The traditional critique of the areas in which the government has failed to delivered at Waitangi has been somewhat subdued than in past years, as the prime minister has delivered her fourth speech from the mahau (porch).
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Jacinda Ardern and other political leaders were welcomed on to Te Whare Rūnanga on the Upper Treaty Grounds at Waitangi this afternoon.
All of the political parties were represented on the treaty grounds, except the Māori Party which decided not to come because of Covid-19 concerns.
Acknowledging the entrenched challenges still facing Māori, Ardern said Labour had made some progress - citing Ihumātao and Oranga Tamariki.
However, she noted what the party had achieved was not enough.
"We have not yet settled with Ngāpuhi and there are decade-old challenges around unemployment, around housing, around Corrections, around inequality," she said.
"We worked hard on these in the last three years and in Oranga Tamariki, for instance, I genuinely believe that we can make the change that you are seeking and are asking for, but we know new challenges will always come, they will always form, they will always loom."
Ardern said those challenges could not be stopped from coming, but the country could change as to how those were taken on.
She also confirmed the date of the first Matariki public holiday as 24 June 2022.
The Matariki Advisory Group will advise on future dates, as the exact timing of Matariki shifts each year.
Ardern said it had been many decades since New Zealand brought within its calendar a holiday that acknowledged who it was as a nation - Waitangi being the last.
"This is not just about a public holiday, it is a teaching moment, a chance to learn about something that is uniquely Māori, a chance to learn our navigational history," she said.
Speaking later to media, Ardern reiterated her acknolwedgement that there remained significant social inequalities faced by Māori, but challenged the view her government had achieved little so far in addressing these.
She said it was unrealistic to say there would never be a time where there was nothing to resolve.
Giving people "a seat at the table" to lead systemic change was key, Ardern said.
Reform of Oranga Tamaraki, under heavy scrutiny for systemic racism in the way it deals with Māori families, had been a case in point, she said.
"We've always been a government that says 'we acknowledge our problems'. We will keep working on change to fix them. However, we also have to acknowledge that the way we have done things has sometimes been part of the problem too," she said.
Reforms within Corrections, social housing projects and funding for health initiatives would in time bring real changes, she said.
"The idea that we haven't achieved progress, I would challenge."
Environment Minister David Parker said the government had focused on tackling water quality issues with Māori groups so far but was now moving to address issues of inequitable water allocation this year.
Asked about recent revelations of big companies being able to dump industrial waste into waterways because of a drafting loophole making it difficult for local councils to reinforce environmental standards with legal sanctions, Parker said councils were not impeded legally.
"I'm not convinced that the law allows illegal discharges so I don't really take that one at face value."
He said the government had made moves to give councils more technical capacity to carry out enforcement duties.
"In respect of trade waste, the enforcement obligations lies primarily on councils. In order to encourage them to do what they ought to be doing, we have given some funding to the Environmental Protection Agency to stand alongside them and help them do that."
No republic for Dame Reddy
After giving her speech on the Treaty Grounds, Dame Patsy Reddy was asked if New Zealand should become a republic, and she replied she was very happy with the way things were.
"I'm representing the Treaty partner who was the Queen of England at the time, now of course that's a figurehead in a sense. But, I actually think there is something important if we hold to our history and try and honour our history in recognising there were two partners to the Treaty,"she said.
'We will be standing in Māori seats at the next election' - Collins
National leader Judith Collins was to have given a speech from the mahau, or porch, but effectively after the formalities were over, she decided otherwise.
Asked what it would have covered, Collins said essentially it addressed the challenges laid before National at last year's Waitangi Day pōwhiri, particularly around dental health for tamariki, and outline that National had a policy to tackle the issues there.
"We also accept the challenge on standing in the Māori seats, and we've picked up that challenge, and yes we will be standing in Māori seats at the next election."
She said they had already been speaking to potential candidates "and I'll tell you once it's sorted [laughs]... "we know that it's the party vote that matters, but the big thing for me is that when we put up candidates in any seat whether they're general seats or Māori seats is that we have the best people for the job, and that they are people who share our values, National Party values."
Collins intended to use her speech to lay out what she saw as National's accomplishments, such as Whānau Ora, and the work the party has done in education.
Neither Collins nor Shane Reti detected an anti-National vibe in either the decisions made by the organising committee nor the speeches on the marae atea.
Reti said: "I didn't actually, because I look across I see my whanaunga. When I stood up someone shouted out 'te kapo tai' [Dr Reti is of Te Kapotai descent], how could you not feel amongst friends?"
Asked about the language in Ardern's speech, where the prime minister referenced "foundational change" several times, Collins said: "I think the trouble with the term 'transformational change' is not too many people are excited that about it, because they've seen it doesn't mean much, it's a bit like the year of delivery that never was."
Collins said she had not considered speaking at Te Tii marae instead and said that she would have to consult with Reti.