Tuia te papa e hora nei
Ngāti Hine, Ngāpuhi nui tonu
Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa
Can I first start by acknowledging the passing of Sir Patu Hōhepa.
Tā Patu Hohepa will be remembered as a veteran academic and researcher, a wealth of traditional knowledge and a staunch Hokianga man whose contribution to Te Ao Māori was invaluable.
Gwen Te Pania Palmer – former Chair of the Trust and transformational leader in Māori health.
Moe mai rā e te rangatira.
And can I also acknowledge the awesome tamariki from Kawakawa Primary School for that kapa haka.
That made my day and is going to be hard to top!
I know you’ve received funding from the Government’s investment in Te Matatini to attend the national competitions in October, and seeing tamariki perform like that shows exactly why we made that investment.
I also want to acknowledge the Ngati Hine Health Trust for hosting us here today.
It was Peeni’s Grandfather Sir James who had the vision of establishing the Ngati Hine Health Trust.
And that whanau connection with Māori health has remained strong with Peeni now the Associate Minister of Health overseeing the establishment of the Māori Health Authority and Rowena Tana, the current Chair of the Health Trust being Sir James’s granddaughter.
The power of the Government supporting and partnering with iwi and hapu and what is possible from those partnerships is evident in the work of our wonderful hosts.
And of course the presentation we just heard of the cadetship programme, which is showing the power of local communities being supported to walk alongside our rangatahi to help them.
Speaking of powerful, Kelvin’s Aunty Isey (Pronounced I-Z) lives just over a kilometre away from where we are today.
At 104 years young, Kelvin tells me that it’s likely she would have been cared for as a child by Kaumatua and Kuia who would have been children themselves when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.
Over Isey’s lifetime, we have changed from a country that punished children for speaking Māori at school to one that embraces Te Reo in our classrooms, in our homes and on air every single day.
We have grown from a country that ignored its history, its own battles fought on our own lands, to one that now teaches it to our next generation of leaders.
We’ve become a country that fronts up and rights the wrongs of the past and refuses to turn a blind eye to racism.
We settle Treaty claims, we apologise – and we move forward not repeating the mistakes we made in the past.
Every Government has played a part in growing New Zealand into the country we are today.
And I’m especially proud of the role Labour Governments have played in that journey.
Be it the relationship forged between Michael Joseph Savage and Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana.
The passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act forming the Waitangi tribunal and the establishment of the settlement process.
Through to more recent advances such as the Mataraki Public Holiday, history in schools and the Māori Health Authority.
Advances have been made. Not without opposition or push back. But the arch of our progress has been forward.
But in this election – our unfinished journey towards better; the sense of nationhood we’ve worked so hard to define – is at risk.
That’s not to say we haven’t been in this position before and prevailed.
Political parties have used race-baiting and anti-Treaty politics to divide us in elections.
But even when the polls were down, we as a country stood our ground and held them back.
And in this election we need to do it again.
The National, ACT, New Zealand First coalition of chaos and cuts puts all we have worked for at risk.
And those with the most to lose are Māori and the place of Te Tiriti.
Let’s be honest. When it comes to Māori politics and politicians vying for votes at the election – leaders of the main political parties have generally done one of two things.
First, we have leaders who see anti-Māori positions as vote winners.
They reach out to New Zealanders through one-liners like ‘One system for all,” putting out the narrative that Māori somehow get something other New Zealanders don’t.
This approach plays on some people’s fears.
It’s not pretty, and it’s wrong. It also ignores the facts. Far from being privileged, Māori are over represented on the wrong side of far too many social and economic statistics.
Then there is the second option.
Leaders that play to the middle ground – or in other words keep quiet on Māori issues, make change but put policies under wraps, water down positions for fear of being seen as too ‘pro-Māori’ and losing votes.
It’s depressing that the options seem to be race bait or keep quiet.
I refuse to choose either of those options.
I’ve decided to do something novel, and that’s tell the truth and stick to my values.
I’m going to be open and transparent about why I support a Māori Health Authority, why I believe in Te Tiriti and why I think it’s important to our future that Māori and the Crown work together – and that when we do we are not only at our best as a country but whole new opportunities open up for all of us.
It always gets me that overseas and on the world stage we’re so rightly proud of Māori culture and our heritage.
The All Blacks doing the haka unites us as a nation.
When we see extreme racial injustice in other countries we reflect on how different things are here.
But we can never take progress for granted.
In the first leaders debate Christopher Luxon reiterated his commitment to abolishing the Māori Health Authority in favour of ‘one system for all’.
This type of one-liner may be catchy to some– but it made me angry.
Angry that he simplifies a long battle many have fought to have a health system that finally works for Māori.
Angry that he thinks he knows better than Māori about Māori Health and well-being.
But what is worst of all – it makes me angry that he wants ‘one system for all’ even when that one system fails 20 percent of the population, and has failed them for decades.
It isn’t even one system for all – it’s a worse system for some.
