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Turia's Beehive Chat 18 November 2002


Beehive Chat 18 November 2002

Tena koutou e nga iwi.

The last week has been a big one for Whanganui iwi.

Negotiations between the iwi and the Crown found a way for the position of river claimants to be protected, while Genesis Power proceeds with its application for a 35-year resource consent to take water from the headwaters - something which the iwi objects to.

The Government has also pledged to begin preliminary negotiations for settlement almost immediately, and has acknowledged that mandate issues have been resolved.

This has been a win-win-win outcome, and I am very pleased.

As one might expect, the iwi has been criticised. There were fears that the hui could become a repeat of the earlier occupation, which exposed hostility and resentment in our community.

But harmony arises from full understanding of the other person's point of view - not from sweeping differences under the carpet. In fact, the hui was totally peaceful. Visitors to Pakaitore were welcomed to listen to the discussion.

I think the people of Whanganui have shown they understand that the iwi were in an impossible position. They have been willing to hear the iwi out, and their acknowledgement and respect created the space that the negotiators needed to reach agreement.

It has not been the same in Parliament. The iwi has had taunts and insults thrown at them from behind the opposition benches. The National Party accused Whanganui iwi of trying to get money. ACT called our people 'Ken Mair's mob', and even 'an unlawful mob' - despite the fact that the hui was permitted and fully lawful at all times.

The image in my mind was of our old people in the tent, kaumatua and kuia, law-abiding people, but staunch in defence of their awa, and coming to the end of their tether after almost 150 years of endless litigation, through all the proper channels, to defend their rights.

As a member of the iwi, I took the insults personally. At one point I had to leave the chamber.

I raised a point of order, objecting to the insult, but it was disallowed.

That exchange raised an interesting issue for me. I understand that Parliament has its own tikanga, and that language and behaviour that I find intolerable can be a legitimate part of the process of government, whether I like it or not.

But I wondered whether Parliamentary rules might allow criticism of my iwi, my collective self which is outside Parliament, when it would be forbidden to say the same thing about myself in person.

This question, of how collective identity and personal identity are recognised in the Parliamentary environment, is something I will be thinking about.

Kia ora.

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