Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Wednesday 16 December 2009; 5pm
Dr Pita Sharples, Co-leader of the Maori Party
Tena koe, Mr Speaker. Tena tatou katoa i tenei ra whakamutunga
Mr Speaker, the debating chamber must be the most unusual destination to take one’s honeymoon, but you, Sir, can be proud of the wedding banquet that you have presided over in this last year.
The Maori Party stands to congratulate you for the distinguished presence and wise counsel you have demonstrated in this House. We have valued the fair and firm way in which this chamber has been managed, and a particular delight for us has been to hear the deep resonance of the tone that you have brought to the karakia.
We anticipate this skill will be heard more frequently next year, with the introduction of simultaneous interpretation in the House.
We extend our thanks also to Lindsay Tisch as Deputy Speaker, and Rick Barker and Eric Roy in their roles as Assistant Speakers.
I want to take this time also to acknowledge the leadership of Mary Harris, tena koe, and to thank the office of the Clerk of the House, the party whips right across the House, the Sergeant of Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod, the Hansard recorders, and all those who maintain the order, the decorum and the history of our Parliament.
Mr Speaker, we are at a critical juncture in the history of politics.
In this last twelve months, the Maori Party has been able to ensure the Māori voice is heard by Government, is included in, and informs, decision making.
We believe that Māori need to be participants in decision-making – not just recipients of it.
And so policy by policy, bill by bill, we have seen the expression of tangata whenua in debates around aquaculture, broadcasting, employment, criminal justice, social services, education and many more.
Of course there have been some notable exceptions in which the collective decision-making capacity of Cabinet – or indeed this Parliament – have not taken time to respond to the call from Maori.
I am thinking of the Matariki Bill put up my colleague, Rahui Katene – a wonderful gesture on the pathway to nationhood which was voted down by this Parliament.
I think of the Auckland Governance legislation, which ignored the proposals of mana whenua, and rejected the expert analysis of the mana whenua forum, of Ngati Whatua, of Tainui.
There is the failure to act in the best interests of Maori in the polytechnic sector, or more broadly in adult education.
Mr Speaker, while we may agree or disagree, the strong and independent voice of Maori will prevail – and we will continue to represent the aspirations of our people in every breath that we take.
I spoke, earlier, of the history that is being shaped in this Parliament.
Five years ago the Foreshore and Seabed Act was passed, an Act which polarised the nation, and provoked a debate on kiwi versus iwi.
As one of the key negotiating points of the relationship agreement we signed with National, we initiated a Review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which has resulted in the Prime Minister indicating a strong likelihood that the Act will be repealed.
I commend the work of the Ministerial Review Panel led by Judge Taihakurei Durie. Their report revealed that the Act was built on shaky foundations; and gave Maori such umbrage, that they considered the propriety of government delivering some form of apology or recognition of wrong.
That has not happened as yet, but it was a very positive development that at the final press conference of Dr Michael Cullen, he conceded that Labour should not have legislated to prevent Maori from seeking customary title from the Maori Land Court for the foreshore and seabed.
It is only disappointing that the new leader of the Opposition has not been able to honour these parting words.
But we look forward to a new year, in which options for a replacement regime will be considered.
The impact of the economic climate has of course been a huge influence on this Parliament.
I have been responsible for a progressing a number of workstreams which emerged from the Employment Summit including a focus on Māori skills acquisition, involving significant investment across a number of sectors for Māori industry training places.
I established a Maori Economic Taskforce which has enabled us to move forwards with optimism as we think of the huge challenges facing our nation, particularly in addressing the high unemployment. I congratulate my colleague Tariana for her initiative in the Community Max scheme which has paved a foundation for many of our whanau in determining their own local work options.
Through tough times, inevitably we rely on the community and the voluntary sector to support people in need. The Maori Party recognises the dedicated sacrifice and commitment of so many local heroes and sheroes, who maintain our communities, and care for our people.
Within this group, there are those who care for our elderly, the disabled, our children, those with mental health issues, those who have suffered the tragedy of family violence, those who are more vulnerable. We commend all of you, for the devoted way in which you care for the lives of others.
But if there is one key area in which to bring about the gains for our nation to advance, it will be in whanau ora. This policy, Mr Speaker, is transformational. It is about re-energising and re-empowering whanau to do it for themselves, to determine their own destiny.
It is about pride, it is about potential, and it is about our whanau being the beacon of hope for our future.
We know that if we can invest in our whanau to take care of their own, to assume their responsibilities for their collective health and wellbeing, then ultimately the taxpayers of this land will benefit.
Whanau ora places whānau at the centre and builds on the strengths and capabilities already present in the whānau. It is a new approach; an approach in which we trust whanau will lead the way.
As one example, I have introduced an initiative around maara kai, to promote community gardening amongst Maori, to restore the ability for Maori to nourish and feed themselves from their own gardens.
It is an initiative where we refocus our energies to promote self-sufficiency, to promote wellbeing and healthy activity, as well as reviving the lost art of gardening knowledge, including our values of kaitiakitanga, and whanaungatanga.
In thinking of these values, I want to turn to extend the appreciation of the Maori Party to all those amazing people who care for our wellbeing within this environment.
- The messengers here in the House who travel miles to keep us informed;
- the library staff who unturn every stone to keep us updated;
- the security staff who keep us safe,
- the staff of Bellamys and Copperfields who keep us fed,
- the receptionists and telephonists who keep us connected,
- the VIP drivers, the ministerial and parliamentary services staff, the cleaners, the IT helpdesk, the building and maintenance team, and the gardeners, who keep these premises in pristine condition, and maintain the dignity of the House.
There are the parliamentary officers who run the Bills Office, who serve the Select Committees, who manage Cabinet Committees.
And of course we know that a day in the life of any politician can be made or broken through the lens and the pens of the Press Gallery. We salute you all for your efforts.
In our own Maori Party offices, we are indebted to
- the expert advice of our research team,
- the talents and quick wit of our media team,
- the challenge and thrust of our political advisors,
- the institutional confidence of our departmental advisors,
- and the ever wonderful management and manaakitanga of our executive team.
We have had an incredible year in Government, and as a party with influence in this Parliament. The considerable gains achieved through Budget 2009 and the Emissions Trading Scheme have been possible because of the quality of the relationships we enjoy with the National Party.
And I want to thank the Prime Minister for the courage of his vision, in extending his hand of welcome to us.
His enthusiastic approach to leadership has been embraced by us all, and we have all appreciated the confidence and trust of members of his team, particularly the senior Cabinet Ministers and the backbenchers alike.
Finally I acknowledge the amazing energy and excellent leadership of my colleagues and friends, Tariana, Te Ururoa, Rahui and Hone.
We end this year, as we began, united in our vision to make this nation great again.
I call the attention of the House to look carefully at the symbolism of the national Maori Flag announced earlier this week. Within the spiral like koru of the black, red and white design, there is the symbolism of the curling fern frond – bringing with it the unfolding of new life, hope for the future and the promise of renewal.
And so finally, I wish this for every member of this House – we thank you for the work you do on behalf of New Zealand We commend you for your commitment, your hard work and the sacrifices you and your family make for the common good of our nation.
And we look forward to returning in 2010 to work together across the House, to embrace opportunities for co-operation, and to truly consider the moments for transformation that will make the greatest difference for the people of Aotearoa.
Meri kirihimete me nga mihi o te tau hou!
Happy Christmas, Happy New Year and may Father Christmas fill your stockings with good ideas about how to work with the Maori Party.