FROM POU KAIĀRAHI, ROCHELLE STEWART-ALLEN

I’m often met with blank expressions when I tell people that Hui E! Community Aotearoa is a peak body.  

“A what?”  

“A peak body.” 

“What’s that?”  

I can’t blame them. A peak like a mountain peak? Peak like peak internet memes? Say the word peak enough times and it starts to sound quite strange.  

But we continue using the phrase peak body because it’s an accurate way to describe the work we do. So I meet the blank expressions and curiosity with this phrase:  

“We’re an umbrella organisation that represents the shared interests of hundreds of organisations in the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector.”  

In some ways I feel like that’s under-selling ourselves, because the work we do matters and can make a real difference to those working in the sector.  

A peak body doing its job properly is first and foremost connected.  

Connected to the organisations it seeks to represent, to the individuals working tirelessly within that organisation, to services and people that can help them.  

It’s connected to government, funders and even businesses, who may not have the relationships or knowledge to create good policy, meaningful partnerships or accessible opportunities for the community sector.  

Peak body organisations are essential brokers of relationships and facilitate collaboration and networks – they join the dots.  

Peak bodies are also noisy. They’re advocates for change when something’s not working, they’re champions for it when it does. Peak bodies are often not hamstrung by the constraints and conditions of grants so they can speak out about pressing issues.  

Peak bodies gather in ideas, information, research and have a sense of the big picture. That means when a government department asks us what we think of changes to a law for example, our opinion is informed not just by our own experiences, but of those in our networks or on research we have done with those in the sector.   

It’s our job to pick up the threads that connect organisations in the sector and weave together a cohesive picture.  

More often than not, that’s a picture of services under pressure, so we then look at what will help and take those proposed solutions to people who might be able to make change.  

People involved in the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector are working incredibly hard for their communities and causes. They don’t often have the time or resources to advocate or lobby on underlying or systemic issues facing organisations. So one of our jobs as a peak body is to be a voice, a strong and united voice, for the organisations they work in.  

Hui E! is not the only peak body working in this space; we’re in good company with Volunteering New ZealandAra TaiohiPhilanthropy New ZealandCommunity Networks AotearoaSocial Service Providers AotearoaCommunity ResearchNew Zealand Council of Christian Social ServicesCommunity Housing and Environmental and Conservation Organisations of Aotearoa NZ (ECO) to name a few.  

We all have a different focus and different challenges, but we all share a vision for a fair and just Aotearoa.