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VALEDICTORY SPEECH - Hon Tariana Turia - 24 Hongongoi 2014

E rere kau mai te awa nui mai i te kāhui maunga ki Tangaroa.

Ko au te awa ko te awa ko au.

There is nowhere I feel more at peace than in the still tranquillity of the Whanganui River, te awa tupua. Our lifeblood, our tribal heartbeat, the sacred umbilical cord that unites us from the mountain to the sea.

Every year, our iwi come together to connect as one, through a journey we call Te Tira Hoe Waka.

In many ways the last eighteen years in this place have been like that same journey we take, a journey of hope, hope for a better future for our mokopuna.

Our hīkoi always starts in the spirit of those who watch over us.

Today I remember those who paved the way before me to restore our right to see Te Tiriti o Waitangi as the first relationship agreement between tāngata whenua and with the Government representing the Crown.

I am proud to have upheld Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the kaupapa and tikanga of our people in all I have done in this environment.

My tupuna have walked before me, beside me and my mokopuna will carry those philosophies on as we build nationhood in this country we all so love.

I am genealogically linked to Ngā Wairiki/Ngāti Apa, Te Awa Tupua o Whanganui, to Ngā Rauru-ki-tahi, and Ngāti Tūwharetoa. It is to these people that I will return when I leave here at the end of my Parliamentary term. Those who have growled me, reminded me of my place and yet have loved me despite.

I was raised by my grandmother Hokiwaewae, my aunt Mihiterina and Tariuha Manawaroa Te Aweawe. My precious dad who was my dad though not my father. When I was eight I became a whāngai to my wonderful aunts at Putiki.

My Aunty Wai and Aunty Paeroa had huge expectations of me. I was brought up to believe that doing what was right was more important than doing what was popular. They instilled discipline and strong whānau values within me. To love unconditionally. To be the best at whatever I did.

When I came into Parliament with Labour in 1996, I followed in the footsteps of whānau. Tokouru Ratana, Matiu Ratana and Iriaka Ratana. They came here to honour the kawenata their Papa had with Michael Joseph Savage of the Labour Party.

Today I ask as an uri of their iwi what happened to that kawenata. When will the morehu and the iwi of our country see the outcomes that Tahu Potiki Wiremu Ratana sought for us all yet have never been honoured?

There are others who have watched over me that I will forever cherish the memories I carry with me. My cousin the late Sir Archie Taiaroa supported me all the way through my political career and I would call him for his wise counsel.

Archie stood with me when I resigned from the Labour Government – I will never forget that. When I was thinking of leaving, he talked to me about the experience of Matiu Rata, whom he had encouraged to leave, not realising at the time, that our people would forget his sacrifice and not vote for him.

Archie worried that the same thing would happen for me, that our people would forget. I was able to reassure him that I would always be political, whether I was in here or outside, and in the end I had to live with myself. There is no greater challenge than to be true to one’s own self.

I think about my cousin Rangitihi Tahuparae – the most distinguished and eloquent orator in either language. He taught me to love all that we are, to walk with pride in the knowledge of our whakapapa.

The late Dr Irihapeti Ramsden was another one who when I found myself in trouble, would always appear in the Public Gallery – so beautiful, so gracious, so principled.

And my beloved friend in arms, Parekura. I miss him so much. Whenever I think of Parekura, I think of my baby, Piata, who would have given anything to be Ngāti Porou so that Parekura could be her real Papa.

I have carried those people who shaped me into the person I became and I will love them and my extended whānau forever.

Because of them, our tira has a strong foundation.

Today is my chance to acknowledge all those who help to keep our waka afloat, to ensure our Tira moves forward.

And so I stand to honour so many amazing people in this complex, who give so much, and so freely. The security team, the VIP drivers, the messengers, the library staff, the travel team – all of these people constantly went out of their way to make my life easier.

The cleaners who restore order in our office, the Bellamy team, the Clerk of the House, our interpreters, the conscientious team in the Cabinet office, Parliamentary and Ministerial Services- your sacrifices were many, your dedication appreciated.
On the many sides of this whare are those whom I have served alongside of whether at the Cabinet table, at select committee, being held to account at Question-Time or in political panels, all of you who work so hard, for what you believe in.

I would not have come to Parliament if it was not for the endorsement of the Rt Honourable Helen Clark and the Honourable Maryann Street. I will not forget that it was your trust in me and your advocacy that got me here.

There were other people in Labour whom I valued working with and whom I learnt so much from. I think of Tim Barnett, Annette King, and Darren Hughes. I always saw Darren as a future Prime Minister, he was a wonderful young man.

I mihi to my colleagues who were the foundation members of the Māori Party. You have shaped a new horizon for this country; you have imbued this chamber with the beauty and force of te reo Māori; you have established cultural competency as a norm; you have ensured nobody gets left behind. We are stronger because of your influence; bolder because of your integrity.

