I want to thank the Waitangi National Trust and Ngapuhi for repositioning the role of women leaders speaking on the marae at Waitangi.
On Thursday the Waitangi National Trust hosted the parliamentary pōwhiri at the upper marae at Waitangi. It's an occasion steeped in tradition and ceremony on the Treaty grounds set against the whare rūnanga and Busby's house.
The speaking protocol for visitors is for a male representative of the main parties to speak from the paepae and then the Prime Minister of the day always has speaking rights.
As a woman the Prime Minister speaks from the mahau (verandah) in front of the meeting house entrance.
The challenge this year was that for the first time in 20 years, the leader of the Government and the leader of the Opposition are both women and the question was how to accommodate them both in speaking positions.
For the Prime Minister there was a clear pathway, but not so for the leader of the Opposition or indeed other women co-leaders.
What many will not know is that for many months the trust and I worked on exactly this issue. We diligently went back and forth testing variations against protocol and key stakeholders.
My preference was for the leader of the Opposition to speak from the mahau and this had support from many including previous rūnanga chairpeople. The accommodation that was reached was for speaking positions for all remaining women leaders to be after the main pōwhiri when people had returned from lunch.
This was not perfect but I do want to thank and acknowledge the trust for shifting and making an accommodation.
Waitangi can be a time to not only challenge the Government but to also challenge ourselves and so with direction from Judith Collins, and speaking on her behalf, I included in my whaikorero a challenge to the trust and Ngāpuhi for further change to allow women leaders to speak from the mahau.
Here is a precis of what I said: "There is an issue. I stand here as the voice for our leader Judith Collins. Please take no offence, but there is a sadness in the National Party because she is not allowed to speak. Why is that? Is it because she is a woman? Don't forget the mana of women or their place in the house of life. I leave these words for you to think and ponder."
The final speaker was kaumātua Waihoroi Shortland, who said Ngāpuhi had heard the call and would take up the challenge and do things differently for women next year. Indeed, there was almost an impromptu invitation for Judith Collins to speak from the mahau on that very day.
As I passed across the taumata to hariru and hongi dear and trusted people on the other side nearly every person made the same commitment.
We don't take lightly the nature of this change but we are also the captains of our own ship and can bring the best of the old and the new together in ways that respect our women even more than we venerate them now.
On behalf of women who have paved this path not just in Tai Tokerau but throughout the motu, thank you and we look forward to Waitangi next year.
• Dr Shane Reti is deputy leader of the National Party and a list MP based in