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Constitutional conference - important for Maori

Georgina te Heuheu

National MP

10 April 2000

Constitutional conference - an important step for Maori

The Constitutional Conference held at Parliament at the weekend was beacon for the future, National List MP Georgina te Heuheu said today.

"For the first time to my knowledge, Maori were brought together with others interested in constitutional matters for a reasonably frank exchange of views. In that sense it was unique and instructive.

"You can't fiddle around with the constitution without addressing the Treaty of Waitangi. These issues are not new to Maori, but sitting down with those on the other side of the argument is. That's an important building block in our shared future.

"Open and ongoing debate will be important. I detect modest pressure for change from a variety of quarters other than Maori, particularly in the 25 - 35 year age group. The challenge for those wishing to move the debate forward will be to find ways of taking these issues to all New Zealanders," Mrs te Heuheu said.

Mrs te Heuheu considered that current thinking on the teaching of values in schools was timely. She believed that such a discussion ought to precede any future constitutional change.

"Those of the 'if it ain't broke why fix it' brigade needed to display a generosity of spirit, and focus on the future rather than only on the present. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our future is more sharing and inclusive than our past has sometimes been. If that means changes to our constitution some time in the future, then change will inevitably occur. MMP happened because a majority of New Zealanders considered that our electoral arrangements were no longer appropriate.

"Whether change is 10, 20 50 or a 100 years away, it is better that it occur in a planned and systematic way," Mrs te Heuheu said.

Ends

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