Ardern denies empty promises to Māori - and hints at wedding news 'soon'

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 4 Feb 2021, 7:25PM
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins and other dignitaries at the Upper Marae Waitangi. (Photo / Michael Cunningham)
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Judith Collins and other dignitaries at the Upper Marae Waitangi. (Photo / Michael Cunningham)

Ardern denies empty promises to Māori - and hints at wedding news 'soon'

Author
Claire Trevett, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 4 Feb 2021, 7:25PM

National Party Judith Collins and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern have both welcomed a promise from Waitangi elders to reconsider a decision not to allow Collins or other women leaders speak during the pōwhiri at Waitangi – despite letting Ardern speak there.

The politicians were welcomed onto Te Whare Runanga on the Treaty grounds this afternoon, but Ardern was the only woman allowed a speaking slot.

That issue was gently raised by National's speaker, deputy Shane Reti, during his speech in te reo Māori. He asked them to please reconsider it, saying it saddened them that the women could not speak.

In response, Ngāpuhi elder Waihoroi Shortland promised it would be allowed to happen next year: although that will likely require some wider decision-making for the Waitangi Trust which made the decision.

Collins said the decision not to let her speak had disappointed her.

She said it was important women growing into leadership roles knew they had the same rights as men in such situations.

"It isn't only about me or politicians, it's about all women – wahine toa – who wish to be able to have their say."

Ardern – who has spoken there since she became Prime Minister – said she would support a move to allow other women leaders to speak.

"I was heartened to hear that call being made that next year it would be different. It would be fantastic to allow all leaders to speak, just as I have that privilege."

Collins and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson were told they could speak at a separate event after the pōwhiri and a short lunch – but everybody disappeared, which left them nobody to speak to so they abandoned it.

At the pōwhiri – her fourth as Prime Minister - Ardern had announced the first Matariki holiday would be on June 24, 2022.

That was applauded by those present – a much smaller crowd than normal after a number of those who usually attend opted to stay away following the recent Covid-19 case in Northland.

However, Ngāpuhi elder Hone Sadler reminded Ardern of other problems Māori faced, referring to imprisonment rates, health problems, suicides and education, as well as housing

Ardern later defended the progress made on those other issues, saying not everything could be solved in a year – and denied she was simply turning up with promises she could not meet.

She said she would never give up on trying to make progress in health, housing or education.

"There will never be a time, if we are honest with ourselves, that we will stand here at Waitangi and say we have reached a point of perfection. Because there will always be challenges.

"Some will be entrenched ones that we have been working on for decades and others will be new to us.

"What is important is we change the way we resolve them. That's the shift we've been working on."

It was a more relaxed day for Ardern after the pōwhiri. She met with the Māori wardens, taking daughter Neve along to her first event of this year's Waitangi celebrations.

The 3-year-old rushed to greet her mum and proceeded to steal the show as she sang along with the waiata, drew pictures with Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime and was fussed over by the wardens.

Ardern said the wardens' get-together, with so many nanas and koros, was a nice place to bring her daughter.

"And if I didn't bring her I'm sure you'd ask about her."

Ardern also dropped a hint of other personal news to come.

"I promise to report on a wedding soon," she said.

She told the wardens that when she last visited them, just before Waitangi Day last year, she couldn't imagine what was to come.

Now she couldn't imagine dealing with Covid-19 without the support of iwi, hapū and marae.

"Our decision-making was based not on what would be the smallest hit to our economy, but on what would protect our people. That was fundamentally different to other places."

On Friday Ardern will take part in a virtual meeting of the Iwi Leaders Group, where the questions about what her Government is and is not doing for Māori may be tougher. Two of those iwi – Ngai Tahu and Ngati Kahungungu – have taken legal action to test their authority over water.