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Turia: Foxton Rotary Club

Foxton Rotary Club; Wednesday 2 July 2008; 7pm

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader, Maori Party

I am very proud to be invited to District 9440, to be able to meet with an organisation that is truly committed to your community.

And I want to firstly congratulate this Club for your leadership in the Foxton Mural Project which I understand won first place in the 2006 Creative Places Awards.

I have often admired the way in which the history of this area is celebrated in over thirty murals throughout the town.

The relationship with iwi is a special feature, with the involvement of the Te Awahou Community Trust.

And through it all, this project shows the pride and dedication this community feels for this place – a sense of great pleasure that you have helped to foster for Foxton.

I have a special connection to Foxton, through the Woon whanau; an enduring respect for the strength of Rangitane, Muaupoko and Ngati Raukawa; an admiration for the entrepreneurship and initiative that has characterised this town.

Your community is truly stepping up to the plate, to make a difference.

Your community is saying that the people of Foxton are worth making an extra effort for.

I believe we are at a crucial point in our history as a nation, where our communities are being torn apart by the surge of violent crime, the abject poverty of our most vulnerable members, the day to day pressures that could serve to fragment those who are most susceptible.

Last week’s consumer confidence index showed that confidence has plummeted to its lowest level since the 1991 recession.

All signs point to a desperate need for change.

The Maori Party is committed to a change for the better, which will inspire communities to work together, to create safer families.

Just as you have pulled your collective wisdom in Foxton to promote your community, now is the time to use your efforts to make a difference for the people at the flax roots.

Sometimes, it’s not until something terrible happens in your family, or a tragedy occurs in your community, before we wake up to the warning signs that were brewing.

We may think we all know our families; that our community is a safe haven; that the sorts of crisis stories on telly happen to someone else.

And then we are suddenly hit by the sheer impact of a disaster close to home.

It is in these times, that we must reach deep; to find the answers we know are within us.

And we must make the change necessary to thrive; the change necessary to survive.

I like to think about the concept of change as one of our sturdiest Totara trees.

The strength of our histories and our heritage give us roots; but change enables us to stretch and grow our branches to reach new heights not anticipated before.

It was because of both of these reasons, that I wanted to come to Parliament.

I came to Parliament because I cared deeply, that our people would be able to preserve and protect their roots.

That all the treasures that help our people to be strong – our kaupapa and tikanga – the values and principles passed down from generations before us – will remain as strong as they are today.

I remember, distinctly, the heart-breaking impact for my mother, of losing te reo Maori – her tongue stilled for ever as a result of the punishment she received for speaking Maori at school.

My mother never spoke te reo again; that grief stayed with her forever.

When I was a young mum, I was determined that my children, and my children’s children would have access to all of the treasures of our culture.

And so I worked with others on two task forces to establish kura kaupapa Maori – so that our children would benefit from the opportunities denied us.

I worried, too, that our people were being over-prescribed in medications and under-diagnosed in matters of wellbeing. As the Chief Executive of Te Oranganui Iwi Health Authority I had experienced other ways of keeping our people well, and I wanted to help these ideas take flight.

Our roots must be strengthened by practices and philosophies which enable us to stay well.

But we know too, that the budding branches of today’s times, may require new approaches to enable us all to grow.

We seek remedies which are enduring and innovative; which respond to the challenges of the time. After all, if nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.

It’s not a case of either/or.

We must ensure our cultural capital is so invincible that all of us – young and old – know the richness our identity gives us.

We must know that the values we have inherited from those before us, offer so many solutions to assist us in facing even the most perplexing issue.

But we must also believe, that we can make a difference, that we can change the way things are, by stepping up to the mark and saying, I care.

When I became an MP in 1996, I thought I could make a difference.

Twelve years on, I am proud that I have been able to be an advocate, for others to have a voice.

I truly believe in the model that our greatest resource is each other; that our strength is in a community of hands.

Hands that help – hands that bring in the washing, hands that bake; hands that hold one another in times of sadness; hands that reach out and draw us in.

You probably remember that song, “little boxes on the hillside, little boxes made of ticky tacky”. Too often today, we turn away from those who need it most; giving value to the myth that ‘what goes on behind closed doors should stay behind closed doors’.

I’m a firm believer in throwing open the doors, and letting fresh air in. Letting care come in. Believing in collective responsibility.

Our greatest challenge to our future, must be to honour our commitment to those in need.

Finally, as we were driving out here today, I was reminded of your history in Foxton as the home of the flax trade.

And I thought about a waiata which is very well known :

If you were to pluck out the centre of the flax bush, where would the bellbird sing?

If you were to ask me "What is the most important thing in the world?" I would reply, "It is people, people, people."

That waiata creates a picture in my mind of te pa harakeke – the family of flax.

The flax bush is to me, the image of our family – the outer layers are our extended whanau, the inner leaves our parents; and the heart of the flaxbush – the rito – is our children, safe, protected and nurtured within the warmth of their whanau.

Without all these parts huddled tightly together, the family would be without song.

And so, when Neville asked me to talk about what I believe in, the answer is in te pa harakeke – a community of hands embracing all within our reach.

I believe in the strength of our families; the strength of our communities; the strength of our values and principles.

The influence of kaupapa and tikanga Maori in my life has been so profound that I took up the challenge of politics to achieve change for our whanau and hapu.

It is because of our whanau and hapu; that every day I try to work with absolute integrity and accountability to let their voices be heard.

And it is because I believe so strongly in the time-honoured practices that have been passed on to me, that I have enormous hope that we can indeed make a difference.

Making the difference involves us all.

I was talking with my son this morning, about the notion of being groomed for success. He said to me, “Mum, for us it’s more like being broomed”.

I laughed – but it was so true. That sense of sweeping the cobwebs out of the corners; brushing the dirt away; and creating a sparkling new, shiny future for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

One of the most endearing memories I hold of the late Dame Te Atarangikaahu was an image of this gentle woman, sweeping the courtyards and footpaths; caring for her people; treating her visitors with respect and dignity.

Being broomed for success means that we never forget the flaxroots; we focus always on the best interests of the people; we do everything we can to ensure the people determine what they want for themselves.

And importantly, we must look out for the new broom, and support them forwards in to a vision which opens up our landscapes to the potential of the future.

And yes – while we in the Maori Party of course look forward to a sweep of the seven seats - our greatest hope for us all, lies in the growth of all of our people in setting the foundations for a stronger New Zealand.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

If you were to ask me "What is the most important thing in the world?"

I would reply, "It is people, people, people."


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