Tēnā koutou katoa whanaunga o Koukourārata me Ngāi Tahu Iwi.
My name is Josephine  Briggs, and I now live in Port Levy, my tūrangawaewae. I have been involved with our rūnanga off and on for the last 20 years. I am calling to our registered members of Te Rūnanga o Koukourārata Incorporated Society to see how our members can participate more constructively in having a ‘voice’ in what is happening in our rohe?

We have almost 4500 members registered. However, we barely can get a ‘quorum’ together at our monthly rūnanga meetings. This has bothered me, and other whānau/members, so I am using Te Pānui Rūnaka as a starting point. I hope to hear from members locally, nationally and internationally, on how you can have positive input. However, the responsibility is a two-way street. I will endeavour to kick-start a process for you, as members to contact me, to share your thoughts, aspirations and ideas, either anonymously, or by mail. All correspondence will be collated by the writer, then destroyed, unless instructed otherwise and confidentiality will be upheld. If I receive enough member responses, I will collate the information then report to our rūnanga meeting.

My aim is to gather enough information to formulate a strategy to support the information I receive. These questions are only a snapshot of what our members may be thinking. I am trying look at our rūnanga from an “outsider point of view.”
How can our rūnanga actively involve our registered members in becoming more involved?
What can you do to participate? By email? Via Te Pānui Rūnaka? Coming to rūnanga meetings?  
What other activities other than meetings would you be interested in attending?
Asking or supporting your whānau to attend?
Do you believe there are barriers within our rūnanga? If so, what are these for you? How can you overcome them?
How can our rūnanga help make positive change?
How can you contribute to this positive change? What skills can you bring to help us achieve these changes?

We, as a rūnanga, understand that, for many of our members, it’s geographical and that whānau dynamics may contribute or maybe your heart is in other rūnanga. That is understandable, however I am aware we have so many whānau ‘out there’ with exceptional talent who would benefit our rūnanga. Since I have asked for our members to respond to this writing, it is only fair I share my heart and wairua about Koukourārata. Maybe my story will inspire others who have had similar experiences at home. Even if you have never been home, this may ‘tweak’ your curiosity to visit.

I am now in my early fifties and have been living at home for nearly two years. My fond childhood memories are of my nanny and her old home, her gardens, her simple way of life; and of swimming with my whānau and whanaunga. I remember trawling at night, bathing and washing our clothes in the creek. I remember the smells and scents – found nowhere except there – the fun, the whānau and kids being kids.

We also had our fair share of feuding, fuelled by alcohol, abuse and jealousy. Just ‘plain ol’ poverty in its various forms’. No such word or comprehension of “colonisation.” Of course, as a teenager, Port Levy was the last place I wanted to be. However at 19, I had my daughter. She was special in the fact that she was the first new born to come home to our hall. Also in later years, she had the opportunity to live with my parents there.

Our hall was basic, no carpet, no money. But we had fun and laughter. Whānau pitching a hand, pulling resources together. Housie and card nights, kai brought in by whānau to raise funds, good times, simple times, no money times.

Returning home in my late twenties, I knew my life would be here – new energy, new excitement, new wharekai and new whānau returning; and new money available to the rūnanga. There were employment opportunities for a few of our members/whānau; and some were even returning home to build on their tūrangawaewae and to become involved with our rūnanga and iwi.

I can count the whānau/whanaunga on one hand who have and are still involved, prior to Ngāi Tahu Settlement. My mother was one of the driving forces in helping development and she fought tirelessly to see our “hall” evolve into a marae. I also put my hand up to support and encourage my daughter, nieces, and nephews to actively take an interest. However working with your whānau, especially when there is very few of us, can be both emotionally and spiritually exhausting.

This is where you visualise your mokopuna playing on the beach, picking watercress from the creek, running with their whānau, taking tourists out on our waka or yacht and having accommodation for both tourists and whānau. This is where you visualise a whānau with strong culture, kapa haka, waiata, fluent in te reo and our whakapapa; and a love for native bush and trees around Koukourārata. This is what keeps me going, knowing my mokopuna will be able to take up the next challenge. Alongside our whanaunga seeking “Ahi Kā” for their future.

Jo Briggs, 164A Pa Rd.
RD2 Port Levy
Diamond Harbour.8972
Email: [email protected]