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Tariana Turia: We Can Do it For Ourselves

We Can Do it For Ourselves

Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

AGM: Otautahi; 28 October 2006

I want to pay tribute to my colleagues in the house, it is a great team to work in. We have huge regard for each other. I want to also pay tribute to the amazing leadership of our President. When he comes to our caucus, he brings us back to the point – where does this fit with our kaupapa? We are governed and guided by the kaupapa.

Today marks the 171st Anniversary of the signing of Te Whakaputanga o Te Rangatiratanga o Nu Tireni (the Declaration of Independence).

Thirty-five ariki and rangatira representing iwi and hapu from the far North to the Hauraki Gulf signed the declaration at that hui. Later, other notable leaders added their signatures; including Te Hapuku of Ngati Kahungunu and Potatau Te Wherowhero of Tainui.

The Declaration, among many other things, declared that all sovereign power and authority in the land – "Ko te Kingitanga ko te mana i te w[h]enua" – resided with the chiefs "in their collective capacity".

And I hope you will all note that the spelling of whenua was without the h –so our dialect was the dialect of the land.

It became the forerunner for five years later, the Treaty of Waitangi which guaranteed Māori chiefs the "tino rangatiratanga" or "full, exclusive and undisturbed possession" of their lands and other resources.

Some historians suggest that it is important to look to the actions of the chiefs in choosing to sign; in marking a significant step towards nationhood. This was at a time when we were trading, involved in shipping, had an economic base and were prospering.

James Busby, British Resident, sent the Declaration to the King and it was formally acknowledged by the Crown in 1836.

The Declaration has become a foundation for the assertion of indigenous rights; of autonomous rights, of mana motuhake.

Today, we reclaim our indigenous rights; our autonomous rights, our mana motuhake. We celebrate the Maori Party.

We must continue to instil a strong sense of independence. We need to do for ourselves.

The Maori Party is in the House.

We see every issue discussed in the House as a Maori issue. Every bit of legislation on the statutes affects Maori people as they affect every other citizen of Aotearoa. Political commentators pigeon-holed us to being a One Issue party; or focused only on the negative indices of health, housing, education. We knew that we had to step up to the plate, and present our view on every single issue, and we have.

We claim our indigeneity for those who live their life according to kaupapa and tikanga, regardless of whether people want to see us as having ‘diluted blood’ or that we should just be ‘one people’. We recognise our indigeneity and the indigeneity of others as the strength of the many peoples who live in this land.

Today is a great day to honour the Treaty as the foundation of the nation. Despite the desire of some to relegate Te Tiriti o Waitangi to the annals of history, to delete it from our children’s schoolbooks, to erase it from the Parliament’s statutes, we always recognise it as the foundation document for this country and the Nations who live us.

We seek to eradicate poverty. Our door knocking during the election campaign was a rude awakening for us upon discovering the level of poverty, which many of us were not aware of.

We have valued the advice of Dr Susan St John, Senior Economics Lecturer, on behalf of Child Poverty Action Group who has criticized the proposed changes to the treatment of beneficiaries in reminding the Government that secure, adequate family income, not parental employment - is the first important requirement of child well-being.

The benefit should be used in a way which assists people to be productive, but the prosperity of children, the hope of our future, must not be compromised in the pursuit of political gain.

We have continually asked questions about the 175,000 children in both working and beneficiary families who will remain in poverty after Working for Families. We must do better as a nation, by each other.

We seek genuine progress in our nation. We believe in a Genuine Progress Index, which measures benefits against deficits. We do not believe that becoming entangled in a net of passive welfare and dependency; that the construction of prisons and more cells for young people; the refusal to act responsibly in acknowledging the impacts of dioxin; are indicators of genuine progress and health.

We believe whanau are best able to determine their own solutions, and we must support them in restoring their rights and responsibilities to do so. We must never rely on politicians to do what we need to do, for ourselves.

We believe in tino rangatiratanga and self determination as the right to take responsibility and we know that both of those things are hard work. I repeat we must assert our right to take responsibility, the responsibility to care for each other, to support each other and in supporting to challenge each other and our behaviours which impact negatively on others.

We promote a system based more on justice that heals and restores, than justice that continues to alienate victims and their families and dehumanises perpetrators and their families.

