Nuk Korako’s valedictory statement

Nuk Korako delivered his valedictory statement yesterday:

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—the old Nat is set to one side so the new Nat can go fishing. This famous whakataukī is what drives me here today. It can have various meanings that can only be determined by the context in which it is used. So today the whakataukī means that I am setting aside my member-of-parliamentary net so that I can pick up a new one for the next stage of my working life. I proudly serve the National Party in the Port Hills electorate, and, although retiring from this House, I want to emphasise that I am departing from the National Party caucus and not the National Party.

Ours is a party with deep roots in Māori political representation, from Timi Kara, Sir James Carroll; Sir Māui Pōmare; Sir Apirana Ngata; Te Rangi Hīroa, Sir Peter Buck; and my uncle Ben Couch. That I have been able to make a modest contribution standing down the queue in their shadow is a matter of great personal satisfaction to me. It has been an extraordinary journey serving my constituents as well as trying to make a difference for Māori and the people of New Zealand. I know that the service that has nurtured me as an MP will accompany me to my next

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journey on my

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I do aspire to help change the New Zealand building industry to affect social outcomes, with much of it being led by Māori. I am well pleased with what we have achieved as a party alongside my parliamentary colleagues. The continuation approach we took as a Government on Treaty settlements stands testament to our desire to do what is right for the country.

I turn now to what has been often a challenge to me in this place: our Treaty of Waitangi relationship as a Treaty partner. I have never wavered in my view that the Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document that establishes New Zealand as the country that it is today. It is a take that is an inherent part of my Tuahiwi, Rāpaki, Ngāi Tahu heritage. I am clear that arguments between lawyers as to the constitutional foundation of New Zealand are nothing more than a continuing and incessant distraction from what is a very, very straightforward arrangement.

That arrangement was that Māori would move over on the paepae and partner up with the Crown to establish a unique constitutional partnership that would recognise the Crown as Government of our lands and that Iwi Māori would continue to manage our own affairs as an independent iwi nation, exercising their tino rakatirataka. That is what the Māori version of the Treaty guaranteed.

The Treaty reflected the instructions of Lord Normanby to Captain William Hobson, and I pay tribute to the honourable nature of the Crown’s intent in that regard. The subsequent betrayal of that intent by the colonial settler State is what we have all been engaged in repairing in our generation. In that task, this House and the National Party in particular have put ourselves on the right side of our nation’s history.

I take considerable personal satisfaction in having had the privilege of chairing the Māori Affairs Committee in my first term. That has of course exposed me to the magnitude of Treaty breaches that the Crown is responsible for. We have achieved much in righting the wrongs of the past, and I cannot acknowledge enough my former colleague the Hon Christopher Finlayson in that respect. Equally, all the members of the Māori Affairs Committee I have worked with on both sides of the House, I mihi to you and acknowledge you all. Thank you to the Hon Nanaia Mahuta, who gave me so much support in my early days as chair, and I wish my whanaunga Rino Tirikatene well in the current role. This highlights the convention of the Māori Affairs Committee of members parking their political affiliations at the door and working together for what is best for our people. I took great pride in chairing a select committee that shepherded through 16 Treaty settlement bills, along with these unique pieces of legislation: the Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill, the New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill, the Parihaka Reconciliation Bill, and the Te Reo Māori bill.

Finally, on Māori affairs I was particularly proud of the work we undertook with Te Ture Whenua Māori Bill. Had this bill been passed, National would have been responsible for the greatest unleashing of Māori economic potential the country has ever seen. While I am disappointed that we could not see this through along with the Māori Party, I remain committed to work with those who have the courage to take up this fundamental take for Māori achievement.

I urge the party to continue the reforms when we return to Government, because New Zealand’s future prosperity will depend on unlocking that huge asset of Māori whenua for its development and utilisation in partnership with Māori on their own land. Too often, all of us in this House have been distracted by the short-term gain that dog-whistle politics can appear to give us, and I am not here to list the hara of any party in that respect, but I can say that the rise of the Māori Party was a direct response to those dog-whistle politics, and Māori remain an electoral giant that, if poked enough, will rise up against those that continue to ignore us or take us for granted. I warn you now what is coming. There needs to be discussions on wai Māori and water ownership and the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. I also acknowledge the National Party board president, Peter Goodfellow, and I’ll return back to that.

But before talking about the board, I want to turn to our Māori people, because I believe it is time to switch your political allegiance back to yourself, to your own tino rakatirataka. The political tribalism of saying we only vote for the party is not doing us any favours. You must demand on every politician that walks across your marae ātea that they show you the proof of their commitment to working hard for you before you give them your vote, because talk is cheap, whānau. Actions, ringa raupā—the callused hands—those are what spoke loudly to our conservative tīpuna, and it is time to demand politicians show you their calloused hands, their ringa raupā, as evidence of what they have achieved for you. I have devoted considerable time and effort into establishing and supporting Kahurangi National, our Māori partnership rōpū within the National Party. There are a number of rōpū around the country, and they are indeed growing rapidly. These rōpū will ensure that my colleagues’ hands are indeed calloused when they stand in front of Māori seeking our vote.

So it is with pride and love for a party that has done so much for me that I sign off. I’ve been spoilt with the leadership that has guided us through. I was privileged to be led by Sir John Key and Sir Bill English, and our current leadership has shown that it stands firmly and strong during the most trying of circumstances. I mihi to Simon and Paula and wish you both success as our parliamentary leaders, and I thank you for your understanding and supporting my decision to stand down early in this parliamentary term. My thanks, also, to your chief of staff, Jamie Gray,

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—a blue tie, a treasure.

