Georgina Te Heuheu speech to the New Zealand House of Representatives. 2011-10-05.
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A transcription of the valedictory statement of Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Minister for Courts) : E te Mana Whakawā, tēnā koe. E ngā whanaunga, e ngā hoa o te hunga kāinga i haere mai i tēnei rā ki te tautoko i ahau, tēnei te mihi aroha ki a koutou katoa. Ki aku hoa mahi o tēnei Whare, tēnā koutou. Ko Tongariro te maunga, ko Taupō te moana, ko Tūwharetoa te iwi, ko te Heuheu te tangata. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
[Greetings to you, Mr Speaker. Also to relatives, friends, and those from home who travelled here today to support me, this heartfelt acknowledgment to you all. To my colleagues in the House, greetings. Tongariro is the mountain, Taupō is the lake, Tūwharetoa is the iwi, te Heuheu is the man. Greetings to you, greetings to you, and greetings to us all.]
The opportunity to serve in this House came through the National Party list with the first MMP election in 1996. Political parties were able to top up their lists with members who might bring different or specialist skills to complement those already in place. I think it fair to say that there were not many Māori involved with the party at the time. To that point my career had brought me into close contact with Government policy in a wide range of areas, including law reform, the arts, heritage, health, and Treaty of Waitangi claims. Although I had not contemplated a career in national politics, when an interest was indicated in my competing for a place on the list, the opportunity to contribute to decision making at the highest level was something I felt compelled to take. By our position as tangata whenua, Māori are born into politics, and I welcomed the challenge.
My upbringing revolved very much around notions of independence, and included a responsibility to contribute to the common cause—the greater good. My father-in-law, the late Sir Hepi te Heuheu, put it this way: “You’re a lawyer; I think you need to go and give them a hand.” My late mother, Te Uira Winnie Manunui, said: “Yes. Well, I was wondering what you were going to do next, and when.” I am by nature a person who seeks consensus to cement agreement, shares information to enhance understanding, and works to forge alliances—political or otherwise—to progress mutual benefits. As an aside, when on my first day in Parliament I bumped into New Zealand First MP John Delamere on the walkway, we exchanged the hongi and then, like two excited kids, we hugged each other. That interaction was caught on camera. The next day in my first caucus, a former colleague, who remains very close to me, said: “I saw you hugging the Opposition.”, which startled me somewhat. When I realised what he was referring to, I said: “He’s a relative!”. Back came the retort: “He’s the enemy!”. I considered that but only for a second, and replied: “The enemy he might be, but he’s a relative and I’ll hug him when I like.” Welcome to the world of politics! Thinking back on that incident reminds me of Graham Henry, All Blacks coach supremo, saying in the Air New Zealand ad: “We can’t have that kind of disruption in the team.”
I must say I have admired the willingness of the National Party to work in concert with leading Māori of other parties since 1996. I acknowledge in this context the leadership of the Hon Tau Henare, in his earlier guises, and that of the Hon Pita Sharples and the Hon Tariana Turia in this term, working with our Government in areas where Māori insights are either patently necessary or highly desirable. The opportunity to work alongside the Māori Party members has been one of the highlights of my time in the House. I began quietly building a bridge with them when they first arrived. It fits our Māori way, not least because many of us share kinship ties. For as many years as I can remember, Māori have worked together on the big issues, despite differing political and tribal affiliations. To my personal delight, we have seen a significant step in that direction here in Parliament in the current term. It is also good for the country that the Māori Party should work in coalition with others, for it represents our growing New Zealand way of respecting difference as a positive means of working together.
I pay tribute to our Prime Minister, the Rt Hon John Key, for his genuine respect for all people and cultures, and for seeking mutually beneficial ways to encourage increased respect. With such leadership in the House, the importance of building networks and relationships, and of providing insights oftentimes gained from working behind the scenes, is given more meaning. In that role I have endeavoured to support Māori development, and enhance Pākehā and others’ understanding of Māori endeavours. There have been some hiccups in advancing the way our cultures relate to one another but, looking back, I think good progress has been made in understanding our bicultural beginnings and providing a strong platform for our growing multicultural dimension.
The special place of Māori is an area that often gives vent to strong emotions that tend to cloud our thinking. Consequently, there remains a tendency to see any special attention to Māori as unwarranted, given the several cultural minorities in New Zealand today. But there are distinctions to be made. The first concerns the proprietary rights that flow from prior habitation. The second is that the Māori culture, unlike all others, survives only in New Zealand, but its survival remains tenuous, and the issue for Māori is not one of cultural tolerance but of cultural survival.
A landmark day for me was the day that John Key took over the leadership of our party. At his first-ever press conference in that role he was asked for comment, if I recall, about the place of Māori in New Zealand. His reply was: “Māori are tangata whenua of New Zealand.” I do not think I had heard a leader make that statement. Whether he appreciated fully the impact of the statement at the time, I was not certain, but I applauded him for it. Among other things it signalled a return to the place we had been in the 1990s, and from whence we had temporarily strayed when we came into Opposition. There is no turning back on this one.
I feel privileged that my work in the House has provided me with myriad opportunities to meet extensively with many New Zealanders in different walks and many places. I have sought to shed light on the Māori position in order to engender confidence in what we as a Government are endeavouring to achieve in supporting Māori independence, and what it is that Māori have to contribute to the betterment of our nation. Building and sustaining connections with representatives from overseas is also an area that has presented opportunities to promote better understandings. I have debated in a variety of situations our New Zealand approach to managing cultural difference. Our approach may not be perfect, but our insights have been received with considerable interest by overseas representatives, who have not always appreciated the soundness of our methodology, or who have sometimes confused our efforts with separatism. I think their understanding of the intelligent nuances in New Zealand’s management of these issues is important in building our global connections.
