Government

Ardern: ‘Still more to do’ for Māori

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has hailed her Government’s achievements for Māori in a speech at Waitangi, but acknowledged there was “still more to do” to fulfil its promises.

Ardern’s words came after National leader Simon Bridges challenged her to live up to her pledge of a year of delivery, saying korero was not enough for Māori and all New Zealanders.

Speaking from the mahau of the whare rūnanga on the Upper Treaty Grounds, Ardern paid tribute to deceased Ngāpuhi elder Kingi Taurua, saying she fondly remembered their encounter at Waitangi last year.

“I was at Karetu Marae and sat alongside Kingi and we spoke and exchanged warm words and an embrace - two days later he led a march against the Government here at Waitangi.”

Echoing the request from her Waitangi speech last year for Māori to “hold us to account”, Ardern said she was at Waitangi “to be held to account on behalf of the Government”.

“The words that I share with you, I share not out of politics but for accountability...when I speak of how far we’ve gone and how far there is to go, those should be words for every political party.”

Ardern highlighted the Government’s achievements in reducing Māori unemployment, helping more youth into work, and lifting incomes through the families package, as well as initiatives in housing and Corrections.

'Still more to do'

However, she emphasised that the work was not yet done, saying repeatedly: “There is still more to do.”

“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 [for Māori and Pakeha].”

"Equality is our foundation but it is not our bridge," Ardern said.

"Yes equality matters - making progress on all of the things that politicians should commit to together, all of that matters, but it will never replace the need to know our shared history, our shared heritage."

Earlier, Bridges became the first National leader to speak at Waitangi since 2015, after John Key and Bill English skipped several commemorations due to problems at Te Tii Marae.

Simon Bridges said he wanted all Treaty settlements to be concluded as swiftly as possible. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

Mentioning his status as the first Māori leader of a major party, Bridges said he agreed with Ardern’s comments earlier this year that 2019 had to be a “year of delivery” for the Government.

“Korero is good, barbeques are better, and getting hold of some of Shane Jones’ funds, that’s magic - but actually what our peoples need is a plan that is delivered on.”

Bridges said he was proud of the National government’s track record on Māori, saying it had “worked with you” rather than making decisions unilaterally - a stance he said contrasted with the current Government.

“We don’t view the Government like a benevolent but a controlling parent that thinks that it knows best and what you want best. We don’t know - you know what solutions are best for your hapu, for your iwi, for your whanau, for your communities.”

He named initiatives like Whanau Ora, partnership schools and Māori land reform - areas where the Government has taken a different view to its National-led predecessor -  as “solutions by, with, for, Māori”.

Bridges did offer some bipartisan support, saying to Treaty Settlements Minister Andrew Little, “We stand entirely with you", and calling for the conclusion of all Treaty settlements as swiftly as possible.

“I say that so we can move beyond actually this era of Treaty partnership, beyond the old things, into a new era where Māori are in control and are in the driving seat of their lives.”

MPs of all parties are formally welcomed onto Waitangi. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, who said he had not intended to speak, called for a Māori renaissance and “revival of responsibility and purpose”, saying the Government could not do the work by itself.

Noting politicians’ reputation for “being fast on the lip but very slow when it comes to the hip”, Peters said the Government had ensured it had the funding to match its policy pledges.

For the first time at the Waitangi pōwhiri, all political parties walked onto the marae grounds at the same time, with all MPs singing after the conclusion of speeches.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the pōwhiri was a chance for MPs to join together without partisanship “before we start the biffo next week” - a reference to the resumption of Parliament.

“I think that’s important, that we take this opportunity at least to start as we might continue, and I hope that spirit of non-partisanship, of working for the best of who we are as a country, stays with us from today through to tomorrow and right through the rest of the year.”

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