Jacinda Ardern speaks at Te Whare Runanga in 2018. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern speaks at Te Whare Runanga in 2018. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

ĀteaFebruary 5, 2018

‘I want to be able to tell my child I have earned the right to stand here’

Jacinda Ardern speaks at Te Whare Runanga in 2018. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern speaks at Te Whare Runanga in 2018. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

This morning Jacinda Ardern, who is visiting Waitangi over five days during commemorations of the signing of the Treaty, spoke from the veranda of Te Whare Rūnanga during the formal welcome at the Treaty grounds. Here is her speech.

Kei āku nui, kei āku rahi, tēnā koutou katoa.

Haere mai tātou ki tēnei rā nui, ki tēnei rā o Waitangi.

E koa ana ahau, te tae pēnei mai, me taku pae arahi. He kawenga rangatira, kua tukuna mai.

Aku mihi ano hoki, mo ngā kupu whakatau, i a mātou katoa.

I want to begin by acknowledging mana whenua. Ngāti Kawa, Ngāti Rahiri, and, of course, Ngāpuhi.

I want to acknowledge the members of the Waitangi National trust, who sit to my right today and, particularly, those to my left who have shepherded me warmly on to the whare today. I do not take lightly the privilege extended to me to speak from this veranda today, not only as prime minister, but as a wahine. Tēnā koutou katoa.

I also acknowledge those who joined me as we walked on this marae today. I acknowledge particularly Te Rōpū Reipa, all of my team, who I am immensely proud to stand alongside. I am particularly proud to stand alongside the largest Māori contingent of MPs that our party has seen. And it is not just the numbers that matter. It is the fact that each and every one of them are from amongst their people and represent their people. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but our waiata has also improved considerably from last year.

I also acknowledge the other members of this government. It is made up of three parties. Our coalition partners, New Zealand First. Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, I acknowledge you and Shane Jones, who has spoken on behalf of New Zealand First today. And our confidence and supply partners, the New Zealand Green Party, and all of their MPs who have joined us today. As a government, we have been here for five days. I have not been on my own. We did not come simply for the beauty and the hospitality of the North. We came because there is work to do. Much mahi to do. And we will only achieve what needs to be done, together. So, in those five days, we have talked about education, health, employment, roads, housing. But now we must take the talk to action. This is the beginning for our government, and I thank you.

We also bring with us a special role in minister Kelvin Davis, who holds for the first time the portfolio of Crown/Māori relations. We did not create that role lightly. As we discuss here with Ngāpuhi the Treaty settlement, that is before us, within our sights, we also have to start thinking as a nation of what extends beyond the negotiating table. That is not the end of our relationship, nor is it the end of the Crown’s responsibility. Each agreement we have signed so far, contains 7,000 commitments. We must be diligent about upholding each of them. We have created the portfolio of Crown/Māori relations as an acknowledgement that our relationship goes beyond the negotiating table and it will continue on with strength and with hope.

I also acknowledge the opposition members who have journeyed on in the marae with us today in what seems a historic moment, for all of the Parliament to be represented here, together.

As I stand here, I have many memories of the many times that I have visited these beautiful grounds, not always as a politician but once as a child. In fact, my first time here, I was probably no more than seven years old. My father brought his two daughters to the Treaty grounds because he had a great love of history and he wanted us to learn the history of the place we were living and were lucky enough to call home. I remember standing out on the grounds and, after we had finished the tour, he did something very unusual and gave to me and my sister the family camera in order to catch a snap, as he posed with my mother out on the edge of the grounds. And he did something only a father could do to completely shame his two daughters. Just as I was about to take the photo, he grabbed my mother in the most public display of affection, kissing her full on the lips just as I took the photo, embarrassing me and my sister completely.

When I think of this story, and all of the reasons these grounds hold memories for me, I can’t help think of the kinds of things I would want my child to think about as they come on to these grounds and to this place. My hope is that they know this place’s history, that they know of the 28th of October and Whakaputanga, the Declaration of Independence. My hope is that they would know the history of Te Tiriti, and what it meant for us as a nation, and that they know that they know that those stories as I was taught yesterday by Ngāti Manu, those stories may be hard to hear, but I am certain they are even harder to tell. That that is our history and we must always be honest about our history, and what it means for us. I hope that they know the history even of this place where the Māori Battalion here paraded as they heard the words that talked about the price of citizenship and I look forward to us acknowledging the role of history for the Battalion here in the future as well.

That is the history I hope my child will know of this place, not just on this day, but for every day they are lucky enough to call themselves a citizen in Aotearoa. But I also hope that they know what we value. What we value collectively, but what we are probably not good at cherishing, I hope they know the importance of manaakitanga, lessons that I’ve been taught and observed by Māoridom over time, that the importance of hospitality, of generosity, of caring for one another. And that it is indeed possible to have a government that does that too, just as our people do. I hope that they know the value of kaitiakitanga that we have a role as guardians of our environment, and if we want to look after our people we must look after the earth as well and gift it better than what we found it. And I hope they know that we value the ability to speak frankly and openly to one another. Kanohi ki te kanohi – face to face – and we should never shy away from that, because if we don’t speak freely how do we change?

And if we value that about ourselves as a nation 364 days of the year, why would we not value it here at Waitangi. I will always maintain that we should not seek perfection on our national day. That speaking frankly and openly is not a sign of failure, but a sign of the health of our nation and a sign that we must keep pushing to be better. I also hope that my child will know that we have the power to change and we must change. A kaumatua spoke about the differences between these two whares on these grounds, and if you ask me the distance between this whare and the old homestead is the difference between us as people, the inequality we still have.

The distance between here and here is unemployment, is rangatahi who don’t have hope for their future, it’s the poverty that exists amongst whānau, it’s those rangatahi who don’t have access to the mental health services who take their lives, it’s the fact that not everyone has a decent home, a decent place to live. And it’s the incarceration of the Māori people disproportionately to everyone else that is the distance between us. And so long as that exists, so long as that exists we have failed in our partnership, but I inherently believe in our power to change and I hope not only that my child believes in that power too, but I hope that they will see the change for themselves.

Now we as a government, we know what we have to do, we know all of the failings that we have as a nation, but we won’t always know exactly how to change it. For that we will come to you, we will ask you to help us, we will form partnerships together because we cannot do it alone. And I can guarantee you particularly as this government goes out to hui amongst everyone, that there will be no marae too small for us, there will be no marae where we don’t ask for that help and to work alongside us. And I know that that’s something that we have to know go forth from this place and prove to all of you.

So when we return, in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask of us what we have done. Ask us how we have given dignity back to your whānau, ask us what we have done to improve poverty for tamariki, ask us what we have done to give rangatahi opportunities and jobs, ask us, hold us to account. Because one day I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here and only you can tell me when I have done that. So for now I finish with these wise words I’ve heard from Ngāi Tahu before:

Mō tātou, ā, mō kā uri, ā muri ake nei – for us and for our children after us.

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Keep going!