Long to reign over us

September 9, 2015

The Queen will break her great-great grandmother’s record as Britain’s longest serving sovereign today:

Queen Elizabeth II passes the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria today who reigned for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.

But Queen Victoria’s reign was three years shorter in New Zealand – she technically only became our ruler when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – meaning Queen Elizabeth actually became New Zealand’s longest-reigning monarch back in 2013. . . 

How long she’s served is largely a matter of luck.

How well she’s served is a credit to her.

It’s also a reflection on her dedication to the job which comes with many privileges but is extremely demanding both because of and in spite of that.

 


He iwi tahi tatou – we are one people

February 7, 2015

I’ve just delivered my annual address at Waitangi. You can read the full text on the National Party website: http://ntnl.org.nz/1zDu6eg

Prime Minister John Key’s Waitangi Day speech:

Rau rangatira ma e huihui nei,

Nau mai, haere mai ki Waitangi.

Tēnei aku mihi māhana mo te Kawanatanga Nahinara ki a koutou.

Kia ora huihui tatou katoa.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today we commemorate 175 years of the Treaty of Waitangi relationship. 

It’s a relationship we should all have pride in. And we should all have great confidence that it will continue to strengthen.

Like the first Maori who arrived here many hundreds of years ago, European settlers arrived by sea.

They must have had a sense of adventure. Like the first Maori navigators they braved the often ill-tempered Pacific Ocean to strike out from their homes and make landfall here.

The whalers, the sailors, the men and women who came here to till the land and take their chances – they would have had many reasons for leaving their homes in the Northern Hemisphere. Homes many of them would never see again.

But I bet they were united by a common thread of hope and optimism.

Hope for a better life than the one they had left behind.

And hope for a new society and new opportunities for themselves and their children.

Those who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 began forging the bonds of the special partnership we share today.

Over time, those bonds have been tested.

The spirit of generosity with which Maori entered into this partnership was forgotten or ignored by many over the following decades.

But the Treaty partnership we commemorate today acknowledges the bonds that have underpinned the creation of a special country.

175 years.  Just think about what we have achieved in that time. The great scientists, adventurers, sports men and women, pioneers and dreamers who call themselves New Zealanders.

The first person to split the atom, the first women voters, the first conqueror of Everest.

The first Rugby World Cup winners.

The artists, writers, singers and musicians, actors and directors who not only entertain us, but who have also created a body of stories and songs which could have only been made in New Zealand.

And the leaders, Maori and Pakeha alike, who have developed a Treaty partnership which is admired around the world.

That’s a lot to be proud of.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Waitangi Day is a day to remember and to understand the very many pieces that make up our country’s history. The high points, the low points, the triumphs, the mistakes and the unexpected successes.

And it’s also a day to look beyond the horizon and to our future.

I am sure the Treaty signatories here at Waitangi felt the same.

The missionaries, sailors, traders and Maori – watched over by police on horseback who were sent from Sydney – packed the Treaty grounds on the 5th of February 1840.

They mingled with people hawking cold roasts, pork and bread, and rum-sellers, and the bay was a flotilla of canoes and ships with flags flying.

The delegation of Maori was so large that five tonnes of potatoes and 30 pigs were brought in, so guests were properly fed.

The next day, the 6th, was meant to be a rest day.

But, after coming ashore that morning, Britain’s consul, Captain William Hobson, was surprised to find several hundred Maori wanting to continue discussions.

They met under the marquee, made of stitched-together sailcloth, surrounded by a handful of Europeans.

By the end of the day’s discussion, around 40 Maori leaders had signed the Treaty.

To each of those leaders, Captain Hobson said, “he iwi tahi tatou” – we are one people.

Māori and the British representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi in good faith.

And the generosity of Maori, and the good faith of both people, has led to the New Zealand we know today, and to the relationship we share.

We have some of the best legacies of Britain: a stable democracy, an elected Parliament, an independent judiciary and a free press.

