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Speech: Katene - Te Hui Amorangi o Te Wai Pounamu

Te Hui Amorangi o Te Wai Pounamu
Saturday 28 March 2009
Rahui Katene, MP for Te Tai Tonga


E nga mema o Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, tena koutou katoa.

I am honoured to be in your company, and to be able to share part of this Te Hui Amorangi o Te Wai Pounamu.

The concept, Amorangi, conveys a special and distinctive sense of leadership, of spiritual strength, worthy of our collective respect.

You will be familiar with the saying,

Ko te Amorangi ki mua; ko te hapai o ki muri.

There are various interpretations of this whakatauaki.

It can be understood quite literally – suggesting that the emblem of the deity is in the forefront, while the bearers of food take up the rear.

I understand this as meaning that in all matters, the spiritual must come first; all of our secular beliefs can follow. If we hold our spiritual heart up high, then achievements on another level will result.

For example, every day in the House before the start of business the first thing we do as politicians is to pray for help to do what is right. Whenever we have hui on a marae the first thing we as Maori do is to karakia to thank our Father. And as the Maori Party whenever we meet the first item of business on our agenda is karakia: the spiritual always precedes the secular.

I know that my spiritual strength comes through the learnings and inspiration I follow as Mormon – giving me the sustenance to carry out all other activities.

But there is another meaning to this phrase which I want to highlight – that is that strong leaders require continuous support.

Whether we are talking of Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa; Te Hahi Mihinare ki Aotearoa ki Niu Tireni, ki Nga Moutere o Te Moana Nui a Kiwa; or the Maori Party; the meaning remains the same.

For leadership to be secure, we need the support of our whanau, hapu and iwi; we need the support between Dioceses and Te Pihopatanga; we need the support between our members and those out front.

When I think of the incredible turn of events that led me from the Maori Law Centre to the Beehive, the true extent of ‘Ko te Amorangi ki mua; ko te hapai o ki muri’ was revealed to me.

For one of the most humbling things of this exciting political journey has been to feel the amazing momentum of a collective vision.

I remember how stunned I felt when Te Mana o Mareikura, a Maori Performing Arts Group based here in Christchurch, issued a release that they were prepared to go public with their support for me and for the Maori Party, for the next fifty years! It was one of those moments when I really felt awe-struck by the power of shared dream.

As a Christian I have spent my life devoted to the calling of serving others; hoping that in some small way, I have been able to create opportunities for others to influence change.

For example as a teacher for several years of an adult Sunday School class, I encouraged the class members to get actively involved in the community, to vote in elections and to make their voices heard.

As a member of the Maori Party, that devotion to service continues. Our vision is summarized in the three letter word, IWI: Influence with Integrity.

It is the pursuit of a strong and independent voice for Maori. It is an investment in integrity, in keeping our word, in walking the talk.

In representing iwi, I mean this in the broadest sense. The Court of Appeal in 1996 defined iwi as nation or people; while Statistics New Zealand has adopted the definition of iwi as the focal economic and political unit of the traditional Maori descent.

Whether it is iwi or koiwi – the importance of whanaungatanga, whakapapa and tangata whenua status – is critical to me in knowing who I represent as the Member for Te Tai Tonga.

And so we come back to the expression of leadership. For the five Maori Party Members of Parliament we know that our greatest strength; our most impressive asset, is the 23,500 members; and the collective voices of the constituency we represent.

And so whether it is on the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, or the Regulations Review; I am also clear that I am carrying with me the wawata of the peoples from Wairewa; from Koukourarata; from Otakou; from Motueka; from Rekohu.

Justice Taihakurei Durie, in a paper on ‘Aboriginal Autonomy’ back in 1997, put forward the proposition that in Maori society the power moves from the bottom up – from whanau to hapu to iwi – as opposed to western society where power is from the top down.

While Napoleon Bonaparte was clearly the ruler of the dynasty; and Winston Churchill mobilised the masses to fight on the seas and oceans and beaches and fields and streets; for Maori, we know our greatest hope lies in the collective strength of the people.

Here in Otautahi for instance, Kai Tahu’s vision for te reo Maori, is the aspiration that in 2025 Kai Tahu will have at least 1000 Kai Tahu families speaking te reo Maori within their homes.

In the Maori Party, our vision is of a nation of cultural diversity and richness where its unity is underpinned by the expression of tangata whenua-tanga by Mäori, te käkano i ruia mai i Rangiätea.

And so this is my greatest goal as the new MP for Te Tai Tonga. I seek to make a difference for the people of this electorate. That means all of Te Wai Pounamu; Rakiura; the Chatham Islands; Dunedin, Christchurch, Nelson, Timaru, Invercargill, Queenstown, Oamaru; Petone, Eastbourne, Lower Hutt, Wellington – you name it, I’ve got it!

And that also means Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Waitaha, Ngati Toa Rangatira, Ngati Tama, Te Atiawa not to mention Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia, Rangitane, and all tangata whenua living within these boundaries.

Before I came to Parliament, I was the managing solicitor at Maori Legal Services in Wellington, a Maori community law centre set up to meet the unmet legal needs of Maori and their whanau. Doing that work meant I worked extensively with whanau addressing legal issues including Maori land, housing, ACC, WINZ, family, employment and wills. It was, if you like, a unique apprenticeship for the role I would take up as a Member of Parliament.

I represent the Maori Party on four select committees: finance and expenditure; regulations review; Local Government and Environment; and the Emissions Trading Scheme Review Committee.

And in addition to those committees, I have also played a key role as the Maori Party representative on the Foreshore and Seabed Review. Later in the year, I will be picking up responsibility for the constitutional review including Maori electoral participation.

Then there’s the constant schedule of Bills to read, understand, analyse and speak to; the questions we ask in question time; the issues we bring to the attention of the media; the ever-growing volume of letters from constituents to respond to; the conferences, meetings, hui, discussion groups, briefings to attend; constituents to meet and advise – you get the idea?

All of this is now part of my life, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

For the calling to Parliament, just like the calling to serve, is motivated by the aspirations and challenges that my tupuna have left to me.

I am motivated by our commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the founding document of this land.

I am motivated by our belief in whanau ora – knowing that our families are our greatest strength.

And I am motivated by the knowledge that we have the power and the ability to determine our own destinies. We know that it is not about what any Government can do to you, it’s about what we can do for each other.

Finally, I want to just draw your attention to the wisdom of the words on your programme, ‘the nature of your tree determines the nature of your fruit’.

There is also that thought that a lone tree in the forest is easy to bend and break.

And we know too, that a family tree will wither if nobody tends to its roots.

This, then is our greatest challenge – ourselves.

As whanau we need to start reaffirming that we are a good people, that we are intelligent and bright, and loving and caring.

Whether we promote the promise of every person in the Maori Party or in Te Pihopatanga o Aotearoa, the greatest contribution we can make, is to ensure the opportunities we take up will benefit not only Maori, but all those people who lay claim to this country as their homeland.

We believe we have been offered a wonderful opportunity to make a difference, to carry the strong and independent voice of Maori into key policy discussions and decisions.

We are, collectively, at a moment in time when we can and must look forward to ensure that Maori are protected against the sharp shocks of recession and have options to ensure the potential of our people is realised.

I pledge to you my determination to carry your voice, to present your petitions, to uphold your priorities in every aspect of my role in Parliament.

The leadership I can offer is our leadership – the strength of my representation is our strength.

I know that we can make the difference, together.

Tena tatou katoa.

ENDS

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