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Brash - Address during visit to Ratana Marae

Brash - Address during visit to Ratana Marae

Don Brash
National Party Leader

24 January 2005

Address during visit to Ratana Marae

Tena koutou e te whänau whanui o Ratana

My Parliamentary colleagues and I, and my good friends from the Kotahitanga Community Trust, are very pleased to be here today to join you in honouring the life and work of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, and his birthday tomorrow. We recognise that this celebration is one of the most important events on the Mäori calendar and we thank you for the welcome you have extended to us.

May I begin by acknowledging the marae of Ratana and the houses representing past generations. I note that, along with the canoes of the tribes represented on the houses, there are also ships representing the Heemskerck and the Endeavour, indicating that though the Ratana Church operates in a Maori environment, it believes in the blending of the aspirations of all settlers.

Of course, I particularly acknowledge the founder of the Ratana Church, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, and all those whose vision in earlier years helped establish the church and guide its work.

I acknowledge too the President of the Ratana Church, Harry Meihana; the Secretary of the church, Waka Paama; the Maori Queen, Dame Te Atairangikahu, who I understand is expected soon; Tumu Te Heuheu, who preceded us this morning - for us not only a distinguished paramount chief but also the brother-in-law of our colleague Georgina Te Heuheu; other distinguished visitors and guests. Greetings to you all.

The association formed between Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana and Michael Joseph Savage was developed to advance the political, social and economic wellbeing of the Mäori people. It was a pragmatic approach at a critical time in our history. Both men are to be commended for their vision and courage in charting a course that met their respective needs at that time.

Though the National Party has not had the same historical association with Ratana, we nonetheless early on forged a practical association with Ratana, the outcomes of which endure to this day.

During the 1950s, the Honourable Ernest Corbett, a former National Minister of Mäori Affairs, worked with Iriaka Ratana, the MP for Western Mäori, to use the resources of the Department of Mäori Affairs to help build many of the houses we see here today. Since that association, National Governments have been proactive in promoting and extending initiatives we believe enhance the aspirations of Mäori.

The 1950s and 1960s saw much progress in housing, with many Mäori families gaining home ownership. Later, the establishment of köhanga reo under the Muldoon Government, followed by kura kaupapa and wänanga under the Bolger administration, saw a big increase in participation by Maori in the provision of education. Also in the 1990s, the National Government's health reforms created a window of opportunity for Mäori to be involved in the delivery of health services, forming the basis for the vibrant Mäori health provider market that exists today.

Indeed, the 1990s saw a sea-change in the way in which government services were delivered to communities, and Mäori are in the forefront of those developments.

Under the National Party more than a decade ago, Treaty settlements were also begun in earnest. We saw those as an important recognition of the injustices which had been done in the past, and a genuine attempt to make amends.

These and other initiatives form part of National's record in government and indicate clearly that practical outcomes have been at the heart of National's association with communities such as your own.

We will be seeking to renew that association with vigour when we are returned to office.

May I make a brief reference to your still traditional links to the Labour Party. Those links may well have made good sense at the time they were forged by TW Ratana and Michael Joseph Savage. But times move on. There are dangers to Ratana, and indeed to Maori more generally, if any single political party can take your political support for granted. The risk is that Labour will take that support for granted, as has clearly happened in the past.

More generally, you should review from time to time which political party holds the greatest promise for your people. And please make that review with an open mind. I noted in the media over the weekend that there is a debate going on within Ratana about whether to continue supporting the Labour Party or whether to support the Maori Party. I am certainly delighted that the unquestioning support for Labour is up for discussion and debate at least. But I very much hope that you will conduct that review with an open mind, looking at all the possible options.

You won't be surprised when I say that in my opinion it is the National Party which offers the greatest hope for all New Zealanders - Maori and non-Maori alike.

Last year when I was privileged to address you, I expressed my concern at what I regarded as a dangerous drift towards racial separatism in New Zealand and I elaborated on that theme a few days later at Orewa.

My comments to you, and my longer comments at Orewa, did not mean that I under-estimated the importance of Maori culture to New Zealand but rather meant to make it clear that we have no future as a country, no future at all, unless all of us, Maori, Pacific Islander, European, and Asian, are treated equally under the law.

I know that speech upset some people, but it upset them partly because I believe many did not read the speech carefully. There was nothing anti-Maori in the speech. There was only the strong assertion that there should be no preferential treatment based on the colour of your skin.

I make no apology for that speech because it plotted a way forward, and I rather suspect that TW Ratana, if he were alive today, would be agreeing with me.

As you may know, I am speaking at Orewa again tomorrow. The media are speculating that I will be discussing the welfare system in New Zealand. And if I am, you can be sure that one of the points I will have to make is that the welfare system has had, and continues to have, a devastating effect on Maori New Zealanders. Of those on the DPB, almost 40% are Maori. Nearly half of all Maori children are now dependent on a benefit. This is a disaster for Maori and for all New Zealanders, and only the National Party has the determination to deal with that disaster.

National wants to work with you and with all other New Zealanders to build a culture of aspiration; to ensure that your children are succeeding at school; to ensure that your people are not wasting away on welfare; to ensure that your people are safe from the criminals who seek to prey upon you; and to ensure that you get the healthcare which you need.

A National Government will be fair and will treat all New Zealanders, of whatever race, with respect.

But we will have no time for political correctness, or for suggestions that Maori should be treated differently from anyone else on the grounds of race. The prophet had remarkable visions. I, too, have a vision for New Zealand: I see a multi-cultural society where all people are treated equally under the law and where we all have the same rights and obligations; where every child, whether living in Auckland or living here near Wanganui (my own birth-place), has access to a good education.

I thank you again for the opportunity to celebrate with you the life and work of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana and all those since who have continued his vision and leadership.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tätou katoa


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