2021 Waitangi Tribunal Members’ Conference Speech

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Commitment resolute during a challenging time

Tēnā rā koutou katoa, it is my honour to be here today to address members of the Waitangi Tribunal. 

Since my fellow colleague, Minister Nanaia Mahuta, stood before you three years ago no one would have imagined a pandemic would have such a hold on the world and how we live.

But we, as Māori, have shown we can and are able to support our communities. We are resilient and we can continually strive to adapt, to work, and to support our whānau, hapū and iwi.

Likewise, the Tribunal has continued to achieve its strategic goals during this disruptive time.

Having time today to reflect and acknowledge your work and commitment is important. 

You have maintained momentum by taking time to review your priorities and objectives since setting your strategic goals in 2014. 

This sets a pathway for claimants and the Crown that is clear and ensures you are continually addressing the remaining claims and inquiries.

This is no mean feat but a demonstration of Tribunal members and staff dedication despite the challenges we have experienced.

Kei runga noa atu koutou. Ka nui te mihi.

Acknowledging outstanding rangatira

I must also give a special mihi to three esteemed rangatira.

Firstly, I wish to acknowledge the substantial contribution Professor Tā Hirini Moko Mead has made to the Tribunal since his appointment in 2003. 

His tireless efforts, wise counsel, and leadership over almost two decades have been invaluable to Tribunal members, to the Crown and to claimant groups.

Tā Hirini has made significant contributions to mediation between the Crown and claimant groups to settle their claims and provided his deep knowledge and leadership in the Tribunal’s Governance Group. 

You’ve left a considerable legacy Tā Hirini and I wish you well in your retirement.

Secondly, to Professor Pou Temara, I certainly value the expertise and experience you bring as a Māori academic to the work of the Waitangi Tribunal. 

Lastly, I also wish to acknowledge Judge Heta Hingston who passed away last August.

His contribution to the Māori Land Court, particularly his decision on Māori ownership of the foreshore and seabed and the Tribunal in the 1990’s was exceptional.

He kupu whakamanahau, he kupu whakamihi.

KAUPAPA

My Cabinet role advocating for Māori

I too am ambitious for Māori achievement.

The Māori Affairs portfolio stretches the breadth of many issues challenging our Māori communities from Māori wellbeing, employment, housing, through to Māori economic recovery. 

It also spans areas like te reo Māori with a focus on Māori media and broadcasting, and it is a privilege to hold this portfolio. I also have responsibility for recommending Tribunal appointments to the Governor-General.

Alongside a record number of Māori ministerial colleagues in Cabinet, I am in a position to influence the broader government programme

I will make sure the challenges that Māori face, their needs, and aspirations are recognised in Cabinet decision-making.

Today, I want to share with you the changing Waitangi Tribunal role as more claims relate to issues of national significance, my ministry’s involvement in kaupapa inquiries, and some of our priorities to address the inequities facing our Māori communities.

Treaty settlement and a path towards equity

Our government holds Māori wellbeing as a priority and this means setting conditions to achieve equitable outcomes for our people.

Ones that recognise the value of Te Ao Māori and which support a productive, inclusive, and sustainable economy.

We intend to forge a path toward real equity for Māori, underpinned by a partnership, based on the articles of the Treaty of Waitangi. 

Te Arawhiti is responsible for supporting the Māori Crown relationship, by building public sector capability to engage with Māori, ensuring Crown agencies meet their Treaty settlement commitments and administering the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

Te Puni Kōkiri is the principal policy advisor to the Crown on Māori wellbeing and development.  This includes building Māori capability and capacity, monitoring the effectiveness of public services for Māori and leading policy advice on specific issues of importance to Māori.

Changing role of the Waitangi Tribunal

There has been steady progress made by the Tribunal over 2020 despite COVID-19 and postponement of hearings.

I commend you all for the Tribunal’s tenacity to progress claims and inquiries amidst the uncertainty and associated restrictions.

I am aware the Tribunal has been working on a programme to address both the remaining historical claims and to streamline the urgent inquiries.

Completion of historical claims will allow the Tribunal more time and resources to focus on contemporary issues and transition further into the kaupapa and contemporary claims space. 

The kaupapa inquiries are holding a mirror up to the Crown’s face, challenging its policies and the treatment of Māori, both historically and present day, in the implementation of these policies.

These lessons from the past cannot correct the wrongs done, but they can provide valuable learnings.

Inquiries are challenging our current policy settings and helping to reshape them to be more equitable.

It is my hope that we see a better and improved partnership between Māori and the Crown that will benefit our mokopuna and future generations.  

