It is with humility and profound respect that we stand here upon your ground as your guests today.
We consider it a great privilege to share in the commemoration of your sovereign’s coronation and are honoured by the opportunity to make some remarks to you on such an important occasion.
We are a new waka just starting our journey, you are mighty vessel of great mana that has travelled a long distance already.
Despite those differences there is much which we have in common and I believe we navigate in our own way toward the same destination.
- A true desire for fairness and equality of opportunity for all.
- A profound belief that the Treaty of Waitangi and its principles must be recognised and embedded in our systems of governance for us to move forward.
- A shared knowledge that the time for real change is long past and now it’s the need for further progress that is urgent and upon us.
We do not pretend to be a Maori Party,
We do not presume to talk for Maori,
We cannot say or know what is best for Maori,
We do have many Maori supporters and candidates.
We do, without reservation, accept that true recognition and realisation of your culture, rights and abilities is central to any hope of improvement and prosperity for this country.
We also accept that as things stand we have not as a nation come close to truly embracing each other as peoples in way that will allow us all to move forward together.
And it is here that The Opportunities Party as a mainstream party can hopefully make our greatest contribution. Despite much progress since 1975, successive governments have done a poor job of bringing non-Maori along on the journey. There remains a high level of misunderstanding and even suspicion around the role of the treaty in New Zealand’s future.
We have many conversations with non-Maori on this subject and are pleasantly surprised when they come round to the view it is of mutual benefit to both signatories to have the treaty alive and thriving as we go forward.
The current provision for Maori representation in our Parliament is a woefully inadequate substitute for the full honouring of the treaty, the honouring which is beholden on both signatories.
Your parliamentary representation is constantly under threat from those who would seek to manipulate the fears and prejudices of others to achieve their own selfish political ends.
Equally as bad, old establishment parties are ever willing to co-opt the notion of Maori representation into their own outdated concepts of class warfare and left versus right tribalism. Your unique position and status is swamped in the ensuing melee that is partisan politics..
For that reason, I state without ambiguity that in or out of Parliament the Opportunities Party will stand beside you in resisting any attempt to disestablish or diminish the provisions currently in place for Maori representation in our Parliament.
We will not support a government which would put the current Maori seats at risk through referendum or any other means. This is a non-negotiable position for us, it is our one and only bottom line.
We have in our manifesto, a major reset of our democratic institutions to enshrine and give real effect to the principles and spirit of the Treaty.
It has been formulated in an abstract academic setting and we accept that we will need to forge a true dialogue with others to ensure in reality it can achieve its goals.
Meantime we are in the crucible of our first campaign and paddling hard to keep our waka moving forward.
We have had tough decisions to make about what course we set and have reached a very clear decision about the Maori electorates.
The Opportunities Party does not believe that mainstream parties which do not have the kaupapa of Maori advancement at the very core of their being, have any business contesting the Maori electorates.
When mainstream parties do win Maori seats their representatives’ ability to be true to the Maori people is at best compromised and at worst manipulated. This is counter to the very philosophy and objectives for the creation of the Maori seats.
For that reason, I tell you today The Opportunities Party will not contest any of the Maori electorates. We believe those electorates should be the preserve of parties with a Maori Kaupapa at their core.
We condemn both Labour and The Greens whose quest for power is so voracious, desperate and without principle that the Maori seats – which now under MMP no longer need to be sheltered by a ‘Big Brother’ in order for the Maori voice to be heard – are still targeted by both, that is they are “fair game”. That’s nothing less than a patronising, colonial-era perspective of Maori, that The Opportunities Party disagrees strongly with.
I’ll mention quickly Winston Peters and NZ First. Sir, I expressed our view of Peters in front of you and him at Ratana earlier this year. In short nothing has changed. We see that man as a turncoat, a person who has sold Maori and the Treaty down the river in his quest for regressive conservative votes from the Far Right. We’d hope all Maori view Peters’ position as disgusting, in the same camp as the followers of Don Brash and those behind the Hobson’s Pledge campaign that would see New Zealand retreat to it’s pre-1975 situation. Thank goodness that icon of Maoridom, Dame Whina Cooper and all the Maori who took part or supported that hikoi, were able to awaken non-Maori New Zealand to our responsibilities under the Treaty of Waitangi.
We recognise that partnership and cooperation will be vital to improve many facets of life in this country, including the environment, our criminal justice system, educational advancement, health reform and, as we mentioned, an enhanced democracy.
Because your people bear an unfair proportion of the burden of inequality in this country, you will also reap the most reward when our policies result in more equality and opportunity for all.
The Opportunities Party is not bound by a past of tribal or class conflict and it does not see conflict as the way forward.
We do ask those on the Maori Roll for their party votes, because we believe we have more to offer Maori than any other mainstream party, that’s what makes us unique insofar as getting real progress on a Constitution that will honour the Treaty.
Again, we are humbled to be with you today as you celebrate your rich and unique heritage and recognise your king…. we wish him good health and a long reign…..and we hope that this day will be the beginning of an ever deeper and more constructive dialogue as the years progress.
Tena Koutou Katoa