Saturday soapbox


Saturday’s soapbox is yours to use as you will – within the bounds of decency and absence of defamation. You’re welcome to look back or forward, discuss issues of the moment, to pontificate, ponder or point us to something of interest, to educate, elucidate or entertain, amuse, bemuse or simply muse, but not abuse.


Kia hora te marino – May peace be widespread

Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana – May the sea be like greenstone

Hei huarahi  ma tatou i te rangi nei – A pathway for us all this day

Aroha atu aroha mai – Give love, receive love

Tatou i a tatou katoa – Let us show respect for each other

How about ‘we are individuals?’?


Steve Elers has a message for Waitangi Day:

. . .I suppose, based on my whakapapa, physical appearance and self-identity, that puts me in the Māori house. But what about Māori who have more Pākehā ancestry than Māori whakapapa?

For example, my wife is a Pākehā and we have two young daughters, Anahera and Māia.

Given my own whakapapa includes Europeans, who were born in Germany and England and migrated here, then technically I suppose our daughters have more European ancestry than Māori whakapapa when it is all added up.

So, does that mean Anahera and Māia are in the Pākehā house? If having a Māori ancestor means one is first and foremost Māori, why is that so and according to who? Perhaps one gets to choose, or is it based on how one feels on the day? . . 

These are questions that some would say someone like me, whose whakapapa as far back as we can trace includes only Scots, can not answer.

Speaking of houses, an in-house publication by the Department of Māori Affairs, now Te Puni Kōkiri – Ministry of Māori Development, states “all Māori have some degree of non-Māori ancestry”.

I don’t know if that publication was correct, but regardless, as Ranginui Walker eloquently stated in his Listener column back in 2004: “The lizards of our colonial past are being laid to rest in the bedrooms of the nation.” That certainly seems so, more and more, as most young Māori I meet are of the lighter shades of brown and many are white.

Someone with a dark complexion like myself was my fourth-great-grandfather Wiremu Tamihana (1805-1866), chief of Ngāti Hauā of the Tainui confederation. Yes, I know everyone has 64 fourth-great-grandparents, but let’s not ruin a good story and let’s not downplay my chiefly heritage.

Tamihana was known as the “kingmaker” because of his role in establishing the Māori King movement. The photograph accompanying was taken by Elizabeth Pulman (1836-1900), who was New Zealand’s first female professional photographer.

My daughters, Anahera and Māia, are direct descendants of both Wiremu Tamihana, through my mother’s whakapapa, and Pulman, through my wife’s father’s ancestry. As far as I know, my daughters are the only descendants of both.

When they’re older, Anahera and Māia can look at that image knowing they are descendants of the Māori chief in it and the English-born photographer who took it. However, I hope they will recognise the multifaceted aspects of their whakapapa and understand they are first and foremost themselves – individuals who have the freedom to determine their own paths in life without being constrained by historical events that occurred before they were born.

What happened before we were born cannot be changed; what we do with what we have and who we are now, usually can.

We can learn from the past but it should not define us.

Our whakapapa might influence and shape us, but should not be used as an excuse for taking no responsibility for our choices and actions, nor to stop us shaping our own futures.

That’s right, none of us was there when the treaty was signed, nor were we there when some of our ancestors stole land from some of our other ancestors, and I’m talking about my Māori ancestors – don’t get me started on the Pākehā ones. Complicated isn’t it?

It is complicated but Elers has a simple answer:

And, no, I’m not proposing “we are one people”, aka Hobson’s Pledge. How about “we are individuals”? . . 

As individuals we belong to families, groups and communities; we have common needs, rights and responsibilities and  we have our common humanity.

Today some will be celebrating the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, some won’t; some will be working, some will be playing; some will be looking back, some will be looking forward.

Given the contradictions in the Treaty with its Maori and English versions and the translations of both that show differences between the two, and that regardless of our whakapapa, we are individual New Zealanders, that’s okay.

Things to do on Waitangi Day

  • Celebrate
  • Pontificate
  • Recreate
  • Think
  • Read
  • Speak
  • Listen
  • Tramp
  • Swim
  • Sail
  • Row
  • Protest if you must
  • Enjoy it because you can.

Whatever Waitangi Day means and whatever its significance to each of us, we’re free to do what we want and that’s something for  which we can be grateful.

365 days of gratitude


A morning walk with the dog, lunch out with my farmer, an afternoon chat and ice cream with friends, time to read a new book . . .  It’s been a relaxing and happy Waitangi Day for which I”m grateful.

