4 Dec 2020

Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi says there's appetite for transformation

10:07 am on 4 December 2020

Māori Party co-leader Rawiri Waititi says there is public appetite for unapologetically Māori voices and it is his party's job to provide them.

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Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

"Take the noose from around my neck so that I may sing my song. Therefore, I will adorn myself with the treasures of my ancestors and remove the colonial noose around my neck so that I may sing my song," Waititi spoke in Parliament yesterday.

Alongside fellow party leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, they delivered powerful maiden speeches, calling on the Crown to take responsibility for failing Māori.

Waititi had said he would act like pebble in a shoe - a constant annoyance - to those who were stuck in colonial ways.

"I think there's a new Aotearoa on the rise, and my job is to give them a license to be a new Aotearoa on the rise, Pākehā and Māori," he told Morning Report.

The government was responsible for many of the policies that hurt Māori, he said.

"Everybody does their best within the system, unless the system changes, we're not going to be able to make any fundamental difference to what is happening to our people.

"We must consistently bring this korero to the top of everybody's consciousness and start to move towards transformation.

"There's an appetite for transformation, not just among Māori, but also new Aotearoa coming through, which also involves Pākehā."

He said it was time to transform politics in Aotearoa.

"We need to have that courageous korero with everybody, we need to do that across every sector.

"Like I said, an education system that keeps our people down, a house system that keeps our people sick, a social welfare system that keeps our people dependent and poor, a housing system that keeps our people homeless. These are the thing we have to have courageous korero about and start changing the system.

The electoral law was another example of Māori being locked out, he said.

"If we were to engage in democracy the way we want to, we would be able to participate in the political atmosphere at full capacity. At 16 percent, we'd end up with 16 seats, but at the moment, we've got 50 percent on the Māori roll, 50 percent on the general roll and we're locked at seven seats."

He acknowledged that were people on all sides who did not want to engage in that korero because they were happy with the status quo.

"What we're doing is making our people comfortable with being uncomfortable, if I can put it like that," Waititi said.

"My job and Debbie's job is to ensure we're doing it in a place where I think protocols would say we shouldn't ... [protocols] that protect the very system that has denigrated our culture."

In Debbie's speech, she talked about the portraits hanging in the walls of Parliament of people who had "sought our extermination and created legislation to achieve it".

"It's heartbreaking, wasn't just for Debbie and I," Waititi said. "But we had hundreds of our people turn up yesterday. They saw those photos hanging there, being immortalised, idolised as New Zealand's greatest politicians, leaders.

"It's hard to walk through those walls but they are a constant reminder to her and I about our obligation and dedication to our people."

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