Turia Speech to Maori Law Students’ Association

Speech – The Maori Party

I have come to talk with you about a distinctive movement which was last year honoured at a meeting of 400 experts in Abu Dhabi, as representing ‘intangible cultural heritage’.Te Putairiki (Maori Law Students’ Association)

Canterbury University, Christchurch

Wednesday 29 September 2010; 12.00

Hon Tariana Turia, Co-leader of the Maori Party

I have come to talk with you about a distinctive movement which was last year honoured at a meeting of 400 experts in Abu Dhabi, as representing ‘intangible cultural heritage’.

At this meeting held exactly one year ago, a proposal, jointly submitted by Argentina and Uruguay, was endorsed to be recognised as worthy of inclusion on UNESCO’s list of cultural treasures. And in Christchurch tonight, if we were to venture out to Floorspace, we too, could participate in the phenomenon that has taken over the world.

The movement I am talking about, is not actually the Maori Party – but it is the art-form known as the tango. Except that the tango I talk of is the dance of consensus which represents the distinctive and independent character of Maori Party political representation in Parliament.

The passion of the tango is expressed across all stages of the continuum – from close embrace to wildly distinctive timing, speed and rhythm.

Each of the dancers can vary from moment to moment to reflect the mood of the music; each can play ‘follow’ and ‘lead’. New combinations are possible at every turn; and throughout every element of the dance we are captivated by the sense of independent spirit; of the vitality of life.

For the Maori Party, the decision to dance to our own tune, respects a tradition in Maori political life, that is long established in the history of political activism born out of the aspirations of tangata whenua.

One of the earliest models of collective political power was the Kingitanga movement of 1858; a movement which to this day continues to articulate the expectations and desires of Maori. Another was the Paremata Maori, formed in 1892 as a representative council for Maori interests; the desire for kotahitanga – the unified voice.

The Maori Representation Act of 1867 saw the establishment of four Maori electorate seats in Parliament, and some sixty years later Nga Koata e Wha was formed, born out of the Ratana faith, and determined to pursue mana Maori motuhake.

Around the closing of the 19th century, the Young Maori Party was established, ostensibly to increase Maori political participation and representation in Parliament. That it was successful in achieving this goal is without question when we recall the impact of some of that party’s members, including Sir Maui Pomare, Sir James Carroll and Sir Apirana Ngata.

But it would not be for another eighty years – with the birth of the Mana Motuhake political party, before a Maori party in its own right would emerge to seriously contest parliament. In 1960 the Independent Maori Group had formed, which paved the way for independent Maori representation.

The late Matiu Rata extended the call for independence even further and founded Mana Motuhake to protect and represent Maori interests.

As history shows, however, Mana Motuhake was unable to win any seats in its own name, and so in 1991 it was decided to form a strategic alliance with the Alliance Party.

In that same year, Eva Rickard founded Mana Maori and in the decade to follow a rush of new Maori parties came on to the scene – Te Tawharau, Mana Wahine, Te Ira Tangata, Mauri Pacific, Nga Iwi Morehu, Aroha Ngia Tatou and the Derek Fox party.

I wanted to share some of this history of Maori political participation, a history documented by Kaapua Smith, because it helps to provide a context for understanding Maori political representation in the New Zealand parliament. Throughout the dance of history, the individuals and parties I have spoken of, had varying degrees of success in promoting the call for iwi autonomy and Maori political influence.

But until a single event in 2003, it appeared the fate of Maori political representation would always be subserviant to, and conducted by the tune of mainstream parties, primarily Labour.

That single event, of course, was the decision to extinguish any customary title of the public foreshore and seabed, and to vest ownership in the Crown; in so doing, discriminating against Maori who were the only ones affected by the confiscation of such rights.

Last year, in enacting a key milestone of the Relationship and Confidence and Supply Agreement between the Maori Party and National a Ministerial Panel was established to provide an independent review of the 2004 Foreshore and Seabed Act.

In their report in June 2009, the Panel comprising Taihakurei Durie, Richard Boast and Hana O’Regan, stated that public opinion about the 2004 Act had remained remarkably consistent – it appeared to be unpopular with most New Zealanders.
I believe that history will show that the events of 2003 to be pivotal in loosening the political embrace that had formed between Labour and Maori.

The almost universal opposition of Maori to the Foreshore and Seabed Act brought with it a bitter disappointment that Maori members of parliament with allegiances to a mainstream kaupapa, were rendered redundant when it came to truly representing the Maori electorate.

For myself, I will never forget the sleepness nights of early 2004, the profound sadness amongst our people that when it came down to a matter of votes, a party they had placed their faith in for so many years was prepared to sacrifice their rights, to deny their tikanga, to take away their rights to justice at the hands of the court.

And so I followed the people; my dance leading me across the floor, to register my opposition to the Act, and to stand up and be counted. Six years on, with five members of the Maori Party now firmly located in the House of Representatives, where has our political tango lead us?

There will always be questions asked of when we vote for or against different legislation; when we form relationships with other parties; when we act in ways which challenge particular points of view.

And yet I am intrigued by the reflections of the very first Member of Parliament for Southern Maori, John Patterson, who in August 1868 said, and I quote:

“If I give my vote for the Government perhaps it will not benefit me in any way, and perhaps if I vote with the Opposition it will not do me any good. To my mind, you are perhaps all right or perhaps all wrong”.

The effectiveness and reason for particular political choices is something that Maori MPs have always been held to account for, throughout every turn of the last 140 years of Maori in Parliament.

But while Mr Patterson spoke of an individual dilemma, the prospect of specific votes not doing “me any good”; there is a clear and important distinction to be made between the situation for a Maori MP and the situation for a Maori MP in a Maori Party.

