Politics | Labour Māori MPs

Kelvin Davis uses valedictory speech to criticise 'ignorant politicians' on Māori issues

Kelvin Davis. Photo: RNZ / Anneke Smith

Senior Labour MP Kelvin Davis used his valedictory speech to defend Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which he says is under attack by the government.

Davis was first elected to Parliament in 2008, and was Labour’s deputy leader during its 2017 and 2020 terms.

He acknowledged the work the Labour government did to strengthen the relationship between Māori and the Crown.

He said the present government should stop undermining Māori and keep talking to its Treaty partners.

“No one should attempt to delegitimise 184 years of discussion just because they have blatantly decided to enter the conversation. The invitation stands to join us in our ongoing conversations as co-signatories on our many marae on our side of the bridge.”

Progress under attack

Davis said Māori should not have to constantly justify their worldview to the public service and “ignorant politicians”.

“Māori have made progress over the last 184 years using the systems and mechanisms that this very whare has established. Now those systems and mechanisms are being attacked by people in this House because the system they are part of doesn’t back their nonsense.”

He said the best positive for Māori is how Waitangi Day can now be celebrated.

He said Waitangi Day in 2017 under the National-led government was a debacle and a national embarrassment.

“We changed all that - our top priority was to maintain Ngāpuhi’s mana and dignity, we stopped politicians from being the focus of attention,” Davis said.

“For two hours of the year, we should be able to come together, act like adults, mix with the people and enjoy the occasion, and it worked. Waitangi became what it should be - a national day of unity and commemoration. It got to be so pleasant, so enjoyable, so inclusive and devoid of conflict that media complained it was boring.”

Low-light - Waikeria riot

But he said that could potentially change at this year’s Waitangi Day, and warned the new government not to have a separate pōwhiri for itself.

He noted the low-light of his time in Parliament as minister of corrections was the Waikeria riot, and warned the government the most unhelpful thing to do was political grandstanding.

“During the riot, those MPs who did just that actually increased the risk to Corrections officers, emergency services and other prisoners because it encouraged not just those participating in the riot, but also prisoners in other prisons, who feel the way to grab a politician’s attention is to riot elsewhere. Any contagion would have stretched Corrections’ resources beyond breaking point.”

Davis called on the Iwi Chairs Forum to rate the contribution of all ministers towards honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

He praised all the chief executives and officials he worked with in his portfolios, and got emotional when mentioning the team at Te Arawhiti, the Office for Māori Crown Relations.

Mihi to Te Arawhiti

“On behalf of Māoridom, thank you all so much, the value Te Arawhiti generates for race relations in Aotearoa far exceeds the paltry budget you have... but this is a government who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing. If the first few weeks of this government is anything to go by, Treaty lawyers will be rubbing their hands together in glee.”

He encouraged all Māori public servants to not be defeated by the new government and keep being Māori.

He finished his speech by giving a mihi to his parliamentary colleagues, campaign supporters and supporters from Te Tai Tokerau.