5 Feb 2018

PM to Māori at Waitangi: hold govt to account

12:38 pm on 5 February 2018

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delivered an historic speech at Waitangi, standing on the porch of the whare rūnanga.

Ms Ardern delivered her speech during the formal welcome - a first for a female prime minister - touching on the future, her hopes for her child, and her hopes for the future of Crown-Māori relations.

She said she did not take lightly the privilege extended to her to speak from the porch, as a Prime Minister and as a woman. She said she was particularly proud to stand alongside the largest contingent of Māori MPs in the Labour party, and each and every one of them represented their people, she said.

Follow RNZ's live coverage of the day's events

"As a government we have been here for five days. We did not come simply for the beauty and hospitality of the North. We came because there is work to do, much mahi to do and we will only achieve what needs to be done together.

"So in this five days we have talked about education, health, employment, roads, housing. But now we must take the talk to action. This is the beginning for our government and I thank you."

Ms Ardern said the portfolio of Crown-Māori relations was a new role, one held by Kelvin Davis.

"We have to also start thinking as a nation of what extends beyond the negotiating table. That is not the end of our relationship nor is it the end of the Crown's responsibility.

"We created the portfolio as an acknowledgement that our relationship goes beyond the negotiating table."

Much of Ms Ardern's speech focused on her hopes for her child.

"My first time here I was probably no more than 7 years old.

"My father brought his two daughters to the treaty grounds ... he wanted us to learn the history of the place we were living and lucky enough to call home.

"I can't help think of the kinds of things I would want my child to think about as they come on to these grounds and to this place. My hope is that they know this place's history. That they know of the 28 October and the declaration of independence.

"My hope is that they would know of the history of [Waitangi] and those stories may be hard to hear but I am certain they are even harder to tell. That is our history and we must always be honest about our history."

Waitangi 2018

Waitangi 2018 Photo: RNZ/ Shannon Haunui-Thompson

Ms Ardern said she also hoped her child knew about collective values.

"I hope that they know the value of kaitiakitanga - that we have a role as guardians of our environment ... and I hope they know that we value the ability to speak frankly and openly to one another - kanohi ki te kanohi - face to face.

"We should never shy away from that because if we don't speak freely how do we change?

"If we value that about ourselves as a nation 364 days of the year, why would we not value it here at Waitangi? Speaking frankly and openly is not a sign of failure, but a sign of the health of our nation.

"I also hope that my child will know that we have the power to change and we must change.

"We as a government, we know what we have to do. We know all of the failings that we have as a nation but we won't always know exactly how to change it.

"There will be no marae too small for us.

"So when we return in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask of us 'what have we done?' Ask us what we have done to improve poverty ... ask us, hold us to account.

"Because one day I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here, and only you can tell me when I have done that."

Ms Ardern was welcomed at the pōwhiri at Waitangi, along with a Parliamentary delegation made up of MPs from Labour, National, New Zealand First and the Greens.

Her five-day visit is the longest any Prime Minister has made to Waitangi.

Speaking earlier to Morning Report, Ms Ardern said she felt like she had been given the privilege of being a part of history.

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