Speech at Ōtara - 4 February 2018
Ehara i te mea ko te hāngūtanga o te wāhine he taonga tuku iho nō tāukiuki, nō ō tātou kuia. E kāo. Māku e kī atu. Ehara tēnei kauhau mō te wāhine e whai mana ana - engari kē ia, ko te mana o te wahine. He mana wāhine! He mana tūturu! Nō mai rā anō. Tai timu, tai pari, e kore e mutu.
I te tuatahi ka mihi atu ki a koutou e pupuri tonu ana ki te mana o te whenua nei, ki ngā hapū me ngā iwi katoa o tēnei hāpori o Ōtara. Tēnā koutou katoa.
He mihi hoki ki Ngāti Whātua me tō rangatira e tū mai nei, e te tuakana e Ngarimu, tēnā koe.
Ko Whetumatarau te maunga
Ko Waiapū te awa
Ko te whanau a Hinerupe, Te whanau a Tapuhi oku hapū
Ko Ngāti Porou te iwi
Ki te taha o tōku pāpa
Ko Te Ramaroa me Panguru ngā maunga
Ko Whirinaki me Hokianga ngā awa
Ko Te Hikutu me Ngai Tupoto ngā hapü
Ko Ngāpuhi me Te Rarawa ngā iwi
Ko Marama Davidson tōku ingoa
Ko ahau tēnei
I want to begin by thanking all of you, each and every one of you, from the bottom of my heart, for taking the time to come this morning and share this day with us.
I acknowledge the whānau of Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae, the original hosts of this event, and send our love and condolences to them and the whānau of Kukupa Tirikatene – moe mai rā e te rangatira.
I also want to profoundly thank all of you who have shared your enriching kōrero and performances with us today, you honour me deeply. You honour us all deeply.
I couldn’t think of better ground to be standing on to give this speech and make what will probably be the most important announcement of my political career, than here in the heart of Ōtara.
I also send my thanks to the Ōtara Leisure Centre for accommodating us at such short notice.
I have fond childhood memories of swimming in the pools here and even my first swimming lessons I think. I also have vivid memories of my parents having heaps of arguments in that carpark.
What I’m about to say is important and it will take some time. Thank you, for giving me your time and the space to share fully what I have to say today.
Since the election I have been thinking a lot about how I can personally best contribute to the task of growing the Green Party to bring about our shared visions.
It is with a great sense of responsibility and excitement to announce today that I have put myself forward as a candidate for the Co-leadership of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.
To realise our bold and ambitious goals in Government every one of us who are members of the Greens, and our supporters, must contribute in the best way we can, however big or small, to make them happen.
I’ve decided to stand for Co-leader because I’m confident that I am the best placed to build a strong, cohesive and diverse movement.
I have the commitment and capacity to work with each and every one of our team to bring out the best in us, from my MP colleagues in parliament, to our National Executive, and most importantly with you, the roots and backbone of our party, our membership.
Without you, we would be nothing. Thank you for your sacrifices that enable our work.
I have the experience of walking in places outside my comfort zone, with no face around me that looked like my own.
I know what it is to struggle to find a house. I know what it is to not have enough for your tamariki.
I have the drive, skills and lived experience that are needed to lead the Green Party into being a genuine voice for modern Aotearoa.
The ability to pull together our communities.
My grandparents moved from Hokianga to Otara in the 1950s. Otara became my family’s Auckland home for the next four generations.
All of my adult life I have worked to maintain my family links to the South Auckland communities, and have loved raising our six tamariki here.
My whānau and I have shared the struggles and celebrations of so many other urban Māori and Pacific families who uprooted themselves from their homelands.
Our people moved from our homelands in regional Aotearoa in search of work, prosperity and security.
When my Nan and Papa first moved here, that was entirely possible as New Zealand had high rates of employment, universal provision of housing and core social services and steady economic development. My Dad has always spoken of how easy it was then when he was growing up to just rock up to a job in his hood.
But from the 1970s to the 1990s many communities right across Aotearoa, including here in South Auckland suffered devastating economic collapse, and saw their quality of lives steadily diminish.
This is also true for the rural communities my whānau were from in the Hokianga and on the East Coast.
This was driven by deindustrialisation and a lack of investment in the regions, and more and more profits moving offshore.
Factories that sustained entire communities were shut down. Farmers and rural industries had their Government lifelines cut off. What followed was devastating poverty and the tragic, direct legacy of suffering and suicide in our regions and urban centres. We are still feeling that impact, here, now.
There will always be the need for change, for transitions to new and better ways of organising our society. But we have a choice.
We could have said, yes, times are changing but we are all in this together.
We could have chosen to pull communities in to our growing financial prosperity. But instead we further alienated struggling families and pushed them to the margins of our society.
