It was a privilege to visit Rātana Pā last week with fellow Greens’ Co-leader James Shaw, our Māori Caucus and senior staff to meet with the leaders of te iwi mōrehu, to strengthen the ties between the Green Party and the Rātana movement.
We were responding to the challenge that was laid down by the Church that political parties shouldn’t just be going there for the annual celebrations of T.W Rātana’s birthday in January, we should also be talking throughout the year and working together on the shared kaupapa of importance to our people.
Rātana has a special place in my heart. I have been visiting since I was a little girl – my Dad would take us kids to the annual celebrations from our home in Palmerston North every year. I loved it, always lots of people and lots of fun.
In 2013 I was also honoured to give my first kōrero on a marae at Rātana, thanks to the incredible support of the kuia and kaumatua who opened up a safe space for me.
It was in this kōrero when I talked about how, on one of the occasions my Dad brought me, I had my first kiss behind the bandstand. I still haven’t been able to live that one down!
On Friday it was fantastic to be able to listen to the Church’s aspirations and priorities first-hand so that we can understand the issues that their people are facing.
While we have been attending the January celebrations for quite a few years now, as a newer political party, the Greens don’t have a long history with the Rātana movement, and so this was the first time that we’ve had a proper meeting with their Church Executive.
We greatly valued this opportunity to deepen our relationships and connections with te iwi mōrehu, with whom we have a lot in common.
T.W Rātana was one of our country’s most significant and influential leaders. He worked tirelessly to honour the Te Tiriti o Waitangi and highlight the brotherhood and sisterhood between Māori and Pākehā; he was one of the very best at uniting people.
We had a really constructive and positive meeting which covered our shared priorities, in particular our commitments to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and advance kaupapa Māori.
We are both committed to seeing Te Tiriti made a living document in the way our government operates and recognising its centrality to Aotearoa’s constitutional frameworks.
It was incredibly refreshing to have the opportunity to explore Te Tiriti issues with them in a much deeper way than we are often able to in politics; not just discussing settlements and redress, but also about actually implementing Te Tiriti, and what it might look like at the heart of a written constitution.
We look forward to working closely with Rātana on Te Tiriti issues. As a Treaty-based party, we have a long history on working on these issues, and are well placed to lead these conversations with Pākehā and deliver real and meaningful change in government.
We are also becoming a major force in Māori politics. As a modern and principled choice for Māori voters, over the last few elections the Greens’ have staked our ground in the Māori electorates, and the support we are receiving in Māori communities is continuing to increase.
With the election of Marama Davidson, our spokesperson for Māori Development, nearly a third of our Caucus are Māori MPs. This is the strongest Māori Caucus we’ve ever had.
In 2017 we are expecting to run a strong party vote campaign in the Māori electorates and stand more Māori candidates than ever before. More and more of our people are seeing that the Greens represent the next generation of progressive Māori leadership in Parliament.
Rātana were naturally particularly interested about how, in May this year, we signed an MOU with the Labour Party, an historic agreement to work cooperatively to change the Government. Since then James and I have built a strong positive relationship with Andrew Little and Labour.
The MOU presents an opportunity for us to form broader progressive alliances to change the government, and Rātana is a perfect example of a movement that both Labour and the Greens need to be working closely with.
Changing the government is so important because National has been so bad for our people and for our environment. I think Māori voters will rally around that.
Going into the election people will be able to see a strong alternative government that will end the housing and homelessness crisis that will protect our environment and that will support Māori political aspirations.
We look forward to continuing to strengthen our relationships with te iwi mōrehu over the coming months and years, and working with them to achieve that.