We have a problem within Ngai Tahu with gone no addresses (GNA's). It's alarming to know that somewhere between 25 and 30% (and whatever the figure is the argument is the same) of registered Iwi members have not kept the Office up to date with their details. They are considered GNA and they don't receive any communication from the iwi. Why aren't these registered Iwi members letting the Office know when they move? The short answer is that they feel minimal connection and that is why they don't make the effort. I don't blame anyone for this. My point is, what do we do about it?
It doesn't seem possible and certainly not desirable to have only half the waka paddleing. All of the GNA's are Iwi members with something to offer. How can important events such as elections be fair if a sizeable number of people are not contactable. Finding these GNA's must become a higher priority. And once they are found, we have to work out how to keep them engaged, how to keep them conncected. And I am not saying that efforts, in all these areas, aren't being made, they are, and that is great. But we need to do more, much more.
For instance we could do this: we know that all Ngai Tahu are related, so someone must know where the GNA's are. Let's pay our people to update the datebase. Yes pay them! We pay plenty of non-Ngai Tahu for all sorts of things, and probably will to find the GNA's, it's a waste of money. Let's pay ourselves. let's pay our people – for doing a job that we need done anyway. There are many ways of calculating the value of finding a GNA and that can be assessed against the cost of finding them. But just for the sake of argument lets say that we have 10,000 GNA's and we pay people $50 for every GNA that gets updated into the database. That would cost $500,000. Someone would have to run it and so on so add on another $300,000. Hell, lets make it $500,000 to bring it up to a nice round million. Divide a million by 10,000 and you get $100 per person. That's $100 to find a GNA.
I think that is worth it, especially when most of the money goes back to whanau members. i think it is worth spending $100 to reconnect with an Iwi member. A member who has something to contribute, something to learn.
So once we have found them, how do we keep them. We have to get them involved and interacting with the Iwi. But first we have to get to know them and break down the barriers. Once those barriers have been breached we can then show all of the benefits of being connected via the Office.
And how do we get to know all of these GNA's? Why not go and visit them. Why not! Let's employ someone or some people to visit each and every Iwi member and find out how they are going and show them some of the areas of Ngai Tahutanga that they could be involved with. Ask them about what they want from their Iwi. I know we do surveys but I'm talking about doing things the old way, kanohi ki te kanohi – face to face.
We need our GNA'as much as they need us. And they do need their connection to their Iwi, even if they don't think they do, today. As more and more become disillusioned by the unsatisfying and exploitive consumerist society that we live in, they will look for the things that are real. And nothing is more real than Ngai Tahu. They are part of the indigenous culture that was here long before the europeans arrived and they belong, they have a place to stand. The economic tsumani will also cause distress and drive people back to the basics and the most basic is kin. We are seeing a resurgence of Ngai Tahu mana and maori mana. Our people will come back and we have to be ready for them.
There is a lot to do and we need everyone lending their back to the cause. The best part of the whole thing is that everyone wins. The individuals that are no-longer GNA get connected and they get the magazines and the letters. The Iwi reestablishing links to the Iwi member. Further connection can be facilitated to marae and runanga level.
This problem of GNA's is common, but not many organisations have the solution under their fingertips... the people, the people, the people.