A day to celebrate being able to do what we want


Some countries do national days with a spirit of unity and cohesion.

Neither of those have been features of Waitangi Days past.

The decisions to by-pass the lower marae at Waitangi this year has also by-passed a lot of the political posturing and protest that have marked, and marred, celebrations before.

The national media focus will be on Waitangi, and maybe Opposition leader, Bill English will get a little attention at the other end of the country.

He’s attending the Ngai Tahu Treaty Festival at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Bluff.

In between there will be various official celebrations in various places and most people, who don’t have to work today, will be doing what they want to do – sailing, swimming, tramping, picnicking, partying, reading . . .

Unity and cohesion have their place but I’m more than happy with a country where for most, celebrating the national day gives us the freedom to do what we want.

366 days of gratitude


The nonsense hits the headlines but friends who have been to Waitangi for the celebrations on Waitangi Day tell me it is a wonderful day of celebration.

In other parts of the country there are celebrations which don’t make the news.

And for all the debate about exactly what the Treaty means, the anniversary of its signing is worth celebrating.

Today I’m grateful that we can celebrate and have the freedom to do so as we please.

He iwi tahi tatou – we are one people


I’ve just delivered my annual address at Waitangi. You can read the full text on the National Party website:

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 . . .


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.

Recognition, healing and recompence


Another Waitangi Day approaches and protesters are out again and as usual they’ve got their blinkers on:

While anti-mining protesters are planning a torrid welcome for John Key at Waitangi tomorrow, the Prime Minister was close to receiving the cold shoulder from Te Tii Marae this year, Ngapuhi kaumatua Kingi Taurua says. . .

Mr Taurua today confirmed the decision to allow Mr Key and other politicians to speak this year was only narrowly agreed.

Those opposed to Mr Key speaking believed the Treaty was not being honoured, he told the Herald.

“They only pick pieces of the Treaty when they want to and they don’t consult, they don’t talk to us about it and they just go ahead and make the process, for example the asset sales.”

Not honouring the treaty?

If he’d take off his blinkers and look at what has been achieved he’d no that’s not the reality as Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson shows:

Treaty settlements are as much about recognition and healing as they are about recompense. Settlements address our past and invest in a common future.

This work has been my responsibility as Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations since 2008. Good progress has been made to resolve historical grievances in that time.

After three years of steady acceleration, the government has now reached an unprecedented pace in the settlement of historic Treaty claims. This is a result of the government’s goal of reaching full and final settlements in a timely fashion, and a recognition that New Zealanders want to see these historical grievances settled so we can move on – as one country.

Take a look at our progress, as at December 12, 2013, below.



National has admitted it won’t reach its goal of all settlements completed this year, but it has made significant progress and will continue to do so.

It is determined to complete all the settlements so iwi can move from grievance to growth.

Ngai Tahu provides a wonderful example of what can be achieved in economic, social and environmental terms when they get a settlement and turn their attention to more positive endeavours than those the protesters at Waitangi waste their energy on.



Looking forward


I started picking out highlights from the speech by Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi yesterday morning.

There were so many, I decided it was better to copy it all:

E nga Rangatira

E tau nei ki Waitangi

Tena koutou

Te hunga mate ki te hunga mate

Te hunga ora ki te hunga ora

No reira

Tena tatau katoa

There is no occasion on which the weight of New Zealand’s history is felt in quite the same way as it is here in Waitangi on Waitangi Day.

Anzac Day is also special but it reflects a different part of the New Zealand story. Waitangi Day is unique. It is marked across an emotional spectrum that ranges from great passion among some of those gathered here, to indifference from those Kiwis whose sole interest in the day is encompassed by the weather forecast.

From time to time, governments and others have tried to engender a greater sense of national participation around this day. It would be good to see but I’m not sure that we can or should try to force it. We are not by nature a nation of flag-wavers.

We come together here each year to commemorate the signing of the Treaty and, increasingly, people are using the occasion to look forward rather than back.

Mostly, we have the Treaty settlement process to thank for that. By and large the argument that the settlements are justified, necessary, and both morally and legally the right thing to do, was won long ago.

This Government has kept its promise to increase the pace of those settlements. That has required commitment, judgement and balance from all sides.

The first negotiation began under a National government and National has a very good record of progressing settlements. The latest figures provided to me by the Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson show that since the historic claims settlement process began, a total of 59 Deeds of Settlement have been signed between the Crown and iwi.

