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Sharples: The First Year as a Parliamentary Team

The First Year as a Parliamentary Team
Dr Pita Sharples; Co-leader of the Maori Party
Parliament Buildings, Wellington
Wednesday 20 September 2006; 10.30am

As the nation mourns the loss of another great Maori leader, the words of a well-known whakatauaki have come to mind:

Hinga atu he tete kura, ara mai he tete kura.
As one red frond falls, another red frond rises.

This proverb speaks to us of the process of renewal or rejuvenation which is always associated with the sorrow of death.

The sadness of our people is immense - as we reflect on those distinctive and irreplaceable leaders of our time whom we have lost in the last space of time - Te Arikinui Dame Te Ataairangikaahu; Te Ao Peehi; Tame Te Maro; Anne Delamere, Bishop Takuira Mariu; Toby Rikihana, Pia Ihaka; Huhana (Bubbles) Mihinui; Tame Poata; Erenora Puketapu-Hetet; Wi Kuki Kaa; Sir Hugh Kawharu.

We recognize also the incredible loss to the nation of the talents of Rod Donald, of David Lange; of Lord Cooke of Thorndon - the likes of which we will not see again.

Today, on such an auspicious occasion in the journey of our party, I was thinking back to last year on the 5 May 2005, when we launched our Foreshore and Seabed Policy on the shores of Waiotahi Beach.

The day was deliberate - the first year anniversary of the law of confiscation and the unprecedented Hikoi upon Parliament.

A hikoi that there are many in this room who will remember with sadness, but also great pride in the solidarity expressed.

The place, Waiotahi Beach, was also deliberately chosen, in recognition of the historic first claim made under the seabed and foreshore law to be lodged in the Maori Land Court, by Whakatohea.

And I recall also, the passing of their elder, Claude Edwards.

The symbolic unfurling of the fern frond reminds us all that in the midst of our mourning, there is an opportunity for growth and rebirth.

And so it is appropriate, today, to acknowledge their passing, their legacy; and our responsibility to honour the gifts of their lives in our journey forward as the Maori Party.

It is our solemn and most significant duty, that we take up the mantle of leadership they carried, into our role as MPs; to walk the talk; to live up to the aspirations they followed in their lives.

I think of the fern also, in how it reflects the silver fern, the official symbol of nationhood that we wear with pride in Aotearoa.

And of course I have to marvel at the success of the Black Ferns in this last week. The Kiwi domination of the world in women's rugby must be acknowledged today, and the Maori Party is proud to congratulate them all, and particularly Dr Farah Palmer for her leadership.

This unfurling frond, the silver fern, has been a symbol on our rugby jerseys since 1888.

From the early 1900s the fern leaf has been used as a trademark for meat and dairy exports; it has been used as a distinguishing badge for New Zealand military formations, particularly during the Second World War, and it was also used to mark the graves of New Zealand servicemen in overseas countries.

This is a universal symbol, a mark of our maturing as a nation, something which takes its origins in our indigenous fern but which is valued and appreciated as saying something to all New Zealanders.

And in essence, that is what we celebrate today, with this, our first birthday as a Parliamentary team.

We celebrate the distinctive dreams and aspirations of tangata whenua to achieve self-determination for whänau, hapü and iwi within their own land.

We celebrate the privilege of speaking with a strong, independent and united voice in Parliament.

We celebrate our rights and responsibilities to live according to kaupapa handed down by our ancestors.

And we do so, fully recognising that our commitment to nationhood means that as well as understanding our heritage, the aspirations of our people, our culture; we need to also openly and actively encourage dialogue with all those people who lay claim to this country as their homeland. That is what gives us our unique edge.

Today is therefore a very important day to take a breath, to take stock, and reflect on the journey we have come on, since the Maori Party was first launched on 10 July 2004.

Two weeks after that, on 27 July 2004, the first Maori Party Member of Parliament, Tariana Turia, took her seat in the House. We stand here today, to honour her leadership, to recognise the courage she took in standing up for the rights of our people, in crossing the floor.

The purpose for today is to mark the arrival of the team to give life to the vision that Tariana stepped out for.

On 17th September 2005, Hone Harawira was elected Member for Te Tai Tokerau; Te Ururoa Flavell; Member for Waiariki, and myself to the seat of Tamaki Makaurau.

Since that time, we have delivered 168 speeches in the House - speaking on close to seventy different Bills before the chamber; but also making our contribution to the estimates debates; to urgent and general debates; to the business of the House.

We have spoken on everything from dog tax to the renovations of Bowen House, sharing the historical wisdom of tangata whenua experiences; enhancing our korero with whakatauki, pepeha, and korero tawhito to illustrate Maori and universal truths; demonstrating in our daily business that every issue is a Maori issue.

Those 168 speeches in this place, are matched by a similar number of speeches given throughout the land, as we participate and celebrate in the initiatives of our people throughout Aotearoa.

We have named Maori and indigenous people; we have brought the unique perspectives of mana whenua to local Bills; we have located all legislation within the context of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the foundation of our nation.

Our focus is always firmly grounded in our commitment to seek genuine progress in our whole nation.

We seek to eradicate poverty; to emphasize restorative justice, a focus on healing and rehabilitation rather than punitive approaches.

And in everything we do, we will encourage an opportunity for people to participate - for the voices of the voiceless to be heard.

We are committed to that voice also being heard in te reo, and our proposal for simultaneous translation represents that call.

We have honoured our commitment to the faith and confidence entrusted in us, by our constituents. We have returned to the people three times over this last year, seeking their feedback, guided by their advice. Suddenly our people are role-playing Question time, in Greytown, in Ruatoria; it is a great thing.

And it is such a process that we recognise today as completing the consultation throughout our rohe, regarding the Repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill.

Today we announce that the first Bill that the Maori Party will submit to the ballot will, of course, be to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The Treaty promised to us all a future in which the inheritance of our ancestors, and the birthright of our descendants, would be honoured.

The Foreshore and Seabed legislation represents a long record of legislation which has breached that sacred covenant.

We stand here today, as the Maori Party, to pledge our ongoing commitment to walking the talk, to aspiring towards mutually respectful relationships while also promoting the right of rangatiratanga.

The Party’s constitutional and policy framework give priority to kaupapa - the principles, values, philosophies which have been passed down through the generations. These kaupapa give the Maori Party its distinctiveness making us neither left nor right. All our policy; all our processes; all our decisions are made in accord with these taonga, handed down from our ancestors; taonga which are validated every day by our constituency - te iwi Maori.

Yes we are the Maori Party - the Maori Party pursues the aspirations of all Maori - while carefully laying a trail which all New Zealanders can work together to strengthen our country’s nationhood through such policies as sharing and caring.

It is through such policies that Maori, the Maori Party, refrains from interjecting during Parliamentary debates. Furthermore we have not; and will not make personal attacks on other Members of Parliament or members of the public. Pan-party discussions about values, and particularly what values are important to develop as a thriving nation have been largely absent.

Finally, I want to end with a comment from the 1979 essays of Professor Hugh Kawharu, in examining the rebirth of Ngati Whatuatanga for the Orakei hapu with the return of land. He said:

“It may not be much, but it is enough to give them back their identity and their self respect: a turangawaewae upon which they and their children may resolve the problems of being Ngati Whatua in a Pakeha world, and so find a richer, more creative life”.

The Maori Party will do all that we can, to make it possible for a richer, more creative life for all citizens of this country. We honour the initiative of Mäori, te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea, and we look forward to celebrating with you all, the journey that we, the Maori Party, are making with you all.
Let the Party begin.


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