During 2018, I had the privilege of being a part of the Banzaid team. Every other week, between studying development and environmental studies at Victoria University, I would go and visit Paul Thompson at his office in Karori. I would help where needed, dive into chats about development, debrief about class discussions, or be given a topic to research.
My journey to see Paul involved a 20-minute walk (or a short bus ride when wet!) to and from my flat… this provided a bit of thinking time about my time at Banzaid. Here are some of my reflections:
I am incredibly grateful for the practical ways that Banzaid has supported my journey of grappling with what development means to me. I have had the opportunity to identify and apply concepts which are discussed in classes within real world contexts. While considering the various projects Banzaid are involved in, I have seen development thinking applied in a practical manner within real-life contexts.
From my time at Banzaid, I have also learnt the need for challenging discussions, and the big questions. This included questioning the role of development within the world and questioning inherent flaws within development thinking. To be able to talk with Paul and unpack the issues together (or rather me unpacking the issues, while Paul sat along and watched), was really helpful. This made my deconstruction process a lot easier, but a lot more challenging at the same time in the sense that Paul held me accountable. Paul is incredibly insightful and has got a whole lot of wisdom. Chats and discussions with him have been big part of my involvement in Banzaid, as I battle my way through trying to understand to what development means to me.
Even though I was deconstructing development, it was also encouraging to see practical spaces where Banzaid has had, and is continuing to have, a positive influence and impact on the development sphere. For me, the complexities and the uncertainties can feel overwhelming and I am still trying to work this out. However, Banzaid showed that despite these complexities and uncertainties, awesome stuff is happening, and will continue to happen for a long time yet. Questioning these issues, talking them through with Paul, and thinking about them as real life issues can feel incredibly overwhelming. But the magnitude and importance of the issues is the very reason why we can’t give up. The problems are too complex to solve, but too important to not try.
Alongside development issues, my studies have has also had me thinking about Māori worldviews. A lot of questions which surface for me about development, are parallel to the Pākehā – Māori relationship. Within both relationships, power is inherent. What does development look like within a New Zealand context? Does the Treaty/Te Tiriti echo how we need to be approaching our relationship? By dwelling within and learning about Aotearoa history, I have learnt much about development. Power dynamics are inherent within any relationship, and understanding the complexities of relating to and working within another culture is a learning process that needs to grappled with, within any development context.
Within my journey of learning Aotearoa’s history, we dissected the idea of Pākehā paralysis. This pulls on the idea that Pākehā feel as though we are constantly trying to find the line between an honouring and empowering relationship with Māori, or one that continues to implement colonial tendencies. Pākehā have fears that we may overstep the line, creating a mindset of ‘better to do nothing than do something and do it wrong’. I see this happening to me in response to the complexities within the development sphere. I see this as a challenge to acknowledge the complexity, to not get overwhelmed by it, but instead, move forward consciously with a listening and learning attitude.
A big, big, thank you to Paul and the Banzaid team for the opportunity to be a part of the team, and for being part of my development journey.
Ehara taku toa I te toa takitahi engari he toa takimano
My strength is not that of an individual but that of collective
Thank you for being a part of my strength…