4 Feb 2020

Politicians address iwi, hapū and whānau at the treaty grounds at Waitangi

5:43 pm on 4 February 2020

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told iwi, hapū and whānau at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi that there are signs of change, but there is more mahi to do.

Watch the speeches here:

There has been a direct challenge to the government to improve outcomes for Māori.

Jacinda Ardern and her Labour Party colleagues, along with New Zealand First, the Greens and the National Party were welcomed in a pōwhiri this morning, where each party had an opportunity to lay out what they've achieved.

During Ardern's first trip to Waitangi as Prime Minister in 2018 she asked Māori to hold her to account.

Last year she promised to deliver for Māori, and this year her message is that the government is making good progress, but that's not the end of the road.

In her speech today, Ardern reiterated her pledge to be held to account, "not because we lack scrutiny ... but because we should never be afraid of it.

"Waitangi is the place where we acknowledge our past but it must also be the place where we challenge our present, but where we will be collectively hopeful about our future."

While acknowledging challenges, she said there were signs of change and manifestations of fulfilling the obligations to the Treaty.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Waitangi.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Waitangi. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

In highlighting figures from the government's efforts, like Māori unemployment, apprenticeships, te reo Māori in schools, getting whānau in public housing, Ardern ended each with: "But there is more mahi to do."

"But by our deeds you will know us. While all of that may change lives it doesn't fundamentally change who we are as Aotearoa New Zealand."

She added that it was not just about being held to account on what changed, but how that change occurred too. Ardern recalled the time when she was newly a prime minister and first heard the discussions around the Pākehā and Māori worlds at a Rotorua marae.

"Every time we learn from one another, every time we have an exchange of culture, a shared understanding of history, then we see the cross over on the bridge between the two worlds, but as was said at the marae that day in Rotorua... who has to cross the bridge more?

"Our Māori MPs and our Māori ministers cross that bridge every day, but so must all of us."

Part of the efforts in crossing that bridge was Andrew Little's kōrero, which was deliver in te reo Māori, she said.

"Because so often we have asked you to cross over into the Pākehā world.

"It's an example of how we wish to bring our worlds closer together, to build knowledge and understanding, to strengthen the relationship and there are many ways we can do that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holding hands with Titewhai Harawira as they are welcomed on to the Waitangi Treaty grounds.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern holding hands with Titewhai Harawira as they are welcomed on to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. Photo: RNZ / Eden Fusituá

Ardern also mentioned efforts to lift representation of Māori at the seats "where decisions are made", like the 20 percent appointment of Māori in DHB seats.

"We must continue the dialogue on the issues that are the hardest, and I list in that Oranga Tamariki. We must continue to work together, but doing things differently includes how we acknowledge our history."

She moved on to talk about the commitments to teaching New Zealand history in schools, and also spoke of the recent announcement to invest in building on knowledge of waka traditions.

"It is a right, not a privilege, that every child knows their history and their whakapapa, and it is an obligation and responsibility for every generation in a position of power to work to bring our houses together, not just in programmes and not just in policies but in relationships, to cross Te Arawhiti, and to cross Te Arawhiti no matter how many times we stumble."

In her opening mihi, she paid tribute to several people including Sir Hek Busby, Pita Paraone, Mike Moore, and revered kaumātua Piri Sciascia.

She said the mihi was written by Sciascia for her last year: "It was one small way that I could acknowledge the role that he played for me as a kaumātua, an adviser, and as a friend, I will miss his kōrero."

On Sir Hek, she said it was a privilege to be able to sit beside him when he was celebrated for his knowledge and inspiration.

"As we sat next to each other, he remarked on how proud he was of the haka that was performed that day. And I know he would've felt the same today. "

Party leaders deliver speeches at treaty grounds

The first speaker at the pōwhiri, Isaiah Apiata, called for free dentist services for Māori.

He also talked about the over imprisonment of Māori and made a reference to the blankets that were given during to colonisation, that Māori are now left with the itchy blankets in prison.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the party was proud of its record of Treaty settlements under its former ministers.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the party was proud of its record of Treaty settlements under its former ministers.

