Prime Minister's 2020 Waitangi speech

E nga iwi e pae nei ki runga o Waitangi

Karanga mai, mihi mai.

Nga aitua o te tau kua hipa, koutou e Ta Hek, e Pita, e Piri, e Mike, Koutou Katoa, Harae atu ra.

Tenei te Whakarongo atu nei ki nga kupu korero.

Kei aku rangatira e hui mai nei ki Waitangi.

Tena Koutou, tena koutou, tena tatau katoa

I acknowledge the welcome (karanga and mihi) by the iwi gathered here at Waitangi.

We are here to listen to the words spoken, and so, let me pay respects to past leaders such as Sir Hek (Busby), Pita (Paraone), Piri (Sciascia) and Mike (Moore), indeed all go them. And to you who succeed, and are here today at Waitangi.

Last year, as I stood before you we mourned two tall trees in the forest of Tane, Kingi and Koro. We have experienced great loss again.

Last year as we sat on the marae we acknowledged Sir Hek Busby. I felt very privileged to sit alongside him as he was finally acknowledged for the generations that he has inspired, for the passing down of knowledge of waka hourua. As we sat next to each other, he remarked on how proud he was of the haka that was performed that day, and I know he would have felt the same today.

This is our first Waitangi without Pita Paraone. He was a Board member. He was a Member of Parliament. He was a member of whanau. He will always be present.

For the Labour whanau, and for Aotearoa, we also mourn the loss of Mike Moore. He was a man who gave his life to the service of Aotearoa New Zealand. And we mourn him.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the loss of Piri Sciascia. Today I began with a modified mihi that was written by Piri for me last year. That was one small way that I could acknowledge the role he played for me as a kaumatua, an adviser and as a friend.

I will miss his korero. Haere, Haere, Haere atu ra

To all of those who have spoken today, particularly Anaru Iti, I will take my lessons in te reo Maori from now on from you Anaru. From all of the speakers today, for many of you there is much with which we agree: everybody hates GST. Except for Grant Robertson.

And the reason that there is much on which we agree is because so many who sit on this side of the marae [indicates one side] have sat on this side [indicates the other side].

I was reminded yesterday as we spoke of the land march of 1975, our Speaker Trevor Mallard, he marched. Shane Jones has spoken of being here in protest – up a tree.

We know there have been many on this side of the marae [indicates] who spoke in challenge of what was happening at that time in our history. Willie Jackson has always been a voice of challenge. And on this side, we have Kelvin Davis, Willow-Jean Prime, Marama, all sons and daughters off the North.

And on this side [indicates] we have Rino Tirikatene working with the Waitangi Trust Board.

What I want to acknowledge is that we have a challenge on this side and we have a challenge from within. And that is what should happen here on this day. We should be here to challenge.

When I first came here, I said hold me to account and I will keep coming back here so you can do just that. Not because we lack scrutiny, there is plenty of that, but because we should never be afraid of it.

Waitangi is the place where we acknowledge our past. But it must also be the place where we challenge our present, but where we be collectively hopeful about our future.

When we talk about our present there are challenges. But there are also signs of change. Signs of change, manifestations of Oritetanga, manifestations of us fulfilling our obligations to Te Tirti, which we must continually, not just the principles but the articles.

What are those signs? They are signs that there is change but also that there is more work.

Yes, Maori unemployment is in some of its lowest levels in 10 years. But there is more mahi to do.

We have 8000 Maori, particularly rangatahi, who are in apprenticeships now. But there is more mahi to do.

We've just graduated 500 teachers and support workers who are out in our schools and our education system teaching Te Reo Maori, integrating it into everything they do. But there is more mahi to do.

We've helped more than 2000 more Maori families into public housing. But there is more mahi to do.

We've increased funding to Whanau ora. But there is more mahi to do.

The Provincial Growth Fund - I don’t need to tell you what’s happened in the North, you’ve seen it for yourself. More than $1.4 billion going into communities that will benefit Maori. But there is more mahi to do.

We've increased the minimum wage. We've put food in schools. We’ve increased paid parental leave. We've created increases in support for whanau.

But it is more mahi to do

But by our deeds you will know us.

While all of that may change lives, it doesn’t fundamentally change who we are as Aotearoa New Zealand. So when I said hold us to account, I didn't just mean what we do. I also meant how we do it.

It was when I first became Prime Minister that I was welcomed onto a marae in Rotorua and I first heard the discussion around the two worlds in which we exist, the Maori world and the Pakeha world. And we often talk about the representation of those two worlds by the two houses that sit here at Waitangi.

And we talk about the connection between the two by Te Tiriti and acknowledge Whakaputanga.

But every time we learn from one another, every time we have an exchange of culture, a shared understanding of history, then we see the crossover, the crossover on the bridge between the two worlds. But as was said at that marae that day in Rotorua, and as I’ve heard Reverend Charlie Shortland ask, who has crossed the bridge more?

The way we do things matters.

Our Maori MPs, our Maori Ministers, they cross that bridge every day. But so must all of us. That is why you heard Andrew Little today whaikorero as an example of the effort that we wish to keep making to cross over into the Maori world as so often we have asked you to cross into the Pakeha world.

It is an example of how we wish to bring our worlds closer together, to build knowledge, understanding, to strengthen the relationship. And there are many ways we can do that. The last two years, we've worked hard to lift the representation as it should be of Maori at the seats where decisions are made.

For the first time, a small example, our district health boards fully represent the Maori population. For the first time. Twenty per cent of the appointments we have made have been Maori.

We’ve worked to integrate te reo Maori into our schools.

We partnered on difficult issues like data sovereignty, housing, corrections, and we must continue the dialogue on the issues that are hardest.

And I list in that Oranga Tamariki. We must continue to work together.

But doing things differently includes how we acknowledge our history. Yesterday was one example of that. Finally, to see an acknowledgement in the form of a statue of Dame Whina Cooper at Panguru. Not before time. To see a commitment that we will finally have the teaching of New Zealand histories in schools. 

And I hope you saw from the way that we wished to work with Tuia 250 that we want to honour and grow the sharing of knowledge around the navigational history of Maori and Pasifika.

That is work we must keep doing. There is only a legacy to be shed from that period in our history. To honour Sir Hek and the incredible knowledge which he worked so hard to share with the next generation. And today, Sir Hek, we honour you.

Today marks the beginning of the formation of a national body for waka hourua that we are committed to establishing. A national body that will work together to form a strategy around the teaching of waka hourua Matauranga

That will include the Government supporting employees around the country so the next generation can learn the important knowledge of the navigational history that Sir Hek dedicated his life to teaching.

It is not just what we do, it is how we do it.It is the foundations that we lay. It is a right, not a privilege, that every child knows their history and their whakapapa.

And it is an obligation and responsibility for every generation in a position of power to work to bring our houses together. Not just in programmes, not just in policies, but in relationships. To cross Te Arawhiti. And to cross Te Arawhiti no matter how many times we may stumble.

No Reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.