Speech: Race Relations Day dinner

  • Pita Sharples
Maori Affairs

Today is Race Relations day in New Zealand. So I thought that it would be good if we could gather together, share some food and contemplate issues of Race Relations within Godzone. I certainly have some thoughts that I would like to share with you all, and so I thank you for attending tonight on this very beautiful Marae of Ngāti Whatua.

I have specifically chosen to be amongst the mana whenua of Auckland City tonight because in my view there is no more appropriate venue than Orakei Marae to talk about Race Relations.

The very first claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal, and the first claim under the Tribunal's extended jurisdiction, came from here.

In October 1976, Joe Hawke, Henry Matthews, Te Witi McMath and Rua Paul lodged a claim relating to fishing rights in the Waitemata Harbour. Joe, and the others, claimed that the fisheries regulations breached the fishing rights guaranteed to tangata whenua under the Treaty of Waitangi.

"It is essential that the Māori people be recognised as having different needs and values to their pākeha contemporaries. For over 100 years now the pākeha has been telling Māori's what is best for them. But the time has come for the Māori people to decide these questions for themselves and this is their inherited right" - Joe Hawke.

The Tribunal could not help Joe having no jurisdiction to make the finding he sought. But anyone who knows history will see the significance of the dates. The hearings were in May 1977 - and in the meantime, Ngāti Whatua o Orakei had moved en masse to occupy Bastion Point, at the start of one of the most powerful upheavals in race relations this country has even seen, with reverberations that continue to be felt to the present day.

The whole history of Orakei, including the Bastion Point occupation, was covered in the Orakei claim. I quote now from the Tribunal's letter of Transmittal to then Minister of Māori Affairs, Hon Koro Wetere of the Orakei Claim.

"It is appropriate these initial claims came from Orakei. The Māori people there were first to promote British settlement following the Treaty of Waitangi. They moved to protect the settlers from threatened attacks on the new town of Auckland and rallied support for the Crown when New Zealand was on the brink of civil warfare. They led some of the earliest pan-tribal conferences that rank high in Māori history. They developed and through all adversity maintained a policy of respect for law, order and due process. Yet, it was this group of Māori people who suffered at the hands of the Crown, one of the worst cases of cultural genocide this country has known."

The details of Tribunals report, of how the Crown acquired the Orakei Block, are almost too terrible and painful to read, even today. Here are extracts:

"Te Kawau farewelled Governor Grey from Auckland saying ‘Friend when you arrive on the other side tell Queen Victoria about the good arrangements you have made in regard to the formation of the township on our land, and let this land (Orakei), be reserved for our own use forever."

One hundred years later (1952) it seemed important Queen Elizabeth should not see any part of the arrangements made for her Treaty partners. Only months before she came, the last of Te Kawau's descendants at Okahu were to be torched from their homes."

And reports from witnesses;

"The smoke was billowing and swirling and illuminated from all sides by the flames of collapsing buildings."

"The burning smouldering whare's and the embers billowed through the night."

"I remember vividly the wailing of the women and the confused shouts of the young. It could be clearly heard on the harbour."

Cultural genocide is not too strong a term to describe the history under our feet tonight.

This was the background to the Bastion Point occupation, which was engraved in the heart's of Ngāti Whatua and almost completely unknown by their fellow citizens of Auckland.

It is against this history of the oppression of Ngāti Whatua and the history of Ngāti Whatua's promotion of British settlement, their role in providing land to rebuild Auckland town, and their protection of those early settlers - it is against these events, that I regret the decision made by my Government this term that there should be no designated seats for Māori on the new Auckland super-city. It seems to me to be poor reward for such a major role played by Ngāti Whatua in ensuring that the city of Auckland could survive, grow, and flourish as acknowledged in the Tribunal's letter to Minister Wetere.

Ngāti Whatua's actions over 150 ago, express the deep structure of kaupapa Māori, a set of beliefs and values which are as relevant today, as they were at that time. The concept's of ‘powhiri' to welcome and ‘kaitiakitanga' - caregiver, guardian, ensured that the tribe had a role to protect and assist their ‘manuhiri' settlers. The value of ‘kotahitanga' - unity and inclusiveness ensured that Ngāti Whatua would offer land and assistance to the settlers; while the concept of ‘manaakitanga' - care, and assistance, ensured that the tribe would befriend and embrace the new population in the new town.

