Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia handed an olive
branch to the party she walked out on ten years ago in her
farewell speech to Parliament last night but said she had
absolutely no regrets about doing so, nor about signing up for
government with National.
In an often moving valedictory speech, Mrs Turia recalled her
decision to leave Labour over the Foreshore and Seabed Act as
a turning point in her life. "I am not sorry that I left. It
was the most evocative moment of my life – to feel the will
of the people, the calling of our tupuna, to reclaim the
essence of who we are, to stand up for what we knew was
However she acknowledged she had also left good friends and
those who had helped her behind. Her voice breaking, she
spoke about how important the late Parekura Horomia had been
in her life. She paid tribute to several current MPs and said
it was only thanks to the support of former Prime Minister
Helen Clark and Maryan Street that she had been able to enter
Parliament for Labour at all.
Mrs Turia and fellow founder of the Maori Party Pita Sharples
both gave their final addresses to a packed public gallery,
full of supporters, and former colleagues including Willie
Jackson, John Tamihere and former Governor General Sir Anand
Satyanand and his wife Lady Susan.
Both Dr Sharples and Mrs Turia also spoke about the party's
decision to go into government with National. Dr Sharples
said the party had gained in popularity when it was on the
cross benches in its first term: "We didn't win anything, we
didn't do anything but we made a lot of noise and we got a
lot of media attention. Then we got five seats." However, the
split with Harawira and political opposition to the deal with
National had taken its toll. He said he still believed it was
right. "It's not just about how loudly you can speak outside"
Mrs Turia said the decision to go with National was no
mistake. "It is the first time in our history and of the
world that an indigenous political party has been truly part
of government in a coalition arrangement. I have been driven
by a passion, determination, desire and as Bill English would
say a stubborn resolve to make a difference. I always wanted
us to be in a relationship where what we say matters. To be
able to make a difference, not just a noise."
She also sent a warning that Maori could lose what they
fought for ten years ago. "We were never content to sit on
the sidelines, to watch from afar as the lives of our people
waited in queue for the time to be right. We have never been
about the rhetoric of the right or left. Being in the Maori
Party has been the greatest opportunity to sing our songs, to
tell our stories."
Both MPs made special mention of Finance Minister Bill
English - something Dr Sharples attributed to his "cupboards
He also revealed Mr English had once told him he had twigged
on to the Maori Party's knack for opening that cupboard: send
Mrs Turia in to lay on a guilt trip followed by Dr Sharples
with the charm offensive.: "and boom: out comes the
Both also spoke about the split with Hone Harawira, who was
at a tangi so could not attend but paid tribute to his former
leaders in a statement. Mrs Turia said he still had a place
in her heart. "Hone Harawira, my great friend who has also
been my great foe. How do you really love the essence of
someone and yet be so frustrated by them at the same time?"
The tributes to her family, supporters and colleagues done,
Turia ended by saying it was now time for her to go home.
"Now it is time to return home, to give back to those who
placed their trust in me, to rest a while with my darling
George, my beautiful children, my 26 grandchildren and 26
But she will not rest for too long - she would start to
ponder her next move on Saturday.
- By Claire Trevett of the NZ Herald