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Speech - Katene: Local Government Auckland Council Bill

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Outside of this House, the date today is the 17th September and it is a day to remember.

Four years ago, on the 17th September 2005, the Maori Party took the nation by surprise, capturing four of the seven Maori seats in a spectacular demonstration of Maori political power.

There is no doubt, that the former Government's decision in 2004 to legislate away Māori rights to the foreshore and seabed was the trigger to establishment. The Maori Party became a vehicle in which to channel the intense discontent expressed by New Zealanders over an action which sought to erode the status of Maori as tangata whenua, and the human rights protections guaranteed and affirmed to us under Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

But the vehicle that brought us into Parliament was also a powerful force for Maori political representation - to articulate a strong and independent Maori voice in every aspect of the parliamentary programme.

This, Mr Speaker, was exactly what we sought for Auckland - the right to articulate a strong and independent Maori voice in every aspect of the local Government agenda.

Throughout the long hours of this debate we have brought to the House the aspirations of iwi and Maori submitters around Maori representation in local bodies and participation in local governance.

They asked Parliament to invest in the full participation of Maori in governance arrangements.

Iwi and Maori submitters sought to increase Maori representation in local governance bodies. They shared the experience of the establishment of Maori wards provided for under the Local Electoral Act 2001) as indeed the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has done.

And they expressed the importance of recognising Te Tiriti o Waitangi in local governance arrangements - including the rangatiratanga, kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga rights and responsibilities of mana whenua.

And I want to really acknowledge today, our profound sadness at the way in which mana whenua have been treated by this Government, in this decision today.

Earlier this morning, the chair of the select committee, Mr Carter, rose and praised the process, as having reflected the heartbeat of Auckland.

I want to offer the wisdom of one of well-known whakatauki, which guides us in the pivotal role that mana whenua play in our land.

Hutia te rito o te harakeke Kei whea, te kāmako e ko Ki mai ki ahau He aha te mea nui o tenei ao Maku e ki atu He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Mana whenua representation has been fundamental to the history and evolution of Tamaki Makarau. The respective iwi have adopted a collaborative approach to building the city of Auckland. Tangata whenua worked alongside the founding fathers to establish New Zealand's largest city.

And all the time, they have maintained their obligations of manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga - to look after all the people who settle within their territories.

Mana whenua, in essence, are the pounding heart of every rohe. They hold occupational rights and interests over tribal areas; and they will continue to hold this role, no matter what the vote tells them today.

Ngati Whatua spokesman Ngarimu Blair shared this view in a comment he made yesterday, "When we look at struggles, we don't think of three year terms, like our Pakeha politicians do, our people think in blocs of generations and we know that it's inevitable that there will be Maori seats in Auckland and across the country".

And so, I pay my tributes today, to the generosity of mana whenua; their patience and their longstanding optimism, that will continue to provide the heartbeat to Tamaki Makaurau, with or without this Bill.

The Maori Party sought to exercise creativity in putting forward five different options to honour the desire for Maori representation.

We put forward amendments for

two mana whenua seats, candidates put up by mana whenua and voted on by all Maori; two mana whenua seats in which candidates sign a whakapapa declaration, voted on by all Maori ; for two Maori seats, voted on by all Maori ; for one Maori seat, voted on by all Maori; and for ensuring that Local Electoral Act 2001 provisions are lawful, if Auckland council members or electors want to establish Maori seats.

One by one each of these amendments was voted down. It reflected, indeed, the supposition of Te Waiohua who told the select committee that without special acknowledgment of the Treaty partner, they predicted a form of political ghettoism where Maori are a minority and are overridden on every vote cast.

I want to acknowledge the support of Labour; the Green Party; the Progressive Party and individual National MPs who supported these amendments; and in doing so, supported the right and responsibility for mana whenua representation.

And I have to commend the initiative of Ngati Whatua who recommended the Maori seats issue should have been made a conscience vote issue, to enable MPs from National to cross the floor on such a critical issue. Mr Speaker, as Ngati Whatua themselves have admitted, we have been here before.

In 2007, the Waitangi Tribunal castigated the Labour Government for the sloppy way in which it had approached negotiations with Auckland iwi.

Just two years on, we see again another shameful episode which throws into question the Government's understanding of the constitutional rights and obligations of partnership under the Treaty of Waitangi which apply between the Crown and the mana whenua who gifted the land on which Auckland City is built.

Today our thoughts are with the people of Ngai Tai, Ngati Manuhiri, Ngati Maru, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Rehua, Ngati Te Ata Waiohua, Ngati Tamaoho, Ngati Tamatera, Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Whatua, Tainui, Te Ahiwaru, Te Akitai, Te Kawerau a Maki. Those people who have generously opened their arms and welcomed people into their rohe. We recognise the magnanimity of Ngati Whatua in granting the opportunity to establish a settlement that would flourish socially and economically. I am thinking too, of the fifteen thousand people who walked in the hikoi to call for Maori seats in the supercity; and the 80 percent of the submissions which supported these seats as the strongest form of Maori representation. But the decision today, is not just one of exclusive import to the people of Auckland. The Local Government Act 2002 requires that local governments acknowledge the authority of mana whenua. As provided for in the Treaty, tangata whenua should have an equitable say in the decisions that affect them via Treaty-based representation.

I listened to the Minister sponsoring this Bill, saying getting Auckland right is in the interests to all Aucklanders, but all New Zealanders as well.

And I have to say - we have not got in right in terms of Maori representation.

We have not got it right in terms of supporting Maori communities and advancing Maori representation; through forms such as STV, through Maori representative positions on Council committees and advisory bodies; and through the Maori seats.

And so I bring back to the House the words of my colleague, Hone Harawira,

"The report of the Committee is unjust, improper and politically motivated. The Bill signals an enduring and profoundly disturbing fear of sharing decision-making with Maori as provided for in the Treaty of Waitangi".

Finally, in the spirit of anniversaries, I reflect on the historic Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, signed up two years ago this week.

Article 18 of that Declaration agreed that "indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision-making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves."

What harm would it have done to share decision-making; to invest in Maori representation; to engage with tangata whenua, the first peoples of this land?

I guess we will never know.

But the heart will keep beating; the call of the people for justice; for dignity; for representation will continue; and we know, it is inevitable that one day there will be Maori seats in Auckland and across the nation.

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