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Turia: Speech Opening of Parliament 2005

1 February 2005

Response to the Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party 1 February 2005

I have been intrigued by the recent politicking that suggests New Zealanders are looking for a vision. I wonder who asked them?

A vision is not something one conjures up for the cosmetic wonder of a ‘State of the Nation’ Address.

Equally, a vision for a nation is not usually found through a pilgrimage to the local Rotary Club.

A vision for a nation must be founded in its very origins.

Our vision for this nation is based in the covenant by which its first people, the people of the land, tangata whenua, negotiated with the Crown, about a model for developing a unified nation.

The Treaty of Waitangi was not a party political manifesto, designed to capture votes. Nor was it a strategy to advise us how to respond to grievances, nor was it the beginner’s guide to establishing a Treaty industry.

In this respect, it is very disappointing that the three times that the word ‘Treaty’ appears in the Prime Minister’s address refer exclusively to a focus on settlement policy.

At its very core, the Treaty is about a relationship that has been entered into. Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu referred to this as:

"In 1840 a pact was signed with good and true intent and that was the beginning of a nation called New Zealand. It is time for our founding document to be set free and for the Treaty of Waitangi to be a symbol of unity, trust, understanding and goodwill for all the peoples of Aotearoa".

In her focus on unity, trust, understanding and goodwill, Te Arikinui reminds us of the pivotal role Te Tiriti o Waitangi has in helping New Zealand - Aotearoa to mature as a nation.

Some of the members of this House would prefer to assign this document to the filing cabinet, suggesting that the basis for nationhood in this land is merely a historical relic, of no significance to our ongoing future.

I have difficulty with this approach to relegate our founding document to the backroom, on the assumption that it is ‘out-dated’.

I wonder, would those same Members suggest that the marriage certificate signed at a wedding ceremony has absolutely no relevance to the ongoing relationship of a couple?

If we are really committed to promoting and nurturing the sacred relationships we have in our homes and families, we must demonstrate that same commitment to our key documents for nationhood.

We must not forfeit the honour and integrity Te Tiriti o Waitangi was expected to provide, by all its signatories.

Moving forward as a nation requires us to honour the promises made by our ancestors, and correct injustices of the past, in order to lay the groundwork for an equitable future.

Respect for our ancestors is entirely proper; our ancestors have made us what we are.

The architects of the Treaty knew that what they were proposing would set a precedent. This is part of our proud history as a sovereign nation, and we must celebrate that.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi challenged the British Empire to reaffirm and accommodate the existing rights of an indigenous culture amongst the onslaught of immigration.

The writers knew that a framework of trust, respect, toleration and diversity had to be set down and adhered to if two peoples were to survive and grow as one nation.

The Maori Party’s position is that those principles and others still apply today, and even more so in an ever increasingly diverse and complex country.

The Courts have referred to the Treaty as an embryo, rather than a fully developed and integrated set of ideas.

I would encourage this House to see the Treaty as a living document, which provides the foundation for an ongoing relationship between Maori and the Crown, a relationship which must be capable of adaptation to new and changing circumstances as they arise.

For the Maori Party, that is a vision for a nation which will withstand the vagaries of time, or the political opportunism that seems to come about at election time.

What New Zealanders are wanting is less political rhetoric about the Treaty as ‘a tool of division’, less focus on ‘closing the gaps’ between Maori and Pakeha, less emphasis on ‘race relations’ as our number one problem.

What we want more of, is a vision of promise for our future.

The Treaty encapsulates that vision, and must be promoted positively, if we are to ever move forward. Nationhood is meaningless if we have not matured in our attitudes to and decisions about the past, present and future role Te Tiriti o Waitangi plays in our lives.

We believe that we have the capacity to be a bicultural nation, where it is possible to promote and validate the role of Maori as tangata whenua throughout New Zealand, and also to promote harmonious relationships amongst all New Zealanders.

I do not want us to forget that the deterioration of the Treaty relationship has come about because Governments have behaved dishonourably.

The legacy of land confiscation and the subsequent partition, fragmentation and land alienation through the intervention of the Native Land Court, must be addressed.

The Waitangi Tribunal’s ‘Taranaki Report: Kaupapa Tuatahi’ described such an impact clearly in their 1996 report::

“Through war, protest and petition, the single thread that most illuminates the historical fabric of Maori and Pakeha contact has been the Maori determination to maintain Maori autonomy and the Government’s desire to destroy it.

The irony is that the need for mutual recognition had been seen at the very foundation of the State, when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed”.

The New Zealand public should not be blamed for what the Tribunal called, ‘the Government’s desire to destroy’ Maori autonomy.

The relationship between tangata whenua and the Crown has deteriorated noticeably especially in response to the current Government’s proposals on the foreshore and seabed.

The principles of partnership, utmost good faith, reasonableness, reciprocity, mutual benefit and active protection dis-integrated.

The Waitangi Tribunal Report on the Urgent Hearings into the Crown's Foreshore and Seabed Policy (WAI 1071) stated that the policy breaches the Treaty of Waitangi in "fundamental and serious" ways that give rise to "serious prejudice".

We shall not forget.

In this Parliament we have a responsibility to compensate the losses. We should be committed to fairness and justice and reconciliation.

If we have the courage to recognise the past for what it was, and perhaps plant a seed for the future, we have the opportunity to change the very face of Aotearoa.

In this Parliament we must also promote harmonious relationships between people by encouraging a notion of respect for the Treaty of Waitangi, and also other distinct ethnic groups that live in this country.

This was the inspiration given to us by our ancestors, an inspiration for a vision for the nation.

We are a young country – we can get this right. We can work it out together.

We have been able to share common highlights in the past – we have done many great things together, and we can do so again. These are the essential elements of a vision for the future.

For too long, politicians and media have drawn a picture that Maori and non-Maori are separate, impermeable groups. Our struggle is not with each other.

In fact, recent information reveals that basically about half of all Maori who are living in a relationship, are living with non-Maori. This is the Treaty partnership in action, in the home.

The reality is there is no conflict between a vision of unity and a vision of diversity.

What is required is an understanding and a respect for our different pathways, traditions, and lifestyles.

The common point is being here.

Restoring a positive relationship for us all in living here, has to be a priority.

The Maori Party will demonstrate our leadership by continually reaffirming the need for tangata whenua and the government to re-establish a strong positive connection that is a catalyst for all New Zealanders to move forward confidently.

It is time to grasp our future with both hands, and to honour the promises made by our past.

Exactly ten years ago, on 28-29 January 2005, Ngati Tuwharetoa paramount chief Sir Hepi te Heuheu, initiated the Hirangi series of hui to resurrect the issue of the constitutional significance of the Treaty of Waitangi. I believe it is fitting to return to the recommendations laid down at that first hui, as a focus point for this next decade:

That the following be reaffirmed as the basis of tino rangatiratanga:

The Treaty of Waitangi is the Constitution of New Zealand;

from 1840 the right of the Crown to exercise kawanatanga depended on not breaching tino rangatiratanga reserved perpetually to Maori;

the right of the Government to exercise kawanatanga is lost if tino rangatiratanga is not provided for;

any change to tino rangatiratanga or kawanatanga as provided for by the Treaty requires the prior consent of all iwi.

Honouring the recommendations gifted to the nation from the Hirangi series of hui will require a careful dialogue between the parties to ensure the promises of Article 2 are achieved.

The interplay between kawanatanga and rangatiratanga is complex, but meaningful dialogue will achieve the success anticipated so many years ago.

It is a vision worth pursuing.

It is a vision we can attain.

It is a vision for a nation.


ENDS

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