Selfoss is a small town that sits on the banks of Ölfusá River in Iceland. And it's where you'll find Waimate-born Māori landowner Gary Te Maiharoa.
“Living in Iceland was the result of the typical young Kiwi OE
adventure,” says Gary.
“My roots are to the Waitaki and surrounding area and our Waihao marae.”
But now Iceland is the place Gary lives with his wife Johanna.
Staying connected from afar
Like for many Māori, Gary’s connection to his whānau and whenua hasn’t diminished despite him living so far away.
“I have a large extended whānau in New Zealand. For Māori living abroad, so far away – of course it’s hard. Especially when circumstances lead to a long and virtually permanent absence from dearly loved whānau and our precious Māori culture,” says Gary.
Gary is one of the many Māori landowners who’ve made use of our online portal – My Whenua.
“My Whenua is great. It’s excellent to be able to see all the information about the land. It’s useful and keeps me informed on all matters involving it,” says Gary.
“I don’t know how to explain the feeling I have when I think of my land. It’s so important and precious to have this connection and it’s not about money. It’s something within that draws me to it. The desire to uphold the respect for our land that our ancestors held, and their values.”
Protecting taonga for the next generation
Technology is creating new possibilities for Māori landowners. Because of that, it’s possible for owners like Gary to maintain a connection to their land on the other side of the world using My Whenua. But with a world increasingly focused on digital delivery, there come different risks.
“The area that most New Zealanders focus on is security and privacy. And for the IT team, that’s primary to us,” says Information Technology Manager Mark Harris.
Information, such as owner addresses, contact details and whānau connections, is an asset to the trust, and it’s important we protect that data for future generations of owners.
“We’re constantly mindful of that. From the point of view of a trustee – that’s one of the core aspects of forming a trusting relationship with owners and trusts. And we take it very seriously,” says Mark.
Jason Osman, Senior Systems Administrator for the IT team, says “the ability to recover systems is also a big thing. Through testing, we can say with confidence that we can restore our systems in the event of a major disaster. That also gives owners the reassurance that we can protect their information.”
Whānau connection to the land
Like Gary in Iceland, Jason understands the importance of his whānau connection to the land. Part of his job motivation stems from his desire to help his family maintain that link.
“For me, it’s because of my mum. She’s lived away from her whenua for most of her life. She’s physically not going to be able to go back and set foot on the land. But we can connect her to the whenua using the tools we have available. She can sit in front of the screen, look at the details and be in awe,” says Jason.
“The whole ideology of Te Tumu Paeroa connects to my core values. Even though IT aren’t working directly at the owner level, the work I’m doing behind the scenes is providing the environment to connect with owners. It’s fantastic.”