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Turia Speech: Wiremu Parata Waipunahau

Opening of the Wiremu Parata Waipunahau

Te Kakakura Exhibition

Tariana Turia, Member of Parliament for Te Tai Hauauru

Saturday 30 September 2006

[Check against delivery]

It is my immense privilege to be present today, to honour the legacy of the Member of Parliament for Western Maori of 1871, the Honourable Wiremu Te Kakakura Parata.

I pay tribute to the gift of his contribution to tangata whenua through the two terms he served in that role - and his unique leadership, along with the Honourable Wiremu Katene, in being the first Maori to be appointed to the Executive Council.

The Hansard record attests to his profile as an astute politician, a skilled orator and debater, and with the tenacity and fortitude to stand in the House, and put the case for Maori and Pakeha parliamentarians to work together to make laws that took account of the needs of both peoples.

A statement of principle that has withstood the test of time.

But I come today, primarily, recognising the responsibility of honouring whakapapa.

The sacred genealogical connections that will not be rendered or split apart, despite the whims of contemporary political rhetoric.

And if I can be as brash as to say, I celebrate every composite part of the genealogy that gives vigour to the life of Te Kakakura Wiremu Parata.

I acknowledge the whakapapa of Ngati Toa and Te Ati Awa.

The inspiration and courage of his mother, Metapere Wai-punahau, the daughter of Te Rangihiroa descended from Toa Rangatira, ancestor of the Ngati Toa people. And in honouring her, I honour also the kuia of my whanau who have come with me today, to celebrate with you.

I salute the leadership passed down through the generations from Te Pehi Kupe and the name he gifted to his mokopuna, a name which refers to the red feathers under the wing of the kaka, symbolic of high chiefs.

I have always held a secret fascination for the kaka - their garrulous nature, the fact that they hold the most extensive vocabulary amongst the parrot world, their playful nature.

But they are also threatened by predators, and listed amongst the Department of Conservation’s endangered species.

It seems somewhat appropriate, as we think of the way in which tangata whenua have recently been described as a ‘diluted race’; coupled with the persistent and ongoing actions of a Government intent on deleting the Treaty principles from the statute books and removing the Treaty from our school curriculum; that we pay homage here today, to the courage of our tupuna in forging a pathway forward.

It is of course fitting to reflect on Te Tiriti o Waitangi today, as we recall the legendary impact of Te Kakakura Wiremu Parata in the litigation he is renown for.

I refer of course to Wi Parata v the Bishop of Wellington. This was the case concerning the gifting of Ngati Toa land to the Anglican Bishop, one Octavius Hadfield, for a Maori school at Porirua.

Ngati Toa had with characteristic insight in the development of a strategic vision for the people, gifted land to the Anglican Church in 1848, to nurture the education of the young people of Ngati Toa.

The endowment was made on a verbal agreement - but two years later - without the consent of Ngati Toa, a Crown grant was issued to the church. No school was ever established, and as the land was not used for the purpose for which it was given, Ngati Toa turned to the Court to contest that the native title to the land had never been extinguished; and that the Crown grant was invalid.

What followed has now become familiar casebook territory for first year law students; a landmark case for politicians, for academics, for tangata whenua.

For the infamous judgement of Chief Justice Prendergast declared that Maori were a primitive tribal society, that New Zealand was an “uninhabited territory” and that the Treaty of Waitangi was no more than a “simple nullity” - having no legal effect.

And with those words, a precedent was established from which future claims would be based on the Treaty of Waitangi. Maori custom had been ignored, our existence, our indigeneity denied, our rights of aboriginal title overturned.

The fact that Wi Parata put forward the case, to seek the return of land, must always be honoured within your tribal history. It was a legacy passed on from Metapere Wai-punahau who the record shows to have been highly influential in early land dealings.

It was a legacy he in turn nurtured in his many children and mokopuna, to care for the family and tribal lands, including the base for Whakarongotai, for Ruakohatu, and the town of Waikanae which was originally known as Parata township. It was a legacy he fought for in the House - demanding a Commission be appointed to resolve the ongoing injustice of confiscation.

I am aware that there have been some accounts, including in a newspaper of the time, Te Wananga, that after his appointment to the Executive Council, Parata, rarely criticised government policy.

And I want to put forward another view for the record.

Not a day goes by, when I am in Parliament, that I can walk down the corridor outside my office, and fail to be humbled by the presence of those who have gone before me.

The portraits of those Maori Members of Parliament who have blazed a trail before us constantly serve to inspire me of the need to honour their contribution in the mahi we take up now.

I am always conscious, having experienced it myself, of the pressure that is borne by Maori Members of Parliament in having to bow to the tune of a political party dominated by values and aspirations outside of their own.

The history of their experience as they struggled to do the best by their people paved the way for the evolution of a Maori Party, a Party which can be a strong and independent Maori voice in Parliament, unconstrained by the fetters of political control.

The Honourable Wiremu Te Kakakura Parata made his mark in many many areas which have served to motivate me, and to help to guide our pathway forward in advancing the aspirations of our people.

The ultimate challenge now is - how will you make your mark to live up to the legacy of your tupuna we honour here today?

You have had the luxury of a weekend commemorating his life, recalling his stories, relishing the korero that established him as an instrument of change.

As uri of Wiremu Te Kakakura Parata, what will you contribute to the korero of tomorrow?

The Parata whanau is an enormous force for change which over these last few days you will no doubt have been celebrating in true style.

The opening today, of Mahara Gallery, is a wonderful opportunity to recognise that potential, and learn from the legacy around us.

The images that delight the soul, can also provoke the courage to build a better future for the generations to come.

I am indeed humbled to be able to witness the birth of your new journey onwards, and to officially open the Gallery that will forever mark a moment in time.

Ka mahara tonu tatou ki a ratou, Ka mahara tonu tatou ki a ratou.

Tena tatou katoa.


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