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Maiden Speech; Rahui Reid Katene

Maiden Speech; Rahui Reid Katene

Thursday 11 December 2008; 4.45pm

Kei te manu korero€¦ the Honourable Dr Lockwood Smith tena koe.

Tena koutou katoa

E nga mana, e nga reo, rau rangatira ma, tena koutou
E aku matua, e aku whaea, nga karanga maha, me koutou kua tae tawhiti mai i te Wai Pounamu
Tena hoki koutou

Huri noa i te whare nei
Tena koutou
tena koutou
tena koutou katoa

I am the Maori Party manifestation of a 100 day plan. In true Maori Party style, our plan only took us 84 working days to complete. With the outstanding 16 days, we've made a start on our 1000 day plan.

The 84 working days between when I was selected to represent Te Tai Tonga electorate on 16 July, and Election Day, has been a journey like no other. It has been a journey with one aim in mind - I am here to serve my people, and because of the love I have for my family.

That life of service to, and love of, others is a lesson well learnt as a member of my whanau, hapu and iwi, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was twelve when I first started to serve by playing the piano and the organ at church, later teaching and leading in various Church auxiliaries. I continue to serve others by being here in this House and representing my people and my loved ones to the best of my ability.

The calling to serve flows within my blood. As I stand here today, I am aware of the legacy I owe my father, John Hippolite of Ngati Koata, Ngati Kuia and Ngati Toa. His influence on my life was profound.

Dad was at the forefront of the Maori renaissance in Nelson; and later in Hamilton. He was always a strong Union and Labour man. In fact, in 1967 after the death of Sir Eruera Tirikatene Dad stood for selection for Southern Maori, but missed out to Sir Eruera's daughter, Whetu Tirikatene-Sullivan. Today, 41 years later, the daughter of John Hippolite, completes the circle.

In the late €˜60s, with Dr Oliver Sutherland, Dad undertook research in the Nelson District Court on unrepresented defendants €“ many of them Maori. His action eventually led to the Legal Aid scheme being opened to criminal defendants.

The pursuit of justice and his determination to fight for the people, led Dad to Korea, where he served alongside some 6000 other New Zealanders who took up the duty on our behalf, to serve their country.

He was always a proud member of the RSA; but he could not support New Zealand's involvement in the war in Vietnam. His anger was never about his military colleagues, those who did the hard yards on foreign shores. How could it be? He too, had been driven by duty and by honour, to serve our country.

Dad condemned the fact of Western intervention in Vietnam, and served his time instead, as a passionate advocate for peace and justice, occupying the protest lines.

In the 80s, my father joined the protest line again in the largest civil disturbance since the 1951 waterfront strike.

This period, in which 150,000 New Zealanders took action to oppose the racial policies of South Africa, has been described as a watershed moment in our history.

It was the juxtaposition of two ideals which were firmly established in the identity of the nation.

Rugby, the national icon, crashed headfirst into the national myth that New Zealand had the finest race relations in the world.

While the policy of apartheid was played out on South African shores, questions inevitably arose at home about how we could allow Maori to be described as €˜honorary whites', or label those who protested as stirrers and troublemakers. It was a theme that was repeated just four years ago, in the reactions to those who marched in the hikoi to oppose the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

My father hated injustice wherever he saw it: he marched in the 1975 Land March and was one of the original claimants in Wai 262 €“ the Flora and Fauna claim €“ for which we still await the Waitangi Tribunal Report, seventeen years after it was first lodged.

Dad was arrested at Bastion Point and at Raglan. This key I wear is his. It opens the padlock on the chains on the statue erected by Aunty Eva Rickard at Whaingaroa to commemorate their land struggle and those arrested there. He worked with social and government agencies to encourage them to find better ways to work with Maori. He supported his Uncle Rangi Elkington to establish Whakatu marae in Nelson.

And he always tried to interest his children in his activities. I know that he is watching and smiling proudly today from Heaven.

