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"Maori Concerns can not be brushed aside"

"Maori Concerns can not be brushed aside"

Tariana Turia Co-leader of the Maori Party;

Friday 2 February 2007

"The concerns of Maori must not be brushed aside again" said Mrs Turia today, responding to statements she had made about the impact of the Government's immigration policy on the creation of the Maori electoral districts. The Maori Party has fielded many calls from constituents, who believe that the fact Maori did not achieve an eighth electoral seat is a direct consequence of high overall population growth that has arisen through the influx of migrants to Aotearoa.

"These callers have reminded me that tangata whenua are the only people in Aotearoa who cannot increase their numbers by immigration" said Mrs Turia. "As such, they believe it is a question of justice that present and future immigration is managed in such a way as to prevent Maori from becoming an even smaller minority in their own land".

"It is appropriate that as we approach Waitangi Day, we look again at the impact that immigration has on national identity" said Mrs Turia.

Tangata whenua often refer to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as being the first immigration policy document for this nation. Dr Ranginui Walker has described the preamble of the Treaty as the original charter for immigration; in that it allows immigration to New Zealand from Europe, Australia and the United Kingdom, but requires consultation with Maori as Treaty partner for any variation. Walker argues that the Government has ignored the notion of partnership by unilaterally deciding who can enter New Zealand without consultation with Maori.

"The Treaty sets the scene by which all subsequent migrants and communities can survive and prosper in Aotearoa" said Mrs Turia. In essence the Treaty is our first immigration document, because it was enabling of all others to come here".

At the time of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori outnumbered the settler population by an estimated forty to one. For many analysts, it is unthinkable that in such circumstances, Maori would have agreed to an unqualified transfer of authority to the newcomers. What both parties did agree to, was a constitutional blueprint for the type of relationship we could participate in, a relationship Mrs Turia identifies as having not been honoured.

"Criticism has come from Maori leaders that immigration policies have been made without consultation with, and at the expense of, Maori" said Mrs Turia.

"Government control of immigration is by no means a mere recent concern", said Mrs Turia, referring to comments made by the late Dame Mira Szazy: "Of considerable political significance was the unrecognised fact that in signing the Treaty, Maori took their first, and to date last, decision on the immigration policy of this country. No further consideration has been given to Maori as to who else should live upon our land".

"I remember back when Lianne Dalziel was Minister, that she called together a group of Maori leaders in order to understand and listen to the frequently expressed concerns from Maori that immigration policies have been made at the expense of Maori, without consultation with Maori, and of unproven value".

"That group produced a strong report which focused on the need to address issues of sovereignty" said Mrs Turia. "Funnily enough, the report disappeared, and with it, another opportunity to engage with Maori was lost".

"If we are committed to restoring an harmonious relationship between the Treaty partners, we can not unilaterally continue to brush Maori concerns aside, and to ignore the unpalatable" said Mrs Turia.

"On one hand we have Labour who chooses to consult and ignore; on the other we have National who aren't even prepared to open the door to consultation with Maori in the first place".

"Our kaupapa, discusses manaakitanga, and the importance of creating effective and mutually respectful relationships" said Mrs Turia.

"For a relationship to work, there must be an opportunity to be heard" said Mrs Turia. "And yet, Maori have not had an effective input into the development of immigration policy".

"If we are to honour the spirit of partnership explicit in Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Government must recognise the need to give effect to Maori involvement in immigration policy".

Background statements

* "Partnership is the Key to Success: Hon Lianne Dalziel; 4 April 2003': 'One of the difficulties I have experienced as Minister of Immigration is the way I should consult with Maori on immigration issues. I am currently working with the Associate Minister, Tariana Turia, on a pre-consultation model, so that all the issues can be placed on the table for the consultation process. An exploratory process that identifies issues for wider debate and consideration is favoured".

* James Chang, Maori Perceptions of Asian immigration (2005): "Many participants are fearful of the effect Asian immigration has on their tangata whenua status. Some Maori believed Asian immigrants did not want to give the Treaty of Waitangi recognition".

* Council of Conference Joint Methodist-Presbyterian Public Questions Committee, 1994, conference decision no 5, p766: "Immigration: Recognising that Maori Treaty rights have had no place in the development of this country's immigration policy, Conference request the Government to place an embargo on further immigration until te iwi Maori have a partnership say on future immigration policy".


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