I am impressed with the Tribunal working with the Crown agencies to manage the needs of the claimants through the sequencing of inquiries, providing efficient resources, having an acute awareness of the issues at play and keeping stakeholders abreast of the progress of their claims. 

Crown response to Tribunal reports and progress to date

As a ministry, Te Puni Kōkiri is actively participating in kaupapa inquiries led by the Tribunal.

Te Pae Tawhiti – Wai262 – Whole of Government approach

One of these is Te Pae Tawhiti – Wai 262. This is the Crown’s first steps toward a whole of government response to issues raised by the Wai 262 claim and the subsequent Tribunal’s 2011 report Ko Aotearoa Tēnei.

Hon Nanaia Mahuta retains delegation for coordinating the government response and she’s actively working on the next phase of this important kaupapa. As part of this mahi the original Wai262 claimants representative rōpū, Te Taumata Whakapūmau, is setting up a working group to lead the Māori to Māori kōrero. It’s important we retain the integrity of this claim through their kaitiaki role.

Mana Wahine Inquiry - Wai 2700

Te Puni Kōkiri is also co-leading the Crown response to Mana Wahine with the Ministry for Women.  The hearings started last month, and key themes will emerge over the coming months as they are heard around the motu.

I wholeheartedly support the process of this Kaupapa Inquiry. The long-term challenges of Māori – especially Wāhine Māori – have been ignored for too long, and it’s crucial the Crown hears and understands the historic and contemporary claims.

At the recent second tūāpapa hearing in Ngāruawāhia, the importance of strong wāhine Māori leadership in Waikato, from Te Puea and Dame Te Atairangikaahu to present-day leaders, set the scene for this hearing.

It highlighted the importance of wāhine tupuna in their leadership roles, utilising their skills, and their life commitment to decisions that affect their whānau, whenua and whakapapa.

Claimants raised contemporary ongoing issues including the impacts of urbanisation, reinvigorating the Māori/ Crown relationship, reconnecting urban whānau to their tūrangawaewae and developing pathways for wāhine Māori in leadership roles.

The Inquiry will help us better understand how historical events have shaped many of the issues faced by wāhine Māori today providing an opportunity for us to work collectively to restore their mana and rangatiratanga.

I know this Government will uphold the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi to improve the intergenerational wellbeing of our whānau by working in closer partnerships with wāhine Māori.

Housing Policy and Services Inquiry Wai 2750

Te Puni Kōkiri is also supporting Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) who leads the Crown response to the Housing Inquiry - Wai 2750.

The initial focus of the Inquiry is homelessness for Māori. This is most urgent and has severe implications for Māori and the housing crisis.

It is estimated that there are more than 12,800 Māori currently living with homelessness or housing insecurity.

Māori Housing has been identified as a high priority for this Government and Wai 2750 will increase the focus.

Te Puni Kōkiri will ensure the needs of Māori sit front and centre of the Governments Housing policy.

As a contemporary issue, this is an area I want to see rapid progress in for Māori. Our communities have been neglected for too long; it needs to change.

Strengthening Māori community resilience

This Government’s priorities include health, housing, education, and employment. These are about addressing the huge inequities facing Māori communities.

We are yet to see the long-term economic effects COVID will have on our economy. 

It is troubling the industries hit hardest by the pandemic, such as tourism and hospitality, had a high concentration of Māori employees. 

As we recover from the impacts of COVID-19, Te Puni Kōkiri will lead the Māori economic resilience strategy across agencies.

The underpinning pou of this resilience strategy are Skills & Workforce, Community Resilience and Infrastructure and Māori Enterprise.

Our focus is a long-term strategy that provides meaningful and lasting resilience for Māori. 

Te Puni Kōkiri will work to improve data collection to determine the impacts on Māori and highlight emerging risks. It will look at what is being spent and see what works.   

We will look for opportunities where tailored solutions can be developed to meet needs, such as improving the skills and qualifications of our Māori workforce.

We must partner with other agencies to ensure we deliver for whānau Māori.

Addressing the inequalities whānau Māori face is a waka the Government and all New Zealanders need to paddle together.

The Tribunal’s work contributes to this ongoing mahi, and its recommendations can provide solutions that we, as the Crown and as Māori, can work collaboratively to achieve.

Me he manawā tītī, me tōhona hirika, is a whakataukī I want to finish on as it is about the famed strength and perseverance of the tītī bird.

Kia kaha to you, the Tribunal manawā tītī, in your resolve for progressing the claims and inquiries that are underway and lie ahead.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.