Instead our elected representatives tore apart the social safety net we had built up over generations, pushing hundreds of thousands of children and families into hardship and deprivation.
We lost the opportunity and promise of bright, young leaders by scrapping free tertiary education and we built barriers for youth who simply were not born in to wealth.
We took families out of State houses that we sold to rich developers, and we put tamariki in cars. In tents. In flea-ridden boarding houses. We put them on the street.
And when those youth turned away from a State that had turned its back on them, what did we do? We put them in jail. A punishing prison system was all ready to eat up our young New Zealanders while politicians and law enforcement doubled down on the War on Drugs. This is why we have one of the world’s highest prison populations, overwhelmingly filled with people from these very communities.
In Aotearoa today we have some of the highest rates of homelessness in the “so called” developed world.
We have the highest rates of suicide among young people in the developed world.
And we have some of the highest rates of child poverty and domestic and sexual violence in the developed world.
Our real unemployment rate, including right here in South Auckland is much higher than 5%. People who have given up looking for work, or are so disheartened they haven't applied for anything within the past month, are not even included in the “official” unemployment rate.
We have also seen a massive rise in underemployment and insecure work, which alongside stagnating wages, is forcing many people to work two or three jobs and still not having enough to pay the bills.
Meanwhile, 10 per cent of New Zealanders own more than half the nation's wealth while last year the richest 1 per cent of Kiwis received an eye watering 28 per cent of the wealth created in a single year.
This massive accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few is completely unacceptable while people are living on the streets, tamariki are going to school hungry and our elderly are not turning on the heater in winter.
Instead of saying we were all in this together, the fabric of our communities was torn apart, sacrificed to individualism. To deregulation. To greed.
This has been my reality my whole life.
It is these same forces that drive the reckless exploitation of our ecosystems.
It wasn’t long ago that swimming in the local river was the birth right of all children in Aotearoa. My Dad would talk all the time about fishing and swimming in the Ōtara Creek. My uncle made me and my siblings homemade fishing lines.
Let’s just say you wouldn’t want to even go anywhere near the Ōtara Creek now.
We have seen an increasing disregard for our environment, instead of the care and compassion for the natural world that is central to our identity as New Zealanders.
We pride ourselves on our natural history, but we are losing our indigenous biodiversity at an alarming rate. In Aotearoa today three-quarters of native fish, one-third of invertebrates, and one-third of plants are threatened with, or at risk of, extinction.
We have some of the most polluted rivers, and are among the highest per capita carbon-emitting countries in the developed world.
Protecting the environment for its own intrinsic value is essential, but failing to do so further degrades the wellbeing of our communities.
Those who try and say the Greens should stick to our knitting and only focus on environmental issues, misunderstand our Party and our history. They also ignore the inescapable truth that the environmental crises we face are caused primarily by economic and social factors.
As I said in my maiden speech to Parliament; “everything is supposed to be connected. We are supposed to be connected to each other as neighbours and as a global community. My wellbeing is supposed to be connected to yours. We are supposed to be connected to the life systems that nourish us. We are supposed to be connected to the future we are designing for generations to come. My pride in my whakapapa is supposed to be connected to your pride in yours.”
It is this kaupapa that lies at the centre of my politics, and I strive to uphold it in my daily work.
We are so disturbingly out of balance and facing a frightening future of climate change precisely because these connections have been frayed and ignored.
The Greens have helped make climate change a mainstream issue, but we need to continue to talk about why we’ll never fix climate change if we don’t change our economic system that is based on the exploitation of our people and our planet.
And as our Pacific whanaunga fight the rising seas, it is our duty to centre their voices and leadership at the forefront of our response.
While I am painting a pretty dire picture, it’s not too late. We can fix this. We need to unpick our history and understand our social context to truly step up and meet our challenges honestly and head on.
The resilience of our communities to withstand and respond to these crises is incredible, and it is that grassroots leadership that has always inspired me.
Here in South Auckland, it wouldn’t be right to talk about inspiring grassroots leadership without mentioning Te Puea Marae and my own marae, Manurewa, for their amazing work in providing manaaki for our homeless whānau.
To this day Manurewa community leaders, such as Debbie Munroe and Liz Kiriona, have continued to feed the homeless on our streets.
I couldn’t be more proud to call these communities home.
I have had the massive privilege of supporting local groups and movements in their campaigns for environmental restoration and sustainability.
I’ve been honoured to support, year after year, the local mahi to restore the Ōmaru river in Glenn Innes, and to stand in kōtahitanga with both sides of my whakapapa, from Te Hikitu to Te Araroa, in their struggles to end deep sea oil exploration and drilling.
