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Speech to Northcote Labour Party LEC AGM

Hon Tariana Turia
23 April 2001

Speech to Northcote Labour Party LEC AGM, Birkenhead Primary School, Auckland

Tena koutou katoa,

I am guessing that by inviting me, you have chosen to better inform yourselves on the development by the Treaty partners and how that might be good for the country.

I am proud of our achievements. Today, however, I have chosen not to deliver a list of achievements in my speech, about all the wonderful things that we as a Labour Alliance coalition government and as a country have achieved.

If that is indeed what you had expected, well, I hope you will not be too disappointed with me this evening. I do hope, however, that you are able to find something in my korero, that will trigger a thought which you may not previously have considered. A thought to do with the types of relationships within our country which may be worth pursuing.

During the 1999 Election campaign the Labour Party promoted the document 'He Putahitanga Hou' this was the Labour Party's vision for Maori, economic, social, cultural and political development. Helen Clark gave it her 'absolute commitment' and Labour's Maori MPs and the Labour spokespeople promoted the vision and the strong commitment to implementation. What was deemed to be good for Maori development was deemed to be good for the development of all New Zealanders.

There have been times when the commitment of the government to follow through on 'He Putahitanga Hou' has been questioned by different sectors. To those people I say, it will be done.

Perhaps the question that hasn't been asked, or hasn't been acknowledged, is, how long is it expected to take? And to that I say simply say, it was not intended to be completed within single digit years.

One of the strongest aspects to this vision was the acknowledgment throughout the document of 'whanau, hapu and iwi''. These terms cannot be accurately transposed with the term 'Maori'. Maori are diverse whanau, hapu and iwi.

Whanau, hapu and iwi continue as the traditional and contemporary structures for the indigenous people of Aotearoa. The single most important factor that differentiates them from most groups is that they are founded on genealogy.

Geneological links can be made from whanau, to hapu, to iwi, and back again. The other defining feature is that the value, belief and relationship systems are organised around geneologically linked development.

One reason that our people believed so strongly in the Labour Party was the Party's willingness to acknowledge the importance of those structures which I believe, are the foundation and basis of 'Maori society' in New Zealand.

It was therefore with open arms that Maori people in large numbers returned to the Labour Party, delivering the six Maori electorate seats. Perhaps after the current nationwide Maori electoral option there may be seven or even eight Maori seats.

It was them who offered the Labour Party the opportunity. The opportunity they offered, was you could say, to 'deliver on our promises'. It is not unqualified open-ended support. It was and remains, an opportunity for the Labour Party to prove that in government we would 'deliver on our promises' and not be detered.

It is for that reason that He Putahitanga Hou sought to acknowledge the importance of whanau, hapu and iwi philosophies. The obligations and responsibilities members have to their whanau, hapu and iwi within New Zealand society today are recognised and utilised rather than ignored.

There have been many examples of those responsibilities reaching fruition. Examples include the Ngati Awa Youth Service Academy, a number of violence prevention programmes for parents and children and a number of housing initiatives which have been initiated by hapu and iwi. While comparitively the actual numbers are not great, they nevertheless, demostrate hapu and iwi willingness to come up with local solutions and we as a coalition government, to support them.

While the list is not long, comparative to what other organisations are involved in, one of the most exciting aspects is that the control of these developments is firmly based within whanau, hapu and iwi.

It has become obvious, that this coalition government or any government willing to work with whanau, hapu and iwi in a Treaty partnership, has unique opportunities to work from a strong platform of unified support, toward common goals for mutual development and benefit.

Interests are not, nor should they be, focused within a single sector. They must always be focused on that, which will ensure whanau are able to achieve to their highest and that obstacles and barriers can be successfully overcome.

Being solution focused must be the common approach of both Treaty partners.

While this may cause some interesting challenges for those who may think within a single sector, a broader vision allows the achievement of the collective effort which will ultimately provide economic, social and cultural benefits. We would have gone some way to creating social and economic inclusion rather than what has happened in the past where many of our people have been excluded from the social and economic activities of our nation.

Our success as a country does not lie in the ability of a government and its bureacracy to pump out policy papers, or publications. For me, our success lies in the ability of whanau, hapu and iwi to control their own development and create their opportunities and for government be working alongside them to towards that common goal.

To me the real test of the success of a government is not to sing our praises, it is for whanau, hapu and iwi to know who they are, to know they have strengths, to know what they are and to put develop plans in place to increase and diversify those strengths. It is also just as important to identify where they need to strengthen and develop plans to address those areas that are vulnerable.

If I could make one last statement, it is that our whanau are our strength. Too often they are promoted as the cause of the problem. Even some Maori people chose to identify them as 'dysfunctional' rather than having issues that they must address. To much time, energy and effort is placed in spelling out what is wrong with them rather than what is right. Criticism such as this provides us with no solutions and goes no way to improving their situation.

After all, it is our whanau who are the carers of our children, and it is within the whanau environment that our children spend their time, learning who they are, developing their identity and potential. As it is our children who are our inheritors. In the end we must deliver on our responsibility to them. We will one day hand over the responsibility and obligation to continue to nurture the development of our country to them. If we have not given our all to prepare them, how prepared will the coming generations be to take up their inheritance.

We must ensure as a nation that our children inherit the estate, not the mortgage!

Our coalition government is committed to investing in people, as a significant part of building an inclusive society, and of nationbuilding, so that we can all have hope for a better future.


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