Māori life expectancy is seven years’ lower.
Māori are twice as likely as non-Māori to die from cancer.
Avoidable hospitalisations for Māori aged four and under are higher than the equivalent rate for non-Māori and non-Pacific children.
And around forty percent of Māori are living in the highest areas of deprivation, compared to just over ten percent of Europeans.
These are the facts.
But Christopher Luxon is choosing to continue to deliver poor health outcomes for Māori because it gets a few points in the polls.
That just isn’t leadership.
Now I am not here to say as the Leader of the Labour Party we’re perfect and I’m the only one who can deliver solutions to the challenges Māori face.
That’s not it at all. I have no intention to ride in and save the day.
But I’m here to say it’s time for Governments stop thinking they know best when it comes to Māori.
It’s time for Māori to do the leading, and for Governments to walk alongside.
And it’s the wrong time to undo the hard fought gains that have been made.
That’s why I support the Māori Health Authority – because it will ensure Māori have a health system built for them, by them, and works for them.
I support Te Tiriti and any Government I lead will uphold it.
We all assume that the Treaty is set in stone, but the ACT party with the help of National and New Zealand First will chip away at its place in our country until all that is left is rubble.
ACT wants a referendum on Te Tiriti, and they want to redefine what the Treaty principles are.
Such a move would undo decades of legal precedent.
For a party of law and order they have no respect for the rights of others.
For example, David Seymour has interpreted tino rangatiratanga only as a right to authority over property- not self-determination in the way scholars, the courts and most importantly Māori have defined it for over a century.
His new proposed Tiriti Act makes no mention of Māori or the Crown, or hapū and iwi. It refers only to “all New Zealanders”.
It’s as if history never happened.
And it is this policy, this referendum that ACT says is their bottom line for Coalition agreements.
Christopher Luxon describes the signing of Te Tiriti as a ‘little experiment’, while Winston Peters does not believe Māori are indigenous to Aotearoa.
One New Zealand First candidate when speaking about Māori at a public meeting said, “Cry if you want to, we don’t care – you pushed it too far and we are the party with the cultural mandate and the courage to cut out your disease and bury you permanently”.
I will not stand for that kind of racism and I will call it out when I see or hear it.
Regardless of our views, we should treat each other with respect.
Te Tiriti and all that has occurred since its signing is part of who we are as a country.
And it will be part of who we are in the future. You can’t write it away.
And why would we?
It makes us unique and binds us together.
It’s a partnership, a promise, a bringing together of two peoples.
It gives our society a structure. A form. Something to work towards and uphold.
It reminds us of our obligations to each other – of how when Māori and the Crown, Kāwanatanga and Rangatiratanga work together – magic happens.
For years the National Iwi Chairs Forum’s relationship with the Crown was precarious and quite ad-hoc.
But now, we’ve managed to work more cohesively, set out a list of mutual priorities and work closely to achieve better outcomes.
Outcomes like, empowering Iwi to take the lead and to deliver on housing initiatives across the motu; Iwi Chairs working with the Ministry of Justice to develop the National Action Plan against Racism; and true collaboration on the Oranga Tamariki Action Plan
Just last month we passed the Education and Training Amendment Bill which essentially guarantees our Māori Tertiary Providers or Wānanga – rangatiratanga on how they operate, what their governance structures look like and determine who they’re accountable too.
This has been years in the making. But it wouldn’t have been possible without genuine engagement and partnership between the Crown and Māori.
And of course the strength and importance of our Crown Māori relationship shines through in our still-new public holiday – Matariki
Te Rā Aro ki a Matariki lets us all come together to celebrate values every New Zealander can share – remembrance, celebrating the present, and looking towards the future.
It shows just what we can enjoy together when we embrace te ao Māori and mātauranga Māori. It’s our uniquely New Zealand celebration.
In 2022 over half the population did something to celebrate Matariki and I know that will only increase in the future.
This is us now.
It’s progress we cannot turn back on.
It is not scary, nor does it cause division.
Ultimately Te Tiriti is in itself a document that unifies.
But in way I haven’t seen in my time in politics, it feels like decades of gains are at risk this election.
Te Puni Kokiri
Māori health authority
And Te Tiriti.
I want us to draw a line in the sand.
I want us as a country to say that division has no place in our politics, and it will not win elections.
I’m committed to making that a reality.
I firmly believe when Māori thrive Aotearoa thrives.
There are issues to resolve, but let’s stay on the journey together.
So, on election day – your vote matters more than ever.
Who leads the country after the 14 October matters.
For Māori and Te Tiriti, it matters most of all.
I’m in this fight for you, for your whanau, for Te Tiriti, for Kelvin’s Aunty Isey who is just up the road- for all of us.
I’m asking you to join me. This isn’t one to sit out. It’s one for Māori to rise up at the ballot box.
Party Vote Labour so we can keep moving forward together.
No reira, huri noa, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.