I have been a supporter of the Greens for a long time; my Dad has been a candidate and I had been a volunteer before ever taking determined steps into party politics.
I vividly remember, while pregnant with my youngest daughter Teina, having “Vote For Me” being painted on my hapū puku by Jeanette Fitzsimmons.
In the lead up to joining the Green Party, as part of my activism work I often found myself on panels and at rallies with Green Party spokespeople, and was affirmed with the striking alignment between what they would be saying, and what I would be saying as an wāhine Māori environmental and social justice activist.
We were singing from the same song sheet.
I was also inspired by the political leadership of Metiria Turei, who had not just made the Greens relevant in Māori communities and championed honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi, but who by that time had already put inequality and child deprivation on this country’s political agenda.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her unflinching courage and leadership in the face of adversity.
I joined the Party in early 2013, and tragically only some weeks later Papa Parekura Horomia passed away.
The Greens decided that they wanted to contest the Ikaroa-Rāwhiti by-election, and Metiria immediately asked me if I would stand.
It was an amazing whirlwind campaign that was an important moment in our Green political growth in Māori communities. It was a total affirmation that I had found my political home.
I stood again in the 2014 general election, and then entered Parliament after Russel Norman resigned.
I was kicked out of the House in my first week for standing up for the victims of domestic and sexual violence. Alongside the now Minister of Housing Phil Twyford I lead the Cross-Party Inquiry into Homelessness.
I stood up for human rights, peace and justice on the Women’s Boat to Gaza and I was the first MP in the world to speak in a House of Representatives in support of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation resisting dirty oil pipelines.
I have relished being a voice for kaupapa Māori aspirations, and to have ensured the Greens are a constant and regular presence in Māori media and communities for the first time.
In the last election I was so proud to have put universal te reo Māori in schools on the political agenda.
I have loved serving as one of your Green MPs with every fibre of my soul.
Being ranked as number two on the Green Party list has helped steel my resolve that this is the right path for me. Your humbling confidence in me has given me greater confidence in myself.
I am so excited about the opportunity over the coming weeks and months to spend time with our members and supporters to engage on not just what they are looking for in a new female Co-leader, but also on what they see as being the future of our movement.
This new progressive Government has already, in its first 100 days, taken important steps to deliver change and make a real difference for communities. Together, we can do so much more.
It is the role of the Green Party to continue to be a loud and active voice on behalf of our communities, to push for this to be a fundamentally transformative Government.
Our Confidence and Supply Agreement gives us the right to agree to both work with and disagree with the Government, and we have already shown that we will use that when we need to. The Greens are now the only party in Parliament that remains in opposition to the TPPA.
I am proud to have a role outside the Executive that balances my responsibility to you, our membership with my position as a member of this coalition Government.
Tinkering and half-measures will not be enough. Now is the time to be bold and brave for those who need us most.
New Zealanders have been waiting far too long for a fundamental shift in our politics, for the return of care and compassion, and a departure from the shadows of the last several decades.
We need to turn our faces to the streets, and understand the hardship and struggle that so many of our people are facing.
Thanks to the decades-long work of our Green Party members, who were well and truly before their time, we already have the policies and plans to address the social, environmental and economic crises that are facing our communities.
Now what is needed is to become a major broad-based political party that has the influence to ensure that Aotearoa urgently addresses the crises that we face.
To deliver on all of those visions and policies that our people and our environment so desperately need, we must return to Parliament in 2020 with much greater numbers and as an even stronger and more significant part of the next Government.
Our message needs to be taken into these communities, places where we haven’t had a strong presence before, and in some places where we haven’t been present at all.
We need to be engaging with all of the diverse communities that make us the vibrant and successful country that we are.
Together, we can build a country that ensures everyone has what they need to live good lives, and that recognises that a healthy environment is crucial to that.
Together, we can change politics forever.
Together, we are many.
New Zealanders want their Government to reflect our values of care and compassion for communities and the environment.
Because progressive values, Green values, are New Zealand values.
Whānau, it would be the greatest honour as well as the greatest responsibility of my life to serve as the third female Co-leader of the Green Party, following in the footsteps of Jeanette and Metiria and aspiring to their examples of strength, grace, independence and courage.
Aotearoa can again be a country of care and compassion and a world leader through the greatest challenges of our time.
A country where all children grow up in healthy, liveable cities, are able to play in their local stream and forest, and have the support and opportunities to realise their full potential.
And a country that recognises that upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi as our founding document is essential in achieving this.
There’s no time to waste.
Our people need us.
Our planet needs us.
Mā te oranga o te taiao, ka ora ai te iwi.
Mō te takatini, kāore mō te torutoru anake.
It is the wellbeing of our living systems and our people that will sustain us.
For the many, not just for the few.
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.