And we have a culture infused with the customs, knowledge and tikanga of the tangata whenua.

We welcome people from all parts of the world who want to make New Zealand their home, because they want to be part of the nation we have created.

The Treaty is a formal agreement but it must be interpreted over time, and adapt to new situations, through negotiation between the Treaty partners.

Many issues have a long and nuanced history, lived through by many people from all walks of life.

There are still things to work through.

But I am confident that when we celebrate the bicentenary of the Treaty signing in 2040, we will look back to today and be proud of what we have achieved since.

That’s 25 years away.

The last big Treaty commemoration was in 1990 – 25 years ago.

Those 25 years have passed quickly. It seems like too short a time for anything in New Zealand to have changed much at all.

But in 1990 things were different.

New Zealand, for example, was governed under First Past the Post.

The Maori Party didn’t exist.

Now, it’s difficult to imagine Parliament without them.

The Maori Party has brought a rich dimension to this Government since 2008.

It’s one of the reasons why the Crown and Maori have come so far over the past six years.

One area we are working on together is reforming Te Ture Whenua Māori Act. It’s the most significant re-writing of this legislation in more than a century.

How best to develop Maori land, with its multiple owners, has vexed lawmakers for over 100 years.

We recognise that challenge, because it’s central to Maori economic development.

If we can make this land work for Maori, then it will add up to $8 billion to the economy and create at least 4000 new jobs over the next decade.

25 years ago, not one iwi had achieved a Treaty settlement.

That was still five years into the future.

The Crown has now signed 72 deeds of settlement – 46 of those in the past six years.

All willing and able iwi are engaged with the Crown.

Those settled iwi are creating success stories. They see the post-settlement environment as their chance to shape their own destiny.

Settlements may represent a fraction of what was actually lost. But they let iwi move on and make better futures, and create more opportunities, for their people.

New Zealand as a whole is better off for that.

My Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, is unable to be here today.

But I know if he were here, he would reiterate to you his belief that by 2017, all willing iwi should be settled.

There have been other positive changes since 1990.

Education is one example.

In 1990, just over 3000 Maori school leavers achieved 6th Form Certificate. In 2013, 7500 Maori school leavers achieved NCEA Level 2 or higher.  Taken as a proportion of Maori
school leavers, that’s a 20 per cent improvement.

The achievement rate among all school leavers is also rising, but among young Māori that improvement is happening at a faster rate.

Lifting the level of achievement in education among young New Zealanders is important, but it’s especially vital for young Maori who, for too long, have not achieved at the same level as non-Maori.

Yes, there certainly are challenges to educational achievement and we do have a long way to go to eliminate that disparity – but progress is evident.

A better education means equality of opportunity for New Zealanders, regardless of their background.

Time and time again, we see the evidence that success at school means better, higher-paying jobs, a greater standard of living and more opportunities.

Another area is health.

In the early 1990s around 50 per cent of Maori regularly smoked. Today it’s about 32 per cent.

That’s due in no small part to Tariana Turia, who has been passionate in her work to cut smoking rates among Maori.

Now, Maori are living longer – around six more years than in 1990. Immunisation rates among Maori children are up and infant mortality rates have fallen.

So in 25 years, many gains have been made. We can do even better over the next 25 years, too.

It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives at the expense of the many positives.

The Treaty settlement process may not be to everyone’s satisfaction.

But I’m a firm believer in the current process, which is addressing the wrongs done in the past to help Maori build their futures.

And on the world stage, it’s acknowledged as one of the best examples of efforts to address historical grievances.

I also think we’re maturing together, as a nation.

Nowadays, almost every time people sing God Defend New Zealand – at a school, at a sports match or a formal ceremony – we sing it in both Māori and English.

It wasn’t always that way – only in the past 15 years has it become widespread.

New Zealanders just started doing it, because it felt right.

It feels like the right kind of representation of who we are as a nation.

It’s the type of understated change that appears small, but one I think speaks volumes about how we have grown.

