The real power lies in the bureaucrats – Dion Tuuta

By Bronson Perich

Te Ohu Kaimoana CEO Dion Tuuta says that the real power doesn’t lie in the government, but rather the bureaucrats that advice our representatives. Many of these bureaucrats, have little if any understanding of te ao Māori. The treaty negotiation veteran asks a poignant question.

“Do the people in power, do they actually have a real relationship with Māori communities?” Tuuta says.

“Rather than reset, is there an actual relationship to begin with?”

He doubts if any of these bureaucrats could create positive Māori outcomes.

“The vast majority of people working within government, simply might not have enough interaction with Māori. (They) might not actually have any relationship with Māori society at all,” he says.

COVID-19, he says did not create Māori inequality. Tuuta says that existed long before the pandemic. Organisations like Te Puni Kōkiri and Te Arawhiti are designed to create positive outcomes for Māori. But Tuuta wonders just how much sway these organisations really have.

“How influential are those organisations over agencies like Treasury, agencies like The State Services Commission. Which do have a lot of influence within the state sector.”

The solution, Tuuta says, is for the bureaucracy to have leaders with genuine links to the community.

“We need leadership, within the state, within the machinery of the state at all levels. That have meaningful connectivity with Māort communities, and enough influence to redirect resources.”

While we have ministers in charge of budget allocations, Tuuta says the bureaucrats need to buy in to helping Māori. Governments potentially change every three years, but the bureaucrats stay much longer. So if they develop relationships in the community they are then in the right space to advise the government accordingly.