Of those, 44 were signed by National governments and 33 of them by my government in its first four years in office. That’s a huge advance over the pace that was prevailing when we came in. At that time, it was calculated that if settlements continued at the rate at which they were then occurring – which was 1.6 settlements a year  –  we’d still be signing them in 2048.

We have given priority to the settlement process because it is in everyone’s interests to get the job done.

Within each of those iwi that has settled, a new generation has been freed from carrying the legacy which has been handed down for, in many cases, more than 100 years.

For them, the energy, time and resources that have previously gone in to seeking redress for past injustices now becomes available for taking advantage of future opportunities.

Nowhere is that potential more obvious than here in the North.

This region has a rich culture, a great climate and beautiful coastlines but unemployment is a challenge and people, particularly young people, need more job opportunities. The Government is putting in a lot of effort, including improving road links with the rest of the country and encouraging exploration for oil, gas and minerals.

However, the biggest stimulus on the horizon will come when Treaty settlements are reached on all the claims here, financially empowering iwi and injecting several hundred million dollars into the local economy.

The Crown is keen to see progress in that regard but first some of the groups involved need to resolve the last remaining difficulties which stand in the way of the final settlements being signed.

Can I encourage them to do so, because investing in growth will make the most difference to improving job prospects in Northland.

Around the country, iwi and hapu are finding out what they can achieve post-settlement and the future for them is exciting.

To assist Maori in reaping the most from their own assets, some of you will be aware that Chris Finlayson has commissioned an expert panel to review Te Ture Whenua Maori Act. Nationally there are about 27,000 blocks of Maori land, covering about 1.42 million hectares. Together, they comprise about 5 per cent of New Zealand’s entire land mass and a higher proportion – about 10-12 per cent – of the North Island.

Legislation which governs these blocks is restrictive and it’s estimated that about 80 per cent of the land is undeveloped or underperforming. If its potential could be unlocked – and if that is what its owners choose – imagine how much more wealth and how many more jobs and opportunities could be generated.

Apart from land, compared with some other countries New Zealand also has an abundant supply of water. It is just one of the natural resources which the Crown has the role and responsibility of managing on behalf of all New Zealanders, for the good of all New Zealanders.

Not all iwi leaders may agree with the Government’s approach on all the issues around resource management and of course those discussions will continue.

But I think we do agree that we all have a responsibility to future generations to use resources sustainably and wisely to help build New Zealand’s wealth now and for future generations.

All in all, iwi authorities have good reasons to feel very optimistic about the changing environment in which they operate.

The Iwi Leaders Group and the Maori Party are part of this constructive mindset. We don’t always agree on everything, but we do have a shared sense of purpose, and we have mutual respect.

In particular, the Maori Party deserves credit for taking on the responsibility that is required to be part of a government. We’ve seen since MMP was first introduced that it’s never easy being a small party in a government arrangement but let me assure you it is far, far more influential than being a small party in Opposition.

In Opposition you make headlines that last for a day; in government you make policies that endure for a generation.

The Maori Party has brought an important dimension to this Government. It is one of the reasons why we have a positive and forward-looking relationship between Iwi and the Crown.  I have no doubt that we New Zealanders are better off because of it.

The strength of that relationship has helped in the Treaty settlement process. The advances there mean that some great success stories are emerging from those who see the post-settlement environment as a chance to get on with the exciting, challenging and ultimately satisfying business of running their affairs in their own rohe.

Suddenly, they have a new leverage and a new status. Major players in both the private and public sectors want to form relationships with iwi authorities. Their investment decisions have the  potential to create wealth, jobs and opportunity not only for whanau, hapu,  iwi and their local communities, but also for other New Zealanders and for the wider economy.

That is exactly how it should be and I’m sure we’re going to see more of it.

But while the outlook for Maori and Maori-Crown relations are mostly positive, there remains a small but vocal few who are sometimes apparently unable or unwilling to see the world through any lens other than that of Maori disadvantage.

They seem from their public demeanour to be permanently aggrieved, and rarely constructive.

Those headline-seekers know they will get much more attention by being flamboyant and negative than they will by being considered and positive.

The problem is that sometimes their diversions – including here at Waitangi – are not only distracting, but they can contribute to putting at risk the  public consensus  that exists towards the process of settling legitimate Maori grievances.

It is that consensus that also allows us, in government, to be innovative about ideas that, for example, might lift Maori educational achievement and economic participation.

Public goodwill should not be taken for granted.

It needs to be treated with respect. It is short-sighted and counter-productive of activists to use tactics and language which have the effect of eroding public support for initiatives aimed at turning around the very situation that the activists are complaining about.