So in 25 years’ time, when New Zealand celebrates 200 years of nationhood, there are some changes I’d like to see.

In 2040, every willing and able iwi will be settled.

In 2040, all Maori owned land will be far better utilised, delivering jobs and prosperity, particularly for those in regional areas.

And in 2040, I want to see the disparity in educational achievement eliminated.

For young Maori, this means really digging in to lift achievement.

For the Government, it means ensuring our education system works for all students. It also means developing initiatives to support young people and families in other areas.

Like free doctors’ visits for under-13s.

Like subsidising early childhood education.

And getting our schools, social organisations and law enforcement agencies to work together so children don’t stumble into a life of petty crime or welfare dependency.

Governments can’t make these changes by themselves.

We also need to get alongside families and give them the right support. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem.

Because you can’t buy the dedication of communities who want to rid their streets of drugs and crime.

And you can’t buy the dedication of a mother who is trying to keep her 14-year-old son in school.

When you give families what they actually need, great changes can happen.

Maori children, for example, are now being immunised at nearly double the rate they were in 2007. So I’ve no doubt the willingness – and the ability – to chase success in education is there, with the right support.

So that’s what I would like to see in 2040. There is one more aspect of New Zealand I would like to see changed.

In 2040, I’d like to see a new New Zealand flag raised at the Waitangi Day dawn service.

That’s my personal preference.

The current flag represents the thinking by and about a young country moving from the 1800s to the 1900s. Our role in the world was very different then.  Our relationship to the rest of the world has changed over time.

I think, and I believe many New Zealanders feel the same, that the flag captures a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

During this parliamentary term, New Zealanders will be asked to participate in a two-step referendum process to choose an alternative flag, and decide whether or not that flag should replace the current one.

I believe the time is right for us to create a flag which is distinctly New Zealand’s.

At the same time, I acknowledge there may be many New Zealanders who want to retain the existing flag, and that will be one option.

Regardless of your view, this milestone year in our history is a good time to discuss the flag, formally and respectfully, allowing New Zealanders to have their say.

Maori chose New Zealand’s first flag – known today as the flag of the United Tribes – in 1834, when James Busby, the British Resident, decided chiefs needed to choose a flag that New Zealand’s ships could fly.

Three flags were displayed on short poles at Waitangi, voted on, and the winning one hoisted.

I imagine it was all over in a matter of minutes. The process this time around will be much more considered, but I have every expectation Maori will be closely involved, just as they were in 1834.

If we choose a new flag, it will serve us in times of celebration and remembrance, like Waitangi Day.

On Waitangi Day we remember when our nation-building began, and we celebrate the hope and optimism our forebears must have felt when they oversaw the creation of a new country.

It’s a day when we draw confidence for our future from the sense of our past.

In 175 years, New Zealand has achieved much. In the 25 years since the 150thanniversary of the signing of the Treaty, some of those achievements, like the settlement process itself, have brought about great change.

I am confident the next 25 years will deliver more promises, passion and achievements as we work together to tackle the challenges that will be thrown at us.

Thank you.

Regardless of your view, this milestone year in our history is a good time to discuss the flag, formally and respectfully, allowing New Zealanders to have their say.


Waitangi Day is . . .

February 6, 2014

Waitangi Day is the anniversary of the first signing to the Treaty of Waitangi.

For some it’s an opportunity to celebrate the-then radical concept of conferring British citizenship, and the rights which came with that, on indigenous people.

For some it’s an opportunity for politicking and protest.

For some it’s a day off and the reason for that isn’t nearly as important as the opportunity for recreation or relaxation.

For some it’s just another day at work albeit, if you’re an employee, with better pay.

It’s New Zealand’s day but it’s not New Zealand Day – at least not yet.

Whether it becomes New Zealand Day in time, though not necessarily in name, is up to us.


Better right than rushed

January 6, 2014

The government isn’t going to meet it’s deadline of completing all Treaty or Waitangi settlements by the end of this year.

