E ngā mana,
E ngā reo,
E ngā waka
Tēnā koutou katoa
Like many New Zealanders, I’ve never questioned my own sense of belonging here. Although I have travelled throughout the world and lived in Auckland the bulk of my life, Rotorua and in particular Lake Tarawera is my tūrangawaewae , my place to stand.
When I see that majestic mountain, my heart soars and I know I have come home.
My husband Dave and I have been coming to Rotorua for the last 30 years. Dave has been fascinated by the history of Lake Tarawera and has built up an impressive collection of original postcards and souvenirs that date from the 1800s.
He has some wonderful postcards of the Maori guides, many of which are signed. I have them as a screen saver on my home computer and I feel that I have come to know them all and sometimes refer to them as ‘the girls’- Sophia, Rangi, Maggie Papakura, Bella, Susan, and the twins Georgina and Eileen.
They are wahine toa. They were all inter-related and part of one of the longest running family businesses run by women. They were storytellers and were responsible in showing a multitude of visitors the famous Pink and White Terraces. They were the very first pioneers of tourism in New Zealand.
I informed the Prime Minister of that fact and because he holds the tourism portfolio I gave him an exclusive portrait of the guides from Dave’s collection. He was genuinely delighted with the gift and I promised I would personally deliver it to his office.
Dave and I assembled the portrait in Auckland and there was a very real sense of excitement as the girls and I traveled by plane to Wellington then up the lift to the 9th floor of the Beehive.
Unfortunately we were stopped short of sweeping into the PMs office, choosing the spot and banging a nail in the wall but later on I discovered the portrait was hung in a prime position. Needless to say the girls and I were very, very pleased.
Whakarewarewa became the Guides’ home after the eruption wiped out their home at Te Wairoa on the shores of Lake Tarawera. That is why it is very special for me to be here day to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s own, unique statement of human rights and represents the founding document of this nation. It is the promise of two people to take the best possible care of each other and belongs to us all.
I am truly privileged to be a human rights commissioner with responsibilities for women and equal employment opportunities or EEO.
While the Maori economy is said to be worth over $38 billion and there is much cause for excitement in business achievements to date, at the other end of the spectrum, the latest census figures show that in many areas – including income and employment rates – inequalities for Māori continue to widen.
These figures are a reminder of the work still to be done to ensure that Māori human rights, and the promises of the Treaty, are fully realised.
Professor Paul Spoonley of Massey University says that New Zealand is in the middle of a demographic transformation and diversification that will profoundly change the way we live and work as well as our sense of culturally identity.
By 2050 our population is predicted to be 6 million, half of us will be Maori, Pacific or Asian New Zealanders whose young demographic will dominate our future labour force, voting public, school leavers and tertiary graduates.
What will be absolutely crucial is that we must keep human rights to the fore and that Maori language and culture survive.
The Human Rights Commission’s two primary functions are to advocate and promote respect for human rights in New Zealand and to encourage harmonious relations between Individuals and among the diverse groups in New Zealand society.
Our mandate will become only even more important in the coming decades.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today.