The Māori Party president began Te Pāti Māori's AGM in Rotorua with an impassioned speech that included likening poverty and inequality among Māori to being "enslaved".
Te Pāti Māori's annual general meeting and Matike Mai Matariki Conference was held at Te Puia today with a number of keynote speakers and panellists speaking throughout the day.
Party president John Tamihere said Te Pāti Māori was the only party that could fight to achieve equality for Māori, by being fearless in calling out "prejudice, bias and discrimination" at every turn.
"Events like this are liberating. There will be things said here today that will rile a few of you but think about the message, not the messenger.
"Huis like today are about liberation ... And you have a liberated Māori Party that is there to fight for our people, regardless of what people might think of us and regardless of what we might say in speaking our truth.
"So huis like this are about speaking our truth and not being beaten up about it or forced to tone it down and being fearless in doing so ... And I want to acknowledge our two MPs Rawiri [Waititi] and Deb [Ngarewa-Packer] who have done an extraordinary job for us."
Waititi and Ngarewa-Packer are the co-leaders of Te Pāti Māori.
Tamihere was a member of Parliament from 1999 to 2005, including serving as a Cabinet minister in the Labour Party from August 2002 to November 2004.
He became Māori Party president last month after previously being co-leader.
Tamihere claimed more than two-thirds of Māori were earning under $50,000 a year.
"There is no way they can get onto the housing ownership system because their rent outprices their ability to get any deposit. And we know that is a tailor-made system of keeping us enslaved.
"There is only one party that will be able to change those things, and that is because we can speak a consistent truth without fear or favour of riling anybody in a Pākehā party.
"And that is why I woke up very late in my political life and I am standing here today."
Tamihere also acknowledged the contribution of the party's immediate past president, Che Wilson, for stepping up at a time when the party was almost brought to "its knees".
"The success of the 2020 [general] election wasn't the Labour Party steaming to victory, that was a one-in-100-year event created by a [Covid] pandemic.
"No, the true story of success was when the Labour Party wins in a landslide that is led by the Māori seats that landslide everywhere. And for the first time, our people believed in themselves and didn't need a catalyst issue. They believed in themselves enough in the Waiariki [electorate] to get us across the line.
"Today's hui is about building on that movement and to never have the party's voice ever suppressed again as happened in 2017."
Tamihere said inequality for Māori included those who fought in World War I and II never being acknowledged with equal treatment in return, and that equality was "yet to come".
"That is why this party must be relentless in our assertion of the right to equality.
"When you talk about inequality and how it plays out for Māori in terms of prejudice, bias and discrimination - until we can conquer that we will never get equality in our own land.
"And we must call it out at every stretch."
Tamihere said within two weeks people would start to see on social media a "significant presence" in Wellington as each rohe brought through new, younger members to the party.
"We look forward to the raising of a new standard of representation and the release of our intellectual prowess."