Particularly in my role as Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, I have also valued my association with the various Pacific communities. Their cultures too are in need of support. The role of the New Zealand Government, and indeed of the people of New Zealand, in supporting their initiatives and aspirations has long-term benefits for them, and for us, in identifying us as a leading Pacific nation—one that seeks to grow strong Pacific communities here, in the Pacific, and further afield. In any event, they are family.
In my maiden statement I disclosed a special interest in the settlement of Treaty of Waitangi claims. A significant reason for choosing what would become an extended stay in this House was my desire to support the National Government’s resolve to address the resolution of historical Treaty injustices. I remain admiring of the Rt Hon Jim Bolger and the Rt Hon Sir Douglas Graham, the founders of the settlement process. I acknowledge too the Hon Chris Finlayson as the current Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, for in temperament, capacity, and all else, he follows well in their footsteps. Sixteen settlements concluded in this term is an outstanding result. The work in this area is, in every respect, about investing in the future. The spin-offs in Māori economic development have become self-evident. I am proud to have been in this House at this period in our history, when this Parliament, in my view, has done some of its best work in advancing the settlement process. I hope that New Zealanders are proud, as well.
The work of the House is never done, nor should it be. Over the years the National Party has worked to rid New Zealand of excessive controls that inhibit private enterprise. Going forward there will be a need to review the Māori Land Court’s role in the administration of Māori land. I think there are no businesses in the country that are so constrained by external control, nor do I know of any enterprise anywhere that would want to manage its business through the vagaries of judicial decision-making.
I was raised in the backblocks of Tūwharetoa in the middle of the North Island, observing leaders who were committed to the principle of autonomy in all matters, including land administration. Enterprising measures will eventually be developed to replace the outworn system of the Māori Land Court, so that Māori enterprise can blossom. I find that, 15 years on, the need to build bridges to enhance understanding, to grow relationships, and to forge and maintain economic and political alliances is even more critical than when I came in, given our country’s increasing diversity and the need to reconcile seemingly competing interests. Such approaches are important as well, for a small but feisty nation of people, working hard to find our way on the global stage. Our future well-being as a nation depends upon our ability to maintain strong relationships both at home and abroad.
I take this opportunity to share a vignette, which kind of departs a little bit from what I have been talking about, but I have to tell it anyway. Back in 1999, when New Zealand hosted APEC, President Clinton came to New Zealand to attend. I was part of the official welcoming party, along with the Hon Tau Henare and the Hon John Delamere. While waiting with the official party, dressed in our korowai, I asked my two colleagues: “Do you think we should hongi the President?”, to which, of course, they agreed. At that point I alerted Ambassador Beeman who at once gave me a startled look and said: “Just wait a minute. I’ll need to alert the President’s security.”, who were, of course, on Air Force One, which was at that moment getting ready to land. As he radioed Air Force One to alert the President’s security of our intention, we and the people from my office who were also watching this plane coming in noticed it doing another circle over the airport. Within minutes Ambassador Beeman came back and said: “That’s fine, but it was important that we let them know because we don’t want any security people suddenly jumping on you guys when you approach the President.” I hope that in future times when I am recalling my experiences in Parliament I will talk about my time involved in supporting, say, Treaty settlements, but I am likely to tell that story because it is the day that I kept the President of the United States waiting.
For 15 years I have had two families: the home family of Tūwharetoa and the family of National Party colleagues, both former and current, who have largely supported me in my endeavours, and when I think of them all I can say I have enjoyed their company, each and every one of them, for all of the 15 years. The first family have, of course, without reservation supported the need for me to be here, even when the second family has from time to time, I suspect, harboured doubts. None the less, I will miss this House. I had the great privilege of serving in Cabinet under the Rt Hon Jenny Shipley in the 1990s, and now under the Rt Hon John Key, and of having responsibility for a number of areas, all of which I appreciated immensely, and not least in this term, being the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control, which was something completely different from what I had ever thought I might have responsibility for. In that role I was very proud to lead New Zealand’s delegation to overseas conferences and observe the huge respect with which New Zealand is held in matters of nuclear disarmament and arms proliferation.
I will always be grateful for the support I have had from all, including loyal staff over the many years, and particularly my current ministerial staff. To the many, many others who make the House of Representatives function well for our fellow New Zealanders, I acknowledge your dedication to this august place. I thank the National Party for the privilege they have afforded me of serving in this role. Judy Kirk in particular I mention. She was for some years my electorate agent in Taupō before she took over the role of president of the National Party. One day I was her boss; the next day she was mine. That is politics. More important, we remain friends.
Finally I acknowledge the unconditional support of Timi and our two sons, Tūirirangi and Manunui, and in his own little baby way, our mokopuna Rongomai-te-Ngangana te Heuheu. Now another bell is ringing, no less strident than the one to which we are accustomed in this House. It is a call from the hearth and it is time to go. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa. Kia ora.
Reference number 170683
Media type AUDIO
Collection Sound Collection
Ngā Taonga Korero Collection
Nonfiction radio programs
Te Heuheu, Georgina, 1943-, Speaker/Kaikōrero, New Zealand National Party
AM Network (Radio network), Broadcaster
Date 05 Oct 2011
Te Heuheu, Georgina, 1943-
Speeches, addresses, etc., New Zealand