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Sharples - Wellington North Rotary Club

Wellington North Rotary Club; Wellington Bridge Club; Thorndon

Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader, Maori Party

Thursday 5 April 2007; 12.15pm

I have to admit to being a bit apprehensive about coming here today.

After extensive research into the current issues facing the Wellington North Rotary Club, I discovered that at your last meeting, fines had been issued to descendants of the Scots, rose-growers, Coca-Cola drinkers, non-Aries and watchers of Monty Python films; and so it is my fervent hope that I may get through to the end of this address, without straying into any of those areas.

But seriously, it is a privilege and an opportunity of great pleasure, to be able to be in your company today.

I am greatly attracted to the notion of Service above Self.

In the Maori world, we have a comparable concept – that of manaakitanga. Manaakitanga – literally – to manaaki or feed the spirit – is a way of living which acknowledges the mana of others as having equal or greater importance than one’s own.

It is a way of recognizing the unique gift inherent in every life. A philosophy that the act of giving, of aroha, of hospitality builds unity.

In order to manaaki the aspirations of others, one needs to first be sure of your own identity – recognizing that relationships with others need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect.

And so, I come to this luncheon today, confident that the aspirations Wellington North Rotary may have in your desire to improve the human condition, are ones which we in the Maori Party may also share.

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Indeed, I dare say that our starting point, to promote a fair and just society, to work for the elimination of poverty and injustice, and to create an environment where the care and welfare of one’s neighbour is still important; is a starting point that would resonate amongst your membership as well.

When I was asked what I would speak on today, the idea was that I would share some thoughts on the legislation before the House.

There are two particular ‘hot issues’ that I wish to focus on – as I think they reflect this sense of Service Above Self – manaakitanga.

Section 59

A piece of legislation that is getting everyone talking around town is the Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

You will no doubt be aware of the background to this Bill.

Basically, Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 states that the parent of a child, or a person in the place of a parent, "is justified in using force by way of correction towards a child, if that force is reasonable in the circumstances".

Now I guess there will be lawyers amongst you, analysts, and those who indulge in the craft of word-smithing that will know exactly what sort of a challenge would face a jury, in deciding if the force used was 'reasonable' in the circumstances.

Is it reasonable for a father to hit his eight year old son eight times with a piece of wood 30cm by 2 cm?

Is it reasonable for a father to hit his 12 year old daughter with a piece of hosepipe, leaving a raised 15cm-long lump with red edges?

Apparently so, according to some recent jury decisions.

Well not everyone thought so, and consequently a humble little Bill, consisting of a mere three pages, came upon the order paper.

And before you know it a cyclone of fury and indignation had swept throughout the country, as New Zealanders expressed their horror that the State would seek to intervene in matters that they felt were best left to the domain of the parent.

It’s an ethical issue, it’s an issue of integrity; it’s an issue of courage.

We, in the Maori Party, are firmly committed to the concept of self-determination, of ensuring the people drive their own journeys forward; are supported to achieve their own dreams.

But we are also staunch advocates of the notion of collective responsibility – which translates in this case, to all of us having a role in the upbringing and care for children.

By this I think of the vertical and horizontal care which takes into account the roles of grandparents, siblings, aunties, uncles in helping to impart the duties, responsibilities and obligations that exist within whanau. Literally layers of generations are able to be drawn on to parent the child.

One of the incredible gifts that whakapapa provides us with, is the wide range of choices which genealogies offer.

In my own case for instance, I have the histories and legacies of Ngai Te Kikiri o te Rangi and Ngāti Pahauwera of Ngāti Kahungunu to draw from. The inspiration of my ancestor, Toi Kairakau; the expansive breadth that flows from this genealogy, is my history, my bonding to these islands.

And I also draw on ancient Anglo-Saxon history, the Sharples of Bolton near Lancashire.

Every child born has a huge range of ancestors to learn from; the history of their people; the origins and the adventures of their ancestors; the songs, proverbs and folk stories left to them.

The responsibility for nurturing that character rests with us all. It is our responsibility to create the desire to learn; to inspire the confidence to take risks; to motivate and encourage.

It was Galileo who said, “You cannot teach a child; you can only help him to find it himself”.

And the greatest thing about this is that if we do believe in collective care, we can be confident that even if it is not I, myself, Me – who unlocks the key, there will always be someone in the greater family, who will see the gifts in your child, that perhaps you are not looking for.

In a thesis written by Averil Herbert, Whanau Whakapakari: a Maori-centred approach to child rearing and parent-training programmes, she explains how these vertical and horizontal care arrangements I have referred to, work.

