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No. 5 (Spring 1953)
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Vol. 2 No. I

Some people still complain of the lack of Maori leadership, and regard it as the root of every difficulty. It is true enough that the days of stirring national figures appear to have come to an end, but are these stirring national figures really the only form of leadership for the Maori people? Admittedly, the great achievements of the last fifty years were due to figures like Carroll, Pomare, Ngata, Buck and Te Puea, but there are many highly intelligent and some brilliant Maori men and women alive today and active in the tasks of leadership. Although none have a paramount influence throughout the country, there are many who can still exert a strong influence over their own tribes or groups.

One great advantage of the present-day Maori is that a rising number is highly educated. It is, therefore, far easier for a number of local leaders from all over the country, all of more or less equal status, to confer together on Maori problems, and reach useful decisions. Admittedly, they are no longer helped by the old sense of awe at the sight of great chiefs, but the recent record of the local leaders in effecting marae improvements and getting over social problems has been decidedly encouraging.

Rather than content ourselves with looking back lovingly to the old days of powerful chiefs, we should do everything in our power to make the present leadership a success. The new leadership depends on meetings, on a national or district basis, between the best of the local leaders, both men and women. Much has already been done. The most spectacular instance is the Maori Women's Welfare League, which has managed to produce a definite revival of Maori cultural activity among women, and paved the way for social improvements. A few months ago the men followed by establishing the District Councils, which now enable tribal committee and executive personalities to gather to discuss all the larger issues with which the Maori race is faced. It has already been proved that considerable weight is attached by the people to decisions reached at District Council meetings.

This is not surprising. The most brilliant leaders of the district are present at these meetings; the whole of the people are represented by local chiefs intimately in contact with local feeling; the presence of observers and members of the public keeps the meetings right out in the open, and in touch with the people.

We must never forget that most of the work done today was planned and thought out in principle by the great men of the last two generations. At the same time, everything the late Sir Apirana and the others achieved would soon be undone if the committees, executives, boards and councils of today were not able to grapple with the complex and slippery problems that arise continually. It is, perhaps, the absence of great personal leaders that throws so much weight on the best men of today.