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A man from humble roots who became a leader of his people; Parekura Horomia

As he rose to give his maiden speech in the Parliament of New Zealand, Parekura Horomia, the former sheep shearer from Tolaga Bay was about to become a tree int he forest of leaders. This is the maiden speech the late, great Maori leader gave in his own words....

Ko Hikurangi te maunga, ko Waiapu te awa, ko Ngati Porou te iwi whanau rua. I reira ke, e whakatu ake ano te maunga o Titirangi, e mau haere ake ano te wai o Uawa, e whakatu ake ano te Whare o Ruakapanga i roto i te mahanatia o Te Aitanga-o-Hauiti.

I a koutou o te hau kainga e tae ake ano i konei ki te tautoko, ka nui te mihi ki a koutou. Nga mea tata, nga mea mai i Te Tai Rawhiti i te nui hoki o te nohonga wahi o Ikaroa-Rawhiti, tena koutou. E tika ake ano ki te mihi ake ano ki nga mema, e kare i konei, pera tonu ki tetahi o nga rangatira o tatou o Te Tai Rawhiti, o te motu, a Ta Apirana ma, ratou kua haere anake. Mihi ake ano, ki a ratou. Tika ake ano, ki te mihi ake ano ki te maha na tatau nei o nga kanoho Maori e whakanoho ake nei i roto i tenei ropu. No reira ki a koutou ano tena koutou, tena koutou.

I had an interesting upbringing. I grew up in a beautiful village called Mangatuna near the pa with my whanau, surrounded by the love and support of my kuia and koroua. It was a predominantly Maori community rich in culture – the culture of Ngati Porou, Te Aitanga Hauiti.

My life experiences are varied; as varied as the people I represent in Ikaroa Rawhiti. I have been a fencer, shearer, scrub-cutter, and printer. I have also worked in the upper levels of bureaucracy, which I am now finding quite handy. My past has made me the person I am today. I am the proud father of three sons and one mokopuna. I consider myself privileged in that I have worked with all sorts of people, nationally and internationally, and now I am an MP.

As a Maori member of Parliament I have a dual responsibility; a responsibility to my people and to the wider public. Unfortunately, when we look at the statistics for the people I represent the picture is bleak. We feature disproportionately in negative statistics. Hohua Tutengaehe used to say that Maori people are the most “reviewed” people in the world. There are reviews on reviews. So we do not want any more reviews. We need to get on with the action.

Education is the starting point for closing the socio-economic gaps. Although some mainstream educators are making a difference, others need to get their act together. They must strive to get more Maori to achieve, starting with early-childhood education through to tertiary education, and they must do it with their Maori communities. I am indeed impressed with the discussions I have had with the ministry so far.

Too many Maori are dependent on State handouts, and we see families into their third generation of unemployment. There are solo mums struggling to feed their kids. There are far too many young Maori men over-represented in the penal system.

In relation to Maori economic development, I have known what it is like to get paid regularly. Sadly, there are not too many Maori who know the joy of a regular income. Maori are the ones often hardest hit in times of lower economic growth. In communities with high levels of unemployment and benefit dependency, people generally experience unemployment as just one aspect of the broader social and economic difficulties. So it is critical that Maori are not sidelined and compartmentalised into categories where we are one thing or the other. The matrix of disadvantage floods through Maori people so badly, and it is important that that matter is addressed.

In respect of Maori economic development we have to address several issues, especially in the regions where business has been unable to provide the jobs that are needed. I think of the East Coast and I think of the Tai Tokerau. The Maori economic base is generally tied to fishing, forestry, and farming. Jobs in these industries have fallen because of new technologies and restructuring.

This has had a severe effect on the livelihoods of our rangatahi and parents.

Community development is about local solutions to local problems. It is about bottom-up development tailored to local needs. It is about real partnerships between the Government, businesses, and communities. It is about a holistic approach. It is about communities having more capacity to deliver and do things for themselves in the fashion that they want and need.

