Foreshore and seabed information   |   Indigenous Rights

Haka as Turia makes history

28 July 2004

They arrived by bus and by train from as far north as Kaitaia. And as Tariana Turia took her historic first steps into Parliament as the leader of a new Maori political movement, her supporters rose to their feet and performed a haka from the packed public galleries.

"She is the first in the history of this nation. The first MP to come in for a Maori party," said Maori Party member Hone Harawira.

"It is huge in terms of the mental leap for Maori. Up till now, we've always tried to hang on with somebody else."

About 30 Maori took the bus from Kaitaia to Auckland then boarded the overnight train to Wellington to see Mrs Turia sworn in. They joined more than 100 supporters at Parliament to see her take her oath in Maori. For the first time,

Parliament did not give an English translation.

"It's really affirming. It's where our people want to be in the future.

I think that's been the greatest part of it," Mrs Turia said.

The former cabinet minister won her seat back in a one-sided by- election after quitting Labour and Parliament in protest at its foreshore and seabed legislation.

"We will remember a government which rejects due process in not

allowing our people to contest the Crown's claims," she told supporters yesterday. "We will restore to ourselves our rightful place as tangata whenua. And we need permission only from ourselves."

Tireniamu Kapa, of Northland, said Mrs Turia's return to Parliament was auspicious for Maori.

"The old generation now have to move aside and allow our young educated Maori to move forward and push this Maori Party."

In an unexpected move, the National Front has delivered the Maori Party a back-handed endorsement, suggesting its arrival at Parliament legitimised race politics. Linked in the public mind with skinhead and white supremacist gangs, the National Front said it even supported the cause of Maori sovereignty, in line with its own views on European self-determination.

Mrs Turia was reluctant to dismiss its comments out of hand yesterday. "I don't really know enough about them." But she disputed suggestions that the Maori Party legitimised race politics. "We're not saying this is an exclusive Maori Party. This is a party that is about unity. We want to bring people together."

Mrs Turia has been allocated a frontbench seat in line with her new standing as a party leader, to the left of United Future leader Peter Dunne, who spent six years in Parliament as the sole representative of his party.

It will be difficult for Mrs Turia to get heard. Parliament's standing rules allocate her one speech every two months in the general debate and a question in the House once every nine days.

"Well, you know. I didn't have that much before," she said.

Tracy Watkins,
The Dominion Post
© Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2004

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