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A study of alcohol consumption on maraes and of contemporary drinking patterns in Ruatoria : a social, political and economic account of drinking on the East Coast : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the degree of Master of Philosophy in Sociology at Massey University
This thesis examines the consumption of alcohol ("drinking") which takes place on maraes in and around a rural Maori community of Ruatoria. The town is situated in the heart of Ngati Porou on the East Coast, New Zealand. This study focuses on drinking practices in the community and on maraes, and identifies the views and perceptions of local people towards alcohol consumption. The contradictions, ambiguities and ambivalences people have about drinking are explored. The fieldwork is designed around the principles of participant observation where the task is to "tell it like it is" as I interpret the facts presented. In examining drinking patterns it is necessary to account for the influences of social, political and economic factors. Drinking on maraes is not a new thing and the historical accounts of drinking in the past provide important facts about the way in which drinking is viewed today. Also, it is important to describe the extent to which such factors affect the marae. Major features of this study are examination and comparison of the views of the younger people in Ruatoria to those of older people. Generational differences are apparent in the way people relate to and perceive their maraes, and in the way they participate in and perceive of their drinking practices. In society generally, drinking is considered either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the circumstances, this is also apparent on maraes. Alcohol is accepted as an important feature of hospitality; it ensures that guests enjoy themselves and that unity among marae members is maintained. But on the negative side, alcohol consumption on maraes is subject to abuse like anywhere else. As a result of drinking excessively people fight, cause damage to property and create a lot of pain and suffering for others. In accepting that drinking is the norm, this study concerns itself with establishing why this is the case for maraes. The marae, however cannot be discussed without consideration of formal procedures (marae protocol) and leadership. Protocol exists as rules which guide and dictate the formal proceedings that occur on maraes. As I point out, however, what people do and what people say are two entirely different things. Protocol is challenged as being past commonsense which people adapt to fit what is considered the commonsense of today. People drink on maraes as part of what is seen as a rationalising process where protocol is given meaning to what is relevant. Marae and community leaders, like kaumatua, are concerned with the question of alcohol on maraes because it affects their power. In seeking to maintain cohesion among the people and progress towards objectives they compromise drinking at the risk of diminishing their own decision-making authority. Drinking is an issue which many marae people must reluctantly deal with.