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Turia: Address to New Zealand Maori Council

Address to New Zealand Maori Council, Wellington [Brentwood Hotel] Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party Wednesday 10 May 2006; 1pm

One of the great tragedies of the political game is the glaring realisation that politics is always more important than the principle.

Last night Dr Sharples made an impassioned plea to the Parliament in the third reading of the Education Amendment Bill. During the passage of the Bill the Maori Party had presented a range of supplementary order papers as amendments to enhance the Bill in advancing the interests of Maori for the benefit of the nation.

We challenged:

* The imposition of new compliance criteria for early childhood centres which would stifle innovation and force centres to take on a 'one size fits all' mentality in order to comply with the thousands of micro-rules being introduced.

* We argued that there was no need for another system of tracker codes - student identification numbers - when the National Health Identifier exists.

* We sought the support of the Ministers of Education and of Maori Affairs that the proposed new section 154a should be removed as it does not provide sufficient protection for the continuance of kura kaupapa, and at a very minimum Te Runanganui o Nga Kura Kaupapa Maori o Aotearoa must be consulted.

Yet in the committee stage, amendment after amendment, was greeted with the dismal thud of 60 For; 61 Against. We learnt the brutal reality of the numbers. Counting the Cost of Conformity.

Every week Ministers want to meet when Government numbers are tight, to ask us to vote with them, but such willingness to engage is never reciprocated. I say this so that our people will know that the Government - and its Maori Members - will always vote in block according to the political numbers - even when the interests of tangata whenua are at stake.

This esteemed body has raised the principle of appropriate consultation with tangata whenua. In your 1989 landmark case, New Zealand Maori Council versus Attorney General, the Court of Appeal found that the principle of good faith between the parties to the Treaty must extend to consultation on truly major issues.

Is it not a truly major issue of justice across this land - that in 2003, less than half of all Maori school leavers attained the National Certificate of Educational Achievement at Level One or a higher qualification?

In the blunt numbers...45% of Maori school leavers compared with 72% of European and 86% of Asian students?

Aren't they the numbers that politicians should be considering - not political deals to save face, or a blank refusal to comprehend that anyone other than those on Government benches can come up with a good idea?

Isn't it a truly major issue that education can assist in helping our tamariki to feel good about being Maori; and is vital to the future and immediate development of our people and our nation?

No, what we see in the Whare Miere is all a one-way street. One law for all - as long as it's the Labour Law that you sign up to.

Another example - closer to home in my electorate - the Manfeild Park Bill.

Most New Zealanders have an association with Manfeild Autocourse, one of New Zealand's premier motorsport venues - and indeed the Maori Party would not deny the commercial success and entertainment value that is evident with this site.

But there is also an extensive history, a whakapapa, to settlement on Ngati Kauwhata lands. There remains no evidence of the consent of Governors to the alienation of that land, and there is accordingly significant issues surrounding the ownership of Manfeild Park.

In brief, earlier last century two Pakeha farmers raised a bank loan from the BNZ to improve the land, and when they went broke the bank moved in to take the land to cover the debt. A familiar story isn't it?

As the only independent Maori voice in Parliament we asked the Parliament to consider their property rights; we asked for their kaitiakitanga to be recognized and validated before any other decisions are made about their whenua.

Indeed, we would have thought the situations of the Paraparaumu airport, or the sale by Landcorp of the Taurewa sheep station, would have given sufficient recent precedent for concern.

The Taurewa farm block is of particular interest, being in an area shared by hapu of Whanganui, Hikairo and Tuwharetoa. The Turangi Report (Waitangi Tribunal) stated that it would be a breach of Article Two if Mäori land was taken for public works without considering whether other land could properly have been used instead.

In the Taurewa situation, having brought the case to the notice of Trevor Mallard, he immediately stated that he would review the sale - and for that we welcomed his action.

But in this other case, a couple of weeks later, the Parliament was advised that the select committee looking at the Manfeild case, noted that the land is subject to a claim before the Waitangi Tribunal, and yet refused to act, taking on a position that 'issues concerning possible land alienation are not within the scope of the Bill'.

