Turia offers olive branch as she leaves Parliament

Tariana Turia
Tariana Turia
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 right."

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 of money."

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 chequebook."

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 great grandchildren."

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

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