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Sharples: General Debate - 'Rangatiratanga'

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
General Debate: ‘Rangatiratanga’
13 September 2006

Madam Speaker, from the Wharerata ranges, south of Gisborne to Cape Palliser in South Wairarapa; from Paritu in the North to Turakirae in the South; there is a tribal nation called Ngati Kahungunu.

Over the last fortnight, Ngati Kahungunu has launched a host of key strategies which they hope will move them forward towards the promotion of self-determination for Mäori, tino rangatiratanga.

The 25 year Grand Plan comprises the te reo and tikanga strategy; the Housing Strategy; the establishment of a Maori Relationship Board with the Hawkes Bay District Health Board; the creation of the Kahungunu Asset Holding Company - an investment strategy.

The iwi commemorated the ‘Kahungunu Fisheries Treaty Settlement allocation’. And in true Kahungunu style, the celebrations were capped off with a performance by Kahurangi of the journey of Te Waka Tapu o Takitimu.

Madam Speaker, I come to this debate today, honouring the capacity for self-determination; the freedom for indigenous peoples to live well, to live according to their own values and beliefs, and to be respected by their non-indigenous neighbours.

It is a capacity the nation of Aotearoa has observed in abundance, as we have marked the passing of two legendary Monarchs. It is a concept which I believe it is now timely to examine; and to ask some questions of ourselves and of others.

Self-determination is, as the indigenous Premier of Greenland, Lars Emil Johansen describes, ‘the right to take responsibility’. “Self-determination is hard work”.

And so, it seems an appropriate time as we have bid our last respects to Te Arikinui, Dame Te Atairangikaahu; and in the last few days, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV; to sit and reflect on the unique experiences of the people of Tainui, the people of Tonga; in taking responsibility for their own destinies.

Mr Johansen put forward some critical insights to the 1994 Cape York Land Council in Cairns, which I believe have relevance for indigenous policy, for our own development as tangata whenua. The view put, was basically, if we are claiming the right to tino rangatiratanga, we are claiming the right to take responsibility.
In turn, Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson asks, as we must ask also:
- “Do we really want to take responsibility?
- Do we want to do the hard work of self-determination?
- Are we properly unified to fulfil our responsibility?
- Are we prepared to show leadership and build consensus and overcome division?
- Or are we so divided that, if we took on the responsibilities, we would do just as bad a job as the bureaucracy and the white fellas?”

As Maori, our rangatiratanga is expressed in our right to determine our own economic, social and cultural development. As part of our journey, we have resisted the process by which our indigenous languages, tribal values, and cultural identities were to be pounded out of shape.

Through it all, we must retain the ability to ask questions of ourselves. How do we pay regard to the freely expressed will of the peoples?

We have watched the resurgence of the Tongan people to hold tight to their unique value of rangatiratanga. One aspect of this has been the official report of the “Kingdom of Tonga National Committee for Political Reform” which His Majesty the King was presented with just ten days before he died.

Originally chaired by the late Prince Tu’ipelehake and endorsed by the Tongan Government, the work of the Committee was shared in a nation-wide consultation process of ‘talanoa’: seeking the people’s views about political changes in Tonga; as well as consultation with Tongans living here in Aotearoa, in Australia and the United States.

The people themselves are embracing a new period of political and constitutional reform - the challenges ahead will be how the Monarchy responds to the call for the right to self-determination.

Madam Speaker, it is a matter of some concern that our own Government is seriously compromising our international reputation in the way in which it has mis-represented New Zealand's position on the Draft Declaration on Indigenous Rights.

Article 3 of that Declaration, adopted by the Human Rights Council on 29 June of this year, states that
‘Indigenous people have the right of self-determination.
By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”.

The Maori Party celebrates the right of self-determination - whether it be of Kahungunu, Tainui, of Tonga - or of any indigenous peoples. We reserve the right of self-determination - and the responsibility to ensure we do the hard work necessary to achieve it. The least that the Government can do, is to respect the call of the people, of all indigenous peoples, to take up every opportunity to determine the future we want.


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