PM defends Govt record on Maori issues

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daughter Neve Te Aroha Gayford plays at the feet of those sitting...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's daughter Neve Te Aroha Gayford plays at the feet of those sitting near the pae. Photo: RNZ
The Prime Minister has sought to defend her government's record on Māori issues, rebutting criticism from Māori leaders at the annual Rātana celebrations.

The Rātana festivities, honouring the founder of the Rātana faith Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, began this week.

Thousands are expected to visit the tiny settlement over the next few days, including iwi leaders and mōrehu, or followers, of the Rātana faith.

Among concerns raised were that armed police would target Māori, and spending in Whānau Ora and Oranga Tamariki.

Jacinda Ardern was praised for more spending in the regions, and for bringing her 19-month-old daughter Neve and partner Clarke Gayford to the pā.

Ardern said the Government had delivered for Māori.

"We will keep going. We will be human and make mistakes but with courage and support and strength we can keep working on behalf of our collective people."

She said the Labour alliance with Rātana was important to her, and still ran strong.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Rātana Pā. Photo: RNZ
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Rātana Pā. Photo: RNZ
Opposition parties, including National Party, Māori Party and Vision NZ party - arrived at Rātana pā this morning, followed by government ministers including Ardern.

The Māori Party arrived with a contingent of about 100 - with their Tai Hauāuru candidate, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

Brian and Hannah Tamaki also joined the ope that made its way on to the pā today.

National Party leader Simon Bridges took to the pae and called on those gathered to reflect on whether the Labour Party had delivered to Māori - taking aim at the latest unemployment statistics.

"The Prime Minister said it would be the year of delivery for Māori, she said to hold her to account for that - she said unemployment would fall.

"Can anyone show me that?"

Bridges drew laughs from the crowd joking about doubling the National vote at Rātana.

"I have high ambitions of Rātana that we will double it from 1 to 2."

He claimed that what Labour said would be the year of delivery for Māori - is far from that.

He concluded his kōrero by saying if National said something they would stick to their word.

Simon Bridges speaking at Rātana Pā. Photo: RNZ
Simon Bridges speaking at Rātana Pā. Photo: RNZ

Ardern said she totally disagreed with his stance that the Labour-led government had not delivered for Māori.

"In fact when you look at unemployment we've got the lowest rates of unemployment under this government than we've had in a decade, we've seen more young Māori in apprenticeships.

"We know there is more work to do but we have made good progress."

When asked if she was expecting to be challenged at Rātana, Ardern said she wanted the Government to be held to account.

A kaikorero on the pae, Che Wilson, who is also the Māori Party president, called on the Prime Minister to address the the inequities Māori face and the harms of armed police response teams.

He asked Ardern to make one law for all.

He said the biggest criminals were white-collar men, but the Armed Response Teams - which were being piloted in parts of the country - were targeting Māori.

Wilson urged the Government to work together to find ways to move past what he said was a growing class system.

Green Party member Jack MacDonald, who stood for the Tai Hauāuru seat in the last election, spoke on the pae today to endorse the Māori Party candidate, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.

He said she is a strong advocate for the environment, vulnerable children, having publicly challenging Oranga Tamariki on multiple occasions.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson said MacDonald could endorse who he wanted.

"Debbie's fantastic, we've worked really well with her as Green Party and I look forward to her campaigning.

As we've also seen he remains a member of the party and supports the progressive and staunch kaupapa of the Green Party, he's merely exercising his right as an individual."

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ
Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson. Photo: RNZ

Davidson said the Greens had not yet decided if they would have a candidate standing for Te Tai Hauauru in the 2020 election.

Rātana is an opportunity for the Government to make as strong of a case as possible about what they have achieved for Māori and for Māori leaders to lay down their own wero, or challenge, to the Government.

It won't be smooth sailing for the Government, despite Labour's historic relationship with the Rātana Haahi.

There are disputes over Ihumātao and Whānau Ora and disappointment with the Government's slow progress on election promises around housing and improvements to the welfare state.

With an Ihumātao resolution believed to be expected by Waitangi Day, it's an issue on the minds of many.

Former Māori Party leader Dame Tariana Turia is among those challenging the Government over Whānau Ora and will be attending Rātana.

The issues however, are not expected to overshadow the celebration of Tahupotiki Wiremu Rātana.


'The biggest criminals are white collar men'. Regardless of their ethnicity. In that case ARU's should be raiding office buildings.





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