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Flavell: Māori must make decisions about Māori representation

Speech - TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader - Māori Party)

General Debate, Wednesday 23 July 2014, 3.30pm

Speaking of individuals, not that I do want to, I note that Colin Craig wants to be an MP, and Colin Craig introduced his latest attempt at a headline by calling it a wild and crazy idea. He is not wrong there.

But more than that, the Conservative Party’s policies to get rid of the Māori seats, shut down the Waitangi Tribunal, and implement one law for all are ignorant, are dangerous, and are not welcome in the political system of our country.

It is election time and once again political parties that are in trouble choose to pull the race card out of the hat to scratch the redneck part of our society. I can tell you that Māori are sick of it, as is this nation. Politicians have a responsibility to educate and inform, not act in such a way as to provoke racial division and tension.

New Zealand needs leaders who understand that indigenous rights are human rights, that cultural diversity and representation are good for democracy, and that the constitutional basis of our nationhood lies in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

I for one am proud to say that this has been the consistent call of the Māori Party since we first entered this Parliament. We want all aspiring members of Parliament to understand that dedicated Māori electorate seats distinguish our democratic process here in Aotearoa.

Actually, we must not forget that the first race-based law was introduced in 1858 and was called the English Law Act, which was one single statute which imposed the one single culture, customs, and conventions of Britain on all New Zealanders. The Māori electorate seats are a conversation between Māori and the Crown—not for the majority of New Zealand making a decision for a minority.

As the Chief Judge of our Courts Taihākūrei Durie said: “Like the Treaty of Waitangi, the Māori parliamentary seats stand as an enduring symbol of their constitutional status and historic statements of principle like symbols are essential tools in rebuilding our national identity.”

Since the English Law Act we have been in catch-up mode ever since, trying to build a more representative Parliament that encompasses all New Zealanders not just those with a British passport.

The Māori seats have been an important mechanism to try to protect and develop Māori interests. Colin Craig needs to know that his party has no right—no right—to step in and try to take the rights away from tangata whenua. Only tangata whenua have the right to determine what is in our best interests. As parties to the Treaty, Māori should have at least guaranteed representation in the organs of kāwanatanga.

Labour tried in the past through the Foreshore and Seabed Act and by opposing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People and look how that went down. We have been down that track before and we do not want a repeat run. The reality is that the New Zealand Government, after advocacy from the Māori Party, signed up to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in 2010 and it is here to stay.

In fact, Article 19 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to participate fully, if they so choose, at all levels of decision making in matters that affect their rights, lives, and destinies through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures.”

So we are where we should be, and we should not have to put up with the divisive rants of some. We have had over 170 years of attempts at assimilation, from various politicians and parties, and we continue to suffer from the consequences of those sorts of policies today.

The old assimilation policy is hidden behind a few new terms and slogans, such as “one law for all”, or “we are all one people, we are all Kiwis”, and even “some of my best friends are Māori.” But the intention is the same, and we know all about that. In this day and age there is no place for political leaders who know nothing about our history and know nothing about us. There is no excuse for being ignorant and we, the people, will never ever* tolerant policies that aim to take away from us, without our informed consent. That will not happen. Māori must make decisions about Māori representation.

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