Cunliffe apologises for ancestors

Last updated 05:00 23/08/2014
MIKE SCOTT/Waikato Times

Tuhoe have received an apology from the Crown as part of their Treaty settlement.

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Labour leader David Cunliffe has apologised again – not for being a man, but for being a Cunliffe.  

On a day the Crown apologised to Tuhoe, Cunliffe confessed to a family secret – that ancestors on his mother’s side were among Crown forces who chased the rebel Te Kooti into the Urewera mountains in 1869 following his escape from the Chatham Islands.

The chase led to some of what the Crown apologised for yesterday – scorched earth tactics and the killing and kidnapping of Tuhoe ancestors.

‘‘I come with a grieving heart to acknowledge what was wrong and to lay to rest, with the Crown ...  the ghosts of those days,’’ Cunliffe told the crowd of several thousand during the pohwiri.

Cunliffe is obviously comfortable on a marae, alternating between English and te reo while speaking.  And though his speech was but a minor part in the proceedings, it was well-received, meeting with laughter and applause though he could have been accused of being a tad presumptuous.

‘‘I bring you the greetings of all of the other parties in support of the Government as one Crown with one purpose to go forward as one people,’’ he said, as dignitaries including Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson, the Crown’s representative, sat behind him.

Some also admitted they were surprised by Cunliffe speaking, saying it was a government settlement with Tuhoe and Cunliffe ‘‘more or less gatecrashed’’.

While doing his best to stick to his promise to campaign on positive messages, the man who wants to be prime minister appeared buoyed by the controversy dogging Prime Minister John Key and a recent opinion poll showing he had climbed slightly in the preferred prime minister rankings.

Cunliffe said Key’s credibility was now ‘‘in tatters’’ over the surfacing of a 2011 video showing Key saying he was briefed over the release of an SIS document to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater, though Key maintains it was his office that was briefed.

‘‘Mr Key said that it was black then and it’s white now and New Zealanders can’t trust a word he says,’’ Cunliffe said.

Cunliffe believes a change is coming in the polls.

‘‘As the distinction with our positive campaign around jobs, homes and families is increasingly clear I think the polls will close up.’’ 

Cunliffe said he was making inroads as the public was ‘‘finding out about how this Government works and me being out and around meeting a lot of New Zealanders on the trail’’.

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