These two situations outlined above, are all the proof we need that we must actively promote and protect the electoral right of tangata whenua to reserve our space in the Maori electorates. We have three months left of the Maori electoral option to encourage our people to participate, to ensure we can defend mana whenua rights, and advance tangata whenua interests, for their benefit and ultimately of all who live in Aotearoa.

Politics must not be a one-way street; a negotiation deal that leads to a dead end.

That is why last week, the Maori Party seized the opportunity of the Te Arawa Lakes Settlement Bill to ask the people - are we happy with one percent? During the course of his consultations within his rohe, the Member for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, had heard of many concerns about the failure of the Crown to enter into negotiations of good faith for fair and equitable settlements.

We have therefore issued a call to whanau, hapu, iwi, runanga, Maori incorporations, organisations and of course the Maori Council, to consider the question, "That all Treaty settlements be suspended until there has been a full review of the Treaty Settlement process".

We are asking for your advice in light of the concerns that have dogged this nation since the Fiscal Envelope was first embarked on; including the process itself, the terms of settlement, the amount set aside for settlement, and the agency charged with managing settlements.

These are mighty contentious areas of debate - and we will not shy away from asking the hard questions.

And we know that you too are prepared to take on every challenge in the interests of our people. We have appreciated the response that Sir Graham has given to our Member from the North, Hone Harawira, in considering the vexed question as to whether Parliamentary sovereignity is paramount and we look forward to an ongoing debate with you about this.

We will continue to do our utmost to ensure that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the foundation of this nation. Despite the best attempts of some to relegate the Treaty to the annals of history, we will, like our tupuna resist, resist, and resist again.

We will continue to take on every issue because every issue is a Maori issue and we will speak of it, regardless of the desire of people to relegate us to only focusing on disparity.

And in saying that, we will not allow another decade of disparity to trample on the mana of our people. We will be considering this term, legislative measures to address the impact of racism on the health and wellbeing of the people of Aotearoa.

We will continue to call for the eradication of poverty. And we will demand that Genuine Progress be a worthy aspiration - where benefits are measured against deficits, where the GDP is only relevant alongside a vision for the prosperity of the people.

And in all our actions and speeches, we will draw on our tikanga and kaupapa to guide us forward. For there is no greater motivation for any of us, than to drive forward the aspirations of our tupuna to preserve and protect a future for our mokopuna.

Already we have seen changes in the House. Te Reo is spoken daily - indeed the very first words in this term of Parliament were in te reo when Hone Harawira addressed the House and all those who had passed before us.

We have taken up the call for te reo to be honoured as our official language, putting forward submissions to the Parliament's working committees regarding simultaneous translation.

Part of the change in the House is the slowly growing realisation that when we vote our interests are not about political point-scoring and personal sabotage, but about how the interests of tangata whenua are reflected.

Last week for instance we had to apply our best thinking, literally to matters of life and death with the Coroners Bill and the Human Tissue (Organ Donation) Bill.

With the Coroners' Bill we raised the importance of the House understanding that in our culture, the tüpäpaku is not left alone. We talked about the need for coroners and for the police to be trained in cultural competency, and we supported the Bill because of the initiatives it proposed to ensure the system responds better to the needs of bereaved families, and their cultural and spiritual needs.

But when it came to the Organ Donation Bill we were in the difficult position of opposing the legislation, even with the understanding that the rate of organ donation to prolong the life of so many of our whanaunga is low. The Bill went far further than many of our people are willing to consider. Many Mäori are uncomfortable with organ donation following death. The Bill therefore raised huge questions about the issues of protection, of informed consent, of tangata whenua control of information and medical processes, of access to information and medical care - and most of all to cultural respect.

So in this instance, we had to vote against the legislation, for ultimately our commitment to our constituency means everything, and we must be true to them. But just as we would raise questions in the House - we will also continue to raise questions with our people - and one of the benefits of this Bill coming before the House is that it has provided a space for debate.

The great thing about being an independent Maori voice in Parliament is that we are not hindered by others whose voting interests always come first. We can be guided by kaupapa and tikanga and law in the analysis we apply to legislation. That will be the legacy that the Maori Party will leave.

ENDS

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