My mother, June Gray of Kai Tahu and Ngati Mamoe, was also always very politically active. It was never enough to be enrolled in our family €“ you voted, and you supported your candidate any way you could.

I have thought about Mum as we reflect on the low turn-out rate by Maori in this year's General Election. I wonder how it is that 80% of the general population turn up to vote, but only 62% of Maori eligible to vote on the Maori roll, turned up on the day.

Representation in a democracy is not only a basic human right. It is also a sign of faith, to move forward together as a nation.

Mum was a member of the Labour Party right up until Labour took its great leap right in the 80s, when she stayed left with her Jim, and thereafter she door-knocked for him, took petitions out, sat at cake stalls, drove her children to distraction with her devotion to him and did everything she could to make sure he was re-elected election after election until she became too sick to carry on.

Mum was also a prolific letter writer, writing letters to the editor on local and national issues.

I wish she was well enough to be here today; she would be so proud to know that I am here in the House with her Jim, even though we have different politics and philosophies.

So our family was programmed to be political. One of my brothers has previously stood unsuccessfully for election to this House. Another has stood unsuccessfully for election to his local council. I am really proud of them, but I am even more pleased that my record is better than theirs.

At about fourteen I joined the Labour Party, and when I was old enough to vote I faithfully voted Labour for many years.

As a young teen I joined the protests against our involvement in Vietnam. Later, raising a young family scaled back the time I could devote to political activities, but as a University student I protested against the Springbok tour in 1986, against the education policies of scaling Maori down and other discriminatory practices.

It was about this time that I stopped voting and supporting Labour.

My politics have always been defined by my upbringing and my experiences as a Maori, a Maori woman and a mother of Maori children. I have always supported parties which provide the most support and benefit for our whanau, hapu, and iwi.

Career-wise I have made the same choices.

Although University had not been part of my life plan, when our children were of an age that I was ready to return to the workforce I decided that I needed to set the example for my children and further my education.

I started a Bachelor of Arts degree at Waikato University, but after just one year turned my focus to the law. It was a decision motivated by the injustices I had observed through my involvement with a group of women involved in Women's Refuge. While some in the group decided to help through social agencies, I wanted to make the law work for our women.

It was Martin Luther King who said,

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

It is a principle I believe in, wholeheartedly. The principle of collective responsibility, not retribution. I can not be a bystander to life. I choose to immerse myself in the mechanics of law and now the machinery of government, in order to ensure the powerful and the powerless are reconciled, and peace and justice prevail.

And so, our whanau moved to Wellington and my adventure with the law started.

It was only a matter of time before the Treaty became my passion. The light switched on through the Legal System course, and turned to full beam during the Constitutional law course. Helping to turn on that switch, was Alex Frame who made the Treaty components of my study so vivid, so compelling.

It was all about the timing. While I was learning the theory of constitutional law at university that topic became even more vivid because that was the year that Sir Graham Latimer, led the Māori Council on its most controversial case - when it took on the Labour Government over the sale of State-owned assets and won.

I spent many hours in the Court of Appeal being educated in the practice and impact of constitutional law. Twenty one years later, the ruling of the Court of Appeal in the New Zealand Maori Council v Attorney General, is worth repeating for the record.

In summing up, the President Sir Robin Cooke, said

€œWe have reached two major conclusions. First, that the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi overrides everything else in the State Owned Enterprises Act. Second, that those principles require the Pakeha and Maori partners to act towards each other reasonably and with the utmost good faith€.

Our nation is better for the vision and courage of Sir Graham Latimer and the NZ Maori Council in pursuing that case.

That was a time, also when I first watched David Baragwanath QC; now Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias for whom I was later privileged to act as Junior Counsel in the High Court and Court of Appeal for the Maori Electoral Option case, and Martin Dawson who was to become counsel for Ngati Koata's Tribunal claims.

