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General Debate: 6 December 2006; Dr Pita Sharples

General Debate; Wednesday 6 December 2006

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party

The last month has reminded the nation of the supreme importance of a game of football. In fact it would seem so important, that even a coup can be put on hold while rugby is played.

The Government was so focused on the football of the future that it was prepared to reach up to $1 billion dollars for a white elephant on the waterfront. All the time, disregarding the inevitable blowout that would be carried by city ratepayers or taxpayers for years to come; the potential for environmental damage; or the injurious damage endured by Ngati Whatua through tokenistic consultation.

I’m the first to be there at kickoff, cheering our boys along; but no one can stand in this House without recognising the Game of two halves being played out in this land today.

For now that the hype and hoopla has subsided, the government has indicated that most of the costs for the stadium infrastructure will be carried by Auckland ratepayers.

And as Member for Tamaki Makaurau, I know that the children in our poorest suburbs, will be the ones faced with the bills for the upkeep and maintenance of facilities they will probably never actually be able to go and visit.

And that money going into rates – or higher prices for goods and services as higher rates get absorbed – is money that is not available now for schools or medical treatment or improved public transport or housing.

Mr Speaker, Martin Luther King once said, ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’.

The Maori Party will never be silent about the grip of poverty that has seized our people.

It is a poverty of material means. Our poorest families are being left behind - the proportion of all children in severe and significant hardship in NZ has increased from 18% to 26% since 2000.

But it is also a poverty of the spirit. A poverty of relationships, where opportunity and access to support is stifled by fear, by shame, by social exclusion.

A poverty where one’s mauri or toiora is out of kilter. Mauri is achieving that balance between wairua (spiritual wellbeing), hinengaro (intellectual wellbeing), ngākau (emotional wellbeing) and tinana (physical wellbeing); and is demonstrated through the experiences of te ihi, te wehi, te wana – that absolute joy of being; the delight of being alive.

When mauri, is disrupted, it creates dis-ease and imbalance leading to a void of meaning, purposeless lives; stuck in a rut from which there is no way out.

Understanding the crippling impacts of the poverty of spirit is understanding that misery is about much more than money. Poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion breed despair; and when one is sunk in despair, it is nay impossible to find opportunities for change.

But the politics of aspiration and the politics of poverty are two sides of the same coin, and we in the Maori Party know that there are strategies and solutions which can create genuine progress.

Progress can be achieved in caring for our community, caring for environment, caring for our world.

We know that this Nation can lead the world in facing up to its failures, and drawing on the courage of our convictions to change those unjust structures that made possible the foreshore and seabed legislation.

More than any other act of Parliament, that act divided the nation into two halves – not Maori and Pakeha as some commentators would like to believe – but a nation divided by myth and prejudice perpetuated by a political force that sought power at all costs.

The nation was misled into believing the propaganda of a party machinery that sought to paint tangata whenua in a negative light. Party spin that implied that we Maori would put up fences and gates and that we would greedily deny and deprive other New Zealanders the right to go to the beach.

It was the ultimate affront to crush the spirit of a people who live by kaupapa in which generosity is expressed, the environment is protected and treasured, where the call for kotahitanga – the unity that comes through diversity -is a lifelong commitment.

Mr Speaker, we know too well the risk of being consumed by gloom. But we also know the passion that comes when the fire is reignited, when the vital spark for life is invested with new energy. We believe that the Repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Bill will burn a flame of hope that we can use to bring this nation back to a foundation of justice, a respect for each other and an ever-brimming optimism for the possibilities that lay ahead. Let’s bring it on!


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