It seems that these Māori principles that guaranteed that Auckland could survive and grown, would be far more important, even in today's times than such artificial political concoctions such as - ‘one vote for one person', or ‘democratic elections' which were the principles that were cited to decline the two seats on the super-city council. The Māori kaupapa were principles that promoted ‘equity' and ‘inclusiveness', surely the ideals of a ‘civilised' society. We must begin to recognise that democracy has many expressions, many ways of mobilising voices and representation, rather than statically holding onto dominant axioms.

This was recognised by the Royal Commission when they recommended three, not just two, seats designated for Māori at the super-city top table. Ngāti Whatua did not care about such things as ‘equal-voting rights' or any other artificial device with which to make decisions - they applied, measures to ensure equality, as their mandate to help pākeha to settle and rebuild this town.

So I feel that the Auckland city seats decision is a missed opportunity, lost to the politics of the day. I am saddened by that course of action. As a Minister of a Government, therefore, I felt it was my responsibility to promote a Bill to establish a stand-alone statutory board for Mana Whenua Māori to stand alongside the super-city council with the statutory responsibility to monitor and input into the top tale council agenda issues.

My discussion so far about post-treaty events involving Ngāti Whatua and the current issue of Māori representation on the new Auckland super-city council - show clearly that there is still a way to go in realising the establishment of tangata whenua values in mainstream New Zealand society.

What remains misunderstood by many, is the concept of tangata whenua, and how lands and waters, mountains and mahinga kai are an integral part of the local iwi. In order to live as tangata whenua in the land of our tipuna - agreed to share with the settlers, our people must maintain their traditional collective relationship with and responsibilities for their natural and cultural heritage.

That is the meaning of the Treaty guarantee to hapu of ‘te tino rangatiratanga ō rātou whenua, ō rātou kainga, ō rātou kainga katoa.' Rangatiratanga does not involve exclusive ownership, legal title or special privileges. It is a concept grounded in our own tikanga, our own values, and it relates to the cultural obligations of our leadership to provide for the long term interests of the wider community. Since the signing of the Treaty, the interest of the settlers has had to be taken into account. But public rights cannot be allowed to prevent us living as Māori in our own lands. The guarantee of rangatiratanga protects our customary rights and interests.

On the other side of the coin I do believe, however, that the coalition between the National Party and the Māori Party to form a Government has forged a new constructive era in Race-Relations. And it amazes me that Dr Muriel Newman can publically claim that National's relationship with the Māori Party has damaged race-relations almost more than anyone else has ever done. Dr Newman condemned the use of Treaty of Waitangi principles in legislation and cited ‘Whanau Ora', as being underpinned by racist policies. She has accused National of promoting Māori privilege.

Sadly this cry of ‘Māori privilege' pops up every now and again by community leaders who have yet to understand, or even attempt, the concept of tangata whenua, which has absolutely nothing at all to do with race. Did Ngāti Whatua think ‘privilege' when they gifted land for Auckland city settlers or did they hesitate to apply the ‘principles of the Treaty of Waitangi' when they assisted and protected the settlers interests? The answer to these questions clearly is No and No.

In contrast with such views the country has overwhelmingly expressed their support for the National-Māori Party Government. They see the coalition as not only a positive move, but a fine example of the kind of leadership that New Zealand needs at this time. This is borne out of National's polling, the Prime Minister's popularity, and the hundreds' of pākeha who daily congratulate me on the work of the Māori Party and its' positive relationship with a National Government.

I have to admit that while we have a rangatira to rangatira agreement with the John Key led National Government, at times it is very difficult and stressful. The Auckland super-city seats are an example of this. However, this is to be expected from time to time since many of National's solutions to a policy are quite different to our Maori cultural values and our pathways. Still, I do not think this is a National-Māori Party specific problem, as I believe such tensions would always be a part of a major party coalition.

I am happy to report however, that within this coalition the Māori Party in just over a year in Government is able to report progress on a number of issues which we have led, or co-led or assisted in. These include:

  • - development of a Whānau Ora kaupapa;
  • - progressing Treaty Settlements with dignity;
  • - cabinet recognition of Māori flag;
  • - Foreshore and Seabed review with impending repeal;
  • - Māori Economic Taskforce;
  • - Māori Trustee Amendment Act;
  • - reflecting the Treaty relationship in the Emissions Trading Scheme;
  • - review of the Maori Community Development Act;
  • - Māori Wardens and rangatiratanga;
  • - Māori Televsion Rugby World Cup bid;

I would like to mention at this stage that with the passing of the Race-Relations Act, I spent eight years pioneering the expression of that Act as CEO. During that period I realised that the issues and the goals towards good ‘race-relations' actually changed as society's values, norms, and goals changed. And I came to the conclusion the so-called ‘good relations' was in fact a goal that we aim to achieve rather than a static situation. It is important therefore that we recognise impediments to good race-relations such as prejudice, cultural arrogance, and institutional racism for example, and to work to eliminate them.