I mihi to them, and to Martin's whanau €“ we still miss him, and he was never far from our thoughts, when three weekends ago the iwi, hapu, and whanau of Te Tau Ihu o te Waka a Maui received the final report of the Waitangi Tribunal into our claims .

In the Tribunal's report, it traced back the whakapapa of the claims put forward by people such as Martin, claims dating back to as early as 1860, when the people of Te Tau Ihu had already lost most of our original estate.

The report describes the after effects of the Crown's failure as being evident in grinding poverty, social dislocation, loss of culture. But impacts were also evident in the Crown's failure to protect or to provide for Maori interests and rights in their customary fisheries and other resources.

I worked at Treaty of Waitangi Policy Unit €“ now Office of Treaty Settlements €“ where I observed first hand the Crown's attitude and behaviour towards and policies on the Treaty and Maori. I thought it would be the obvious springboard to make change, change for the betterment of the people.

Hope reigns eternal.

It was a brutal initiation. It is very easy to become cynical and defeatist in that sort of environment. I still think that it is vital that Maori keep working within the system to effect change

But it is equally vital that Maori have strong support systems both inside and outside the system to keep focussed on who we are, and why we are there, otherwise we risk system capture or total meltdown.

While I was working there my husband and I were privileged to represent Ngati Toa on Maori Congress, for a while with my father who represented Te Runanganui o Te Tau Ihu.

Through our involvement with Maori Congress we were able to represent Maori at various UN conferences. The biggest eye-opener about our participation in those fora was how hard the Crown worked internationally at maintaining the fiction that New Zealand was a harmonious community, that our race-relations were the best in the world and that the Crown upheld the Treaty of Waitangi.

Would that that waere true! I mihi to Moana Jackson and Aroha Mead in particular for the work they did and continue to do with the indigenous networks and the UN, and say kia kaha!

Finally after nine years I finished my law degree and professionals and was admitted to the bar. How proud my parents and my husband and children were that day!

The first law firm I worked for as a barrister and solicitor was Woodward Law Office. I well remember long days and nights working in Auckland and Wellington, sometimes so long that I would have my youngest daughter curled up asleep under my desk waiting to go home.

Like many young mothers, I know about the tension between having a career and wanting to be with your children.

And just to prove what a glutton for punishment I was, at that time I was also one of the tutors for the Maori Laws and Philosophy course at Te Wananga o Raukawa, became the Director of the course for one year, sat on the Manawhakahaere for some years, and for several years tutored the Maori Legal Entities course there. I mihi to Professor Whatarangi Winiata who has touched so many lives through his influence

I then moved to Crown Forestry Rental Trust where I met the most amazingly committed people both working at the Trust and those working for their whanau, hapu and iwi. I later was employed by Te Ratonga Ture/Maori Legal Services, and became involved in the community law centre movement and met more committed €“ if not driven €“ people.

People like Tariana Turia, Pita Sharples, Hone Harawira, Te Ururoa Flavell. People like the absolutely dedicated members of Te Tai Tonga €“ who I have worked with over the last few weeks. The 23,000 members of the Maori Party who believe they were raised to advocate for positive change, who want a better world for us all.

It is also right for me at this time to acknowledge the passing of two great tötara€¦ Monte Ohia and Rangitihi John Tahuparae. These two men exemplify for me a dedication and love that positive change can make. Haere atu körua, me nga mate puta noa te motu, ki te Atua. Moe mai ra i te aroha. I also acknowledge their wives Linda and Rose who truly were their pou tokomanawa, tena kurua.

I began my korero by remembering that there is no greater calling than to be a servant of the people. That calling is not just an individual pursuit. It impacts on my whanau, my husband Selwyn, my five children, my son and daughter in law, my five mokopuna, and all the mokopuna to come. And so I end in acknowledging them, and their commitment, their dedication and their love that will fulfil me through the challenges I know will accompany me every day in the life of the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

No reira, kei te manu korero €¦ e te whare, tena koutou katoa


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