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Speech: WAI 262 - Rahui Katene

Speech: WAI 262 - Rahui Katene

It is appropriate as we gather here in the spirit of Matariki, that we remember our origins; we reflect on those who have passed on before us, we honour and pay tribute to their legacy, and we gain courage to face a time of new beginnings

I kune mai i Hawaiki, ki te kune kai, ki te kune tangata.

Today we bear witness to the fruits of our collective labours.

Ko Aotearoa Tenei.

We are here, as claimants, to receive the Waitangi Tribunal’s report into Wai 262 – as it relates to flora and fauna, to cultural property and taonga, and intellectual property rights.

We, the People, have remained faithful to the ideals of our tupuna.

We have allowed ourselves to believe in the promise of a sacred pact between the Crown and Maori.

We have fought for the precious right of protection - the guarantee of te tino rangatiratanga … o rātou whenua o rātou kainga me o rātou taonga katoa.

We have taken up our responsibilities to act as tangata tiaki – to guard over and care for taonga in our environment, our waterways, species of flora and fauna.

This day is a time when our families have come together, a special day which is rich with our memories and our love for those who are no longer here to receive this report.

And so I firstly pay my respects to the claimants – those brave and valiant champions of te Ao Maori who carried our hopes and dreams with them every step of the way.

I speak to you today, as the daughter of John Hippolite of Ngati Koata; from our tribal birthplace of Rangitoto - D'Urville Island.

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I am proud to acknowledge with the most profound respect, the whanau, hapu and iwi who belong to
• Del Wihongi of Te Rarawa
• Tama Poata of Ngati Porou
• Katarainga Rimene of Ngati Kahungunu
• Te Witi McMath of Ngati Wai
• And of course our only surviving claimant, our kuia and our staunch defender of kaitiakitanga, of rangatiratanga, or matauranga Maori – Saana Murray of Ngati Kuri.

Aunty Saana, our coming together as whanau, reminds us all how precious you are to those of us who carry the legacy of the your fellow claimants. We see in your eyes what we call kanohi kitea – the faces unseen but the hearts and memories of our loved ones brought together by your presence.

Because of the inspiration and the perseverance of these claimants, our next generations can raise their sights as to what is possible.

Kaore he taonga tuauki i roto i nga mahi pūkenga Maori –
kai te mau tonu te mauri ora o nga taonga a nga tīpuna.

As tangata whenua, we believe that there is no such thing as an antique in Maori art - each piece is the living work of ancestors.

And so today’s event is a deeply moving occasion to reflect on the responsibility of cultural guardianship, or kaitiakitanga.

It is an opportunity to acknowledge all of those – from yesterday, today and tomorrow – who take up the mantle within our hapu and iwi to nurture and care for our taonga.

I want to also acknowledge the many kaumatua and kuia who appeared before the Tribunal during the passage of the last twenty years – and who have now passed on, including the distinctive contributions of Koro Dewes, Apera Clark and Hohepa Kereopa.

Over the two decades in which the WAI 262 inquiry was run, we have lost some of our finest leaders and thinkers in the area of cultural and intellectual property rights. I think of the

• first presiding officer, Judge Richard Kearney;

• the specialist kaumatua advisors Right Reverend Bishop Manuhuia Bennett and Rangitihi John Tahuparae;

• and such talented counsel as Martin Dawson, Gina Rudland, David Jenkins and Jolene Patuawa-Tuilave – all of them powerful and talented advocates, taken from us too soon.

Na, waihotia ratou ki a ratou, ki a tatou te hunga ora, tena koutou katoa.

The notion of taonga, of course, is as wide as it is deep.

The claimant group brought to the table what the Tribunal as described as taonga works – the artistic and cultural works that are central to our expression of our identity.

And as we gathered last night, we thought of the inherited gifts of our ancestors – the moteatea, the korowai, the haka, ta moko, whakairo, our whare tupuna, our stories, our waiata.

For Ngati Koata, we defined taonga as including, without being limited to, matauranga, Maori cultural images, designs, symbols and associated indigenous, cultural, and customary heritage rights.

These rights encompassed intellectual and property rights of the past, present and future in relation to taonga of Ngati Koata.

Encompassed within a Ngati Koata world view, is also the protection of whakairo, rongoa Māori, biodiversity, genetics, wahi tapu and pa sites.

Our original claim set forward a broad foundation in which to ensure that taonga included indigenous flora and fauna, our ecosystems, our habitats and genetic material within our rohe.

Today then – with the receiving of this report – is the time to both reaffirm our enduring spirit of commitment; as well as to pave a new pathway forward to write a better history.

And it would be remiss of me, not to refer to the fact, that whilst our claim – and all the claimants – articulated the significance and the nature of Maori culture, identity and knowledge – we also lamented the situation that had brought us to the Tribunal in the first place.

For Ngati Koata, we had specific cases in which we believe the Crown was in breach of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

We contested that the Crown had enacted legislation and adopted policies which:

• Failed to protect Ngāti Koata from the loss and misuse of Te Reo Maori;

• Failed to assist Ngāti Koata in promoting and actively fostering education in traditional mātauranga Maori;

• Failed to actively protect Ngāti Koata composition and performing arts; and

• Imposed restrictions upon the access to and guardianship of Te Reo Maori as an integral tool for understanding and transmitting Ngāti Koata traditional knowledge.

We have a saying, where we come from, about our taonga species, the tuatara.

I orea te tuatara, ka puta ki waho.

Which loosely translated means that when poked out, the tuatara emerges. It reminds us that a problem is solved, by continuing efforts to find a solution.

Over twenty years, the claimants, those who appeared before the Tribunal, the kaumatua and kuia who offered wise counsel, and the Tribunal itself, have probed these issues, to determine a response which protects the precious gifts, the noble ideas that have been passed on from generation to generation.

The journey was not one for the faint-hearted. We were determined that our pursuit of justice should not meet a dead end street. We could not afford to take the shortcuts or settle for less.

The challenge now is for the Crown to live up the expectations of Ko Aotearoa Tenei, to act in a way which honours the Treaty relationship.

If there is one thing I can say for certain it is that there is one party in the House that will be following their every move – and that will be the Maori Party.

We are in the unique position that both our Ministers will be intimately involved – Dr Sharples as Minister of Maori Affairs receives the report alongside of the Prime Minister; and Tariana Turia, as Associate Minister of Health, has particular responsibility for rongoa Maori.

And so I want to acknowledge her today, for the longstanding commitment she has made not only to rongoa Maori, but wider still to the concept of our health implicit in taonga katoa.

Finally, I bear in mind that the Tribunal starts their report with a simple statement of truth – that New Zealand sits poised at a crossroads both in race relations and on our long quest for a mature sense of national identity.

Our next steps are crucial in creating the partnership which truly reflects the constitutional promises made in the Treaty. Our future depends on it.

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