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Rt Hon Christopher Luxon

PM Speech at Ratana

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151st anniversary of the birth of Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana


No reira, tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tatou katoa.

He hōnore, he kororia, ki te Atua

He maungarongo ki te whenua

He whakaaro pai ki ngā tāngata katoa.

Ki ngā mate, haere haere haere. Ka āpiti-hono.

Tēnā koutou katoa. 

Thank you to all of you for hosting us at Rātana today on the 151st birthday of the Māngai. 

Can I especially acknowledge:

  • The Tumuaki – Manuao Te Kohamutunga Tamou, 
  • Kingi Tūheitia – it’s good to see you again, 
  • and Te Ariki Tā Tumu Te Heuheu

My parliamentary colleagues:

  • Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Shane Jones, 
  • National’s Deputy Leader Nicola Willis,
  • Tama Potaka and all my parliamentary colleagues who are here today.

Since late last year, the media have been asking me if I would be coming here today. The question implied that I might not. But I always intended to come – for the same reason I came last year and will come again. 

Even though Rātana has been politically aligned to Labour, this Government, and the National Party, value the opportunity for conversation. We value our relationships with the Rātana faith, and with Māori. 

I want to talk today about the Government’s principles and approach to achieving better outcomes for New Zealanders, but because there’s been a lot of dialogue recently about Te-Tiriti-o-Waitangi – the Treaty of Waitangi, and about the use of te reo Māori, let me first talk quickly about those issues. 

This year is 100 years since T.W Rātana went all the way to England with a petition signed by more than 30,000 Māori, asking King George V to return confiscated Māori land and to honour the Treaty.

New Zealand has come a long way since then. I stand before you today as Prime Minister and as the Leader of the National Party, the Party of Apirana Ngata, the Party that has negotiated the vast majority of Treaty settlements – and the Party that has worked hard over decades to honour the Treaty and restore the honour of the Crown. That is a heritage of which I am extremely proud. 

So, let me be absolutely clear: The Government has no plan, and never has had plans, to amend or revise the Treaty, or the Treaty settlements we have all worked so very hard together to achieve.

The Government will honour the Treaty. But unlike the Labour government, we will honour it without moving away from equal voting rights, without creating complex co-governance bodies and bureaucracies in Wellington to decide how central services should be delivered in the regions, and we will honour it while upholding the equality of all New Zealanders before the law.

Let me turn to the second matter, which is te reo Māori.

National supported the forerunner of kōhanga reo, thanks to the tireless efforts of Māori up and down the country who knew that saving the language was vital to preserving the culture. That early kōhanga reo generation are grown up now. I am sure many are here today, speaking the reo with confidence and pride. 

And I am proud that a National government had a hand in getting that started, and expanding it.

The Government sees Māori language and culture as fundamental to the successful and unique country that New Zealand is today. It is not only a legal right of all New Zealanders to write, speak and perform in te reo, the Government welcomes and supports it.

However, as a government representing all New Zealanders, we are also mindful of those with little or no knowledge of te reo Māori – especially older New Zealanders and new migrants, some who have felt afraid, others embarrassed, and some simply confused and lost when they don’t understand the language and are unable to translate it. So, te reo Māori is not just a personal, a whānau or an iwi journey, but it is a New Zealand one which all of us are traversing at different speeds.

These issues are vitally important, but there is another big matter I want to focus on today. That is how the new Government is going to work together to deliver better outcomes for all New Zealanders. 

So, let me tell you about this Government’s values, beliefs, and approach so you know what they mean for you here at Rātana, and for every New Zealander, Māori and non-Māori.

The first point is that ours is a government that cares deeply about people. I want all of you, and every New Zealander, to be able to flourish.

But it’s my view, that if you say you care, you show it by actually doing something – not just talking about it. I’m sure that all of us here do that at a personal level. We take kai to someone who is sick, for example, or we take in someone who needs somewhere to sleep.

The Government knows many Māori are doing it tough – many Kiwis are doing it tough. Our commitment is to work harder, and to work alongside iwi and others, to ensure Māori enjoy the same equality of opportunity as most other New Zealanders.

Our belief is that wherever you come from, you should have the same opportunity to access public health care, or school dental treatment, or to get a good education. Then it’s up to you to make your dreams come true.