Dr Pita Sharples, always Mr Nice Guy, never one to look for problems, always positively focussed,

Te Ururoa, the steady hand on the rudder, steering us on the right course. The Manager of everything, the ideal Member of Parliament who understands process so well.

Hone Harawira, my great friend who has also been my great foe. How do you really love the essence of someone and yet be so frustrated by them at the same time?

Rāhui Katene, the hardest working paddler in the waka. Always willing, always there.

I have an all encompassing love for our founding President, Matua Whatarangi Winiata and I thank Pem Bird and Naida Glavish, two incredible leaders, for the vital role they have played in our first ten years.

I am indebted to the people of Te Tai Hauāuru for your generosity and support to both me and my whānau. You have worked tirelessly. I mihi to you all because you believed in the kaupapa of our tupuna and saw the vision of the Māori Party.

There are so many others who have helped along the way of our journey.

I mihi to Rob Cooper and Sister Makareta Tawaroa who politicised me, to Professor Sir Mason Durie for your exceptional leadership, to Nancy, Doug, Merepeka, Suzanne, and the various departmental heads who have comprised the Governance Group which set Whānau Ora on the right path.

I have valued the enormous support that I have received as a Minister from the officials of various agencies, who have provided me with support and advice. I have not been an easy Minister for you to serve. I can acknowledge that as I am sure officials and others across this house will say also.

How can I ever put into words, the love I have for our Parliamentary staff who have been exceptional. Working always beyond the call of duty. I have expected you all to put the people we serve before your agencies and your career. That was a huge sacrifice.

And of course my whānau. A wall plaque was given to me by Pati Umaga which read: As whānau we may not have it all together, but together we have it all. I believe this implicitly.

Mr Speaker, every journey up our river inevitably faces the churning waters of the rapids, the turmoil and chaos of the riporipo we may find ourselves swirling within.

In this place, I have felt, profoundly, the pain of the entrenched inequities too many Māori and Pasifika families face in terms of the lack of equitable access to health, education, housing, employment and economic opportunity.

I have been devastated by the institutional racism that continues to limit our potential. We should never be silent on the things that matter, the barriers that block our ability to be the best that we can be. We should never be afraid to talk about anything that we know to be true and that we know to be right. It is only when we let fear take over, and when we don’t speak up that we let people down.

I recall being nervous when I accepted the role of Minister for Disability Issues. I felt I was so inadequate to fulfil this position. I realised very quickly that my job was to listen carefully to the many voices and to translate that into actions with support from the excellent officials and people in the sector.

The disability sector has had an enormous influence on me. Their brave audacity to tell their own tale – nothing about us without us. They asked me to have the confidence and trust to believe that we can do whatever it takes. To believe in our abilities not our disabilities. The words continue to reverberate in my heart and mind.

I will always be indebted to the disability communities for your ability to lead with so much dignity and inspiration.

I have always challenged officials that we must not be fixated by a focus on deficits - looking at everything that is wrong. It is so much better to look for the potential of people to change. It is in our attitudes, our ability to think differently, that the key to transformation lies in our own answers.

In this regard, I mihi to those peoples of the Pacific who let me share their journey, Ngā Vaka o Kaiga Tapu - one of the most revolutionary frameworks I have ever known. I thank the people of Te Moana-nui-a-kiwa who have been so generous in sharing their vision with me – people like Peseta Betty Sio, Tino Pereira, Judge Ida Malosi, and Yvonne Chrichton-Hill.

I acknowledge too the leadership of the Policy Advisory Group and Māori Reference Group for your proactive work in family violence; I mihi to Judge Peter Boshier, Judge Von Dadelszen.

If ever it is possible to form a really strong relationship with a community, it must be the one that has been established with the Chathams. Their resilience, their absolute belief in themselves, probably to the detriment of their own growth as they were overlooked by funders, has been extremely inspiring. I want to thank them for their generous gift of manaakitanga.

Even the steadiest waka can be overturned, and it was that way for me, in the early months of 2004 as we reeled to the decisions made in haste around the foreshore and seabed.

In moments of despair I have always gone to the river. To reclaim a sense of being, the blessing of the water that heals.

And in that quiet space, I know the answers always lie within us. And so it was for our whānau, hapū and iwi as we considered how we would respond to the denial of due process and access to justice; the belittling of our status as tāngata whenua which will be forever recorded as a modern day Treaty breach.

The advent of the Foreshore and Seabed legislation created the tensions that led to me leaving Labour and in the same breath gave birth to our indigenous political movement, the Māori Party.

I am not sorry that I left.

I have the utmost respect for Georgina Beyer who sacrificed her political aspirations to stand alongside of me at Ratana.

Ten years on, those days are still vividly written in my mind as a milestone moment in the story of our nation. Through the anguish and the pain, as the people came together in solidarity, we knew we were part of an incredible juncture in our history as we witnessed a powerful uprising of the spirit.

