Harete Hipango’s maiden speech

November 22, 2017

Harete Hipango, National’s Whanganui MP delivered her maiden speech last week:

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To the honourable Madam Deputy Speaker, greetings and congratulations. I open with a pātere composed by John Tahupārae, Whanganui elder and former kaumātua of this Whare Pāremata. Calling upon and inquiring of me, “Where am I from?” The wellspring of wāhi puna on the coastal riverbank lands to Matapihi, the window inland to Pūtiki Wharenui, my tūrangawaewae, my marae, Ngāti Tūpoho.

Climbing the hill of Taumata Kararo, the sacred hill and resting place of my ancestors, onward to Te Ao Hou, a marae of new horizons of a new world.

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I acknowledge my ancestral hapū and tribal collective. I am a descendant of you all.

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To my tribal elders, family, friends and relations from home and afar, my warm and sincere greetings.

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The National Party board and members, our campaign teams—headquarters and Whanganui electorate—championed the good cause. To all of you: Neil, Jan, and Warwick, enduring, tireless, and party-loyal. Our Hāwera hands and hearts: Cynthia, Ella, Gerard. Whanganui work-lot: Derek, Michael, Tony, Gordon, Robyn, and Ray, Jenny, Bernard, Charles, Andre, Annie, and Dean, with cake and sparkling delights. Mark and Steve who photo-ed me vote-able; our hoarding helpers and volunteers—a top billings team—and the Hon Chester Borrows, you saw something in me that I am yet to realise. To you all, indeed, I am indebted.

To the diverse communities of Whanganui, south and central Taranaki, those who voted for me, I will carry and represent your concerns and interests, as your elected representative in the general seat to this House, I am told, as the first elected Māori woman National Party representative. I will represent you to the best of my ability.

Her Excellency the Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias, I salute and acknowledge you as women of mana for your part in the commissioning of our 52nd Parliament, amidst which I now humbly take my place. To our House of Representatives, Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister:

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To my party leaders, Bill English and Paula Bennet, and our party:

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To the members of this House: tēnā tātou katoa. Today, I embrace us all in this moment.

I speak for the first time in this hallowed House, cloaked with the support of many and the protection, warmth, and embrace of my ancestral kahu kiwi, worn by no less than six generations of Hipango. I’m cloaked with the immense expectation of many to carry and bid well their interests. I’m cloaked with a history of service—humbly yet honourably, proudly, and fiercely given—by many amongst my family who have gone before and many yet to come. I’m cloaked with the responsibility to serve to the best of my abilities, and I will seek to honour that.

I am the daughter of Hoani Wīremu Hipango, Ngāti Tūpoho, and Eileen Mary Shaw, third generation New Zealander, County Cork, Ireland. Today, I stand here not alone. My presence follows suit and service of my ancestors, and I reference them for they forged a pathway giving shape and passage to a nation, to the benefit of us all.

Rere o Maki, Pūtiki rangatira, mother of Te Keepa Rangihiwinui, Major Kemp: she was one of only five women who signed the Treaty of Waitangi; her name penned, commitment, and mana etched eternally, at Pūtiki on 23 May 1840. Her son Te Keepa—renowned, revered colonial military soldier, tactician, and leader of his mother’s Whanganui people—served and fought alongside his whanaunga Hoani Wiremu Hipango in many Whanganui and Taranaki battles in the 1860s. Hipango, with Te Keepa, were pro-Government Whanganui Māori, cognisant of the necessity for their people’s survival—their rangatiratanga in defence of people, lands, and realm. Te Keepa was awarded the Queen’s Sword of Honour, the New Zealand Cross, and the New Zealand War Medal in recognition of valour and service. Hipango was mortally wounded in battle in defence of Whanganui. Both died at Pūtiki, each accorded full military honours and buried there.

Flight officer Porokoru Patapu Pohe of Taihape, my father’s maternal uncle: the first Māori RNZAF commissioned pilot, flew a Halifax for No. 51 Squadron RAF, was shot down, and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III. Uncle Johnny was one of 50 escapees captured and, on Hitler’s command, executed in March 1944 by the Gestapo in Poland, his remains there immortalised immemorial.

Lieutenant Colonel Waata Hipango, my brother, served in New Zealand and overseas, including the Sinai, with the United Nations peacekeeping corps. He was captured, taken hostage by Hezbollah, to all too soon be killed on 6 February 1999 in hit-and-run car-bus collision while serving as the commanding officer of the New Zealand Defence Force, in Singapore. Accorded at Pūtiki a full military funeral and honours, his casket cloaked the embrace of this kahu, and Major Kemp’s Sword of Honour placed upon him, Waata is buried on Taumata Karoro alongside our tupuna, overlooking Pūtiki at the mouth of the Whanganui River. Waata’s son Tane, one of four, is here with us today.

Earlier this week at the State Opening, it was special to reacquaint with my brother’s peers and friends Lieutenant General Tim Keating, Chief of the New Zealand Defence Force, and the Chiefs of the New Zealand Navy, Air Force, and Army.

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I’m one of five children: the middle, born and raised in Pūtiki, a child of the 1960s, raised by a village. Life was simple, we worked hard, we made do and ends meet. Some would say we were poor. We were rich in the essence of family and community. I am the product of parents, extended whānau, and community, who nurtured and cared for me. My Pākehā Catholic mother, Eileen, staunch and stoic, valued the importance of education, ethics, and discipline. She instilled my love of art and opera. My mother recognised early in my life the challenges I would be confronted by, she prepared me, and she shaped me to resilience. My Māori Anglican father Hoani, charismatic and enigmatic, treasured people and the importance of relationships, enduring and intergenerational.

