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Watch: 21-year-old MP challenges Govt in maiden speech

Michael Neilson,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Dec 2023, 8:51PM

Watch: 21-year-old MP challenges Govt in maiden speech

Michael Neilson,
Publish Date
Tue, 12 Dec 2023, 8:51PM

“Aotearoa, Te Whare Paremata, are you ready?” asked Te Pāti Māori’s Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke in a rousing maiden speech in which she promised to hold the Government to account she says is “attacking” her personally as Māori.

She was one of two from Te Pāti Māori’s new MPs to give their maiden speeches today, followed by Tākuta Ferris who deviated from the traditionally personal maiden speech to assert in no unclear terms Māori had never given up sovereignty, and it would be the work of his life in Parliament to make this clear.

It was a speech that more than left its mark after the politics of the past week with the new Government at the other end of the spectrum starting its plans to pull back on the use of te reo Māori and prepare to challenge the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in society today.

Parliament also heard from National’s MP for Ōtaki Tim Costley, who gave an emotional maiden speech referencing his time in the Air Force in Afghanistan and some of his friends who had died.

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke: “This Government has attacked my whole world”

At 21, Maipi-Clarke is Aotearoa’s youngest MP since 1853 and is seen as representing the “kohanga reo” generation of young Māori who have grown up steeped in their culture and reo (language) and ready to challenge the status quo.

She wrested Hauraki-Waikato off the mighty Labour stalwart Nanaia Mahuta, who held it since its formation in 2008 and has been an MP since 1996 - a win many put down to inspiring younger voters.

Maipi-Clarke began with a waiata in which she was soon joined by the packed gallery of friends and whānau, with many of them young tauira (students) and kaiako (teachers) from kura (schools) across her rohe.


Swearing-in ceremony at Parliament. Te Pati Maori MP Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke in the Parliament chamber. New Zealand Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell 05 December 2023

She then referenced some of the biggest breaches of Te Tiriti o Waitangi by the Crown, such as the 1.2 million acres confiscated off her iwi Waikato-Tainui.

It was a speech with moments of tears - referencing the ancestors she stood upon, and laughter - saying she was tough enough for Parliament after handling marae AGMs, but also with a sincere promise to hold the Government to account.

She said she she was “perfectly happy” digging her kūmara at her māra kai (garden) before she was inspired by “attacks” on Māori to run for Parliament.

“At 21 years old this was definitely not the plan... but this House kept trampling on things they shouldn’t be touching. That’s why I left the mārae to come here.”

She said she was told not to take politics too seriously.

“How can I not take it personally when it feels like these policies were made about me?

“This Government has attacked my whole world from every corner.”

It’s not Maipi-Clarke’s first time at Parliament, having impressed many with her kōrero at the 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition, delivered by her grand aunty and namesake Hana Te Hemara in 1972.

“Aotearoa, Te Whare Paremata, are you ready?” she said, repeating a line of hers last year to then Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson.

“We are here, we are sailing, we are navigating, like our ancestors once did,” she said, the significance of the moment not lost as she began to choke up.

She paid tribute to those before her in her speech, referencing the meteor shower in the sky tonight and stating the last was 50 years ago when that petition was delivered.

Tākuta Ferris: Māori never ceded sovereignty

Maipi-Clarke was followed by Tākuta Ferris, who entered Parliament for Te Pāti Māori after winning Te Tai Tonga from Labour’s Rino Tirikatene, who had held it since 2011.

Ferris began by referencing He Whakaputanga, the declaration of independence signed by 34 rangatira (chiefs) in 1835 prior to Te Tiriti o Waitangi/ The Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.

Ferris challenged the notion the British monarch was the only sovereign, asserting his view that iwi, that Māori had never ceded sovereignty, as evidenced by that declaration and through Te Tiriti.

“It is not our history, not our reality, and not our future.”

Te Pāti Māori MP Tākuta Ferris in the House during the swearing-in ceremony. Photo / Mark Mitchell. 5/12/23
Te Pāti Māori MP Tākuta Ferris in the House during the swearing-in ceremony. Photo / Mark Mitchell. 5/12/23

“Māori people are a sovereign people and we have never ceded sovereignty… never ceded our land.”

He issued a challenge to his Parliamentary colleagues saying if they were not aware of what he was speaking they were “unprepared, unequipped to be an MP”.

The speech came across as a response to some of the topics traversed in the House over the past week, as the new Government set about its policy agenda, which includes removing Māori names from government departments, removing incentives for the use of te reo Māori and wider changes to the place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in society.

Ferris said Parliament should focus on upholding He Whakaputanga and Te Tiriti o Waitangi and not “The Treaty”, the English version.

“I’m not here to service the needs of this House, I am here to contest it,” Ferris said.

“Toitū He Whakaputanga. Toitū Te Tiriti.”

Tim Costley: ‘I am here for you’, to first responders

Costley meanwhile delivered a deeply personal speech, referencing his time as a pilot in the Air Force including in Afghanistan where he lost some friends.

He pledged to be the voice of first responders in the House.

“I seek to represent all of those who preserve our democracy but don’t always get to practice it.

“Our Defence Force, police, fire paramedics, every first responder.”

Costley said he wanted to help bring more community to New Zealand.

“I want to work as an MP to help us up to break down division between urban and rural, young and old between ethnicities, or religions.

“Community is the long game that will heal those divides.”

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