Prime Minister's 2019 Waitangi speech

  • Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister

E ngā iwi e pae nei

Ki runga o Waitangi

Karanga mai, mihi mai

Tēnei te whakarongo atu nei ki ngā kupu kōrero

Ngā aituā  o te tau kua hipa

Koutou e Kingi, e Koro

Koutou katoa, haere atu rā

E aku rangatira e hui mai nei ki Waitangi 

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa

I want to acknowledge all of the words that have been spoken before me, and also acknowledge all of the taniwha who have walked here with me today from your Houses of Parliament, and each leader from each party, including the Greens, the National Party and of course the Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First.

I want to also acknowledge that this is the first Waitangi I can remember without Kingi [Ngāpuhi elder Kingi Taurua]. I remember fondly last Waitangi - perhaps this moment captured Kingi the best. I was at Karetu Marae, and sat alongside Kingi, and we spoke and exchanged warm words in an embrace.

Two days later he led a march against the Government here at Waitangi.

Perhaps that was his last message for us all.

That protest was about mental health and wellbeing. 

And so I say, ka rongo tō reo.

Your voice is heard Kingi.

It has been one year since I stood on this veranda. It's been one year since I talked about the importance of this place to all of Aotearoa. It's been one year since I talked about the distance between the two houses, and it's been one year since I asked all of you to hold all of us, and myself, to account.

And so, here we are today. And the words that I share with you I share not out of politics but for accountability. And they're words, I hope, that should not be words of any single political party - but when I speak of how far we've gone and how far there is to go, those should be words for every political party. We should all have an aspiration to reduce unemployment, to increase education, to get rid of the inequality between Māori and Pākeha.

That should not be political. It should be for all of us.

And so here I am to be held to account on behalf of the Government.

How far have we come?

Last year I shared my aspiration that more should have the dignity of work. And in the last 12 months we have seen unemployment drop. Māori unemployment is the lowest that it has been in a decade, and yet the distance between us is still too high. We have more to do.

I said I wanted the potential of rangatahi to be fulfilled, and we have seen more young people going to work and to employment and these are not just numbers. Yesterday in Kaikohe a young man said to me: this year, this year I go to University, and that's not something that the child of a beneficiary is usually expected to do. I'd like to think we might have made that possible by taking away that barrier to education with fees-free. 

But there is still more to do.

We know that even if you are in work now, it still doesn't guarantee you'll be able to put food on the table - that inequality still exists, that poverty is still too high. We brought in a package that we hoped would make a difference and I hope that it has.

150,000 Māori families now access the Winter Energy Payment, and yes, in part, that was driven by our desire and our love of older New Zealanders, and to care for them. 50,000 Māori families saw Working for Families go up, and we've lifted the minimum wage. And yet, there is still much, much more to do.

On child poverty, children who should never carry the burden of the lack of income - on that, we said that we would finally, properly measure what was happening in our country, and we would take action to make sure that we were meeting expectations. And we just didn't do that as a Government - we did that as a Parliament. Every single parliamentarian - bar one which we don't talk about - supported that Child Poverty Reduction Bill and I acknowledge all the parties for that.

And when you look at those numbers, there's a message that it tells us, and it tells us the cost of housing is still a drain on our families. Yes, the accommodation supplement went up, yes we've increased the number of public houses, yes we're putting extra money into Puni Kōkiri's Māori housing programme, but there is still more to do. And I didn't learn that looking at numbers on a page, I learnt that visiting the City Mission. I can see that there is still more to do.

I stood before you and said that we wanted the prison numbers to go down, and they have. There are fewer Māori in prison now than when we came into Government. But there is still more work to do.

We know that we need to create more opportunities - Shane Jones has been quite busy in that regard - and he's been here in Northland alongside Ministers, many, many times, and that's just one example. Projects from wharves, to roading, to tourism - we've invested in everything from kauri to tōtara to kanuka, but we know there is still more to do.

We invested in te reo in schools, we put money aside for Māori whenua, we've invested in mental health - but so long as we lose any life, there will still be more to do.

And so the past twelve months have taught me what a journey we have to go on together. But it's also taught me what a privilege this job is. It's taught me the joy of being a mum. This year has taught me that we may make progress on inequality, we may reduce poverty, we may reduce unemployment, education, the prison population, but there will still, for all of that, be distance between these two houses.

Equality is our foundation, but it is not our bridge.

I was at a marae in Tairawhiti when a speaker stood at the end of our meeting where we had been talking about the new work that was being done to invest and telling the stories of Te Tiriti - the process that iwi were going through for treaty settlement - to tell the story of what had happened. Both before and after the signing of Te Tiriti.

And she stood on the marae and said that, for a long time, there has been rhetoric about Māori and Pākeha meeting in the middle and yet how often did we truly walk that bridge together. And rather how often did we expect Māori to come all the way over to the other side. 

Yes, equality matters. Making progress on all of the things that every politician should commit to together - all of that matters, but it will never replace the need to understand our shared history.

Our shared heritage. The culture of Aotearoa. Te reo Māori - nothing will replace the need for that understanding. And on that we still have more to do.

But I am an optimist - I was born one and politics has not beaten it out of me yet.

I believe if we can make the progress that we have made in 12 months, imagine, imagine what we could do in 10 years. (That wasn't a pitch for me personally for 10 years.)

But we need to do it together, and we will not be perfect.

There's a quote from Michael Joseph Savage that he made the first time that state houses began to be moved into. He said: we don't claim perfection, but what we do claim is a considerable advance on the past. 

Perhaps that sentiment was actually best captured by Kawiti, one of the signatures that sits at the top of Te Tiriti. He said this:

"Me he kino whakairo au e hurihia ki te toki mata iti."

"I would be a poor tattoo indeed if I flinched at the first tap of the chisel."

I will not give up on the challenges that we face together. We will keep building the foundations to bring our two houses together and that ultimately will be the foundation for which Te Arawhiti will be formed. The bridge between our two houses.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.