Sharples attacks 'redneck New Zealanders'

By Ruth Berry

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples yesterday demanded to know what had happened to his "1000 missing years" in a passionate maiden speech in Parliament that castigated fellow MPs, the media and "redneck New Zealanders".

"It strikes me as somewhat amazing that half the country and probably half of this House actually believes that Maori are the privileged group within our society.

"Cries of racial funding, gravy train, special courses are constant within these walls and eagerly published by every arm of the media to promote a negative stereotype of Maori."

If it were true, "why in my electorate are Maori not living in prime locations like Kohimarama, St Heliers, Mission Bay, or conversely, why are Maori concentrated in state housing sectors?"

He asked whether "privilege" meant diabetes, heart disease, asthma, glue ear and dying 10 years earlier than Pakeha.

"Or is our real privilege to be revealed in this country's disgusting incarceration figures?"

While one in every 570 New Zealanders is in jail, for Maori the number is one in 180.

Dr Sharples said the "big question" was why there was so much parliamentary resistance to the concept of tangata whenua. He then delivered a powerful oratory that traversed centuries of world events interspersed with corresponding events in Maori history

"Why do we accept the world's history and not our own? So what of Toi Kairakau, of Rauru, my history, my tangata whenua-ness, my 1000 missing years?"

Dr Sharples used the rest of his speech to attack the Foreshore and Seabed Act, which had caused a deep hurt to Maori.

"To be called haters and wreckers, to be held in contempt and ridicule, cut even deeper than the legislation itself." " "

Politicians needed to stop using Maori as political football and accept that "despite 200 years of colonisation, Maori still want to be Maori".

"I firmly believe that by increasing dialogue across parties, we as a group of responsible parliamentarians can do much to combat the negative stereotypes which lock many Maori into a negative poverty mindset.

"We can be emancipatory."

Taiaha-wielding women had earlier led Dr Sharples to Parliament. Inside, 100 West Auckland and Ngati Kahungungu supporters saluted the speech with a passionate haka.


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