Pasifika MPs stand by Maori colleagues during Waitangi powhiri

February 05, 2021


By Elijah Fa'afiu - elijah.fa'

A large contingent of Pacific MPs were involved in a special parliamentary powhiri as ministers were welcomed onto the Upper Treaty Grounds in Waitangi.

Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio says understanding the history behind Te Tiriti o Waitangi can influence Pasifika communities to learn about their own stories.

"You can’t help but feel that the commitment of the elders to understanding that history of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, all the good, the bad that occurred in that history, there’s similarities to our own history in the Pacific region​.

"That should give Pacific peoples confidence about learning and understanding our own history and learning and understanding our language and culture and how that provides a new perspective for us to lay a solid foundation for how Aotearoa New Zealand should be navigating its political future into the future."

Aupito says the presence of a large Maori and Pasifika caucus for the Labour Party is an example of a "browning" government.

"​It also reflects the browning of New Zealand society in many ways and as Ministers, those of us who are Ministers, Maori and Pasifika, we’re able to inject that cultural lens in all of our decision-making​."

All parties were represented at the powhiri except for the Maori Party, which opted out due to Covid-19 concerns.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples says it's important for Maori to keep Labour accountable for their actions, as mentioned by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her speech.

"She conveyed some of the things that we’ve worked hard on in the last three years, but there’s still much more work to be done," says Aupito.

"I was really pleased with the final speaker of the elders, who appreciated our report card and I think he gave us confidence that we’re on the right track." ​

Pacific and Maori MPs performing a waiata during the parliamentary powhiri.

Pacific MPs vocally supported their Maori colleagues during the powhiri, most notably through waiata.

Police Minister Poto Williams says it’s important for Pasifika and Maori to stand side-by-side.

"As far as Pacific people are concerned, we are Polynesians and we rise together with our Maori kin and we fall together so supporting the aspirations of Maori as was declared within Te Tiriti o Waitangi is really important and that’s the significance of today​."

As parliamentary representatives and Ngāpuhi elders addressed each other, Williams says a strong dialogue took shape between the two sides.

"What was important about what they said was, 'you are now in a position to do something, so you must act. Take that responsibility to heart' and I think that’s absolutely right.

"The challenge of the responsibility and the expectation is now upon us, so we must take up that challenge and I think it’s a good robust conversation to have.​"

Green MP Teanau Tuiono speaking during the powhiri.

In his first Waitangi visit as a Green MP, Teanau Tuiono was given the opportunity to speak on behalf of his party.

For Tuiono, it was an honour for him to return home.

"I have whakapapa up here as well. My grandmother’s from Ngai Takoto and my grandfather’s in Ngapuhi as well so it was a way  for me to talk to my people if you’d like."

​The Green MP spoke about his party co-leaders - Marama Davidson, who's father was involved in the Nga Tamatoa group who protested against violations of the Treaty of Waitangi half a century ago, and James Shaw for his work regarding climate change.

Tuiono says a strong relationship between Maori and Pasifika has existed for a long time.

"Even before the treaty, we look at the historical and cultural connections between Maori and the Pacific as well and for me, that is a space for us to actually think about those types of connections​."

The parliamentary powhiri also marked the announcement of a new public holiday of Matariki, which Jacinda Ardern said would take place on 24th June 2022.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern greeting a representative of the local iwi in Waitangi.