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Maori Party - Treaty Policy launch

Treaty Policy launch : Rahui Katene Victoria Square, Christchurch, Wednesday 22 October 2008

It is right to be launching our Treaty Policy in Victoria Square.

This land tells a story which could be the story of any settlement throughout Aotearoa.

It starts in a time between 1000 and 1500, when Puari Pa, not far from here, was home to about 800 Waitaha people.

Our story travels through time to the arrival of the first four ships, which left England in September 1850, for Canterbury.

Our coming together today remembers our origins, reflects on the histories that connects us to our ancestors; and takes us forward.

There is probably no more visual sign of our Treaty relationships than the presence of our heritage in this space – the statues of Queen Victoria, Captain James Cook, and the six metre high poupou which honours the tupuna of Ngai Tahu and Waitaha.

And so, with the watchful eyes of our ancestors all around us, we have much pleasure in sharing our aspirations for our future.

We are calling for constitutional courage.

If you’ve been watching the polls as closely as we all have, you will know that the last three Marae Digipolls reported that Treaty issues are the number one issue in the Maori electorates of Te Tai Hauauru; Te Tai Tokerau and Waiariki.

And in Colin James’ political analysis yesterday, the Treaty and Maori issues were recorded the fourth biggest issue confronting all voters.

So with such a groundswell of interest in our constitutional framework, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it is surely a good time to protect the constitutional status of the Maori seats.

The Maori Party stands here today, knowing that the Waitangi Tribunal found the Crown had an obligation under the Treaty of Waitangi to protect the right of Maori to be represented in Parliament. An obligation under the Treaty which is not to be taken lightly, not to be ignored.

As the Tribunal stated in the Ngai Tahu report,

“The exercise of tino rangatiratanga, like kawanatanga, cannot be unfettered: the one must be reconciled with the other”.

It is about a relationship – the coexistence between kawanatanga and rangatiratanga – a relationship which has been under strain since the early days of the Treaty, right up to - the Foreshore and Seabed Act; - the terror raids in Ruatoki; - the abject rejection by the Labour Government, of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People.

When challenges and conflict arise, one approach is to run and hide; to eliminate; to throw it all away.

And so it is, that over the last few weeks, we have seen such approaches erupt, focused, bizarrely, on the Maori seats. I say bizarre, because these seats have existed since 1867 and yet all of a sudden, this election, they are provoking all sorts of anxiety.

And so,

- Peter Dunne believes the Maori seats are totally distorting MMP and potentially perverting the will of the voters.

- Rodney Hide is opposed to ethnically-based politically parties exercising undue influence

- Winston Peters has said "New Zealanders will not tolerate setting up a separate Maori state”

- And rounding off this gang of four, Bob Jones described the seats as racist, undemocratic, divisive, race-based favouritism.

This is where we come back to constitutional courage. Courage is in mastery of challenges - not in absence of denial of them.

The challenge of reconciling kawanatanga and tino rangatiratanga is the defining issue of our nation.

I want to say today to those who doubt; Maori are not going away. Aotearoa is our homeland. We have no other land to return to. This is our turangawaewae, our base.

And so the Maori Party is announcing legislation to entrench the Maori seats, to ensure that that as parties to the Treaty Maori should at least be guaranteed representation in the organs of kawanatanga.

The Bill will amend the Electoral Act 1993 to ensure the same protection for Mâori electoral districts in Parliament as is accorded to the General electoral districts.

We are announcing other initiatives to increase Maori electoral participation;

- In order to invest and promote in the value of democratic participation, we want all people to be automatically entered on to the General Roll at 18 years of age; or the Maori roll if Maori;

- We want to review the Maori Electoral Option, particularly restraints around timing – why should we have to wait five years, to transfer to the roll of our choice?

- We will amend section 45 of the Electoral Act to be consistent with the general electorates, to ensure that no Maori electoral district shall be situated partially in the North Island and partially in the South Island – in other words, Te Tai Tonga might be renamed Te Wai Pounamu!

Constitutional courage is about representation at local government level, at central Government, across the state sector, throughout communities. And so we are announcing:

- We seek to increase the pool of experienced directors on Crown Company Boards, State Owned Enterprises, Crown Entities, Crown Research Institutes and District Health Boards;

- We will appoint, as an Officer of Parliament, a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Treaty to proactively promote the Treaty’s commitment to partnership.

The independence of the role is important – independent of the Government of the Day – separate from the Government agencies – but of sufficient status to hold the Government to account. From a point of independence the Commissioner will be able to:

• build an evidence base on iwi, hapu, marae and Maori development;

• monitor state sector progress in improving tangata whenua status; or

• review and monitor progress of Treaty Settlements, as well as the performance of the Office of Treaty Settlements, the Waitangi Tribunal and the whole settlement system.

The Maori Party has earnt a reputation over the last three years for our integrity, for keeping the Government honest, for hard work. The Parliamentary Commissioner will take that role to a new level, to ensure Treaty justice is given the serious respect it warrants.

And when we think of justice and due process, we need no reminding of the priority we all hold for the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

But there are other issues, unresolved and ongoing, which we will also give urgent attention to.

• We will advance legislation to ensure that Maori owners will be given the first right of refusal to purchase land the Crown no longer requires for its original purpose;

• We will introduce proposals to enable investment in multiply owned land;

• And we will enact the recommendations from the rating review to establish a clear basis for valuing Maori land for rating purposes.

Our dear friend, Monte Ohia, used to live by the hope that This is Our Time.

Today, as we think about the Treaty as the only written document that legitimates a government to Govern; the framework for nationhood; I absolutely know, This is Our Time.

This is our time to heal our history; to achieve true reconciliation.

This is our time to make the difference which will be central to the survival of Maori as a people; to exercise our tino rangatiratanga.

This is our time to know that the future of Aotearoa, depends on a healthy and prosperous relationship between the descendants of Victoria and the uri of the 550 representatives of Maori who signed Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Our ancestors are closer to us than we may think.

We owe it to them; we owe it to the children of our children; we owe it to ourselves – and to this end, I am extremely proud today, to launch this Treaty policy as our map for building a better future.

ENDS


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