All of us are aware that there are many Maori who are not doing as well as they could. You can see it in some of our classrooms and in some of our homes. At its worst you see it on some of our streets and certainly in our prisons.

This audience will know that, regardless of ethnicity, young people with higher educational qualifications generally end up with better incomes through their working lives. They also engage more in society, report greater life satisfaction and have better health and a greater sense of security.

There are always exceptions but over and over again, analysis shows that the better your education and qualifications, the higher your standard of living and the better the chances of good outcomes for your children.

The problem is that proportionately fewer Maori than non-Maori achieve that.

And, as the recently-announced Maori economic development plan notes, barriers to education represent a significant cost, not just to individuals, but to their whanau and society as a whole.

In improving achievement levels, the greatest gains stand to be made in our homes where the influence on children plays such a significant part in determining their life outcomes.

Iwi authorities, corporations, philanthropists, businesses, charities and individuals, as well, of course, as school communities themselves, are also supporting different initiatives.

Not-for-profits and universities are also involved in making a difference. This is as it should be because the Government, despite of course being the biggest and most influential agent in delivering education, does not always have all the answers. The problem should be owned by the whole community.

It is not easy to turn around educational and social disadvantage. If it was, and the solutions were up to the government alone, then of course we would already have done whatever it took.

But although this underachievement is large and worrying, it is starting to turn around. More Maori are in tertiary training and there are more Maori who are successful professionals than ever before.

Maori achievement rates for NCEA Level Two or above have gone from just 44 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent in 2011. That lift is welcome but when you look at the overall achievement rate for Level Two of 74.3 per cent, we can see that for Maori in particular, there is a long way to go.

My Government aims to have 85 per cent of 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level Two by 2017. To reach that target, we need around 3650 more pupils to pass and that includes around 2420 more Maori. This is one of 10 key results challenges that we have set the public service to achieve within the next five years.

We know what we need to do, our data shows where we need to do it and the point of making this one of the priority targets is to ensure it actually happens.

Turning around the current waste of human potential would do more for Maori and for New Zealand than probably any other single change. We want to see it happen not because the statistics would be more flattering – though of course they would be – but because we want meaningful improvements in people’s lives and especially in the lives of those who face the greatest challenges.

We need a unity of purpose in giving this issue the priority it warrants.

It’s not only about young people. Under-educated kids grow up to become under-educated parents who may be trapped in low-income jobs or have periods of unemployment, which in turn feed the cycle of benefit dependency. We have 220,000 children living in homes where the main income is a benefit.

It doesn’t have to be like this. And of course, for most Maori it’s not.  Most Maori, like most non-Maori, are getting along just fine. But among those New Zealanders who don’t do so well, Maori are over-represented. That’s what we want to change.

I am confident that we can and will do it but it requires a combined effort.

I believe that the problems that divide us can become the problems that unite us.

One of my privileges as Prime Minister is to be invited from time to time to look at programmes aimed at helping young people lift their game and expand their view of what’s possible in today’s world.

I visited one such project last October when I went to the United Maori Mission’s hostel which lies within the zone for Auckland Grammar School.

The United Maori Mission has boys from 21 different iwi, along with some Pasifika boys, in its In Zone Project. When the Mission goes out to interview applicants,  its director Terrance Wallace says he’s looking for those who are motivated but the deal-breaker in selection is that the boys must be willing to give back to the school and, in time, to the communities they come from.

Terrance becomes the legal caregiver of 50 teenage boys. I can say that some days having one teenage son seems like a trial. But 50!

The hostel is run like a whanau environment and there’s a zero tolerance policy on drugs and alcohol.

Importantly, both Terrance and the school say that there is no lowering of academic standards to accommodate the hostel boys, or any other pupils. Programmes like the In Zone Project are about genuinely improving the boys’ education in order to meet the standards, not about lowering the standards to meet the boys. Ultimately, that would serve no-one’s interests, least of all the pupils.

When I visited, some of the boys spoke about this life-changing opportunity they had. It was moving to listen to them.

One was a boy from South Auckland whose mother had begun to worry about some of the influences on him. She and her husband looked at the cost of private schooling and knew they couldn’t afford it. But she heard about the In Zone Project, checked it out and now her son goes to school at Grammar where he’s thriving.

I met another boy at the hostel from a remote community who was adopted at birth by his neighbours. Like many of the boys at the hostel, he struggled with homesickness when he arrived. Actually, I also know that sometimes parents find the adjustment just as difficult as their sons. Anyway, he persevered and this year he’s back at school, having moved up a class based on his results last year.

