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The Cross Party Reference Group & the Constitutional Review

The importance of the Cross Party Reference Group in relation to the Constitutional Review

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki

EmpowerNZ : Drafting a Constitution for the 21st Century

Thursday 28 August 2012; 6pm

Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight on the importance of the Cross Party Reference Group in relation to the Constitutional Review.

Can I acknowledge the CEO of the McGuiness Institute Wendy McGuiness for bringing us all together.

Thank you to MP Paul Goldsmith for hosting us here in Parliament and thank you to the historical and constitutional experts who have been guiding and facilitating the work taking place during this workshop. Can I also acknowledge Professor John Burrows and Sir Tipene O’ Regan as Co-chairs of the Constitutional Advisory Panel and other panel members.

Most importantly, I would like to mihi to you young people who have gathered here from all over the country to work together on this kaupapa. It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be with you.

You are our future leaders and your education on matters such as Te Tiriti o Waitangi and indeed your contribution to the Constitutional Review, cannot go under stated. Congratulations on applying and being successful in joining this discussion.

So, to do justice to the topic of why the Cross Party Reference Group is important, I believe there is a need to traverse the very central question that gives rise to the Review: what is the future of the Constitution and why is it so important?

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I have been reflecting on that very issue lately, and as you can appreciate, the issue is up close and personal when I think of the events of the last few weeks to do with water!

However, it is not an issue that has only recently surfaced; it is one that has always been a part of my thinking.

The notion of a constitution for Aotearoa in my view is inextricably linked to Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a founding document of our land and therefore it is the defining point of our emerging sense of nationhood.

It probably explains why I am here in Parliament. It explains who am I, and what I believe.

In my maiden speech to Parliament on November 24th 2005, I concluded by saying:

“Maori now have a Party that can raise these issues without fear of compromising their party loyalty. There are many issues that have not been raised before. I hope to have the opportunity to raise them.

I would do so not to put Maori ahead of anyone else, but simply to ensure that the issues of justice and fair play are exposed and debated, freely and openly by us all.

I believe it is only in that way that we will develop that true understanding of our respective traditions and values that will enable us to move forward as a united people, sharing common goals.”

I also said:

At times I have looked on in despair at what our people have had to endure over the years and wondered what is the point of even having Maori Members of Parliament.

If the great Sir Apirana Ngata couldn’t have our Treaty rights recognised, if Tahupotiki Ratana couldn’t, what chance will a Maori Boy from Awahou have? Is there any chance of changing how our people are treated through the parliamentary process?

Do people know what it is like to face the people of Parihaka and talk about the 1880 Maori Prisoners Act where over two hundred Taranaki people were placed in prison without trial. Or the 1881 West Coast Settlements Act that made legal the arrest of any Taranaki Maori without a warrant, with a further penalty of two years hard labour if they hindered the surveying of land. I wonder if the people of Otepoti – Dunedin realise that their harbour was built by people imprisoned without charge?

The people of Parihaka still talk about the soldiers coming into the village while the children played on the road and the women took food to the soldiers as a gesture of manaakitanga. They also talk about their people being taken away and the village burned to the ground. They remember those events through sayings like: E tu tamawhine i te wa o te kore. A reference to encourage women to stand and speak because all of the men had been taken away to prison.

I said in that maiden speech, and I maintain now:

I believe, if we were to educate our people and indeed the whole country about our history and the rights inherent in the Tiriti o Waitangi, about why things are as they are, then perhaps we can start making positive changes for the whole country.

So there you go. The constitution is important and I can’t agree more with Judge Eddie Taihakurei Durie, who said: “honoring the Treaty was, however, not just a Bill of rights for tangata whenua it was also a Bill of rights for those who belonged to the land by right of that treaty. Yet despite the policy and legislative changes that have taken place to better recognise the Treaty, shortfalls remain which adversely affect the lives of whānau, hapū and iwi; and which compromises our potential as a nation”.

Inextricably linked to my own views, I cannot speak tonight about the importance of the Cross-Party Reference Group in relation to the Constitutional Review, without a reference to why the Māori Party instigated the Review in the first instance.

Of course you will all remember that the political context at the time was the Repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

In a way, the depth of feeling toward all matters relating to Te Tiriti o Waitangi was and still remains the very essence of the Māori Party.

In the next few weeks for example, my colleague, Hon Dr Pita Sharples, will lead off the first reading of the Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill.

The Bill will give effect to an agreement he signed on behalf of the Crown, with Te whanau a Mokomoko on 28 September 2011 at Waiaua Marae in Opotiki.