Over the decades, I was gently politicised to the issues of the day, accompanying him and his father Hori to many meetings of the late 1960s—from Whanganui Māori land incorporations and civic affairs through to Waitangi Tribunal Whanganui land and river claims in the 1980s and beyond. I was enveloped in the kōrero and whakaaro of the old people. How richly influenced I was, without realising.

My mother’s devout work ethic and discipline, with my father’s sense, spirit, and soul for community, instilled in me the ability to move with poise, humility, and confidence in the two worlds I was raised—Te Ao Māori and Te Ao Pākehā—and destined me, it seemed, some measure of responsibility to public service and scrutiny.

I come to this House from the privilege of whakapapa, whānau, relationships, and values, from the privilege of parents who cared to aspire, inspire, and perspire. I come to this House with diversity. I also come to this House shaped by adversity: judged for being Māori, but not being Māori enough; for not looking or sounding Māori; for being Pākehā—judged simply as a misfit at most times; treated differently. On my first day at law school I was told I was not good enough and would not graduate. I graduated in 1991, the first in my family with a tertiary degree and not the last, and embarked on a career of service in the law in the social, justice, and health sectors, helping and serving others in Whanganui for almost 30 years now.

As a maiden lawyer, I remember well the wise counsel of colleague John Rowan QC: “Harete, you must be fearless in advocacy.” And fearless I was. In 1995, I was a barrister, a young mother, and Whanganui Māori woman treading in the footsteps of those who had gone before, this time into the modern frontier of the court and justice system—a confronting assault to the senses and self by the power of the State, the police, and the justice system during the Pākaitore Moutoa Gardens occupation, a brutal, out-of-balance experience that was challenging, isolating, and hurtful. Advocating for others when no other would and serving in the courtroom as an officer of the court, targeted I was and isolated—a “hollow way” of police action—unlawfully detained, searched, and assaulted, strong-armed policemen imprinting my body DNA on a courtroom foyer wall. I was non-resistant, shoved down the stairs, and tossed out the courthouse front doors into full public view and dismissal.

Duty and service, fairness and resilience, mistreated by the colour of prejudice—this is a snapshot shared, simply that I bring to this House the personal experience of adversity. I have been yelled at, sworn at, spat at, punched, demeaned, ostracised, and abused in my role as an advocate, and with the experience of many others’ adversity from my years of advocating their plight before the justice system, the health system, and the social welfare system, I bring experience. The police cells, the court cells, the youth justice cells, the prison cells, the mental detention cells, the child welfare homes and aged-care homes, the domestic violence, child abuse, people abuse, drug addictions, mental health afflictions—I come to this House with experience.

My voice in this House is an elected voice to advocate fearlessly for those in need of that voice, and here I stand today to fearlessly speak that voice as a voice also for others. I shall advocate my electorate’s business, economic, and environmental issues, tasking and holding this Government to account. I shall also represent fearlessly and with force all issues affecting our Whanganui electorate and of Whanganui south and central Taranaki, for the protection of our coastal and fresh waters and life forces against unsustainable mining and other practices, for our ngahere, forests and trees, fauna, and river; Te Awa Tupua, the longest legal case in New Zealand history, an unwavering, enduring, unrelenting commitment of Whanganui hapū and the legislative innovation and fortitude of the Hon Christopher Finlayson, legally personifying to preserve and protect our life-force resource; and I shall never forget or lose sight of the vulnerable and their interests, our babies, our children, our families, our elderly, our afflicted—the importance of the quality and sanctity of life.

Duty and loyalty—they are the fabric of my family ancestry. Family and community ethics; sufficiency; independence from State dictate, control, oppression, and suppression; and reliance on the very worth, value, and efforts of each other in community to uplift and affirm, to educate and achieve, and to aspire, inspire, and perspire—these National Party values align with those I was raised with and, in turn, my children.

Mr Speaker, with some indulgence please, if I may, I now turn to my family—recognising that my time has lapsed. In conclusion, I acknowledge my husband, Dean, for your quiet, enduring patience and supportive commitment—37 years. We persevered. Our greatest collaboration was our three children. To this day and every other day, I’m quietly proud of who you are.

Paparangi, our firstborn, is fearless, brave, vivacious, and resilient. Like your ancestors, you navigated local and distant waters, at times swift and turbulent, and at others flowing and favourable. You have achieved New Zealand, American, and Australian honours, Papa, in their waters. Row and sail with a force, my girl, strong and sure of who you are and from whence you have come.

Keepa, you bear the name and, with it, the mana of your ancestor. You return briefly to your home shores, continuing to navigate nations united from your base in New York. Strive worthily for knowledge, intellectual acuity, national and international connectivity, and peace.

Roimata, our pōtiki, you oxygenate the home fires, our ahi kā, with thoughtful warmth and tenderness. You navigate your course always with a quiet, yet resolute, disposition. Make and find your way, with guiding support always near.

I share this simply because my children have shared and gained from the privilege and opportunity of purpose, full education and experiences rooted in the values and ways of whakapapa, connectivity, and community. One day, may these same opportunities be the norm for all children and families in our nation.

Finally, I come to this place after having plied and applied the law for 30 years, and am now to help shape the law. I represent Te Ao Māori, I represent Te Ao Pākehā, and this is who I am. Spoken now—a maiden no more—and with your support, I take my place. E timata—it begins!

 


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