. . . Instead, the Government has quietly pushed that out to 2017.

But Mr Key says they are doing much better than Labour, which he claims would have taken 40 years to get it done.

“We’re not going to make it in 2014,” says Mr Key. “We basically argued the case it was a goal. We’re going to get very close, but my guess is it will probably take to 2017 to finish everything off.”

But in admitting that, the Government’s attacking Labour, saying during its nine years in office, it made 15 treaty settlements. In National’s five years, it’s done 41.

“For whatever reason, there wasn’t a lot done in the nine years under Labour,” says Chris Finlayson, Minister for Treaty Negotiations. . .

It’s estimated there are around 58 more settlements to be reached, and negotiations with many are underway.

Mr Key says it would cost taxpayers more if it kept to the 2014 target.

“If you’re settling because you’ve got your arm up your back, you’re actually spending a lot more money than is prudent to do so,” he says. . . .

It’s better to get the settlements right than to rush them.

Those Iwi which have already settled are seeing big gains for themselves as they move from grievance to growth.

That’s good not just for them but the country in both economic and social terms.

Photo: Best of 2013: Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson signs 8 Treaty Settlement Deeds, marking 41 settlements since 2008.


Focussing on what doesn’t matter

November 2, 2013

The Labour Party’s constitutional changes have given more say, and power to the members.

It has, they say, made the party more democratic. Although quite how allowing organisations more power than individuals can be described as democratic is debatable.

Regardless of that, members are having more say and unfortunately for the party’s PR machine, that is what is getting the publicity from this weekend’s conference.

Yesterday Stuff published some of the more radical proposals including  one that would force the candidate selection committee to consider a range of factors, including sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, disability and age, to ensure they are “fairly” represented in the party.

. . . But there are a raft of other controversial remits to be debated at the conference that will turn the focus on Labour’s social agenda.

They include a radical change to abortion laws that seems to take doctors out of decision-making and give a pregnant woman “the opportunity and freedom to make the best decision for her own circumstances”. . . 

Other proposals are:

* Maori language made compulsory in state schools and teachers required to be competent in te reo

* Privatised state assets renationalised with compensation based on “proven need”

* The Government’s roads of national significance project dumped and the funds put into public transport

* Teaching of civics and democracy mandatory for all schoolchildren

* Laws to discourage excessive alcohol consumption, a review of the purchasing age, alcohol availability and an increase in the price of booze

* Prisoners again getting the right to vote

* A national sex and sexuality education programme dealing with sexual diseases, contraception methods, consent, sexual orientation and gender identity

 * New Zealand becoming a republic

* An apology for the Foreshore and Seabed Act passed in 2004

* A prohibition on school boards of trustees restricting same-sex partners from attending school balls

* A Pasifika television station

* A Maori language newspaper

Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson agrees the apology should be issued:

“I am glad that almost a decade after passing this shameful piece of legislation, which denied access to the courts to people based on race, the Labour Party is ready to discuss an apology,” Mr Finlayson said.

The National government repealed the Foreshore and Seabed Act in 2011 with the support of the Māori Party and United Future, and restored the right of Māori to go to court through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.

“I would suggest that the Labour leadership also apologise for their the party’s abysmal treatment of Tariana Turia because of her principled stand over the issue,” he said.

“While they are at it, they should apologise for the way Helen Clark called Dr Pita Sharples, a man who has devoted his life to improving Māori educational achievement, a ‘hater and a wrecker’.”

“They should apologise that Ms Clark deliberately snubbed the 35,000 New Zealanders who made a hikoi to Parliament to protest that discriminatory legislation, preferring to pose for a photo opportunity with Shrek the sheep.”

“At the same time, Labour may wish to say sorry for the way Treaty of Waitangi settlements stalled almost completely during their nine years in power – averaging 1.6 settlements per year, and needlessly delaying the resolution of these grievances for the good of the country. Last year, the government signed 15 deeds of settlement with iwi, only one fewer than Labour’s total for nine years in office.”

