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General Debate: Entrenching Te Tiriti o Waitangi

General Debate 6: 27 August 2008; 5.40pm

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

'Entrenching Te Tiriti o Waitangi'

Madam Speaker, tena koe. Tena tatou katoa.

On the 8th November 1918, Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana, received a vision to gather signatures for a petition, to take to Parliament, to convince Government to make Te Tiriti o Waitangi part of the law of the land.

It is a vision still waiting to be realised.

The mission of Tahupotiki Wiremu Ratana was to bring to Parliament the evidence about land confiscation.

He went further – as far afield as England in fact – to seek an audience with King George V to present his petition – a petition which contained the names of two thirds of all Maori.

It was a journey I know of well, as my own grandfather, father and two aunts accompanied Ratana to London on his historic trip, seeking the commitment of the Crown to honour the Treaty.

That same petition was finally laid in this House in 1932, tabled by Eruera Tirikatene, and by now containing 45,000 signatures.

It is time for the petition of Ratana to be honoured. It has been delayed for too long.

That petition – petition number 239 – archived in the parliamentary papers of 1932 - requested that the Treaty of Waitangi should be entered into the statute books, in an effort and listen to this, everybody, to “preserve the ties of brotherhood between Maori and Pakeha for all time”.

But alas, the petition was carried over, year after year.

Eventually in 1945, it was revised into a recommendation to Cabinet that the Treaty of Waitangi should be published, and copies hung in schools and Maori meeting places.

A promise unfulfilled. A commitment dishonoured.

Madam Speaker, as we approach the ninety year celebration of Ratana’s original prophecy, we in the Maori Party are looking forward to the day when Labour does as it has been saying it will do, and table in the House, a Bill to entrench Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the Constitution of New Zealand.

And so we have been extremely pleased to hear the rumour circulating around Maori networks, that Labour will soon be introducing a Bill to entrench the Treaty into our constitution.

The ratification of Te Tiriti o Waitangi is the ideal that has come through the words and actions of generations of Maori leaders. It was written into the Kohimarama Covenant, attended by some two hundred chiefs in 1860. Indeed, every iwi has their leaders and their legacy, bound up in the commitment to enshrining the Treaty in law.

We believe the time is right to entrench the Treaty in all legislation, so that decision making on matters concerning Maori, and the Maori and Crown together, is shared with all.

As an example, the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act would be re-drafted to ensure that Articles 1 and 2 guarantee our mana and rangatiratanga; the ability to exercise power sharing on all issues that affect us as tangata whenua.

It is time to pay homage to Ratana, it is time to front up to the fundamental challenge of our nationhood, to entrench Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

We remember the call from Ratana in 1936

May you never forget your responsibilities to the Maori people, for when you forget this, your government will fall”.

Madam Speaker, we pledge today, that the Maori Party will do all we can support the Labour Party to make good on commitments given over the passage of time, to ensure that no stone is left unturned in upholding the promise of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Kia ora.


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