Hekia Parata’s Maiden Speech

December 11th, 2008 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Another yesterday was .

In 1885, my great, great, grandfather, Tame Parata, entered as the Member for the South Island. He served a distinguished career of 26 years, dedicating his efforts to his people in their search for quality citizenship in their own lands.

I never knew Hekia’s great, great grandfather was an MP.

Later, in 1905, another tipuna of mine (ours), Sir Apirana Ngata, entered Parliament as the Member for Eastern Maori, and committed his public service of 38 years to seeking opportunities for, and emphasizing obligations to citizenship.

I enter Parliament and begin this phase of my public service journey proud to follow in the footsteps of these ancestors in the pursuit of quality citizenship for all. They provide a model that I am glad to emulate: unambiguously Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu; unequivocally a New Zealander.

What a great way of expressing it.

I came from a community at a time when it was peopled by hard, hard workers, who eked out livings on infertile and soft country that even as it was farmed it slipped away into the river and out to sea. These people suffered the boom and bust of officialdom; the capricious ideas of what next to invest in; how now we might be saved – always by well meaning yet very distant bureaucrats and politicians; and all the time, oblivious to the possibility that we might actually save ourselves.

And you see why Hekia is in the Party.

In my lifetime I have seen the very kinds of communities of my upbringing succumb to the disease of dependency where State intervention is the norm not the exception; where care givers, and providers, and facilitators, and sector workers replace aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends; where State welfare (rather than social welfare) is the first resort and the basis of an intergenerational life sentence rather than a lifeline; where despair and alienation are masked by drugs and alcohol and abuse; and displaced anger makes victims of children and their mothers; where low expectation in schools is predictably repaid with low achievement; where fault and blame laying has become the defence of failure.

The defence of failure – all too common.

I come to Parliament equipped with our experience of starting our own businesses and managing them through all the highs and lows that attend such initiatives. We have faced the risks that small businesses up and down the country face. We have slogged through the mire of compliance regimes and related costs. We have encountered the impervious official at the point of export, indifferent to the effects of inexplicable bureaucracy and the costs incurred.

We must liberate businesses to create employment and wealth, and bend our minds to that, rather than to ever more clever ways to redistribute it.

Hekia is that rare breed – someone who has been a top civil servant and also a successful small business owner.

The full speech is over the break:

E te Mana Whakawa, tena koe. Mr Speaker.
E nga whanaunga, e nga hoa, e te hunga kainga, i haramai ki te tautoko ahau, tenei te mihi aroha ki a koutou.
I acknowledge my family and friends who have travelled here today to share this occasion.

Ko Hikurangi me Aorangi aku maunga, Ko Waiapu me Waitaki aku awa, Ko Ngati Porou me Ngai Tahu aku iwi. [I identify through my cultural frame of reference, my mountains Hikurangi and Aorangi; my rivers, Waiapu and Waitaki; my iwi, Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu.

Tenei te mihi ki te mana whenua kia Te Ati Awa; ki nga waka katoa e tau mai nei ki te Whanganui – a-Tara.
I acknowledge the guardians of this area, Te Ati Awa; and all the waka that have come ashore here in Wellington.

Tena koe e te Pirimia, John Key. Ka tikina ahau nga kupu o tëtahi waiata na töku tipuna a Hanara Rire i tito mo Ta Apirana, e pa ana ki a koe i tënei wa
I greet you, Prime Minister, and recall the words of a song originally composed by my grandfather, Arnold Reedy, for Sir Apirana Ngata
“… Te waka o Aotearoa, he tini nga kaihautu, ko koe ra e Hone, kei te kei, e koro ki a u…”
“… the waka of Aotearoa has many captains, but you, John, are at the helm, hold fast…”

Kei te rangatira, kei Helen Clark mo to whakahaere i nga tau kua pahure ake nei, tena koe. Tena koe e te whanaunga, e Parekura. Talofa e te Mema mo te rohe o Mana, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. Otirä, tena koutou katoa, nga kaihoe o tena waka, o tena waka, o te Paremata.
To our former leader, for her stewardship over these past years, I salute you. To my kinsman, I greet you. To the Member for Mana, I acknowledge you. To all the different waka that have berthed at Parliament, I greet you.
Mauriora!

Mr Speaker, I should like to congratulate you on your appointment; to also acknowledge the Governor General who commissioned the opening of the 49th Parliament; my colleagues, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iinga and Melissa Lee, who so capably discharged the honour of moving and seconding the Address in Reply – Fakafetai and Ahn Nyung Ha Se Yo; and to my colleague, the Honourable Steven Joyce, who opened our paepae this afternoon, and to those who will follow. Tena koutou katoa.

