Maori Party co-founders leave parliament

MICHAEL FOX
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2014

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Maori Party co-founders Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples have ended their careers in Parliament surrounded by the people they represented.

Between waiata and haka from supporters in the public gallery, the two leaders spoke of their successes and their struggles, of the founding of their party and their ambitions for Maori.

In a valedictory speech littered with thank yous and kind words, Turia spoke of "being brought up to believe that doing what was right was more important than doing what was popular".

She spoke of the hikoi prompted by Labour's foreshore and seabed legislation which led to the creation of the Maori Party.

"Ten years on, those days are still vividly written in my mind as a milestone moment in the story of our nation . . . It was the most evocative moment of my life - to feel the will of the people, the calling of our tupuna, to reclaim the essence of who we are, to stand up for what we knew was right.

"It was self-determination in action."

Turia also spoke of the "entrenched inequities" and "institutional racism" facing Maori and Pasifika people, which she said limited their potential and needed to be torn down.

She was satisfied the Maori Party had been good for their people, saying "I know we have made a difference in the lives of whanau whatever their circumstances, and in that respect I leave with a feeling of peace that we have always tried to do our best, to do whatever it takes to fly".

Sharples spoke of mixed emotions as he reflected on his last nine years in Parliament.

He said they were confident they had made the right decision to align themselves with the National Government, despite the toll it had taken on the party's popularity.

"It's not just how loud you protest outside or the issues you bring up. This is about sitting at the table."

He called for civic education in schools so people better understood how Parliament worked and for more teaching of pre-European New Zealand history.

Te reo should also not be used as a "political football" he said, on the day his Te Reo Maori Bill had its first reading in Parliament.

He also spoke of how they had stuck to their values and that these had guided their time in Parliament.

Sharples also joked about his relationship with Prime Minister John Key - a "strong and forceful leader albeit with a strange sense of humour".

"I don't know how you are going to get on at the Waitangi powhiri without me to look after you," he told Key.

They also had a "loving relationship" with Finance Minister Bill English: "We love him and his cupboards full of money."

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He finished with a message to his granddaughter, who he said would be an MP one day in a New Zealand where Maori were better off as a result of the work of Maori leaders today.

- Stuff

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