The thesis was informed by eight kaumatua, who all consistently referred to the many generations who were part of their upbringing. One kuia described the impact this parenting had in her own parenting practice today, in her words:

“I have one sister and her children are very close to me. I see them as my own children. My sister’s mokopuna, they are my mokopuna. The children of my first and second cousins are like my nieces and nephews. I am very close to them”.

The influence of senior female relatives in teaching and instilling Maori values was consistently referred to. One kaumatua spoke of this as ‘the kuia model’.

This model is still very active today. We know in some of our smaller rural areas, that say if a teenager was to get in trouble with the police, the community constable knows the most effective outcome is often to ring up one the kuia known for caring for these kids, the ones who know to pick up the responsibility.

That same role of being ‘everybody’s nanny’ may also mean they turn up in homes, when they suspect the environment is failing to keep children safe, and abuse free.

What has become startlingly clear to me over the debates of the last few months, if that we must be vigilant to promote violence free homes, to raise the bar, to set standards which truly seek to uphold peace and justice in our families.


The other Bill that I want to touch on is also about this sense of how to inspire and nurture peace and justice across our communities.

That, in essence, is what I believe was the promise anticipated in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Well, a current Bill before the House, the Immigration Advisers Licensing Bill, provided us with what we thought was a great opportunity to implement the expectation laid in the Treaty, for a nation which honoured the relationships between tangata whenua and other New Zealanders.

Our basic position is that an awareness of the Treaty of Waitangi and its practical implications for daily life in Aotearoa, is highly beneficial to newcomers. We believe that knowledge of our foundational document, the blueprint for our constitution as a nation, is essential towards embedding a sense of national identity and harmony.

We also are of the view, that such a belief is even more important in the face of our increasing cultural diversity.

The Maori Party therefore considers that any moves to prepare migrants for life in Aotearoa - through the support of skilled Immigration Advisers – will be of benefit not just to the migrant communities, but to the nation as a whole.

It therefore seemed a matter of logic to us, indeed the natural extension of our commitment to manaakitanga; that we develop initiatives to support the cultural education of immigration advisers, including– including the Treaty; and tikanga and te reo Maori.

Indeed, so excited were we by this possibility that we thought, firstly, it would give tangata whenua a real chance to be involved in immigration matters; and secondly, it was an exciting opportunity to develop a cultural education programme that would be a model to other nations.

So just this week – on Tuesday night – we took into the House a Supplementary Order Paper to change Aotearoa for the better.

Only to find that the Government had called on a rare provision – the procedure of financial veto – to stop the proposal in its tracks.

It was, yet again, another instructive experience in the dynamics of oppositional politics. As we have realised, over the last 18 months, it is not in the Government’s interests to be supporting any ideas that we put forward. This is simple political pragmatism - a lesson we have not enjoyed learning.

What we have learnt in our experience as a new political party that ultimately it is the colour of your political brand; the numbers of your votes; the calling from the focus group polls that drives the political programme.

The upside of such a rapid initiation into the politics of desperation, has been that it has served to reinforce in our minds, the futility of expecting solutions to be found within the Parliamentary complex.

Our belief has always been in the power of the people – the commitment that comes with collective care; the honest attempts to create enduring relationships based on respect.

In many ways, I liken it to your leadership in the programme, Pioneers for Better Health.

That programme is based on the premise that good health is not something that can be taken for granted, but must be constantly and consistently understand and owned, in order to achieve change.

I believe, and we in the Maori Party believe, that with or without Government support, we can all be Pioneers for a Better Nation. We can promote collective care; we can demonstrate manaakitanga; we can live in a way which upholds Service Above Self.

When I looked at all the initiatives that Rotary has inspired - Crippled Children; Karitane; Defensive Driving; TB Clinics; Health camps; Riding for the Disabled; Asthma Society; Child Development Foundation; National Child Health Research Foundation; it really blew me away.

You have been able to achieve change on a massive scale – and I’m sure that change occurred because you believed it could.

According to Confucius, to put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.

Whether we are the Maori Party or the Wellington North Rotary Club – that challenge – to stir our hearts, to move our minds, to act in a ways which faces all the risks and yet still strives onwards, is something which never ceases to keep me moving.

And if I am to get fined for watching a bit of Monty Python or drinking coca-cola along the way, well so be it. It’s a small price to pay for believing that we can all make the difference necessary to achieve the aspirations for our descendants to come.


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