These two boys have very different life stories but they also have some things in common. Each of them has people at home who support them and, young as the boys are, they understand the value of education.

They welcome the opportunity to compete and co-operate with other boys who are aiming high, are engaged and are committed to trying to do their best.

Who can ask more of kids than that?

All New Zealand kids have access to high-quality education but some of them require extra support so they can make the most of school, and so that school can make the most of them. That’s the gap that the In Zone Project and the I Have a Dream Charitable Trust and other similar intensive programmes are trying to fill.

So when I think of education, I think of the kids in these programmes but also of all the kids out there who are notgetting this kind of individual attention and support, though all of them of course have the best efforts of their teachers and schools on a daily basis.

Mostly, I think of how great it will be when we do better at realising the human potential that this country has available.

And finally, on this day in particular, I think too of the chiefs who signed the Treaty, including many who were sceptical and reluctant but did so because they saw in a partnership with the Crown, new opportunities for their people.

More than 170 years later, the challenge for Maori and non-Maori is to continue to commit ourselves to achieving  that equal opportunity, and to maximising its advantages for the good of individuals, whanau, hapu and iwi and, ultimately, for  all New Zealand society.

The Government has certainly made that commitment.


Ho hum


Another Waitangi Day, another story about Titewhai Harawira.

Ngapuhi trustees are trying to oust Titewhai Harawira, from her self-appointed role as the kuia who escorts dignitaries, including the prime minister, onto the lower marae at Waitangi.

But they are concerned Ms Harawira may disrupt ceremonies if she is not allowed to keep her role.

Ngapuhi leader Kingi Taurua said the trustees have decided that other kuia should be given the opportunity to be part of the Waitangi celebrations.

Mr Taurua said that unlike Ms Harawira, other kuia work hard on the marae and should be rewarded for their work. . .

Ho, hum – it’s not so much a news story as deja vu.

Who can blame Tariana Turia who is refusing to return to Te Tii Marae this year because of past displays of violence on Waitangi Day?

One earns the other spends


The contrast between National and Labour could hardly have been greater this week.

Speeches by ministers at the National Party conference outlined policies for economic growth and emphasised the need to spend public funds carefully.

Then Labour promotes Private Members’ Bills to extend Paid Parental Leave, increase the minimum wage and Mondayise holidays for Waitangi and Anzac Days should they fall on the weekend.

National’s policies acknowledge the difficult international economic climate and that we have to earn before we can spend.

Labour’s show its priority is spending and it has no idea about earning.

The Mondayising of Waitangi and Anzac Days is the least expensive of the measures Labour is promoting. It would be needed only once every seven years and businesses cope with the holidays every other year.

I don’t have strong feelings about whether or not Waitangi Day is Mondayised, but I do agree with the RSA on Anzac Day:

The RSA policy has always been to preserve the special nature of Anzac Day. The National Executive Committee of the RSA has given this issue very serious consideration and we do not support this legislative change,” says National President Don McIver.

“We would always want to see Anzac Day commemorations fall on 25 April and not on the nearest week day and we understand the proposed bill will preserve that arrangement.”

“However, we are seriously concerned that to allow a holiday long weekend when Anzac Day falls within a weekend will take the focus away from our most solemn day of commemoration in memory of the sacrifice of New Zealanders for their nation and, instead, turn attention towards the holiday itself.”

“We are concerned that this will trivialise the true intent of this very special day of national commemoration.”

Anzac Day isn’t a celebration but a commemoration. If it falls on a week day people have had a day off to remember the sacrifices of the people who fought for peace, it’s not supposed to be just another holiday.

No-one disputes the demands new babies place on families and the importance of parent-child bonding. But I have yet to see a good argument why paid parental leave should be publicly funded, especially when not only isn’t it means tested but it also pays more to wealthy earners than poorer ones.

As for increasing the minimum wage – that’s just another example of Planet Labour’s distance from the real world where, as National knows, the best way to increase all wages is through economic growth.

On Planet Labour it’s all about spending, in the real world National knows only when we’re earning our way can we have choices about spending.

Celebrating individually in a nation of individuals


The heat which characterised Waitangi Day for a few years has subsided.

The odd loud noise from the odd malcontent  will have confirmed the  prejudices of the prejudiced but will hardly be noticed by most.

The outbreak of peace around the day could be a sign that Treaty settlements have helped Maori move from grievance mode and taught non-Maori New Zealanders there is nothing to be feared from fairness.