This has brought out several helpful suggestions in social media about other apologies Labour should make, including one to Shrek, although as he’s dead just now that’s a bit late.

Back to the conference.

What members in any party want isn’t always consistent with the party’s philosophy and principles.

People join parties for a range of reasons among which is the desire to push a particular barrow and the party is just a vehicle for doing that.

The trouble for the party is that some of these barrows are more interesting and newsworthy than what else might be going on at the conference and therefore get attention.

The selection criteria proposal has already been watered down but not sufficiently to wash from voters’ minds the conviction that Labour is still focussed on social engineering.

It also leaves questions about what the party thinks is important and how different that is to what matters to voters.

John Armstrong writes on the conference:

. . . You could be excused thinking this might also be an opportunity for the caucus spokesmen and women in key portfolios to give some indication of their thinking even though they may not have been in those roles for very long.

Instead the conference will devote several hours to wrangling over the wording of a “policy platform” document setting out Labour’s values, vision and priorities which has already been months in the drafting.

The platform is supposed to answer that perennial question: what does Labour stand for.

You can safely bet that 99.9 per cent of all voters will never set eyes upon it, let alone read it.

This is the kind of navel-gazing exercise a party undertakes and completes in the year after an election – not a year out from the next one.

It all reinforces the impression of a party focused inwards rather than outwards.

That is underlined by the series of policy remits which deal with such pressing matters as compulsory Maori language classes in schools, apologising to Maori over the foreshore and seabed farrago, state funding of political parties (a hardy annual) and entrenching the Bill of Rights (whatever difference that would make).

Many of the items amount to wish-list policies produced by the party’s sector groups. The words “out of touch” spring to mind.

While all this navel gazing was going on, the government was getting on with what matters, including announcements on a replacement for the Teachers’ Council and the decision to not allow the damming of the Nevis River.

Even on a matter of moment – state asset sales – Labour seems to be living in the past. One proposal up for debate at yesterday’s workshops would have had a Labour government reviewing the state-owned enterprises model so that it was no longer “pro-capitalist” and enabled “workers’ participation, control and management of industry”.

The “policy proposal” would have also required Labour to “re-nationalise” every state asset privatised by the current National Government, with compensation being paid only to shareholders with “proven need”.

That is a blunt retort to Bill English’s jibe that if Labour opposes asset sales so much, why doesn’t the party commit itself to borrowing the money to buy them back.

Exactly where the line would have drawn on compensation is not clear. But there would be some mighty unhappy investors in Mighty River Power if told they were not going to get their money back. That would amount to theft – and would have seriously dented New Zealand’s credibility as a haven for foreign investment, as well as sending all the wrong messages about saving.

The proposal was voted down by delegates. The question is how it managed to make it onto the conference agenda – and why something better was not put up in its place. Sometimes political parties need protecting from themselves.

Labour’s membership may feel liberated by recent changes in the party’s rules. But more influence brings the need to act more responsibly. At some point, however, Cunliffe is going to have to lurch back to the right. It won’t happen today. But it will happen. Watch for some real fireworks within Labour when it does.

Cunliffe won the leadership on votes from members and unions and he’s been feeding them left-wing rhetoric.

Whether or not he believes what he says is difficult to fathom because he varies his message to suit his audience.

However, the impression that remains is that he and his party are lurching to the left.

That might appeal to some of those who didn’t bother to vote last time. But it will repel some who did vote for the more moderate policies promoted by Labour under Phil Goff and won’t give their votes to support a more radical left agenda.

Gains on the left flank could be lost from the centre and go to the right.

While the party is focussing on what doesn’t matter, voters are worried about what does – the economy, education, health and security.

That’s National’s focus too and it’s making a positive difference to the country as the series of good news stories grows.