National Party leader Simon Bridges said the party was proud of its record of Treaty settlements under its former ministers. Photo: RNZ/Simon Rogers

He said Ardern had promised it would be a year of delivery for Māori last year at the Waitangi grounds, and that she told people to hold her to account for it.

He reminded listeners at Waitangi today of her promises to reduce inequality between Māori and Pākehā: "Sadly, the government has failed to deliver on these promises."

In contrast, he said his party would deliver on its word if elected and they had a record of finding solutions for Māori, with Māori.

Bridges' speech also focused on the recent transport announcements, which he labelled as "good", but emphasised the importance on economic transformation for the North by linking it via highway.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw started his speech by acknowledging the leaders of Ngāpuhi, including the late Sir Hekenukumai Busby and Pita Paraone, and "their work that continues with us and into future".

He said it was one of his greatest privileges to be able to come to a place that is sacred to the nation and reflect on ourselves, "who we are, and where we are going".

Speaking after Bridges, Shaw said he didn't want to debase the event with politics but acknowledged the expectations that this was a chance to reflect on how Te Tiriti o Waitangi was being honoured.

"We have plenty of time for that this year, oodles of time, starting next week. But I think that you have an expectation ... that we here will take this opportunity to reflect on how we are honouring te tiriti o Waitangi."

He said the Greens had taken every opportunity to honour the Treaty, and not just in words: "When it looked like things might veer towards violence, we called for a peaceful solution."

Shaw also pinpointed the party's advocacy for te reo Māori to be taught in schools and was delighted with announcements on that, although it would like to go even "further and faster".

Afterwards, Shaw described Bridges' speech as disappointing.

"The whole point of what we are trying to do here at Waitangi is to lift ourselves out of the day-to-day politics of it all, I'm not sure we quite made it this year," he said.

He said he would rather reflect on nationhood, this country's history and its future.

Winston Peters at Waitangi.

Winston Peters at Waitangi. Photo: RNZ/Eden More

New Zealand First MP Shane Jones roused the crowd with some colourful anecdotes.

"I see a larrikin way out on the limb of that tree, that was what was said to me in 1985 when we were here protesting - don't go too far out on the limb of a tree. Not too much has changed in terms of what happens.

"I have been given instructions to make a short speech but I now feel the need to call upon (NZ First leader) Winston Peters given the high level of politicisation of this event ... I feel the need for you to put straight the record of the four-lane highway."

Peters himself began with a quip.

"Kia ora, tēnā koutou katoa. They say brevity is the soul of wit, wit being intelligence.

"After what I've heard and the politicisation of this event, I am seriously concerned as to where the next eight months are gonna go. If we can come to this famous place after how many years and trample all over the recognitiion of its significance and what it means then the past and the future for politics then we're in trouble.

"What am I doing? I'm making sure you don't get away with it."

He also mentioned the four-lane highway between Puhoe and Warkworth.

"The four-lane highway was taking 12 years. On that basis, on the plan that you were being told about a little while ago - can't say by who - it was gonna take 68 years to reach Whangarei. You fancy your chances you're gonna see it? The difference is that the group that I am a member of at this point in time is slow on the lip and fast on the hip."

Bridges said criticism of politicking was a cynical game from Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens.

"It's why they put me up, so they can then do what they've done. Every speech contained politics and they have every Waitangi I've been to and that has happened every year.

"What we've got here is a Labour, Greens, New Zealand First government that doesn't want to answer the hard questions."

Bridges said today's kōrero raised some very serious questions about property rights and Māori sovereignty.

Protesters arrive

A group of about 40 protesters arrived chanting ka whawhai tonu mātou - we will continue to fight.

The annual protest, which left from Te Rerenga Wairua over the weekend, was being led by Reuben Taipari.

Following him were many rangatahi and supporters of the occupation at Ihumātao, who are waving tino rangatiratanga flags.

Jermaine Gage said he was there to demand that the government return Māori land, including the disputed site at Ihumātao.

"Give it back for a start, that's it. Simple message, give it back. Today is about unity, joining all our people together."

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