Ngāi Tahu ki Tauranga Moana

Bi monthly hui
On 21 February, we held our first hui for the year. We were blessed with fine weather and more than the usual number of new faces in what was a good turnout. With chairperson Huey Ruhere attending a tangi, Uncle Hohepaturunga Briggs deputised, ensuring a lively hui across all issues. The conversations over a cuppa afterwards were just as lively.

Anna Were presented a mauri stone to be used at each of our hui. The stone in question has its origins in South Westland (the rohe of Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio) and it gave rise to some storytelling.  Lodged in the names of certain features of landscapes both locally (like on Tūhua, otherwise known as Mayor Island, and home of the much desired obsidian) and down on the West Coast, there is evidence of the trade that went on between the hapū of those two places. Names like pounamu, for instance, have been given to the green lake on Tūhua. In turn, Tūhua is the name given to a maunga in the Arahura River area, the famed source of pounamu. Then there are times when the names pounamu and tūhua have been used interchangeably. There was also talk about the route the traders from the south took. There was talk, too, about how pounamu rocks can be recognised in their natural state. Fragments have a soapy feel when wet. The piece Anna presented is an example of the outer whitish weathered “skin” appearing on one side and on the other, pounamu with beautiful teal colouring. Arrangements have been made to take up Doug Baker’s offer to have his Tauranga Boys’ College carving class mount the stone, kia ora Doug and Anna.

Michael Bosman’s new early childhood education centre came up for discussion. It has not long started taking children but is yet to have an official opening.  With shaded sand pits and safe access to the natural bush environment on his property, Michael certainly has gone to some lengths to give the children a real life experience of the outdoors. We need to support him in this enterprise which is already bringing in parents and young children from right throughout Tauranga.

The main item discussed was the Bobbie Maths programme that’s just commenced at Shirley Primary in Ōtautahi. Throughout the existence of our rōpū, promoting education has been a continuing kaupapa. This Te Waipounamu project is just a continuation of that kaupapa, likely to be the most important undertaken. The programme involved is possibly the greatest hope for turning all previously failing Māori students into successful scholars.

Designed by Rarotongan academic Dr Roberta Hunter, this te reo-friendly Bobbie Maths programme is nothing short of revolutionary in both concept and in the successful outcomes it is achieving. How else would you describe a programme that has already proved, in the right circumstances, to have given previously failing Māori primary school students a boost in maths in just one school year.  

The programme is much more than a maths intervention though. For instance it has been responsible for a decrease in bullying, an increase in politeness co-operation, oral language and confidence to give things a go. Parent knowledge and what a child learns at home becomes a support resource for the curriculum, teachers get much more effective in their teaching, te reo becomes part of the maths programme, and special needs students also learn well. Students problem solve in small groups (usually three), and when they report back to class on their solutions, they learn each other’s way of solving the problem. Class sessions are typically full of student talk, all task-related and all governed by the “rules of talk” they have been taught. In such an arrangement, there is no ability grouping, each student contributes to the solution, nobody gets left behind and teachers find out that most students can learn as well as each other.

How did our rōpū become involved in a project way down in Christchurch? Long story short, we had the means, the connections and the determination to change the failure cycle. We certainly had our share of luck beginning with a meeting we were able to set up between New Zealand’s learning researcher supreme, Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, and Tā Mark Solomon which has created the possibility that Bobbie Maths will eventually become available throughout the whole of Te Waipounamu. Our involvement has created a change in the attitude of the Ministry of Education (and we think, Government) in relation to the contribution Ngāi Tahu and philanthropic organisations might make for the betterment of educational outcomes for Māori, by working together in new ways. More specifically, it could create different and more effective ways to tackle the educational failure that has been crippling Māori development. We need to embrace this Bobbie Maths programme and pursue strongly the many possibilities it opens up.
Nā Laurie Loper

Ngāi Tahu ki Tauranga Moana Bi-monthly Hui 2016
Tauranga Boys’ College Wharenui, Sunday, 1pm
17 April (AGM), 19 June, 7 August, 16 October, 4 December (Venue and time TBA)