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Address in Reply - Maori Party Pita Sharples

Address in Reply - The Maori edge

Hon Dr Pita R Sharples, Minister of Maori Affairs Tuesday 9 December 2009; 5pm

The Maori Party stands to congratulate Hon Dr Lockwood Smith in the prestigious role of Speaker of the House of Representatives.

In your first words to the House, as Speaker-Elect, you drew our attention to those who have taken the call of duty offshore; those who fought for us on the battlefields in North Africa, Egypt, Greece, Crete, Europe and Asia; those who died in honour for Aotearoa.

We remember them.

And we think of that proverb, he toa taumata rau; bravery has many resting places.

Bravery is found in the actions of a man who fled persecution in Afghanistan, who survived a disaster at sea, and who sought refuge in New Zealand, to build a home for him and his five children.

Bravery is found in the: * Homes of some 16,000 New Zealanders who are the new unemployed; * The homes of the 230,000 children who did not benefit from the inwork tax credit of Working for Families; * The homes of the 23% of Maori children living in poverty.

It is a brave nation that tackles the crime of poverty; the injustice of inequality; the offence of violence.

We in the Maori Party are proud to rise to the challenge, to be part of the solution; to take up the opportunity to contribute to a better future for all.

The Speech to the Throne is a roadmap ahead to guide us to that future.

The Maori Party is honoured to be taking a turn in the driving seat, advancing our kaupapa, articulating a strong and independent Maori voice in the best interests of the nation.

We are profoundly aware that just because someone is in the driving seat they don't have to run people over.

That is why we welcomed the opening statement in the Relationship and Confidence and Supply agreement between the National Party and the Maori Party.

A statement which recognised that mana maintenance and enhancement is important for both parties to the agreement.

The word, mana, is variously described as leadership, influence, prestige, power, authority, control, many things.

This type of arrangement did not need the numbers to happen.

The arrangement was one which transcended voting power, to recognise the importance of acting in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Maori Party has spoken freely of our desires to act as an instrument for the Treaty partner but not as the Treaty partner but the link; to bring the voices of the signatory to Te Tiriti into this chamber. I want to make that distinction.

The opportunity given in this arrangement is an opportunity which was endorsed by our people, in the fast, full and frank consultation schedule we entered into some three weeks ago. My smallest was 50, the largest was 250.

And so, we must ensure that we all use this time wisely.

The Maori Party brings to the arrangement with National, a clear focus on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, whanau ora and investing in the economy to lead to productivity on a grander scale.

We will be working hard to ensure that in all developments the impact on our people is clearly recognised.

Our ministerial responsibilities in health, education, justice, social development, Maori Affairs and the community and voluntary sector emphasize our priorities for this next term.

We seek significant outcomes in whanau ora, through working to eliminate poverty, advocating for social justice, and advancing Maori social, cultural, economic and community development in the best interests of the entire nation.

None of us can ignore the warning, given in the Speech from the Throne, that we are entering very difficult times, times that have not been seen since the days of the Great Depression.

But there are other tensions we must address. Treasury's advice to the Minister of Finance described these medium term economic challenges as globalisation, international integration, technological change, natural resources pressures, demographic changes and increasing expectations on the state.

As Minister of Maori Affairs, my concern will be to ensure that there are policy levers in place which advance Maori economic development in areas such as aquaculture, energy, forestry, tourism, Maori land, and agribusiness.

Maori Agribusiness on its own, already contributes over one billion dollars to our economy, with another 450,000 hectare of Maori land to be further developed. Michael Ahie, Chief Executive of Shirlaws, has challenged us to "release the economic potential in Maori, particularly on the land, where most of the assets are held". He described this as the Maori edge, the resilience and flexibility, with an inherent acquired trading ability.

We might call this mana Maori, derived from the strength of our relationship with the land, and the legacy of our ancestors who adapted to, and adapted, the natural resources handed down to them, to sustain themselves and future generations.

Such factors, (mana) are not only of value in Maori commercial and economic development. We must stay focused on the pivotal goal of whanau wellbeing and cultural resilience.

We are pleased to hear the Speech from the Throne give weight to the vulnerable New Zealanders, those who work hard, but who may suffer redundancy or add to the unemployment queue.

This House must take as a starting point the fact that 22% of young Maori, aged between 15 and 19 years old are currently unemployed (compared to the national average of 14%). We must hold these 22% in our vision; we must look into their faces and make a promise for their future, that they will not be left behind.

Our future growth and prosperity depends on them.

My colleague, Tariana Turia, will be dedicating her efforts across health and social services, towards achieved whanau ora. We know that the solutions are far more likely to be successful when owned and determined by the people themselves.

And we know too, that Maori can not afford to be spectators. We must actively engage with all of our whanau, to revitalise our time-honoured traditions that have held us in good stead to now. We must live by kaupapa which enable us to restore good health and well-being to us all.

The Speech from the Throne identified a host of areas in which the Maori Party has an active interest. We will be participating in the review of the Emissions Trading Scheme to ensure that we encourage environmentally responsible choices, including encouraging the biggest emitters to change the way they do business.

We have a strong interest in ensuring the relevant sections of the RMA that recognise and provide for the relationship of Maori and our culture and traditions with our ancestral lands, water, sites, wahi tapu and other taonga are taken into account, in giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Tangata whenua have a vital interest in water - the rivers and lakes, the springs and mahinga kai that are an integral part of their tribal mana.

We are delighted to hear the Government will demonstrate fresh energy into resolving and achieving durable Treaty settlements; as well as having the courage to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act; and to initiate a constitutional review to critically examine Maori electoral participation.

And we are all desperate to curb the so-called long tail of under-achievement that stigmatises many of our schools, and in particular the underwhelming outcomes that have featured as an indictment of Maori education for far too long. As Associate Minister of Education and Minister of Maori Affairs, I will be channelling considerable energy into the literacy and numeracy programmes that have proven so successful.

It is a time to be brave on many fronts.

The Maori Party is prepared to step up and do the work necessary, to ensure a strong and independent Maori voice is heard in every debate, in every issue, in every home as we, as a nation, unite in our resolve to invest in a brighter future for all.

ENDS

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