Past presidents, Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts, Dame Areta Koopu, who I travelled to China with in 1995, Kitty Bennett and Druis Barrett
Members of the Māori Womens League Te Rōpū Wahine Māori Toko i te Ora
I wanted to formally welcome you here today, because this is the last opportunity I have to do so in my role as Mayor.
I have spoken at your annual conference twice before in my former role as the Minister for Women Affairs, the 54th and 55th conferences in 2006 & 2007 respectively, so it feels right that I can share the value I have always placed on my relationships with the League at this the 68th National Conference, as my time in public office comes to an end.
For 70 years you have been the independent voice for Māori women and children.
Although independence does not come with a secure and steady stream of funds, your independence has enabled you to be the authentic voice of Māori women, nationally and internationally.
Your independence is your strength.
Thank you for coming to Te Waiponamu, thank you for coming to Ōtautahi. We value greatly our contribution to the success of the League with outstanding leaders such as Past Presidents Dame Aroha Reriti-Crofts, and the late Linda Grennell.
I had managed to write only this much of my speech when I sent a text to Louisa to see what she and Prue were doing. A phone call later and I was on my way to Wigram to watch the extraordinary film, Whina.
This disrupted my speech writing, which had to continue when I got home, but the emotions of what I experienced in the theatre last night, with tears running down my cheeks, washed over my thoughts about what I would say today.
This is a story that is needed now. A story that offers a bridge between two world views.
A story that crystalises the opportunity for Aotearoa to be the nation that forges an unbreakable bond between tangata whenua and tangata te tiriti.
Both times I came to speak as Minister of Women’s Affairs, I spoke of the significance of the role of the Māori Women’s Welfare League. I talked about the continuing support of the League, which, for more than half-a-century, had worked to create a pathway of security and opportunities for future generations of Māori. I said in 2006, “You can take no small credit for the success of the current generation of Māori women, and I know you are committed to even greater progress in the future”.
When I spoke in 2007, I spoke about family violence, both because it was an issue to which I had a deep personal commitment and because it was something that the government was determined to address.
It was also a subject that was to be addressed at CEDAW that year.
Government cannot do it alone, I said back then, and that is as true today as it was then.
I commented on the practical contribution you had made for many years through things like positive parenting programmes.
I was pleased that it was clear that that this was where the interventions needed to begin – right at the start of life. Babies nurtured in warm, loving, safe and stimulating environments will grow into strong, caring adults, capable of forming strong, caring relationships.
Babies who are neglected or 'incubated in terror', as one person described the effects of violent households on babies, have little chance of achieving their true human potential. We talk about a crime when someone steals property; but what is it to rob an innocent child of its future?
Helping parents understand the importance of those early years and teaching them the skills they need to nurture their child's potential is the most valuable work that can be done. That was 2007.
What saddens me is that the film last night reminded me of the roots of the League and Dame Whina’s words, which became the driving force of the first constitution – and yet the words I have just spoken could just as easily be spoken today.
The relationship that you have entered into with police and the Strategic Partnership with Oranga Tamariki – something formerly considered the preserve of iwi – and the recognition you have in the UN, these are tangible examples of the progress you have made, and will help continue to focus our nation’s attention on these vital issues.
As Mayor, I have the honour of presiding over citizenship ceremonies.
I have always held the first ceremony of the year on Waitangi Day at one of our Marae – and can I acknowledge the Papatipu rūnanga: Te Rūnanga o Wairewa, Te Ngai Tūāhuriri Rūnanga, Te Rūnanga o Koukourarata, Te Hapu o Ngāti Wheke, Ōnuku Rūnanga, and Te Taumutu Rūnanga.
It was sad that we could not hold a citizenship ceremony on Waitangi Day at Ōnuku with Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu this year due to Covid.
Each time I have held these ceremonies, I have reflected on the significance of gaining citizenship on Waitangi Day, as it is on that day that we reflect on our bi-cultural nationhood, the firm foundation upon which we have built a diverse multi-cultural society.
I remember soon after becoming Mayor, the City Library asked me to write about what Waitangi Day meant for me so that they could share the message with the children who were learning about the Treaty of Waitangi, our founding document.