It is about developing leaders and entrepreneurs. It is most certainly about testing innovative ideas, and, more certainly for Maori, it is about allowing space, giving them time to settle down and do what they want to do. There are many hard-working volunteers in communities with no shortage of good ideas about how to make things better for their people. Community development is about working in true partnership.

With a few exceptions, the Public Service appears to me to lack an infrastructure to support Maori communities. Job losses have been the result of a right-wing ideology that has not helped our people. The devolution model, which assumes that the market is ready and has the capability to meet demand, has not improved the status of Maori. That has not happened, under successive Governments.

Over the last 10 years the devolution model, based on the contracting-out of services, has been used extensively. It is a process in which the terms of contract and compliance procedures are dictated by the purchasing agency, often with little or no input from the provider or the larger community that the provider is meant to service.

From a Maori point of view, it is a process that makes it easy for purchasers to impose their own definitions of the Maori world on Maori communities and to force those communities to comply with those definitions. Albeit we have a matrix of dysfunctionality within Maoridom, I want to impress upon this House that there are a lot of Maori who do know what they want, who do know what they need, and are more than able and capable, given a fair chance, to do just that.

A more flexible framework has to be found that acknowledges the importance of the Treaty of Waitangi and establishes a level playing field so that everyone can participate and reap the rewards. An infrastructure needs to be developed that enables Maori to participate effectively in the policy-making process and to support Maori communities in their capacity-building efforts.

If Government departments think they can engage in capacity building without changing current thinking, structures, and ways of doing things then I feel they are sadly mistaken. Effective capacity-building will demand innovation and transformation, and Maori must be a partner in the process not just a service provider.

The infrastructure must also take into account the management of Maori communities’ risks alongside those of the Crown. The extreme right ideology has continually espoused that the principal factor – quite rightly, technically – is about managing the Crown’s risk. The financial requirements, the judicial requirements, can be understood, but it is also imperative that the Maori communities’ risks are understood. When we look at history and successive Governments we see that somebody has not been doing too good a job of recognising the risk to the Maori community.

In trying to make a difference in the community we must move forward in a way that preserves the mana and tikanga of communities, and it should be done at their pace.

I believe that the future for Maori is all about acknowledging who we are and determining where we want to go. We should encourage where Maori already excel and build on this – for example, kapa haka, waiata, and sports. It is important to understand that our people revel in takaro; that they do that with a gusto – firstly, because it costs nothing, and, secondly, it is about collectivity and enjoying each other’s company in a quite natural way, as we have done in this country, as tangata whenua, for centuries.

I do not just want to see more Maori doing things we are already good at; I want to see our rangatahi learning from our successes and taking due direction from governance and being allowed to get to where they want to get to – as rightly they should as the tangata whenua.

Not every Maori will reap the same success as Michael Campbell, but we should be encouraging them all to swing that high. We have to set an example for the younger generation, and I accept that challenge as a new Maori member of Parliament. Let me go back a few years to the time when I was a schoolboy – a little fellow then!

I vividly recall walking to school barefoot with my seven brothers and sisters. Every day, whatever the weather, we walked five kilometres to school and back. Although this may not have been unusual for Maori children at that time, there was a certain irony about this journey for me. Every day we would watch the empty school bus drive past us and our other whanau to collect the Pakeha kids who lived half a kilometre from the school and take them back to Tolaga Bay – members who know Tolaga Bay will agree it is a lovely place. This bus would pick them up, turn round, and drive back.

As a child, the bureaucrats who made those decisions mattered little to me then. All I knew was that I had to walk and that the bus was leaving me and rest of my whanau behind. I used to dream of being picked up by the school bus, but as I grew older I and the others became more resilient. We went from wishing the bus would stop to thinking that if it did stop we would not hop on.

I relate that story because it is often said to Maori that: “we’ve missed the bus”, but in many cases Maori have not even had the opportunity to get on the bus.

The irony in all of this is that now, as an Associate Minister of Education, responsible for school transport, I am not only riding in the bus but I am helping to drive the bus, along with my ministerial colleagues – Mr Samuels, Mr Mallard, and Mr Maharey. Rest assured, that as one of the drivers I am going to stop that bus and pick up a lot of Maoris on the journey forward.

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