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Speech: Turia - Kaumatua Service Provider Hui

National Iwi Maori Kaumatua Service Provider Hui
Trafalgar Pavilion, Nelson
Friday 20 November 2009; 9am

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party


Lovey made sure to ask me to come to this hui a year ago, so there no way I could have missed it!

I have always been a firm believer in te hunga wairua.

It was te hunga wairua that brought me here to you today, here to Te Tau Ihu, almost five years to the day that the Foreshore and Seabed Bill became enacted into law.

On the 18th November 2004 I stood at the third reading of the Foreshore and Seabed bill and asked,

“Does anyone in this House honestly think tangata whenua will be fooled into thinking they can trust a Government which has sacrificed, extinguished, confiscated the last piece of customary land that we held by default?”.

It was a question that had occupied our minds ever since the historic finding of the Court of Appeal in the Ngati Apa case which found that the Crown had wrongly assumed ownership of the seabed and foreshore.

It was a question that prompted Ngati Kahungunu to initiate a massive hikoi to Parliament in May 2004, to express the strident opposition of the people to the Government’s action.

And it is a question that prompted the emergence of the Maori Party, a movement to mobilise our people, and to lead the nation forward through the promotion of kaupapa and tikanga Maori.

Almost exactly to the day again, one year ago on the 16 November 2008, the Maori Party entered into a relationship and confidence and supply agreement with the National Party in which we undertook to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

And on 1st July this year the Ministerial Review reported to Government that the 2004 Act severely discriminated against Maori; it was built on such shaky foundations that it should be repealed, for quite simply it was wrong in principle and approach.

Five years in the life of a nation; five years in which we have been pitted iwi vs kiwi; five years in which the former Prime Minister chose to meet with a celebrity Marino sheep rather than the leaders of a 25,000 strong rally against injustice.

To my mokopuna, five years is an absolute lifetime away.

To those of us in the so-called golden years, five years has passed in a flash, even if we have literally gone to the end of the earth and back, to fight to preserve our rights for our mokopuna to benefit.

I was so pleased to receive the invitation to speak to this national hui; to have an opportunity to acknowledge our kuia and kaumatua for the inspiration and the legacy you provide to me and to our whanau, hapu and iwi throughout the land.

When Lovey asked me to speak at this hui she asked me to speak about the role my kaumatua played in my decision to cross the floor.

There’s one word wrong in that invitation – my decision.

For the decision I took on 30 April 2004, to resign from the Labour Party, to cross the floor in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, was a decision that was very much ours to make.

In the months leading up to that day, I had the most incredible dreams. I truly felt as if our tupuna were giving me a message too strong to ignore.

By day, the Labour Party was encouraging me to abstain or to stay away from Parliament when the vote would be taken. At night my moemoea were telling me that I had to be true to myself; to honour the legacy of my tupuna.

And so I advised my former caucus that I needed to gain the mandate from my constituents about such a critical issue, before I could determine the action I should take.

Marae by marae, iwi by iwi, I sought wise counsel from our kuia and koroua right throughout my electorate of Te Tai Hauauru.

It was an extremely intense experience – going from the edge of despair to the fullest expression of kotahitanga.

Finally, as the days came closer to the Bill taking its first reading in the House, my restless spirit led me home to Whanganui. And in the very early dawn one morning, my kuia, aunty Julie Ranginui came and fetched me and took me to the river.

Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au.

There was nothing more to be said, my kuia had led me to the truth.

One of the enduring images I retain of the hikoi is looking into the sea of faces, and looking at our kuia carrying photos of their tupuna. Our tupuna lived through the grief of land confiscation and died, declaring their mokopuna would never have to experience the loss and betrayal of trust they had suffered.

I remember looking into the crowd and seeing my Aunty Poppy and just weeping to think our old people had been forced to march to uphold our rights.

So what role did our kaumatua play in the decision to cross the floor?

You were the foot soldiers; the cause champions; the leaders; the wise guardians of our planet, who helped to bring about the impossible.

You led us to the water, you guided us to our future; you stood by us and gave us that strength and confidence we needed to take on Parliament; to take on an election; to take ourselves on.

It is because of your support that we now enter new times.

We can begin the process of balancing Maori property rights in the foreshore and seabed with public rights and public expectations in a way which truly involves all New Zealanders; in a process based on a Treaty framework.

But it has always been about more than the foreshore and seabed; more than establishing a political movement.

Our kuia and kaumatua; our elders; have encouraged us to look for a horizon of hope; to fix our gaze on the future to lift our sights, to uplift our souls, to strengthen our whanau.

You have done that by showing us the way; helping to shape our future; by being such an active and positive part of our communities.

And so, I mihi to you once more, for the transformation that we know of as whanau ora.

I am totally committed to the pursuit of whanau ora to know our tamariki can grow to their full potential; to ensure our matua are supported in the ways they nurture the family; to recognise our elders as playing a full role in all aspects of life.

I want to bring things back together, to imbue all our whanau with a sense of future possibilities, that they can determine themselves.

Our people have shared with me their simple yet profound expressions of hope which they believe could assist us in creating and recreating whanau ora.

We are coming to the end of 22 hui around the country, which have enjoyed very strong attendance from our kuia and koroua. There has been overwhelming support for the concept of whanau ora, described as the expression of the Maori heart.

There has been talk about strengthening the capabilities of our whanau. If the state is to be involved, our people want the relationships between agencies to be collaborative – they want an integrated approach to whanau wellbeing which looks at the picture for the whole whanau – not just the individuals that come to the attention of the state.

And from the Crown’s point of view – such an approach is extremely sensible – it will improve the cost-effectiveness of any intervention and achieve that mystical value for money.

I want to ensure that our whanau have sufficient access to resources to provide for their own needs, but to also encourage us, once more, to restore confidence and faith in ourselves, that we can determine our own destiny.

It is about what we can do, together.

Finally, I want to just mention one of the latest trends in the kaumatua world, and that is the movement which has formed under the name, ‘He kura te tangata’, meaning literally, the human being is precious.

He kura te tangata brings together our senior kapa haka performers, providing them with an opportunity to express the grace, the strength and the meaning of some of our finest compositions.

He kura te tangata also demonstrates the full expression of te Ao Maori, that in our world, every person is recognized for their instrinic value, as well as their contribution to the group.

And so I thank you. I thank you for standing by us – for being our backbone and our frontline; for encouraging us to continue to fight on your behalf, for reminding us of the time-honoured traditions and kaupapa which were worth preserving.

We are richer for your presence. We are stronger in our knowledge of our whakapapa, our history, our taonga, our traditions.

You live in ways which remind us of the importance of our kaupapa and tikanga; you inspire us to speak our own language; to be comfortable in our own skins.

You encourage us to realize our roles and our responsibilities; to do what we can to collectively meet the needs of our whanau, hapu and iwi.

You provide a vital pathway to our past and our future – together our transformation is complete.

Tena tatou katoa

ENDS

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