5 Feb 2019

Pōwhiri as Jacinda Ardern speaks from Waitangi

12:32 pm on 5 February 2019

The Prime Minister has made her address to iwi from the porch of Te Whare Rūnanga, saying she will keep working to bridge the gap between Māori and those who came after.

Last year Ms Ardern used her speech from the porch of Te Whare Rūnanga, an honour women aren't usually allowed, to declare the government had failed Māori in the justice system and would do better.

Speaking from the mahau of the whare rūnanga at Waitangi, Ms Ardern said this was the first Waitangi she could remember without Kingi [Ngāpuhi elder Kingi Taurua].

She said she remembers her first Waitangi where she shared a warm embrace with him - just two days before he led a protest against the government about mental health and wellbeing.

She said Kingi's voice was now heard.

Ms Ardern acknowledged it had been a year since she made big promises.

"And yet the distance between us is still to high, we have more to do."

She made promises to reduce Māori incarceration rates, and this year defended her government's record on that upon arriving at Waitangi.

"I stood before you and said that we wanted the prison numbers to go down, and they have. There are fewer Māori in prison now than when we came into government," she said.

She said she was speaking not out of politics but out of an bipartisan aspiration to address inequality.

"Here I am to be held to account on behalf of the government" she said.

She spoke about the government's Families Package, saying 150,000 Māori families now have access to a winter energy payment and 50,000 Māori families saw their Working for Families go up. She said they have also lifted the minimum wage.

"But we know that even if you're in work now it still doesn't guarantee you will able to put food on the table. That inequallity still exists, that poverty is still too high," she said.

Ms Ardern said there was more to do on child poverty, which they are finally measuring. She said they would take action to make sure they were meeting expectations.

"We didn't just do that as a government, we did that as a Parliament. Every single Parliamentarian - bar one which we don't talk about - supported that Child Poverty Reduction Bill. And I acknowledge all the parties for that."

She said housing costs were still a drain on families, and while the government is doing a lot, there was still much more to do there too.

"I didn't learn that looking at numbers on a page, I learned that visiting the City Mission," she said.

Ms Ardern finished her speech saying the gap between Māori and those who came after could be bridged, and she would keep working towards that.

"Equality is our foundation, but it is not our bridge."

"We will keep building the foundation to bring our two houses together."

MPs speak ahead of PM

Politicians were welcomed on to Te Whare Rūnanga, with Ms Ardern taking her seat next to Titewhai Harawera on the whakamahau - or porch.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson was seated to Ms Ardern's left. Former prime minister Jenny Shipley sat behind her on the porch too.

Simon Bridges, speaking to Ngāpuhi, acknowledged the prime minister and her whānau, saying baby Neve "is the best behaved bubba" he's seen.

Bridges said he agrees with the government's statement that this year must be a year of delivery, he said Māori will hold them to account on that.

He told Ngāpuhi that they know best their wants and not to be told what to do like children with over-bearing parents.

National is not here to tell people how to live their lives, he said, adding that he believes in Māori independence and "getting up on your own two feet and standing tall".

Mr Bridges said it was his first time speaking as leader of the National Party at Waitangi and it was an honour, thanking Ngāpuhi for the opportunity.

Political leaders arrive at Te Whare Rūnanga.

Political leaders arrive at Te Whare Rūnanga. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Winston Peters payed tribute to Ngāpuhi as hosts at Waitangi.

He said politicians are famous for being "fast on the lip and very slow when it comes to the hip". He said he was committed delivering them the money, and Māoridom and culture needs a renaissance, and that Māori must be the ones to do it.

Green Party leader James Shaw told Ngāpuhi everyone has a role to play in restoring Papatūānuku.

He said he appreciated coming to Waitangi where they could stand without partisanship and honour the country's national day.

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Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Protester disrupts proceedings

A lone protestor disrupted the pōwhiri for the Prime Minister and her ope of government ministers and MPs.

The woman began yelling after the haka party had cleared the marae atea and while the MPs were taking their seats.

She was escorted from the area by people from the Waitangi National Trust who are responsible for Te Whare Rūnanga, the marae that is hosting today's commemorations.