Speaking of education, one of the most important things families can do for their kids, is instil in them the importance of education. So, as the new school year approaches, I implore parents, grandparents, uncles and aunties, Māori and non-Māori, here and all over the country, of your responsibility to get our kids to school, not just for the first week of this year, but every day, of every week of every year until they finish high school with something to show for it, and with exciting possibilities in front of them.

Right now, school absenteeism in New Zealand is far too high. Think about this: if your child misses one school day a fortnight, by the time they are 15, they will have missed the equivalent of a year of school. They will be trying to do NCEA a year behind kids who turned up almost every day. Frankly, they won’t have the same opportunities and chance at success. 

The only way to stop us having the same conversation here in 10 or 20 years’ time, is to change what we’re doing. Improving school attendance is something every family and whānau can commit to from next week when schools start back.   

Our Government will do our part by backing our Kaupapa Māori education system, reintroduce partnership schools, invest in structured literacy, teach the basics well, and set clear targets focussed on attendance and achievement so our kids can have the futures they deserve. But none of that will matter frankly if kids aren’t in school.

Ours will be a government with goals for better healthcare, better school achievement, and less welfare dependency. 

When I talk about wanting better outcomes, I’m not talking about hand-outs to close the gaps. I want to improve opportunities so that more people who are prepared to work hard, can make the most of their opportunities and get ahead. 

To face up to these complex social challenges, we’re all going to have to work together. I believe society is at its strongest when we do just that. Businesses, iwi, community groups and the Government, working with you the hapū, the whānau, the families and individuals, can together achieve so much more than any of us can by ourselves.

As Ngāi Tahu reminded me just last week, no-one knows their communities better than iwi. So why wouldn’t we use the most effective local providers – iwi, or Māori, or community – to reach the people who most need our help, so they have a shot at a better future.

That goes to another principle where I see strong alignment with Māori. This Government believes in devolution and working locally – not centralisation and control. 

A big public service based in Wellington does not have all the answers. So, under this government, there will be no more ineffective and expensive departments set up in Wellington to co-govern public services in regional New Zealand. I think we can do better than that. 

If a problem is solved by the exercise of rangatiratanga on the ground, great – we will work with whoever we need to achieve that outcome. But we will not be creating new authorities, bureaucracies, organisations, departments and ministries to do it. That is the opposite of what we should be doing.

You would expect a National Party Prime Minister to say that the Government wants to see an improved economy, and yes, we do. 

We will manage the economy well to ease the cost of living. We will grow the economy to help us all get ahead, and so New Zealand can afford more of those things that everyone thinks the Government should pay for. That’s a lot of stuff, believe me. But because we’re National, not Labour, we have to earn the money before we spend it. Quite simply, the facts are we need a strong economy to generate the wealth required to pay for all the things we all want.

This is another strong area of alignment between iwi and the Government. We both need to do well financially to create more money to spend on the needs of our people, and to invest in their futures.

We want to lift productivity – not so that you work longer hours, but so that you work smarter and can make a better return in the same or even fewer hours. 

Greater productivity and a stronger economy will be good for iwi investments, meaning more money to distribute and re-invest in people and in tribal assets.  A thriving Māori economy is a platform and foundation for social progress. And when Māori do better, New Zealand will do better too.

Friends, today I’ve gone through with you some of the high-level values, beliefs and approaches of this new government. 

It has a big vision: A stable, confident, outward-looking and prosperous country in which every New Zealander understands their rights and responsibilities, feels included, and can do well if they work hard. That vision applies as much to the people of Rātana as it does to every other New Zealander.

I want to leave you today with this message: I am committed to Māori progress. The people seated behind me are, and every party in the coalition is, too. I would not have agreed to lead a Government that did not believe in improving outcomes for all.  

And I know that you in front of me are committed to Māori progress, too. Together, we can make it happen.

From time to time our views on how to achieve progress may diverge – and that’s okay. We can value and cherish our differences, and our differences can be a strength so long as we agree to move forward with a common purpose.  

By creating a more prosperous nation that delivers more, for more people, Māori and non-Māori, all of us carry the hopes of those who came before us, and a light for those who come after us. Let us share that goal.

No reira, tēna koutou, tēna koutou, tēna tatou katoa.

This speech was originally published on the Beehive website HERE.