It caused me to reflect on my own experience. I said when I was a child, we didn't learn anything about the Treaty at school. As an adult I became ashamed at how little I knew. We didn't know how to pronounce the names properly or even know the meaning of the place names we were associated with.
I went on to say that I was pleased that young people today learn about our shared history and not just the history of the European settlers and their forbears, as I did. No one should underestimate the significance of teaching history as part of our curriculum.
I always speak of the Treaty in modern times as having served as the basis for resolving grievances that arose when it was not honoured.
Every settlement begins with a statement of the facts (gleaned from a consideration of all the evidence by the Waitangi Tribunal) and an apology for the wrong that has been done.
It is easy to explain to children the importance of people owning up and saying sorry when they have done wrong.
In this case the wrong was done by the Crown, which lives on in the form of the Executive arm of government, which is why the apology is recorded in the Act of Parliament that confirms the settlement.
Just after I became Mayor, I spoke at a service to commemorate the life of Nelson Mandela and his gift to his nation of truth and reconciliation.
It was a nation's chance for restorative justice – the chance to speak the truth, acknowledge what had been done, own up and take responsibility for personal actions, whether directed or otherwise, and to express sorrow and regret – a genuine apology for the wrongs that had been committed against others.
Recording the history – laying down the truth – and apologising for wrongdoing is at the heart of our Treaty settlement process here in New Zealand.
It is a firm foundation for building enduring relationships and creating unity.
And it is here that I find a link to the kaupapa of your conference - Ki Uta ki Tai, kia matatū – From the mountains to the sea, be mindful and vigilant.
A concept developed for freshwater in 2014 – te mana o te wai – meant very little to a new Mayor struggling to cope with a massive hole in a budget left in the wake an agreement signed just four months before I took office. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, let alone have time for a National Policy Statement on Freshwater – something that was the primary preserve of our regional council.
The day I was sworn in as Mayor the Upoko of Ngāi Tūāhuriri, Rik Tau, spoke of the historic grievance that was the Ihutai Reserve and issued a challenge to our council to put right this wrong.
I did not appreciate the wero he had laid down, because I had no background or knowledge of the issues, nor was there advice within the council I could call on.
There were no Treaty relationship advisers employed at Council when I arrived. My invitation to the Chief Executive of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu was the first she had received to meet in the Mayor’s Lounge even though she had been in the role for over 12 months.
I have focussed my role on building those relationships and I am grateful for the support I have received, because relationships are not one way, they are based on reciprocity; it takes both sides to form enduring partnerships. But I tell you this, not to take credit for anything. It is simply to say from a pakeha point of view that it takes time to build the knowledge and understanding that is needed to build that bridge between two worlds.
Now that I know the history of Ihutai Reserve, and the scale of the challenge it will take to right that wrong, and now that I have listened to hapū from around the country who have told their stories of land confiscated under the Public Works Act and the trampling of wāhi tapu and mahinga kai for the sake of development, I fear public debates often lead us away from developing a shared understanding of the solutions.
When we add the significance of the future that climate change and sea level rise will bring to our low-lying coastal city and peninsula, I am worried about the scale of the challenge I am leaving to the next generation of city leaders.
But when I watched Whina last night, I felt the strength of the voice of Māori women speaking for their children and their children after that. The answer lies in te mana o te wai – ki uta ki tai. Kia matatū asks us to be vigilant and we must be.
And that’s why and how we work together – when my world view sees a mountain or a river or the sea and your world view sees your ancestors – your whakapapa. Surely that is the foundation upon which we build. Truth and reconciliation.
I read a description of Kaitiakitanga, one that has always remained with me - it is more than stewardship, guardianship, preservation and protection and yet it is all of them. It recognises the relationship between everything and everybody in the natural world – with no distinction between people and their environment.
It is completely independent of ‘ownership’ in a European sense. It is seamless and all-encompassing – making no distinction between moana and whenua - the sea and the land. It ensures any use is sustainable, because it is an intergenerational responsibility - past, present and future - a duty of care owed as much to our ancestors as to our children's grandchildren.
And I feel that this is the challenge before us.
You have come to the right place to speak of such challenges. Ōtautahi has been through a decade that has tested us all.
It is the place where we can build a bridge and the place where we can find solutions together.