We must take every action possible to create violence free environments, to make every whanau a site of well-being.

We must believe in the potential of people to achieve the impossible. Tangata whenua have a proud record of enterprise and entrepreneurship – since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1835. We say it loud and proud, that Maori are the third highest entrepreneurial nation in the world.

We look to our tikanga and our kaupapa to guide us in our responses. Our customs and traditions guide our behaviour both within our parliamentary offices and within the House. We must never resile from the opportunity to walk the talk, to truly engage in mana-enhancing behaviours – whether at branch meetings, in the debating chamber, in the mall.

Our incredible email tree, our sophisticated whakapapa networks of communication, constantly remind us of the importance of staying true to the legacy gifted from our tupuna.

I have treasured an email sent in August this year, from a New Zealander who said: “Do not be discouraged. Voices of those with integrity have lasting resonance”.

We will encourage an opportunity for people to participate - for voices to be heard. Since coming in to Parliament as the Maori Party I have noticed greater numbers of our people coming through what we refer to as the “rubber doors” of the old Parliament Buildings.

Our biggest opportunity to demonstrate manaakitanga is in truly being open to the people of Aotearoa. Our Party is built on the strength of the voices of the voiceless. We must never deny the right of any person to call on the Maori Party, and to be heard.

We have returned to the people three times this year; and we will continue to keep faith with our people. But there are challenges inherent in this.

We must look at new ways of communicating with people, to bring the people together, to keep the membership in touch. We need funding to publish even a humble newsletter; we must work hard at fulfilling the anticipation so many have invested in us – by our biggest challenge now – in raising funds.

I have always believed our leadership resides in our people. Our role is to be guided by that leadership.

We exist to defend Maori rights, and to advance Maori interests, for the benefit of all who live in Aotearoa.

Our people have never recovered from the Foreshore and Seabed confiscatation. We must continue to be strong in our resolve to Repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act, and to reinstate the rights of our people for due access to Justice.

And we must be wary of all other political parties; of the media; of even our own; in trying to distract us from this one clear pathway forward.

I must admit to being amazed that the supposed views of one supposed supporter of the party was highlighted by one paper and even more, that others would see that an unnamed, anonymous critic as being credible.

Now is the time for the other 21, 501 fully-fledged, signed up members, to stand together in solidarity, united in our calls for the issue of collective rights and the denial of access to due process. We must not lose our focus, or allow others to write our destiny.

The drawing of our Bill to repeal the Foreshore and Seabed Act on the 19th October 2006, ten years to the day since I entered Parliament, has been described by my kuia at home as the work of te hunga wairua.

Our Bill clearly repeals the government's legislation, which is what we said we'd do. We do not ask for special rights or privileges. All we are asking is that tangata whenua are treated equally before the law. Maori property rights must be treated the same as others property rights. We claim the right to due process and one law for all New Zealanders.

The Court of Appeal decision, granted Ngati Apa the right to go to the Maori Land Court to test their entitlement to the Foreshore and Seabed.

We must be vigilant with this message. Other political parties have vested interests, in ‘telling Maori what to do’. Neither of the political parties will ever do for us, what we should do for us.

They will try to tell Maori, we should have vested ownership of the foreshore and seabed in Maori hands; just as they tried to tell you a vote for the Maori Party is a vote for National. Yeah Right!

The Maori Party is here today, to say, we will never have the audacity to tell Maori “this is what you want; this is what you should do”.

We will do what YOU asked us to – to restore the nation to the time before this legislation divided us all. To return the nation to the findings of the Court of Appeal, which allowed people due process. It is up to hapu and iwi to determine then what they will do. That is your right. Your rangatiratanga.

We are different to other parties, and we must cherish that difference.

Our unique messages are promoted through whakatauki, pepeha, and korero tawhito –the cultural capital of tangata whenua – to illustrate Maori and universal truths and we must always consider the learning provided from a historical context.

We are committed to promoting and using te reo in the House and are supportive of the establishment of simultaneous translations. We encourage appropriate pronunciation, no matter what the language.

In the end however we remain committed to Aotearoa while recognising we are the citizens of the world and we do not see ourselves as an Opposition Party. We are the Maori Party, the Independent Maori Voice of Parliament.

ends

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