My story is the story of many Ngāpuhi who grew up in urban environments. We were raised away from our hapū and iwi. We do not always know the tikanga and kawa of our marae. We do not always know our histories, our stories and our genealogies. Many of us cannot speak our reo.
My experience of colonisation is tied to my urban-ness. My urban-ness is about location not identity. I am on the journey to reconnecting and I am becoming more confident standing as Ngāpuhi. We all arrive here with our tupuna. I stand here today with my ancestors – as a Tahere and a Tareha descendent. I stand here with the support of my whānau.
Urbanisation affects all Ngāpuhi. Albeit, in different ways. It affects hapū too. And I want to acknowledge that first. Urbanisation hurt hapū.
For us folk locating our experiences as ‘urban’ we must never forget that hapū suffered because of urbanisation too. When we reflect on our experiences, we must also reflect on the hurt experienced by our hapū through the Crowns urbanisation agenda executed through its assimilation policies.
The Crowns urbanisation agenda promised opportunity to whānau in tough economic times. It did not deliver. Like many of the Crowns promises. It failed to deliver.
The Crowns urbanisation agenda also stripped out whānau support bases in our kainga and on our marae. It did more than disconnect the collective. It drove the knife of colonisation through our communities. And we are all still bleeding from this today.
Over a period of about forty years, the Crowns assimilation policies coerced more than 80 percent of whānau into cities and towns. Away from our kaumātua and kuia. Away from our kainga. Away from our marae. Away from our maunga. Away from our awa. Away from the places that our ancestors spent more than a thousand years establishing intimate connections.
Many of us have not yet returned to those places. To heal from the loss of time. The loss of connection. Many of us do not know where those places are. Many of us do not know where to begin.
It is on that basis, that I stand here to support the proposed option for urban representation on the Central Negotiating Body and the broader suite of urban representation.
I support it because I aspire to see hapū leveraging the proximity of Ngāpuhi ki Tāmaki to the economic engine and international gateway of Aotearoa to strengthen Te Whare Tapu o Ngāpuhi.
In total, the option provides for 14 urban representatives across the Central and Regional bodies. The level of representation for Tāmaki acknowledges that Tāmaki is home to the largest consolidated Ngāpuhi population. It acknowledges the youth of the Ngāpuhi population by setting aside taitamariki representation.
It allows for diversity of urban Ngāpuhi experiences and perspectives. Inclusivity of a range of Ngāpuhi voices.
A good friend recited a quote to me that I feel is fitting for this kaupapa: Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.
For me, the level of urban representation proposed, invokes the sentiment of being asked to dance. It is time our urban experiences are included in the narrative – not to displace our hapū. To strengthen our claim against the Crown for the fragmentation it wrought on our whānau, and our hapū.
I support Ngāpuhi moving forward. I support moving forward because until we do, colonisation will consign future generations to a life of surviving rather than thriving. And there is so much opportunity for Ngāpuhi through urban representation from here in Tāmaki.
There is an opportunity to increase Ngāpuhi representation in decision-making forums in Tāmaki to advance our Ngāpuhi agenda.
Being part of the decision-making is integral to strengthening the pipeline of prosperity from Tāmaki to Taitokerau.
There is an opportunity to collaborate with the Regional bodies as a conduit to re-connect Ngāpuhi ki Tāmaki and Ngāpuhi returning to Aotearoa with their hapū. There is a revival brewing and we must be collectively prepared with the cultural infrastructure to connect our people with their place.
As it is Suffrage Day, it is fitting that I mihi here to all those people who have spoken about wahine representation. I think it only right that we acknowledge the importance of balance between wahine and tāne representation as we embark on this journey.
We must look at the future we want and create it now. We must begin to live the future we want for our tamariki.
In the words of Dame Whina Cooper:
Take care of our children, take care of what they hear, take care of what they see, take care of what they feel, for how the children grow, so will be the shape of Aotearoa.
The future for our tamariki must be one of peace. And peace is about balance. The future for our tamariki must then be one where the roles of mana tāne and mana wahine are restored. This is not the time to get defensive over patriarchal realities inflicted on wahine, to appeal to merit while ignoring structural disadvantage introduced through colonisation. To move toward peace among ourselves and for the future of our tamariki, we must restore the balance.
Because colonisation is not a thing that happened to us in the past. It is perpetual. It is still happening to us today. It will be here tomorrow. It will be here after settlement. We must move toward peace among ourselves. Moving toward settlement is a first step in the peace process. It is not the end. Settlement is never the end. It is only the beginning of our revival.
We can choose settlement and choose how we will thrive despite colonisation for the benefit of our hapū and future generations to come. Now is not the time to delay. Now is the time to hold the Crown to account.