2021 ANZSOG First Peoples conference final session speech
Tēnā rā koutou katoa, thank you for the invitation to speak about the importance of the relationship between indigenous people and the government.
This is an area I am passionate about. I’ve spent decades inside and outside the Government fighting for transitional change for Māori.
An indigenous perspective is more important than ever as we keep fighting COVID-19.
We must ensure indigenous peoples are on a more equitable footing through the recovery.
Indigenous people are often located at the centre of issues vital to our collective wellbeing
Issues like the sustainable development of our lands and waters, mitigating and adapting to climate change, and nurturing resilient generations of people who hold the tools for leading better lives.
Aotearoa New Zealand is guided in this mission by Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the treaty signed between Māori and the British Crown in 1840.
While it has not always been used in the way it was intended, it is a founding document that sets the base for partnership here in Aotearoa (New Zealand).
As a country, we announced our support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2010.
The rights in the Declaration align with the guarantee of tino rangatiratanga or self-determination to Māori under the Treaty.
Our government intends to uphold the promises of the Treaty and this means restoring some of the balance between Māori and the Crown.
In 2018, we established the Office of Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti.
This agency is focused on rethinking the future relationship between Māori and the Crown.
We have made progress on our Treaty settlement process, providing a forum to recognise the Crown’s historical breaches of the Treaty.
We are participating actively in a programme of kaupapa inquiries led by the Waitangi Tribunal.
Investigating contemporary issues like Mana Wāhine – the customary roles and relationships of Māori women to their whenua, whakapapa and mātauranga.
We continue to work on reforms balancing the need for appropriate protections with opportunities for sustainable development.
Such as the legislation governing Māori land (Te Ture Whenua Māori) and the RMA.
A recent example of this is a bill passed to remove inequitable barriers to the establishment of Māori Wards on councils.
Dedicated Māori seats that enable the establishment of Māori seats in local government bodies are strong features of our democracy and reflect the partnership on which our nation has been built.
It is absolutely paramount we have Māori leadership advocating for Māori in decision-making realms like local government.
This is something I’ve been fighting for 20 years and I’m proud of Minister Mahuta and the work she’s done to get this bill across the line.
Iwi response and collaboration for pandemic
When we think about indigenous leadership and self-determination – I must talk about the resolute action we continue to see during the pandemic.
The immediate response to COVID-19 reinforced the importance of collaboration and coordination between Government and Māori.
Māori organisations develop locally tailored solutions to assist the vulnerable within their communities.
Many tribal organisations help provide funding for these initiatives.
For example, Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the National Māori Pandemic Group.
It was independently formed by Māori medical and health experts including primary care specialists, public health experts, public health physicians, Māori nurses and iwi leaders.
The group provided Māori (including Māori health practitioners) with access to tailored and relevant information, resources and practical guidance and advice on how to manage the pandemic.
In Auckland, our largest city, we have been put through our paces four times now with the current alert level.
But we continue to use those existing relationships and networks to deliver to those that need it.
Together we were, and are, able to work quickly and innovatively to look after our communities.
A Declaration plan for our indigenous peoples
As the ANZSOG has rightly identified, strengthening Indigenous leadership and cultural competency in the public sector is critical in lifting the quality of public sector leadership in Australia and New Zealand.
One of the ways we are going to strengthen the partnership between Māori and the government is developing a plan to measure our progress in addressing indigenous rights and interests under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
This must be done through ongoing and meaningful dialogue with iwi, hapū, whānau and wider Māori communities.
The government’s priorities around economic recovery, responding to climate change, reducing child poverty and improving access to affordable housing will support improvements in the environment in which Māori can pursue their aspirations.
We are seeing more examples of partnership across these spaces that are indigenous-led, regionally supported and government enabled.
This is a very exciting path for our country. Our Declaration and evolving relationship will need to reflect the partnership between the Government and Māori.
There needs to be a focus on supporting the wellbeing of indigenous populations and present a clear path towards the realisation of their self-determination.
I want to do this right and take the time needed to ensure the process is consistent with best practice under the Declaration and the Treaty of Waitangi.
We will strengthen Crown/Māori relations and partner with iwi, hapū and Māori to find appropriate solutions that will benefit all of Aotearoa.