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Tariana Turia's ‘The Taranaki Address’

‘The Taranaki Address’; Rangiatea Campus; New Plymouth Declaration of Independence Day Celebrations 28 October 2004

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

What I seek for our children, tangata whenua and tauiwi, is that they be proud but respectful, resourceful but honest, educated and inspired.

Amongst the thoughts that I see as guiding them to those ends are three that I hold dear.

I call them: ‘turangawaewae’ or ‘status’, ‘te tika’ or ‘justice’ and ‘mahi rangatira’ or ‘a commitment to achieve’.

There is also an optimum climate for our children’s growth. It is created by a written constitution and a strengthened Bill of Rights.

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Our constitutional development began in 1835. It began with the recognition of Maori status as an autonomous people in the Declaration of Independence of that year.

We have come together to celebrate and recall the recognition of that Declaration.

We celebrate and acknowledge as well the affirmation of the Declaration in the Treaty of Waitangi of 1840.

I respect too that the Treaty gave a place to Pakeha. I acknowledge the Treaty principle that tangata whenua and Pakeha should be bound to each other by mutual respect and by all that which is principled and just.

Here in Taranaki we recall as well, those who gave their lives upon this land to uphold the principles of the Treaty.

We look to the mountain in recalling them to mind. There to the North lies Kingi. There stood Titokowaru in the South. And at the heart is Te Whiti o Rongomai.

Such were our constitutional beginnings in 1840 and 1835. Born of hope. Sanctified by blood.

Now it is time to move the constitutional position forward; that our hopes and dreams of yesterday can be formalised and fulfilled in our time.

We are not a conglomerate mix with a little browning thrown in. We are a country of two parts where each made a commitment to work to the same ends.

A Constitution defines our parts and our national goals. It defines the status of each part and the commitment of each to the common good.

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As claims are settled and the past is healed we can advance more rapidly in education and commercial enterprise.

We are advancing rapidly in fact. Tangata whenua growth in business and in the development of educational institutions has been spectacular over recent years

We predicted this would happen when the claims process began. Tangata whenua, by nature, are generally enterprising. Our ancestors were entrepreneurs. They were trading as early as 1835 and looked to the Treaty to expand their capacity. In 1840, literacy was higher amongst tangata whenua than amongst the Europeans on the land.

Te Kooti ran a schooner trade to Auckland before he was labelled a rebel. Before Te Whiti and Tohu were declared ‘security risks’, they were educationalists, flour millers, horticultural experimenters and builders.

Some say, as claims are settled, we should shift from a rights based approach to the ideology of commerce. But in truth, the country needs both. These concepts are not in competition. Justice, freedom and commerce all grow in the same bed. They are mutually supportive. You can not have one without the other.

We must be vigilant to ensure that justice, freedom and rights are maintained. A Constitution is the hallmark of a people’s vigilance.

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I do not assume from the settlement of claims that all will be right with the world. Rights, freedom and democracy are fragile plants. They must be nurtured. And they are constantly at risk - as I shall explain.

We believe in participatory democracy. Yet consider how the Supreme Court Bill was simply bulldozed through. There was the form of participation but not the substance.

There is provision for Maori representation in Parliament. But the Maori voice in Parliament was ignored when the Seabed and Foreshore Bill was rammed home.

We believe in protocols to uphold the independence of executive and judicial functions. But after the Foreshore case, the government made repeated personal attacks on the Chief Justice, the Supreme Court judges and a Judge of the Maori Land Court.

The autonomous rights of Maori hapu and iwi, as acknowledged in 1835, is recognised in Government policy papers. In practice, the right is put down when it suits.

I have evidence of years of work by hapu and iwi to develop a tribal constitution that was blatantly undercut by the Office of Treaty Settlements. The Government had a plan of its own. Settlements must be bulldozed through before the next election. The stated principles of respect for hapu and iwi suddenly took a back seat.

Common to all of this is the descent of the Executive to bully tactics. It is that sort of descent that a Constitution would serve to constrain.

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I come to individual human rights. For Maori, no place can be more worthy as a forum for the human rights debate than here in Taranaki. The need for vigilance is apparent from Taranaki history.

Here in 1882, the great missionary for peace, Te Whiti was arrested on the grounds that he was a threat to the security of the country. It was said there were terrorists about.

The extraordinary West Coast Protection Act 1882 was passed by which Te Whiti was held, without charge or trial, and was imprisoned on a remote island.

The Crown has since acknowledged it was wrong. But it is well said that those who do not learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat it. I submit to you that now, that has happened.

In December 2002, Ahmed Zaoui, claiming like Te Whiti to be a political missionary for peace, sought sanctuary in this country, having death warrants over his head from an oppressive regime. There is strong reason to believe that his claim is correct.

For nearly six months the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, comprised of lawyers, inquired into the full circumstances of his case and his history overseas. The Authority cleared him of terrorist associations. It declared him a legitimate refugee.

But the Government had other plans. Under recent legislation, uncannily like the West Coast Peace Preservation Act, he is held as a security risk and kept in prison. He has been held there for almost two years.

He has been denied access to a full statement of why he is held, because the information is classified.

His fate will be decided by an Executive which is necessarily influenced by political and economic considerations. That was precisely the case with Te Whiti. He was denied access to the courts. The parallels are strong.

And like Te Whiti, he will be disposed of without charge – without trial. Some have tried to make the Zaoui case an immigration issue. It is not. It is about human rights.

Some have said it is not our business because this is war time. But that was said also of Te Whiti as people washed their hands of responsibility.

So understand this. The Maori Party stands for Justice, for Maori and for all. We seek an honest country, for the sake of Maori, and for the sake of everybody. We are not here just to define ourselves but to define the country.

I support the call of Amnesty International that Zaoui should have a fair trial, with public exclusion only in respect of those parts of the evidence that the Judges find necessary for national security. I seek your licence to take this position so in honour of the memory of Te Whiti o Rongomai.

Those are my reasons for standing here today in support of a written Constitution and a strengthened Bill of Rights.

I do so mindful of our forbears, tangata whenua and Pakeha, who recognised the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the Treaty of Waitangi.

I share their vision of a society where both peoples would have status and respect.

I seek the framework for a just society where our children can grow tall and be united, educated, honest, enterprising and inspired.

I stand for honesty and integrity in all things. I ask that you stand with me in support of human rights and a New Zealand Constitution.

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Now, I have in my hand my own personal cheque. For $300, one for each of the Taranaki feathers. I am sending it to Amnesty International in support of their call for a fair trial. If you wish to add to it, please come and see me.

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