And now we come back to the National Party board and another acknowledgement not only to Peter but also to my regional chair, Roger Bridge. You are a dignified and measured group of people. However, I look forward to seeing a Treaty partner face on the board who is there of merit and also of ability, and I’m pleased to say there are a number of such people already in our party.

There are a group of rakatira that I now want to turn to. Firstly, to Kura Moeahu of Te Atiawa and our tumu whakarae, thank you for guiding me on your kawa and the tautoko you have given me in this Whare Mīere. I want to remember the late Lewis Moeau and Te Rangi McGarvey—moe mai rā e ngā rakatira. Your steady hands and trusted guidance to all Prime Ministers, Ministers, and members of Parliament stand as testament to the mana and dignity you displayed to all. Equally, to the former rakatira kaikorero kaiwhakahaere mo tatou I recognise as well: retired Tā John Clarke, Tā Wira Gardiner, and the present guiding hands of Rauru Kirikiri, Piri Sciascia, and to also acknowledge Wīremu Haunui from the Te Reo Māori translation services.

I turn now to my Kai Tahu whanaunga and mentor Tā Tīpene and Lady Sandra O’Regan. What a humbling privilege to have been the recipient of all your wisdom and guidance while I have been in this place.

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With Parliament, I have been well served by an extraordinary group who are often the forgotten part of the parliamentary process. Our Parliamentary Service staff, in all the various roles you play—you indeed make our life here easier. We have a saying in Māori:

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—without those who do the unheralded work, we that stand at the front cannot perform our role. I thank you all most sincerely. I want to acknowledge my former executive assistant Reno McCallister and present staff in Linda Blair, Ann Toomey, Nick Stevens, and my whanaunga Amos Ward Kamo. You have been my most trusted and reliable kaimahi. Thank you all for the mahi and tautoko that you have given me.

My mihi nui and acknowledgement to the Port Hills electorate now, that I have given everything for. Past chairs in John Charlton and Robyn Struthers and present chair Robbie Bendon and your team—an incredible group of people. The volunteers have stood loyally by my side, actively managed the campaigns, and become part of my family. To my campaign managers in Cathryn Lancaster and Vicki Rule, thank you for the valuable guidance you gave me.

So it is time for me to return home, and it is my home of Ōtautahi Christchurch that I want to whakamana. We are not defined by the horror of the mosque attacks. That is not us. The extraordinary outpouring of support for a part of our Muslim community that was attacked was not exceptional; rather, it was normal—that hundreds of thousands of us poured out to display our sorrow and unity with each other is precisely who we are in Christchurch. We are defined by the multitude of individuals that make up our wonderful city, and that is not better illustrated than by my local BP service station on Hoon Hay Road, where my day often started early and I was always greeted by the night shift of Kiwi, Nepalese, Pakistani, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Mauritian. Thank you to Ben Houston and Billy Gineel for your great political insights that you shared with me.

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We sit as one family in Christchurch irrespective of where our heritage might once have come from. That is who we are.

To my kaumātua pou whakatō, Auntie Pat Anglam, Auntie Wiki Pēwhairangi, and Auntie Aroha Reriti-Crofts, my tuahiwi kaumātua. My Uncle Doug Couch, Auntie Sally Rakena, and Auntie Melissa Couch, my Rāpaki kaumātua. Alec Graham, my 98-year-old Young Nat. Rosalie Sterritt, Margaret Draper, and 95-year-old Rose Dakin, and Auntie Topsy Rule, my Redcliffs wāhine toa. These precious kaumātua have been my compass and support, and many link me back to the memories and values of my tīpuna.

I now turn to my own pieces of pounamu, my immediate family. As always, my rock, my wife, Chris, and our four sons, Maximillian, Michael, Nicholas, and James, who are proud and capable young men. The National Party and being an MP rightly demands its pound of flesh, and that pound is taken as much from a family as it is from the MPs themselves. I’m looking forward to being a more present father and also husband. To the uri of Te Here Tutehounuku and Hene Elizabeth Manahira Korako, my mum and dad, my sisters and their tamariki, my nieces and nephews—you are our future, and we are so very proud of you all.

Finally, lifelong friends are so important in life, and I acknowledge two of my own who I have known for over 40 years. One passed away a few days ago, John Patrick Taylor—JT, or Ox. He was a rock for me, the toughest man I ever knew, both mentally and physically. He fought a debilitating illness for a number of years, and I want to mihi to his wife Diane, daughter Jenna, and son Conor—aroha nui. My other best friend, the funniest man I know, has just had a huge cancer operation and is now convalescing at home. John Alexander Graham—kia kaha e hoa.

E Te Māngai o Te Whare Pāremata, e ngā mema o Te Whare Pāremata,

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Thank you to all members of Parliament from across the House. To my class of 2014, our year group, and also my National Party caucus, to those retired MPs or former MPs that are here tonight, to those in the gallery that have come to support me, and to those watching on Parliamentary TV,

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—let the dead be the dead and the living be the living. Nō reira, huri noa i Te Whare nei, ā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, e mihi, e mihi, e mihi ki a koutou katoa. [Applause]


E mihi atu ki a koutou.

The video is here.

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