I believe also that Māori are continually moving from a mode of protest to one of progress and that protest is important in opening the doors for progress to follow. Prior to 1980s the Governments of the day did not give iwi and hapu the time of day. The emergence of kohanga reo and kura opened the door for the cultural renaissance and the re-establishment by Māori of their various tribal structures. We now have a situation where Tribal matters can be seen across all of Government in almost all of Government service delivery, in fact our tribes have established their own points of contact with central and local Governments. This is particularly evident with the current iwi leaders forum which, although networking to 60-80 tribes, is actually led by a smaller representative group of eight to ten iwi leaders on any one issue. Iwi leaders groups have established a rangatira to rangatira relationship with the Prime Minister and his senior cabinet Ministers. This is a positive move for Māoridom - they are an emerging power in the land, and both Māori and Pākeha need to recognise this. They represent Māori as a Treaty partner with the Government - as does the Māori Party. They have led discussions on major issues such as water, climate change and so forth. This of course does not mean that they are the answer to all solutions and negotiations for Māori - Māori are many things: hapū, committee, marae, incorporations. And Māori must develop all our facets and take our place in society.

On the other hand, the iwi leaders group must account to the iwi whānui. There are rumblings in our tribal structures which should be settled. Iwi leaders and their Boards or Rūnanga must ensure that their governance issues are transparent and inclusive to their respective hapū, marae and tribal members. This is particularly important as iwi leaders become more involved in policies across a national platform. And while they always stipulate up front they only represent their particular iwi or hapu, simply working on a national platform and with central government where others are not, has further implications and responsibilities.

I would like to now turn to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I do so because this Declaration has not been ratified or supported by a New Zealand Government and is a source of race-relations embarrassment to Māori who recognise the rights of iwi taketake as paramount. As Minister of Māori Affairs I have been working with other Government Ministers to change New Zealand's position on this declaration. Minister Simon Power has announced our intention to support the declaration, but as we know this has a number of caveats attached to it. I am dedicated to completing this exercise and to pull back these caveats. I believe adopting the declaration would mean recapturing some of the courage and momentum in advancing race-relations that we lost with the Auckland seats.

I would like to end this discussion with reference to our immigrant New Zealanders. As a former race-relations officer I have maintained regular contact with our new New Zealanders from the pacific and Asia. It is my view that as a country we have yet to fully recognise our asian immigrants as fellow Kiwis. Immigrants from the pacific have been arriving since the 1970's and are extensively involved in community and social activities and sport. Immigrants from South Africa and the UK simply blend in immediately to the Western cultural way of life. Asian's, however, we tend to ignore socially, or exclude, and in many cases they are victims of social insults, from our New Zealand cultural arrogance. It is time that we honoured our immigration program, and in the manner of Ngāti Whatua 150 years ago we should make our settlers feel welcome and included. The Chinese for example have a history of settling in this country and in other countries over the past years, and working hard for their new country. They have been easy to absorb into our lifestyle. But, with a large increase in numbers over the past 10 years we have often excluded them socially. We criticise and it seems, sometimes intimidate the Indian community for dominating the dairy's, exacerbating stereotypes instead of recognising their capacity to support each other. Asians man our hospitals at all professional levels and our health service delivery would be stressed without their input. Many Asian leaders and friends express to me that they do not feel that they are welcome in our country. To me, personally, I feel shamed at those admissions. I feel it is a role that we must complete - and powhiri our Asian settlers - as a Māori, I feel it is our duty. Perhaps, a major event consummating the Asian contribution and acknowledging their presence towards new settlers is another project towards good race-relations.

In talking about cultural expressions of unity, there is no doubt in my mind that another project would be to erect an iconic structure on the waterfront to welcome visitors to New Zealand, reflecting our south pacific island identity and tangata whenuatanga. There are more pacific islanders in Auckland city than there are anywhere else in the world and as for Māori this is a diagnostic caricature for a New Zealand definition.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for coming.

The views expressed tonight are mine, and of nothing else they will invite you to have opinions as well. In New Zealand we are very fortunate - our location, our physical environment, our friendly climate and our beautiful people is still in my mind the safest and best place to live.

But that is no excuse; we must challenge - challenge ourselves and challenge each other, to understand and celebrate our differences and continue to persevere towards a fair and equal New Zealand for all.

Thank you.