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Waitangi Day 2014 - Hon Tariana Turia

Annual Festival of the Elements
Te Rauparaha Park, Porirua
Thursday 6 February 2014; 11.30am
Hon Tariana Turia; Co-leader of the Maori Party

E nga mana, e nga reo, tena koutou. Ngati Toa Rangatira, tena koutou.

Tena hoki koutou nga whanaunga aku tuakana o te puku o te wheke ara, o te Moana Nui a Kiwa.

E nga kaiwhakahaere o tenei hui, tena hoki koutou

I am delighted to be here in Te Rauparaha Park at this opening ceremony for Waitangi Day 2014.

I want to thank the Mayor, Nick Leggett, for the honour of opening this Festival of the Elements and to mihi to all the distinguished manuhiri we have with us today; including

• my colleagues; Hon Hekia Parata and Kris Faafoi;
• Dame Susan Devoy;
• Maualaivao Professor Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri;
• local dignitaries and of course the wonderful people that make Porirua so great – our parents; our kaumātua; our rangatahi; our children.

And I want to extend a special mihi to the regional winners of the secondary kapa haka competitions – our wharekura champions from Te Kura Māori o Porirua.

27 years ago, on this day, a special order was launched - The Order of New Zealand - our most senior honour. The Order was instituted by Royal Warrant on Waitangi Day 1987 "to recognise outstanding service to the Crown and people of New Zealand in a civil or military capacity.” The Order of New Zealand is a very special list, restricted at one time, to a maximum of only twenty people.

And so it is a rare privilege for us all today, that we have in our company one of these distinguished citizens - Emeritus Prof. Maualaivao Albert Wendt.

A few years ago, Albert was asked for his views about Samoan people living in New Zealand. His reply was very clear.

“There may be tensions between Pacific Islanders and Maori, but there is enormous support, particularly among New Zealand-born Pacific Islanders, for recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi and the right of the Maori to self-determination”.

These words represent a conversation – a conversation in which Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a starting point.

The Treaty provides us all with a clear point of connection. It tells us about the conditions under which 174 years ago, iwi/hapū and the Crown agreed to cooperate in a unified nation.

That initial agreement – signed in ink by rangatira right throughout this land – was far sighted. It was a recipe for our future – a promise about how we could build a prosperous and positive New Zealand.

The need for that promise to be realised is just as strong today – whether we be here in Te Rauparaha Park – or up on the Treaty grounds in Waitangi.

I am so impressed by the rich diversity of celebrations the Porirua Community Arts Council has invited to join with us today.

There is everything imaginable on display – Hula Active; the Tokelauan Youth Group; South Indian Fire dancing; the hip dancing of Colombia; you name it – it’s here.

Each of these groups in their own way, are here by virtue of the Treaty - which gives the lawful authority – the bill of rights if you like – for all communities in this beautiful part of the South Pacific.

I was reading an article by Manying Ip the other day, which gave me another insight into the Treaty conversation. She reflected on the fact that 21 years ago a group of Chinese new immigrants translated the Treaty of Waitangi into Chinese and sent copies to every known Chinese household nationwide.

This remarkable community effort was an investment in their past, their present and their future. The new immigrants wanted to know the basis for a document described as the founding basis of this new land they called home.

They wanted to understand the significance of the Treaty as the underpinnings of democracy. And most important of all, they sought to find meaning in how Te Tiriti o Waitangi gave them a place, a sense of belonging, in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In her article, the Treaty of Waitangi and Asian communities, Manying put forward a view that the future status of the Treaty, and its relationship to Maori, Pakeha, Asians and others should be a matter of continual debate, negotiation, and intelligent discussion.

In the course of her research, she was told by one of the Chinese women she spoke to, that sometimes in New Zealand they feel like ‘Guests who arrived at a party’ when the hosts are quarrelling. They feel like uninvited guests and gate-crashers, uncertain and embarrassed—should they just retreat, or pretend that they don’t see the heated quarrel?”.

I guess that comment brought it home to me, that the conversation we are having about the Treaty is one which will be frequently colourful; consistently challenging and always inclusive of differing points of view.

There may be points of tension; differences may be articulated with great heat and passion.

But that doesn’t mean the conversation is not worth having.

It doesn’t mean we walk away – or we ignore the very real possibility of forging understanding between two peoples – tangata whenua – the people of the land – and tangata tiriti – those here by virtue of the Treaty.

Last year, I had the wonderful good fortune to be at Onuku Marae, in Akaroa, where new immigrants were being embraced into this nation through the ritual of a citizenship ceremony.

And I thought to myself what a fantastic idea –that we commemorate Waitangi Day by openly encouraging a celebration of citizenship.

It made me think - let us look at this day as a day for progressing the vital conversation we need to have about this nation – our peoples, our cultures; our histories; our landscape.

Let us share our stories – provide every opportunity to ask the questions.

Who is the person that this historic park is named after? What was his experience – why does Porirua choose to acknowledge him in this way.

Do we know about the story of Kahe Te Rau-o-te-rangi – why was she chosen to sign the Treaty? What can her descendants tell us?

Did we know that Te Rangi Topeora signed the Treaty on Kapiti Island? What is her contribution to our story today?

I believe our pathway into the future can only be strengthened by a better understanding of the Treaty. I am hopeful about the possibilities ahead, when I hear the conversations taking place which position the Treaty as a key means of creating the sense of belonging we need to feel at home.

Finally, as some of you may know, this year marks my last year as a member of parliament. I have been an MP for eighteen years – and every term, I have sought to swear allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi at the opening of parliament.

In reality - I was only successful in my very first attempt on 17 December 1996 – but I never gave up the cause – even after every attempt I made to seek permission from the Clerk of the House was turned down with the response that I would not be able to take my place in Parliament without uttering the precise wording of the oath in law.

But I have not given up hope – and never will.

Because I believe that where there’s a will there’s a way – we just need to find new ways of approaching the issues that confront us.

We haven’t achieved that change yet – but I am ever hopeful that we can continue to make progress which will eventually enable any member – Māori, Pasifika, Pākehā, Asian – to pledge allegiance to the Treaty.

Why is that action – the pledge of six or seven words – so important?

It is all about the symbolic intent – the commitment to live in a nation in which we truly honour our basis for nationhood through the Treaty.

It is about enacting the promise that the Treaty conversation enables us to have.

It is, after all, the Treaty that provides us with the foundations for our Parliament today.

The key thing is – whether we are in the debating chamber, the boardroom, the sportsfield, or the household kitchen – let us have the conversation about the significance of the Treaty as a basis for our relationships with each other.

I stand here today – to celebrate with you – the rich diversity of our nationhood – and the willingness you have all demonstrated to step up to the opportunity and promise of the Treaty of Waitangi.

No reira, tēnā tātou katoa.

ENDS

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