Helen Clark's Waitangi Day Breakfast Speech
Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister
“Supporting Partnerships for Development”
Speech at Waitangi Day Breakfast
Wednesday 6 February 2008
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen
I acknowledge all those present who come to Waitangi every year.
You come because of the significance of this beautiful place as the birthplace of our nation.
Here, 168 years ago, the signing of the Treaty symbolised the beginning of a partnership.
But as we all know, the early promise of that partnership was not fulfilled.
And, Waitangi, the place, has often been associated with discord and disharmony.
But we can’t build a nation on those attributes.
So there have been genuine efforts to deal with the colonial legacy, and those efforts began to gain traction in the latter part of the twentieth century.
Many people in this room today have played a big part in that.
And we are now seeing the positive outcomes, not only in major Treaty settlements, but also in what is flowing from them :
the economic development which is seeing iwi emerge as major players in their region’s economies, the social development, and the evident pride and confidence of Maoridom in moving forward.
I spent Thursday and Friday morning of last week with Waikato-Tainui, who negotiated the first of the modern Treaty settlements with the Crown.
Their $170 million settlement has become close to a half billion dollar asset base.
There are ambitious plans for growing the portfolio.
Waikato Tainui today are seen as core partners through the region. Their support and assistance on issues and initiatives is widely sought. Indeed it is hard to imagine much happening without their involvement.
The bedding in of that 1995 settlement has made it possible to take the next step – towards settlement of the Waikato River Claim.
The settlement of that claim is now well advanced, and involves an exciting model of co-management to ensure the restoration of the good health of the river.
At the Rakaumangamanga School in Huntly, they told me that they are now encouraging their students to consider studies in environmental science, so that they can work on these initiatives in the future.
The Waikato River Claim is one of a number of significant settlements being progressed as we speak.
Yesterday, the progress of a settlement of another kind was marked in Wellington with the signing of Heads of Agreement between the Crown and Ngati Porou.
The agreement provides that for those areas where, prior to passage of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, it is established that Ngati Porou would have had a claim for customary title, there will be a permission right instrument, giving Ngati Porou the right to approve or withhold approval for resource consents where the activity proposed would have a significant adverse effect on the relationship of hapu with the environment.
There will also be an extended fisheries mechanism giving the power to make bylaws under customary fishing regulations – and an extended environmental covenant bringing Ngati Porou into the statutory planning process of the Gisborne District Council.
These and other covenants and accords will be enshrined in legislation.
The Heads of Agreement are the outcome of 3 ¼ years of negotiation.
And other iwi are also in negotiation with the Crown or in various stages of exploring the possibilities.
Engagement with Maori must be and is very much part of the core business of government these days - with a particular focus on matters relating to the environment and natural resource issues, from climate change and water allocation and management; to sustainability in fisheries; coastal management; marine reserves; and management of our interests in the great oceans.
Progress in all these areas cannot be advanced without engagement with Maoridom.
Now let us cast our minds back just thirty years ago – to a very different New Zealand when none of this was envisaged.
On 25 May, thirty years ago, Ngati Whatua were evicted from their land at Bastion Point.
So much has changed since then for the better.
Today the Maori asset base in the primary industries alone is worth around $16.5 billion – up 83 per cent in six years.
Maori are in businesses and occupations across the board.
Promotion of te reo is strong – through education and the mass media.
And note this year the launch of Maori Television’s second channel, funded by government to broadcast exclusively in te reo between 7.30 and 10.30 every night.
As we move towards the end of the first decade of the 21st century: ninety per cent of Maori children beginning school have been in early childhood education greater numbers of rangatahi are emerging from the education system with qualifications – but this is still an area where our whole nation needs to lift its sights Maori unemployment has more than halved in the past eight years Maori life expectancy is up.
All this is positive – not perfect, but positive.
Going forward, I hope we can all continue to focus on potential and opportunity – not on deficits and negative stereotypes.
I really do believe Maoridom is on a roll.
That is not only good for New Zealand.
It is essential for New Zealand.
Supporting partnerships for our nation’s development and cohesion is the spirit which should guide us on Waitangi Day.