As I stand before you today, I am at once conscious of the weight of history and expectation that press upon me, and the lightness of possibilities that beckon. I am familiar with this dichotomy – I have grown up in a culture that walks through the present, with the constant companions of the past and the future; this practice prepares us particularly well for this parliamentary role I think – as we weigh actions of today against those of the past, and the implications for the future.

In 1885, my great, great, grandfather, Tame Parata, entered Parliament as the Member for the South Island. He served a distinguished career of 26 years, dedicating his efforts to his people in their search for quality citizenship in their own lands.

Later, in 1905, another tipuna of mine (ours), Sir Apirana Ngata, entered Parliament as the Member for Eastern Maori, and committed his public service of 38 years to seeking opportunities for, and emphasizing obligations to citizenship.

They, along with many others, shared a profound appreciation of the birthright of this small, young, nation and it’s potential. They also held in common an attitude that characterised those generations, of the reciprocal responsibility to return in equal or greater measure that which had been given.

I enter Parliament and begin this phase of my public service journey proud to follow in the footsteps of these ancestors in the pursuit of quality citizenship for all. They provide a model that I am glad to emulate: unambiguously Ngati Porou and Ngai Tahu; unequivocally a New Zealander.
I come to Parliament by way of an extensive public service career, detours into wealth creating and whanau employing business experiences, punctuated by recalls to my home of Ruatoria, the capital of Ngati Porou.

I grew up in the CBD of Ruatoria when our area was famous for land innovation, dairy factories, cultural foreign policy, lawyers and educators and public servants; a community where Ngati Porou was the spoken language except in schools, and te reo Maori was for dealing with other distant tribes and their strange dialects and practices; I grew up at the centre of a strong and dynamic web of kinship relationships amongst orators, thinkers, debaters, composers, where competence – and whakapapa – were the determinants of leadership; not gender.

I grew up believing that everyone was Anglican, all worshipped Sir Apirana Ngata, Hikurangi was the highest mountain in the world, and the Waiapu swept majestically to the sea. I saw no need for reality to intrude upon this set of beliefs, because they performed the very useful function of securing identity.

I came from a community at a time when it was peopled by hard, hard workers, who eked out livings on infertile and soft country that even as it was farmed it slipped away into the river and out to sea. These people suffered the boom and bust of officialdom; the capricious ideas of what next to invest in; how now we might be saved – always by well meaning yet very distant bureaucrats and politicians; and all the time, oblivious to the possibility that we might actually save ourselves.

I come from a community where whanau was the pivot around which life turned; where education was the magic bullet; where self reliance and self determination were practiced, not talked about, where humour, courage, hope and gratitude were the hallmarks of citizenship – most nobly personified in the 28th Maori Battalion, and literally the most costly in lifeblood.

In my lifetime I have seen the very kinds of communities of my upbringing succumb to the disease of dependency where State intervention is the norm not the exception; where care givers, and providers, and facilitators, and sector workers replace aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends; where State welfare (rather than social welfare) is the first resort and the basis of an intergenerational life sentence rather than a lifeline; where despair and alienation are masked by drugs and alcohol and abuse; and displaced anger makes victims of children and their mothers; where low expectation in schools is predictably repaid with low achievement; where fault and blame laying has become the defence of failure.

Ruatoria, I know now, was always economically challenged, but its cultural wealth and social richness, its determined self-belief and hard work kept it viable.

We must find ways to lay bare all the causes of these symptoms, so that we might with purpose and compassion, find durable solutions.

I feel called to Parliament to do something about this.

I have spent my professional career in the Public Service informing policy with these realities; striving to create opportunities for communities to drive their own development, advocating fiercely for meaningful resourcing and realistic timelines, and resisting the bureaucratizing of the original flair and ingenuity that attracted funding in the first place; promoting the value of different cultural approaches and exposing the presumptuous bias of majority culture presented as the norm.

Born and brought up in a family of 8, by parents who instilled in us the importance of family, education, community service, education, hard work, education, high expectations and an attitude of success. Our parents worked; we worked; often several jobs at once. None of this was unusual or peculiar to our family – all the families we grew up with, went to school with, and continue to be in touch with, lived lives like this. These are the whanau I know and recognize. This is the model that informs my vision for the building blocks of modern day Aotearoa New Zealand.

