Anniversary Of The Coronation Of Dame Te Atairangikahu

  • John Delamare
Pacific Island Affairs

Turangawaewae marae, Ngaruawahia

We have come together today to celebrate 141 years of the Kingitanga when in 1858 Te Wherowhero was chosen to be the first Maori king Potatau. For Tainui the formation of the Kingitanga has been a defining event, and its significance has reached far and wide throughout the motu to all Maori.

It marks one of the earliest attempts by our tipuna in the face of incredible pressure and overwhelming odds to structure their society in such a way as to preserve their independence and nurture their culture. It was the first real national response by Maori to take on the encroachments of the settler government and colonisation.

The Kingitanga was conceived by our tipuna to be a complementary relationship with the settler government. It was designed to be an equal Crown-Maori relationship as guaranteed under the Treaty of Waitangi.

The pressure on our tipuna was immense, but our tipuna were staunch, they were determined. The overwhelming body of public opinion, that of the Pakeha settler, was openly hostile. Kingitanga was the catalyst that led to the land wars, to the wholesale theft of Maori land in the Waikato, Taranaki, Tauranga Moana, the Eastern Bay of Plenty. But in spite of all that the Kingitanga has survived and grows ever stronger.

I am sure that no one here needs reminding that 141 years on the pressure remains intense and the odds are still formidable. We are a minority in our own land - what little we have left of it.

As is the lot of all minorities in a democracy we have little influence and even less power over the political structures that govern our lives. It is for this reason that I am mystified that when we are given the opportunity to change this we dither, we wring our hands and we flag the opportunity away.

We bash our heads against the brick wall that democracy puts up for the advantage of the majority until we are dazed and bloody and yet still we listen to their seductive voices.

'Trust us - we will take care of you'

'Your desires are of utmost importance to us'

'We want to do what's right'

Or my personal favourite :

'We will consult with you before we make a decision.'

For too long that has been our experience of politics - consultation followed by a democratic vote that as a minority we inevitably lose.

This dismal reality has been our lot ever since the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840. We have tried to barter the best deal for our support and then we have hoped for the best. Our hopes have generally gone unrealized.

The biggest achievement of MMP has been the recognition of Maori, however reluctantly, as a political power. We have been able to exercise a moderate degree of influence and we have been extensively 'wined and died'.

It has not, however, escaped the majority that we now have the opportunity to exercise real political partnership. We have 15 Maori MPs in Parliament - enough to exercise real power if we were a united force. To the relief of the majority and the dismay of Maori we are not united - and as long as the Maori MPs continue to owe their primary allegiance to parties controlled by Pakeha this will never, never, ever change.

For as long as MMP and the Maori seats exist we have the chance to exercise real power and yet we continue to hand that power over to Pakeha. And make no mistake about it, pakeha are moving to close off this avenue for power sharing. The calls to abolish MMP and the Maori seats are not coincidental.

You only have to look back to Thursday in Whakatane where my constituents rose up to fight the forces who were trying to overturn the decision to have Parliament enact legislation to provide for 3 Maori constituencies on the Environment BOP Council. That day Maori prevailed but it serves notice that there are forces are work who will stop at nothing to eliminate Maori influence.

Over the past 12 months I have made it very clear that I believe Maori would be best served by the formation of a unified Maori political vehicle. I have stated on many occasions that I believe this would enable us to exercise our influence in government while remaining accountable to those who put us there.

I have canvassed amongst my constituents and found that they desire a unified Maori party. A recent poll found that across all the electorates over 70% of Maori voters would support a unified Maori Party.

Why then does this goal continue to elude us' Are we satisfied that we are well represented with representation by Pakeha parties. Have they served us so well in the past' Do we really trust them to advance our interests against the interests of the majority pakeha culture to which they owe their very existence' Have we in the words of a Maori elder left ''all the final decisions up to Pakeha, those self-congratulating 'fair-minded' people who systematically dispossessed us Maori of our patrimony by legislative theft'.who but his fellow vampires would leave Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank.'

Are we really so naïve as to be bought off by assurances that we cannot 'have a voice' in parliament without them. Particularly as an examination of our recent past shows that is all they are willing to give us - a voice with no effect.

Are we forever going to hide under the skirts of the Labour Party, of the National Party, of the Alliance, of New Zealand First' Or are we going to take our rightful place at the Cabinet Table as a true partner in Government.

In 1991 Maori Congress was formed because of the frustrations Maori have with Pakeha who still refuse to recognise us as an equal partner. Maori Congress was a great vision but it is a vision that has struggled. This is partly because in 1991 the kaupapa was right but perhaps the timing was wrong.

Today the timing is right. Today we have MMP. Today a unified Maori political force would hold the balance of power at the next elections.

But are we going to grasp this opportunity or are we going to let it pass us by so that tomorrow we can say if only, if only'

Maori are waiting for the signal. They are not waiting for a signal from Tuariki Delamere, or Tau Henare, or Georgina Te Heuheu or Nanaia Mahuta. No, we are waiting for a signal from our traditional leadership. Te Arikinui, Tumu you are the ones we are waiting for. We are waiting for you to show us the way.

As Te Wherowhero, as Iwikau Te Heuheu, as Te Rauparaha, as Te Whiwhi, as Wiremu Tamihana, as Wiremu Kingi showed us they way when they formed the Kingitanga then so today we need you the descendants of Potatau and Iwikau. We need you to lead us to the partnership promised us in the Treaty of Waitangi.

You have inherited the burden of leadership of Potatau and Iwikau.

You are the face of Potatau and Iwikau.

Call us together, all hapu on all marae across the motu.

Let's have a Maori election to choose the Maori candidates to go forward to the general election.

It is not too late.