The Bill will provide statutory recognition of the 1992 free pardon for the tupuna Mokomoko in relation to the murder of the missionary Carl Sylvius Volkner in 1865.

The signing of the agreement and introduction of legislation are significant milestones towards restoring the character, mana and reputation of Mokomoko and his descendants. It is also a step towards restoring the relationship between the Crown and Te whanau a Mokomoko.

So I say, just as Mokomoko of Te Whakatohea did when he made a statement before being hanged for a crime he did not commit, for which he has since been pardoned

"Tangohia te taura i taku kaki, kia waiata au i taku waiata". "Take the rope from my throat so I may sing my song".

This, I believe was a reference to his desire to let the world know the truth about his conviction and I feel like that tonight as I describe our depth of conviction in the Māori Party to agree the Review in our Relationship Accord with National.

Here we are, the Maori Party freely able to sing our song without concern for being told to "get in behind" or be quiet. We are here unashamed of our role.

Defend Maori rights and advance the aspirations of our people for the betterment of the whole country. We are here for our people. We are here for the nation.

Our party asked for the Review because of the strong need for nationhood building and the creation of a society that is more inclusive. The Treaty, as New Zealand’s founding document belongs to all of us and “must be the backbone for constitutional change”. “We want open and informed debate for constitutional change.

The Maori Party’s priority to review the constitution came from decades of concern about the Treaty and its position in the constitution and treatment by successive governments.

And just to be clear, whilst the Māori Party view is important, it is the view of those that we represent that is most important. Besides the panel lead by Sir Tipene O’Regan and Professor Burrows, the National Iwi Chairs Forum installed Professor Margaret Mutu as chair of the Iwi Leaders’ Group established to advise the Forum on constitutional transformation with Moana Jackson as the convenor and facilitator of their working party.

The Forum indicated to the Māori Party during Waitangi weekend 2010 that iwi and hapū groups throughout the country had been asked to nominate people with expertise in ngā tikanga o te ao Māori and in constitutional matters to contribute to the working party whose terms of reference were to:

1. work on developing a model for a constitution for New Zealand based on tikanga and fundamental values, He Whakaputanga o te Rangatiratanga o Niu Tireni and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and other relevant work;

2. give consideration to the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the international context;

3. ensure that whānau and hapū were fully informed and participated fully in the development of the model; and

4. to then discuss the resultant model with the Government once Māori were satisfied with it.

We hope that their considerations will be added to the substantive debate.

And so now I turn to the reason why the Cross Party Reference Group is so important in the broader context of the Review.

The role of the group is important because it takes no rocket scientist to work out that any constitutional changes would require a broad base of support, either through cross-party support or through a referendum.

In announcing the Review and its Terms of Reference, both Honourable Bill English and Hon Dr Pita Sharples talked about a programme that would include the appointment of one or more advisory panels to provide expert and community perspectives on matters of substance and process.

They also spoke about how the Review team could also receive and consider research and recommendations from officials, experts and the public on New Zealand’s current constitutional arrangements, and possible areas for reform - in consultation with a cross-party reference group of MPs.

The Ministers have appointed the independent Constitutional Advisory Panel to:

• stimulate public interest in, and awareness of, New Zealand's constitutional arrangements and issues arising.

• establish a forum to develop and share a range of ideas on constitutional issues, including seeking the views of all New Zealanders, including Maori, in a manner that is reflective of the Treaty of Waitangi relationship.

• And finally to develop an understanding of the range of perspectives on New Zealand's constitutional arrangements, including the range of topical issues requiring further discussion, debate and policy consideration.

The Panel will report by the end of 2013 to the responsible Ministers, who will then report to Cabinet.

The twelve members of the Panel are required to provide regular updates to a Cross-party Reference Group of Members of Parliament. The members of the group are:

Simon Bridges National
Peter Dunne United Future
Te Ururoa Flavell Māori Party
Kennedy Graham Green Party
Hone Harawira Mana Party
David Parker Labour

Tomorrow you will be indulged with a veritable feast of kōrero on the topic of whether the description of the constitution, as set out in the Cabinet Manual 2008, is an adequate compass for the 21st century.

You will be fortunate to have myself who will Chair the Panel, Paul Goldsmith, National MP, Charles Chauvel, Labour MP and Metiria Tūrei, Co-Leader of the Green Party.

I look forward to chairing that Panel, and indeed I look forward to the outcome of your respective contributions.

Kia ora tātou


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