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  • Te Waikamihi Lambert

Treaty partners: VUWSA x NT

Te Waikamihi Lambert  |  Ngāti Awa, Tūhoe, Ngāti Ruapani, Ngāpuhi

Ngāi Tauira—Māori Students Association at Te Herenga Waka—represents Māori students and works closely with Te Aka Tauira—VUWSA—as treaty partners on various boards and committees. Our purpose is to make Māori students feel culturally safe in a western institution, and serve as a family away from home through our range of services. 

The purpose of this article is to share with the general student body how Ngāi Tauira and Te Aka Tauira—VUWSA—work together as treaty partners in the realm of student governance, as we navigate how to effectively embody the principles set out Te Tiriti o Waitangi within decision making processes. 

Our partnership is in essence co-governance at a student level, which is based on the principles of tino rangatiratanga vs kāwanatanga as guaranteed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi. VUWSA recognises Māori as tangata whenua of Aotearoa, with Ngāi Tauira having tino rangatiratanga over Māori student affairs. In turn Ngāi Tauira recognises non-Māori as tangata tiriti with VUWSA reserving the right of kāwanatanga—governorship over decision making regarding the rest of the student body. 

I’d like to reaffirm that there is a significant difference between having a relationship and having a partnership. A relationship generally implies a connection or interaction, which can be formal or casual. A partnership, by contrast, involves having a formal and structured collaboration aimed at achieving shared goals or objectives. Although most of the time we operate on a good faith basis, we do have key written documents which are at the core of our partnership. These documents include an MoU (memorandum of understanding), VUWSA’s Te Tiriti o Waitangi statute, and a document outlining the tikanga and protocols of their gifted name—Te Aka Tauira. 

It is also important to note that disparities of funding and resources still exist between Ngāi Tauira and VUWSA. For example, although Ngāi Tauira and VUWSA are equal partners who do the same hours and work on almost everything together, the Ngāi Tauira executive is currently not remunerated for their work, whereas the VUWSA executive is. This is due to the complacency of the University to formally recognise the work and value Ngāi Tauira offers. VUWSA trust has graciously decided to remunerate the NT presidents for 2024, with the hopes that the university will pick this up in 2025—and eventually remunerate the whole executive, too. The documents outlined in this article provide a framework which aims to eliminate these disparities. 

He Whakapūmautanga I Te Hononga I Waenga I A Ngāi Tauira Me VUWSA 

This document establishes a written and formal agreement between both parties that is mutually productive, beneficial, and seeks to realise the articles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the context of the University. A few key features include:

Section 2.3. Ngāi Tauira and VUWSA recognise each other’s autonomy as student representative bodies—particularly for Ngāi Tauira, as not subordinate to VUWSA. 

Section 3.3. Eventually, we hope that Ngāi Tauira can stand alongside VUWSA as partners with equal resourcing and representation, to effectively carry out its business and represent tauira Māori at this university. 

Section 5.3.1. Ngāi Tauira and VUWSA recognise the importance of whakawhanaungatanga and strong relationships between the two organisations. These relationships should seek to go beyond simply professional. 


Te tiriti o Waitangi statute

This statute affirms VUWSA’s Te Tiriti obligations using principles, and is intended to help VUWSA apply them. A few key features include: 

Section 1.1.1. VUWSA has an obligation to conduct itself in a way which reflects the mana of its gifted name—Te Aka Tauira. 

Section If for any reason VUWSA fails to conduct itself appropriately the Ngāi Tauira tumuaki tuarua reserves the right to restrict the use of the name and instigate a wānanga to rectify the issue. 

Section 3.2.1. VUWSA will advocate for the appropriate funding, resourcing, and representation for Ngāi Tauira, Māori roopu and all tauira, to help ensure that Māori have access to adequate resources to pursue their aspirations. 

Te Aka Tauira: Tikanga & protocols of Te Aka Tauira

The name Te Aka Tauira refers to the pūrākau of receiving the three baskets of knowledge in Māori culture. ‘Te Aka’ refers to the vine that Tāwhaki or Tāne climbed down to Earth from the heavens after obtaining the three baskets, and ‘tauira’ commonly translates to students. Thus, ‘Te Aka tauira’ refers to the path that students take to receive and pursue mātauranga or knowledge. 

The gifting of this name denotes VUWSA’s active efforts to stand as a confident, supportive and able Te Tiriti partner alongside Ngāi Tauira, and recognises the historical contribution of VUWSA to Ngāi Tauira in terms of advocacy, support and championship. 

This tikanga naming document outlines the terms in which the name Te Aka Tauira may or may not be used, and why. 

Ngāi Tauira recognises the name ‘Te Aka Tauira’ as being tapu, which can be referred to as an intangible force often interpreted as ‘sacred’ or ‘restricted’. The antonym of tapu is ‘noa’, another intangible force meaning ‘common’ or ‘unrestricted’, the two cannot co-exist. Therefore, the name ‘Te Aka Tauira’ which is considered tapu cannot be used or weaponised in any noa context. To do so would invalidate its tapu, and thus, be considered a breach of trust and undermine the good faith relationship built between the two associations. 

We’d like to publicly acknowledge and give thanks to Te Aka Tauira—VUWSA—for their support and partnership with Ngāi Tauira over the years, and we hope it may continue to grow stronger in the years to come. 


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