Meanwhile #gigatownoamaru is focussed on becoming the Southern Hemisphere’s sharpest town,

 


South Island fully settled

April 21, 2013

The Deed of Settlement signed by the Crown and for all outstanding historical Treaty of Waitangi claims with Ngāti Tama ki Te Tau Ihu yesterday was especially significant.

Treaty  Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson said it marks the final deed of settlement for historical claims in the South Island.

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“This government is committed to resolving all historical Treaty grievances, and so it is a monumental occasion as we sign the last outstanding deed of settlement for historical claims in the South Island,” Mr Finlayson said.

This is the 62nd deed of settlement signed by the Crown since 1990. It is the 36th to have been signed since November 2008.

“ This government is committed to just and durable settlements of these grievances in a timely fashion,” he said. “We have increased the rate at which settlements are being reached, so that full and final resolution of these issues is accomplished sooner for the benefit of Māori and all New Zealanders.”

“Around 60 groups are now actively engaged with the Crown in various stages of ratification, negotiation, or pre-negotiation towards that goal,” Mr Finlayson said.

“Over the past four years the completion of all historical settlements has gone from being a vanishing point constantly beyond the horizon, to being recognized as an achievable goal that is now well advanced,” Mr Finlayson said.

National has finalised nearly twice as many settlements in four years as Labour managed in nine.

That must be helpful in focussing claimants on a successful resolution.

“Moreover, claimant groups are seeing the benefits of settlement earlier, as Parliament has helped the passage of Treaty bills in recent years through extended sitting hours for non-controversial legislation.”

The deed of settlement signed between South Island iwi Ngāi Tahu and the Crown was one of the first major modern Treaty settlements.

Ngāi Tahu has since grown its assets from $170 million to equity of $587 million (and total assets of $748 million), and is an integral part of the economy in Christchurch, Kaikōura and other parts of its rohe, through investments including property, tourism, and fisheries.

“Treaty settlements provide an economic boost for the regions,” Mr Finlayson said. “Local iwi are committed to their areas, and settlements help them create opportunities for development and long term growth. They are good for New Zealand.”

The unemployment rate in the South Island is about half that of the North.

Careful management of its assets by Ngai Tahu has enabled it to be  a significant employer.

We’re all better off because of the settlements, not least because it changes the focus of claimants from grievance to growth.

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Herstory of Waitangi

February 8, 2013

Trans Tasman has suggests the history of the Treaty of Waitangi might be being re-written as a herstory:

There’s a generation of school kids growing up under the impression the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between Governor Hobson and Titewhai Harawira.

This is not so much an indictment on our school system: more on the way Harawira manages to plant herself at the epicentre of our annual national day.

It isn’t clear quite how this happened. True, she managed to make Helen Clark cry, and for some of us there’s always a hope Titewhai – who has become a sort of Kiwi version of a fierce Wodehousian aunt as imagined by one of the more bizarrely gothic Dutch painters – would have a similar impact one of Clark’s successors. There doesn’t seem much chance with the current lot.

If she were to try such a stunt today, John Key would either declare himself relaxed about it, or just have one of his memory lapses. Labour’s David Shearer probably would not notice, unless a staffer or his autocue told him about it. NZ First’s Winston Peters and Act’s John Banks would respond with inarticulate belligerence, and United Future’s Peter Dunne probably with a milder, if more articulate, form of same.

The only ones discombobulated would be Green co-leaders Russel Norman and Metiria Turei: they are more used to being part of protests than being on the receiving end of them.

So what does Waitangi Day, our national day, tell us about ourselves – you know, apart from the fact we are suckers for being bullied by stroppy old ladies?

Well, we’re still working on this treaty stuff, and we’re not very comfortable about the whole race issue. But also we’re not ignoring it and we’re kind of muddling our way through it all, if a little noisily and apologetically.

Apropos of understanding the history of the treaty, I have to confess that I went through school under the impression it ended the land wars.

It was only when I did a New Zealand history paper at university that I learned that wasn’t the case.


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