What happened at Waitangi in 1840 is to be celebrated, even if not everyone understood what it was about and subsequent actions by  governments and citizens betrayed the promise of equality.

That doesn’t mean that there is a single view on the day, its meaning and how to mark it.

Some celebrate the signing of the Treaty at Waitangi or in other places; some use the opportunity to celebrate other aspects of our country and culture; some just do what they usually do.

It isn’t a national day of celebration which galvinises people the way many other countries’ national days do. But as long as the day is honoured it doesn’t matter if not everyone honours it.

Celebrating collectively can be good but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating, or not, individually in a nation of individuals.

Holidays and holy days


Few, if any, of our public holidays could truly be described as holy days for most people; but if one day is still regarded as sacred for many it is Anzac Day.

This is one of the reasons Prime Minister John Key has not shown great enthusiasm for the idea of Mondayising it when it falls on a weekend, or, as it does this year when it coincides with Easter Monday, another holiday.

Mr Key said the idea was complicated by emotive and pay issues.

For a start off, Anzac Day is here to commemorate those who went and fought for freedom and democracy in New Zealand. Are we just saying any old day will count?”

I don’t think any day should count for Anzac Day.

It doesn’t for Christmas which most people observe on December 25th regardless of which day of the week that happens to fall on.

I can understand how employees feel short changed that 2 of the 11 public holidays fall on weekends this year – although not why Labour only find it’s a problem now they’re not in government.

But I also understand the reluctance to move commemoration away from the actual date, especially as it could then start a move to make the nearest Monday the holiday to make a long weekend every year.

The other problem is pay rates.

When the 25th and/or 26th are on weekends, the public holiday, when time and a half pay rates and a day in lieu apply go to those who work on the Monday not Christmas or Boxing Day.

I think – and please correct me if I’m wrong – that  means someone works Christmas Day for ordinary Saturday or Sunday pay but someone else gets Christmas Day off and works Monday at holiday rates.

If there is to be any change for Anzac and Waitangi Days, rather than Mondayising the holiday, the Monday should be Saturday or Sundayised.

That way the commemoration stays on the date and people who work on that day get holiday pay. But the following Monday is like the ordinary weekend day that was missed ie a day off but without penal rates for those who work or holiday pay for those who don’t.

Has anyone noticed . . .


 . . .  that everyone now has at least four weeks holiday?

In the lamenting over Waitangi Day falling on Sunday and Anzac Day on Easter Monday which means no day off for a public holiday until Queen’s Birthday in June,*  no-one seems to remember there’s now an extra week’s annual leave.

Providing employers agree that could be taken as a whole or in part which could include as  a Monday tacked on to any weekend to make it a long one.

* Unless as Credo Quia Absurdum notes you live in Southland. There, and here in Otago, Anniversary Day is officially the Monday nearest March 23rd but is often taken on the Tuesday after Easter or at any other date convenient to employer and employee.

Being free to celebrate as we wish is worth celebrating


Last Waitangi Day I spent most of the day getting to Auckland to celebrate the silver wedding anniversary of friends.

I can’t remember clearly what I did on February 6 the year before, or the year before that or any other Waitangi Day.

Early February is a busy time on any farm so regardless of the holiday there has to be some business as usual.

I suspect when our daughter was at school we took the opportunity to go to the river for a swim but I have no memories of marking the day in any way which showed I was aware of its meaning.

That could also be said of Queens Birthday and Labour days.

But Waitangi Day is still special.

I can’t think of any other country where there was such an attempt to bridge the gap between the indigenous people and the government of the colonisers.

That the execution didn’t live up to the intent is shameful, but that shouldn’t detract from the importance of the attempt.

Such respect for indigenous people and recognition they had rights was probably unique at the time and it’s by no means universal now.

It’s fitting to mark that with due ceremony at Waitangi and wherever else people choose to do so. But if some, perhaps most of us, choose to mark the anniversary of the treaty’s signing, without the hoopla with which other countries celebrate their important days, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Being free to celebrate a wedding anniversary with friends, swim in the river or do whatever else we please is just as much a celebration as making a big fuss.

Meanwhile though, in Townsville my niece, who is a Kiwi of Scottish, English and Dutch descent, will be having a hangi with friends.

Happy Australia Day


Waitangi Day is almost two weeks away and already a debate has started.

This time it’s over whether or not the holiday should be Mondayised if, as it does this year, it falls on a weekend.

Meanwhile, over the ditch, the Aussies will just be having fun.


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