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Reflections on the Relationship Signing - Turia

Reflections on the Relationship Signing - Hon Tariana Turia

Sunday 16 November 2008; 5pm

Matangireia Reflections from the Relationship

Signing with the National Party Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

The room in which we signed our Relationship Agreement with the National Party (Matangireia) is rich with the markers of nationhood.

One wall features the sacred covenant which gave birth to a nation. Te Tiriti o Waitangi created a relationship between two parties - politically, economically, and socially; a foundation for both sides to grow.

On the opposite wall, there is a handwritten letter to the Representatives and Chiefs of the Maori tribes of New Zealand, dated 2 January 1954. It is a letter which speaks of the proud traditions of tangata whenua, the deep and abiding loyalties which have been demonstrated in peace and war. The letter, signed simply Elizabeth R, ends with encouragement that you will always cherish the traditions which have been handed down from your forefathers.

Some of those ancestors are seen in the photos around these walls. Those who have occupied the Mâori seats of Parliament - those who have gone before us, to pave the way for the growth of our nationhood.

We honour them all this day and we are proud that this agreement today, protects these seats, and the legacy they bring with them.

We see Tâ Apirana Ngata - a founding member of the Young Mâori Party, elected MP for Eastern Mâori in 1905, and 23 years later appointed Native Minister. Apirana was known as the Father of the House, having been in office as a Member of Parliament for 38 years, and one of our finest Maori leaders.

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Te Rangihiroa (Sir Peter Buck); one of our first Maori medical doctors; Minister of Native Affairs, an internationally renowned anthropologist, and Yale scholar.

For the West we have Sir Maui Pomare. His grandmother was Te Rua-o-te Rangi, one of the thirteen women to sign the Treaty of Waitangi. Elected MP for Western Maori in 1911, Pomare later became Minister of the Cook Islands; Health and Internal Affairs.

There is Sir Eruera Tirikatene: Member of Parliament for Southern Maori from 1932 to 1967; the Ratana movement’s first MP. And I think too of my aunt, Iriaka Ratana, the first Maori woman MP. Sir Eruera was followed by his daughter, Whetu, who was also the longest serving woman in the history of our Parliament, having served in office from 1967 to 1996.

We look to the leadership of Matiu Rata: the first Mâori promoted to the Native Affairs Ministerial for almost fifty years after Sir Apirana Ngata. We remember him for the legislation he steered through including the creation of the Waitangi Tribunal in 1975. He also resigned from the Labour Party to found the Mana Motuhake Party, its first MP was Sandra Lee in 1993.

Ngati Kahungunu leader James Carroll became the first Maori to win a general seat. Carroll served as a Cabinet minister in the Liberal government and remained in Parliament until 1919, first representing Waiapu and then, from 1908, the new electorate of Gisborne.

This is our history, our shared history as a nation.

And today, we have marked another important moment in this history.

Today it is important to also remember Frederick Nene Russell, Mete Kingi Te Rangi Paetahi, Tareha Te Moananui and John Patterson who took their places as the first Maori Members of Parliament 140 years ago in 1868. Te Moananui was the first to speak, and he urged the government to enact wise laws to promote good, and for Maori and Pakeha to work together.

That is the challenge that still faces us all, in 2008.

When Queen Elizabeth returned to Aotearoa, 40 years after that first letter, she spoke at Waitangi on the 6th February 1990 and said:

“"Today we are strong enough and honest enough to learn the lessons of the last 150 years and to admit that the Treaty has been imperfectly observed. I look upon it as a legacy of promise."

The legacy of promise she spoke of, the legacy of promise pledged by our first Mâori MPs, the leadership and inspiration that is etched in our living memories through the mentors and guidance of those around us, must provide us with a strong foundation to guide us forward in the historic agreement we make today.

The opportunity to take up the mantle is an opportunity that from Waimanoni to Invercargill, our people have responded with characteristic energy. Our whirlwind consultation tour has been greeted with crowds of such significance that even we were surprised. There has been a hunger to learn, a willingness to be involved, to step up to the mark, to be ready to make the difference.

They have their eyes wide open to the risks that come with recession; the likelihood of unemployment rising, redundancies, hard times. Our past experience has been that the Mâori partner has become the shock absorber for the nation’s economy. The people have spoken to us of the need to be wary, to be careful to avoid the pitfalls of the past. But just as our people were prepared to enlist in great numbers for the war effort, for what Ngata called the Price of Citizenship, our people have also demonstrated their readiness now to be involved at this new turning point in our history.

Over the last week our hui throughout the motu have seen our people enthusiastic beyond all expectation, to accept the invitation to be involved in a relationship which can help us meet the challenges of this time.

Our President, Whatarangi Winiata, has described the impact of previous administrations upon the fortunes of Mâori as GIRA - Getting it Right Accidentally. By this he means, the hugely wasteful management of funds spent on behalf of Mâori, which has not produced the goods.

We in the Mâori Party, want to see the Mâori partner to the Treaty, once again distinguished by our vibrant, growing and prosperous economy, as indeed we were in 1840.

We want to support the entrepreneurial energy of tangata whenua to flourish. We want every family to live well, every child to succeed. Our Policy Manifesto, attached to the agreement we sign today, is a vital benchmark for us in setting the policy direction forward.

Getting it right, is also about doing the right things when nobody is watching.

Getting it right means we will do everything in our power to eliminate poverty, to take the practical steps to create whânau ora.

Getting it right means that we will, in this term of Parliament, initiate as a priority, a review of the application of the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004 to ascertain whether it adequately maintains and enhances mana whenua.

We don’t have bottom lines in this agreement.

But we do have a top line, and if you look at the top line, you will read that mana maintenance and enhancement is important for both parties.

The overwhelming outcome of our forty hui with the people was the message that we bring back today that Maori are eager to work together, to accept the invitation that we must be part of the change we all desire, to make history happen.

I took some time out today to mihi to the tupuna who surround us, because for any one who has the honour to take up public office in Parliament, we always recognise the whakapapa that guides us forward. For some, like our friend Hon Tau Henare, that whakapapa is recognised every time we say his name, the name of his great grandfather, MP for Northern Maori from 1914-1938.

But that whakapapa is also absolutely tied to our foundations as a nation. The whakapapa cherished in the Treaty of Waitangi.

The signing of the Relationship Agreement between the National Party and the Mâori Party is another step in the journey towards fulfilling the promise of the Treaty. It is another step in the reconciliation between kawanatanga and rangatiratanga.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi held up the promise of a strong, unified nation. That promise requires a relationship of mutual respect, of good faith, the willingness to listen, to learn, to strive to understand.

John Key has held out the hand of National in a gesture of good will, of respect, showing a willingness to work together, to be inclusive, to share. He did not need to enter into a relationship for the sake of the numbers. That he chose to do so, indicates the quality of his leadership and the breadth of his vision.

We believe that what both parties did here today, in good faith, represents the commitment to that promise and that is an agreement that we in the Maori Party are bound to make to achieve gains for tangata whenua and for the best interests of this nation.


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