My parents’ very different backgrounds converged successfully in their children, I think, and gifted us with that very New Zealand legacy of mixed ancestry; Scottish, Irish, English, Ngai Tahu and Ngati Porou.

So, I come to Parliament a fully committed bicultural citizen, a descendant of both Maori and Pakeha; imbued with the spirit of Sir Apirana Ngata’s prescription for life:
E tipu e rea
Rise to the needs of your generation
Master the technologies of the modern world for your material wellbeing
Cherish the treasures of your ancestors as a source of pride and identity
Your soul given to God author of all things.

I come to Parliament equipped with our experience of starting our own businesses and managing them through all the highs and lows that attend such initiatives. We have faced the risks that small businesses up and down the country face. We have slogged through the mire of compliance regimes and related costs. We have encountered the impervious official at the point of export, indifferent to the effects of inexplicable bureaucracy and the costs incurred.

We must liberate businesses to create employment and wealth, and bend our minds to that, rather than to ever more clever ways to redistribute it.

I come to Parliament by way of my residence in the greater Porirua region. A microcosm of Aotearoa New Zealand, it is an area of great diversity – extremes in socio-economic status with some of the highest average income households and some of the lowest; a deep pool of potential and a crucible of cultural richness in the form of Maori, Pacific, Pakeha, Asian, and other ethnic minorities; a growing creative community well served by the internationally renown Pataka Museum and Art Gallery and to be complemented (when we can secure the resources) by a Performing Arts Centre; the strong and innovative Whitireia Polytech that with sufficient investment can and will develop programmes that arise out of the cultural wealth of the region, creating new technologies we know to be essential to the productivity and growth and international competitiveness of our nation. And, cradling it all, an environment that is both beautiful and fragile, and while it looks after us, we in turn must care for it.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I come to Parliament with high expectations of what is possible.

I come shaped and molded by the influences and experiences I have outlined. I come with an unshakeable belief in the potential of this country, its people and this Parliament.

My recipe has the three simple ingredients of my own life story: family, identity, education. We must:

• Restore whänau and families as the cornerstones of our communities and our country, and mediate the role of the State through community based organizations, and through connected and coordinated support

• Invest in the cultural diversity of this country, not because it is fashionable, but because it carries identity, and the potential for innovation and new technologies

• Join the crusade for literacy and numeracy and for a good quality education for every New Zealand student. We must adopt an uncompromising attitude that failure is not an option.

All our other aspirations for economic growth, raised standards of living, national confidence and pride, will flow from getting these basics right.

I come to this Parliament determined to add to the legacy of those who have gone before – the pursuit of quality citizenship; and as I go to my office in this historic building, I pass my own panel of scrutineers, their faces challenging and supporting me. I am grateful to walk alongside of them.

In closing, I should like to acknowledge all the people who have touched my life. A small number have been able to join us here today, others watch on Parliament TV at home on the Coast, down South, around the country.
I know my mother, Hiria Te Kiekie Reedy, will be watching, and I pay tribute to her constant love and support; as I do to my brothers and sisters, their partners and families, who together form the kind of whänau that is so easy to have policy theories about, but who everyday work hard at making it real.

Finally, I would like to especially acknowledge my husband, Wira Gardiner, whose pragmatic approach to what is possible, encapsulated by Maggie Thatcher’s instruction to her Generals “Go to war with you’ve got” has become part of the language of our home, and keeps me grounded when in pursuit of perfection.
And, to our two wonderful, gorgeous, smart, funny, demanding, fabulous daughters – Rakaitemania and Mihimaraea – you deserve the very best.
Since having their bright lights shine into my life there has been a heightened sense of urgency, and a sharpened focus on the kind of society in which their aspirations and ambitions can be given loft and momentum; and through which they can walk with confidence and poise, as Ngati Porou citizens of the world, blessed as we all are, to call this magnificent country, Aotearoa New Zealand, “home”.

Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I come to Parliament with high expectations of what is possible.

Heoi ano ra, tena koutou katoa.

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One Response to “Hekia Parata’s Maiden Speech”

  1. peterwn (3,332 comments) says:

    It is great she is in Parliament after having missed by a whisker (top unsuccessful list candidate) in 2002. She surely would have had a secure list place for the asking in 2005, but it seemed that being a principled person and for various quite understandable reasons (probably the main one beginning with B) she did not seek nomination then. This in my opinion was a great pity.

    She will fulfil her high expectations.

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