For our philosophy is implicitly connected to the we of iwi; the collective aspirations of the people; rather than the fate or fortune of individual MPs.

The fundamental dance for the Maori Party remains the same as it did when we first established ourselves in 2004 – to determine our own future, to be proud of our authority as tangata whenua, to take control of our political destiny.

It is a collective vision, driven by the aspirations of our ancestors, passed down to guide us onwards.

When Sir Apirana Ngata left parliament in 1943, he made an important statement, “I may go out but the tribe goes on”.

For us, the tribe goes on inside, as well as out. The priorities of tangata whenua must be embedded in every aspect of the political process, both within parliament and across their own tribal rohe. It is our absolute commitment to act in the best interests for our people. Whatever we do, wherever we are, the tribe goes on.

For each of us in the Maori Party, we know that we are there precisely because of the will of the people. Ours is not an individual pursuit – our mantle is to be the voice of the people, to open the door for whanau, hapu and iwi to be genuine partners at the table of the Crown.

So how does this work in practice? As a case in point, when the Emissions Trading Scheme was up for debate, we sought counsel from tangata whenua in the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors, as well as those in the cities and towns.

The package we negotiated represented the broadest spectrum of influence right across Maoridom. We were able to cushion the blow on low income families by halving petrol and power price increases, while also negotiating an additional $24 million to insulate an extra 2000 homes.

We rescued the threatened kura taiao – enviro-schools; we fought for Crown-iwi partnerships in afforestation and we achieved agreement to develop a national policy statement on biodiversity. And we have been able to secure Maori representation on a whole range of reviews and advisory groups associated with ETS.

In all respects, our activities tried to take into account the broadest possible interests of our constituency.

While the tango we pursued with ETS was very much a close and heated activity on either side, in other areas we have been clearly able to take a leading role, such as in the establishment of Whanau Ora; the passing of legislation to reduce tobacco control; or the formation of a Maori Economic Taskforce.

And in other areas, such as the Takutai Moana bill, the tango becomes an intricate series of movements which represent the dynamic energy of all the forces at play.

I want to say, that from the outset, the priority for the party was clearly focused on two key goals : to repeal the 2004 Act, and to restore the rights of access to justice.

We have achieved those goals; and we have done so, in a way, which has involved whanau, hapu and iwi right throughout the process.

That in itself, is a significant step, and one which we are proud of, in terms of honouring our commitment to our people.

But of course, the dance has only just begun for this particular bill, and we will be actively listening to the voices of the people, as they analyse the legislation, and present the parliament with their submissions over the next few months.

The closing date for submissions for the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill is Friday, 19 November 2010. The Maori Affairs Select committee also intends to travel widely to hear submissions on the bill, to locations including Invercargill, Christchurch, Blenheim, Wellington, Bay of Plenty, Hamilton, Auckland and Whangarei.

Following that, the next step will be the report-back from the Committee by at least the 25th February 2011 – and then of course the subsequent stages in the House – the second reading; Committee of the Whole House; and third reading debates.

I want to pledge our absolute assurance that we are here to serve our constituency; to come to your table with open ears and an open heart – ready to listen, prepared to act.

All members of our parliamentary caucus were closely and actively engaged at every stage of the process leading up to the Takutai Moana Bill. We had the Attorney-General front up to our caucus meetings every Tuesday; we attended the meetings that iwi leaders had with the Prime Minister and key Ministers. We went out to iwi gatherings; to hear the concerns of the people firsthand.

And what we heard were the fundamentals that the new framework must be built on:

* Mana – that iwi and hapu have inherited mana and the obligation to act as kaitiaki of their rohe moana;

* Tikanga – that mana, and the authorities and obligations that go with mana, should be defined according to tikanga; and that tikanga given effect as law;

* Tiriti – that the Treaty partnership between the Crown and iwi/hapu must be provided for in a meaningful way that provides for the respective authorities and responsibilities of each partner.

We have done our level best, as a caucus, to represent the significance of customary authority, and to give voice to the aspirations of whanau, hapu and iwi in the Takutai Moana framework. The jury is now out, of course, and the court of Maori public opinion – and wider public opinion – will deliver its verdict on how well the expression of mana, tikanga and Te Tiriti have been achieved in the Bill.

The key focus for us, however, is that we have kept our word – we have upheld our faith with the call of the people – and we now look forward to the debate that will take place.

Our political mantra has always been he tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

And with that, we remain committed to our most important investment being in the korero that is had; the kaupapa that are advanced; the tikanga that are followed.

We do not always enjoy unanimous support, but we do always maintain an environment of debate.

Our voting practice has demonstrated a preference for consensus – a practice which demands open and transparent sharing of views in order to reach understanding across the collective.

Do we get everything right? Does the drive for consensus require us to compromise? How do we maintain a strong and independent voice while also being determined to make advances, to achieve progress, no matter how incremental the steps? What difference have we made?

These are questions we ask ourselves every day. And that is exactly how we want it – to be inspired, provoked, scrutinised, and analysed to ensure that every step we take is one which is about doing the right thing for Maori – and we would hope that in doing the right thing for Maori this will also be for the greatest benefit of the nation, Aotearoa, as a whole.

Finally, I return to the first reading speech I delivered, when I voted against the Foreshore and Seabed Bill of 2004, and crossed the floor to take on a whole new political destiny. I stand by what I said then;

“What I want is the right to have effective and meaningful political representation, to ensure our voices are heard, our issues defined in the context of our own cultural frameworks”.

Ultimately it is that decision, which I have invested my political energy in – to enable us to live our lives, as tangata whenua, and to achieve all our aspirations, to let our past inform our future.

It is a tango that I am immersed in, with every breath that I take – because it is the future of my mokopuna at stake, the very heartbeat of my life.

Tena tatou katoa

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