It was the most evocative moment of my life – to feel the will of the people, the calling of our tupuna, to reclaim the essence of who we are, to stand up for what we knew was right.

It was self-determination in action.

As I think of that sea of flags and placards that filled the foregrounds of Parliament, I am reminded of the image that we see at home, every summer, when our collective fleet of waka glide into Putiki - an amazing expression of pride, of strength, of power, of peace.

The Tira Hoe Waka is a journey of rediscovery in which we literally fall in love with ourselves. Put simply that is the dream of Whānau Ora. To know ourselves, our strengths, our challenges and plot our futures.

We cannot talk rangatiratanga and not be self-determining.

We know the call from Puao te Atatu, Mātua Whāngai, kōhanga reo, kura kaupapa Māori, kura-a-iwi, whare wānanga, local level solutions, direct resourcing, He Korowai Oranga, Māori and Pasifika health and social services - all models where the people have put forward a framework for tomorrow. We stand on the shoulders of the past to look forward to a greater future.

And I do just want to mihi to Hekia Parata – tēnā koe e te Minita. I have absolutely loved her passionate belief that all of our children must succeed in education – second best is not part of her vocabulary – only excellence will do when we are preparing the leaders of this nation.

One of the most exhilarating experiences of my life was to travel throughout the country, meeting with Māori and Pasefika communities, about a whānau way forward. Often the halls were crowded past full capacity – 600 people crammed together, standing room only. It was a buzz I will always remember.

Whānau Ora resonated with them because they understood completely that collective responsibility and obligation needed to be restored to those who had been affected by the many losses they had suffered.

They did not ask what government could do for them. They asked instead that we trust them to develop their own solutions to take them forward and to have trust that they knew better than anyone in the huge bureaucracies in Wellington.

This hīkoi we have been on then, is a hīkoi for all time.

What we have represented with the growth of the Māori Party is the possibility of a strong and independent Māori voice forever able to sit in Government. We were never content to sit on the sidelines, to watch from afar as the lives of our people waited in queue for the time to be right.

We have never been about the rhetoric of the right or left – and I am so grateful for those members of the press gallery who have got that – who have asked searching questions and been prepared to reflect our philosophies rather than regurgitating their own.

We are driven by kaupapa, on what unites us rather than what divides us. Being in the Māori Party has been the greatest opportunity to sing our songs, to tell our stories. We have had the freedom to focus on what is right for tāngata whenua and to know that it would also be right for our brothers and sisters from Te Moananui a Kiwa and indeed many others.

It is the first time in our history and of the world that an indigenous political party has been truly part of government in a coalition arrangement. It has been exciting, liberating, invigorating, inspiring, and occasionally challenging as well.

We have had a very respectful, honest and upfront relationship with John Key and Bill English – a relationship that has allowed both of us to be direct, acknowledging our different constituencies and agreeing to disagree.

It is been a relationship based on mutual co-operation. We are pleased with what we have achieved, we are also proud of what we managed to change or stop.

I have been driven by a passion, determination, desire and as Bill English would say a stubborn resolve to make a difference. I always wanted us to be in a relationship where what we say matters. To be able to make a difference, not just a noise. To be part of the solution, not limited to picking the problems apart.

While we were unable to achieve all the aspirations of our people, I know we have made a difference in the lives of whānau whatever their circumstances, and in that respect I leave with a feeling of peace that we have always tried to do our best, to do whatever it takes to fly.

I cannot leave this House without recognising my friend Chris Finlayson. Chris is the greatest Treaty Settlement Minister we have ever had. To think that the settlement of our river claim is just around the corner fills me with the most profound emotion I could ever imagine, tēnā koe Chris, ngā mihi aroha ki a koe.

I have tried to live up to the legacy of so many of our iwi leaders who have sacrificed their lives, to let the stories of our whānau, hapū and iwi resound not just in books of history, but in the throbbing heartbeat of a nation that knows.

I come then, to a turning point in my journey, as I prepare to steer our waka homewards.

I say to you all, to be led by the people you serve has been the greatest opportunity I could have ever hoped for. I have been humbled by the trust that has been placed in me.

There are so many people who have helped me through my lifetime – too many to name individually but I want you to know I can be forever thankful for the influence you have had on my thinking. Your lessons will continue to inspire me, your advice and your challenges will no doubt continue to occupy my mind.

Now it is time to return home, to give back to those who placed their trust in me, to rest a while with my darling George, my beautiful children, and my 52 mokopuna.

And then on Saturday, I will start thinking about my next project for transformation.

To everyone who gave me the strength and the support to promote possibility and belief for every whānau to grow, I thank you. Your vision, our vision, will be evident in the nation we create tomorrow.

E te iwi, kia piri kia tata, whakamaua kia tīna. Tīna! Hui ē! Tāiki ē!
Nā reira tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.


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