A Māori MP has criticised fellow parliamentarians for what she says is a heartbreaking lack of interest in the process of addressing historical injustices.
Last week three iwi groups travelled from Taranaki to Parliament to hear their treaty settlement bills being read, but found very few politicians in the house.
The groups, Ngāruahine, Te Atiawa and Taranaki, have waited more than 150 years for Treaty of Waitangi breaches against them to be addressed.
In Parliament, a full public gallery listened quietly as Treaty Negotiations Minister Chris Finlayson told their story.
“Before 1860, Ngāruahine were thriving, they were economically successful and they retained ownership of their lands and their resources – by 1865, every acre of the Ngāruahine rohe had been indiscriminately confiscated by the Crown.”
Mr Finlayson went on to describe the events of the Parihaka invasion as some of the gravest moments in the country’s history, in an account that reduced Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta to tears.
“The raupatu (land confiscation) was indiscriminate, unjust and unconscionable. The Crown deeply regrets the serious damage its actions have caused to Ngāruahine and its people.”
Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox described what happened to those arrested at Parihaka in 1881.
“Your people were convicted, tortured, ferried away, enslaved, killed.”
And her co-leader, Te Ururoa Flavell, spoke about how he felt visiting the area.
“I was taken aback, I suppose, by almost a depression, and I never got to grips with it until I understood that when you have your land taken from you, you’re bound to be depressed.”
RNZ asked each political party how many MPs attended the settlement readings last week:
- Māori Party – two MPs
- Labour Party – a minimum of five to six
- NZ First – three MPs
- Green Party – no more than three at any one time
- National – did not supply numbers
Ms Fox said, at the very least, MPs should turn up and learn about the historical treaty breaches.
“They’ve been waiting 150 years for this, to come to this point, to address the injustice. And when they come and sit in front of the government, and the government is absent, it’s heartbreaking.”
Many MPs were attending select committee meetings while the treaty settlements were being heard in the house, but Ms Fox said the committees did not have to sit during the readings – it was a choice.
“When we go under urgency, all the other select committees stop, and then we get the treaty bills and we go into urgency and all the other select committees carry on – because they don’t value it, don’t deem it important to be there, they think ‘this is a Māori thing, we’ll leave it to them’.”
Tomorrow, another three iwi will arrive at Parliament to have their bills read.
Labour MP Peeni Henare said he would be there, and was challenging other MPs to come in numbers.