yes, the Duke of Sussex.
We thought it sounded dodgy. But no. Our producer Hikurangi Jackson checked it all out, and it was legitimate.
Long story short, the younger son of the next king is the founder of a non-profit, eco-travel movement called Travalyst. And because it’s inspired by values like kaitiakitanga, Prince Harry wanted the worldwide launch of the first Travalyst campaign to happen out of Aotearoa and on our programme. It seems his visit here in 2018, which was hosted in the main by Māori, and his conversations with rangatahi, made a big impression.
Māori do seem to have that impact. Globally hot, locally not, I always used to say.
His people were keen for an interview. No conditions, either. We were up for that.
Confession. I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “royal watcher”. I know Prince Harry is the founder of the hugely popular Invictus Games, and that former Māori soldiers who met him found him likeable. And I also know that he’s moved to Los Angeles and, according to media reports, his family seem to be at loggerheads.
I did a quick Google search. Mindboggling. One of my first questions was to ask him: "Why would you want to do any interview with anyone, knowing every word will be dissected?"
Then I saw footage of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan walking inside lovely St Faith’s Church in Ōhinemutu. The beautiful interior was where I had interviewed the delightful Sir Robert Nairn Gillies just before his investiture last week. It reminded me of the long and complex relationship Māori continue to have with the Crown — one that continues through successive governments of all different hues.
In his message, Prince Harry is clear it was Māori values, and particularly the concept of kaitiakitanga, that informed the decision to launch the campaign in New Zealand.
That national conversation
Yet colonisation represents the systematic dismantling of traditional Māori values and beliefs and its replacement with an entirely different way of thinking and doing. And the prince, as a member of the British royal family, symbolises that relationship.
Recently, there have been calls for a national conversation over the Treaty of Waitangi, He Puapua, Three Waters, and co-governance.
It seems anything that involves power-sharing with Māori demands a “debate”, which is often code for an argument. That conversation has been front and centre for Māori who, across successive generations, have fought for recognition of Te Tiriti as the ultimate, mana-enhancing co-governance model.
It’s hard to have a debate when one side is ready to get down to the nuts and bolts and the other one hasn’t even got their toolkit together.
Māori, supported by a growing number of non-Māori allies and champions, continue to reiterate the urgency and sheer common sense of reaffirming Māori values across every sector.
'Flipping the script'
My carefully curated and culled backlist for Prince Harry had 48 questions. Okay, maybe 55. I was keen to unpack the Travalyst campaign, and also to explore other issues that might particularly resonate with Māori and Indigenous people.
I wasn’t particularly fussed about royal family dramas.
But, after a lot of running around, that interview didn’t happen. We’re hopeful it may still happen. But on the weekend, Prince Harry recorded and sent us a video message.
We decided to play it.
Some may suggest we’re caught up in PR spin. We did enjoy seeing Rena Owen, Rhys Darby and David Fane pop up next to the prince. Others will have a meltdown because Harry says Aotearoa, not New Zealand … twice.
We think it will get our viewers talking. And here’s the thing. Prince Harry can see New Zealand as a country of “sustainability pioneers”. He’s convinced that Māori are on to something, that we do hold the solutions, particularly as we collectively stare down huge existential issues.
So why is it so difficult for New Zealanders to “flip the script” on their own thinking?
What Prince Harry told us
"Tēnā koutou katoa, I've been to Aotearoa a number of times throughout my life. And I've always felt a deep connection and respect towards the Māori people who make me feel so welcome every time. Most recently, when I visited with my wife, we were touched by the connections we built and the incredible memories we have from our time there. We were particularly honoured to meet with young people who are dedicated to the Māori culture and to giving back to their communities and their country. They are rightly determined to make this world a better place for the next generation.
"Guided by Māori knowledge and practices, Aotearoa is a country of sustainability pioneers, and I'm particularly impressed by the recent efforts of the Tiaki promise. The Māori culture inherently understands sustainable practices and how to take better care of our life-giving land, which are critical lessons we can all learn. And that is why I'm here with you on Te Ao with Moana to share a new kaupapa.
A few years ago, I founded Travalyst, a non-profit dedicated to making sustainable tourism mainstream for all of us. And through that creating systemic change. Every year, more and more of us want better options. And for the first time, Travalyst is striving to make that a reality for everybody who want to support local communities, travelling with kaitiaki values and looking after nature and wildlife. For our first campaign, we're encouraging people to flip the script. We're always being asked for our feedback on our trips and experiences, but what would happen if our holiday rated us? It's an important question to ask and we want all of you to help us answer it.
I want to thank you the Māori people for welcoming us into your home. And we look forward to following your lead and learning from you through this campaign. Ngā mihi maioha.