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Catherine Delahunty speaks on the Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill - Third reading

It is profoundly true that the oppressor cannot dictate the terms of an apology or define what an acceptable basis for reconciliation is
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CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker.

The Green Party wishes to acknowledge the physical and spiritual journey for justice that you have pursued. We acknowledge this whānau, who have travelled here three times for this bill, the Mokomoko (Restoration of Character, Mana, and Reputation) Bill, and to reach this moment of celebration and sadness here today — inseparable realities.

We acknowledge your beloved tupuna, who was killed by the colonial State as it pursued its agenda of raupatu. We acknowledge the extraordinary dignity and beauty of his final waiata, his final communication to the future. We acknowledge who has benefited from his murder and who has suffered. It is fitting on this day to acknowledge the tangi in South Africa for a great freedom fighter and leader who survived oppression with full humanity, and that we reflect on the connection between the truth and reconciliation processes that both countries are engaged in, consciously and unconsciously.

This bill is the story of one whānau and the ongoing price they have paid for unjust myth-making to justify the taking of a life. There was an attempt by the Crown to pardon Mokomoko in 1992 but this attempt failed to satisfy the hurt. This is a very important matter. The State was the oppressor and it is profoundly true that the oppressor cannot dictate the terms of an apology or define what an acceptable basis for reconciliation is. The definition of an apology that can be accepted must be negotiated and be owned by those who have been hurt; otherwise, they will not accept it. Why should they? An apology that is not accepted is meaningless — a gesture that satisfies one party but cannot heal the damage.

One of the most challenging issues in the story behind the bill is being recognised here today, but in any truth and reconciliation process, there are some deeper issues that cannot be addressed. The bill can restore a better relationship between the Mokomoko whānau and the Crown and do it with clarity. We would like to recognise the good work of the Māori Affairs Committee to get this work done, the Ministers, and particularly Minister Turia's ngā kupu ātaahua that she gave here today in the first speech. But the bill cannot return the land. The loss of land and all the terrible consequences cannot be put back together like a jigsaw. The cracks are still visible and the huge holes in the wealth and well-being of Whakatōhea and iwi katoa.

When the colonial State used Völkner's murder to confiscate and destroy, it needed someone to blame, and it paid little attention to the facts. Mokomoko was chosen to justify what followed. But the violence of the State is now being owned. The apology is being accepted. It is not the end of the processes we need in this country to restore not only truth and reconciliation but to return resources. A young South African man who was a survivor of police violence told me that an apology alone can slip smoothly from the tongues of the powerful. He wanted more. He wanted genuine healing and a future.

This bill today is a step towards healing and a future for the whānau. Story by story, law by law, we need to do this work. It is not over until every citizen knows the true history of Mokomoko and understands what this has meant to his whānau and to Whakatōhea katoa. How painfully are the scapegoats and their descendents disowned and disrespected by virtually everyone as the convenient myths do their work, but today is a step into fresh air, a better space, and, what is more, a Te Reo Māori - based bill. I would like to just acknowledge your extraordinary achievement in this regard, not only for the bill but for the language of the bill, the gift of Te Reo Rangatira, which I am afraid I unable to give full justice to, and to recognise that it is a gift to this country and that language has come to being a natural and normal part of our legislative programme. Because Te Reo Rangatira is the first language of Aotearoa. It is not the second language, it is the first language.

To te whānau o Mokomoko, thank you very much for the gift to our country, your persistence, your generosity, and your determination that the truth be recognised and be owned. We here today must endeavour to take the story that you have given us through your dignity and persistence and make sure that our descendants, whether they are tangata whenua or tangata Tiriti, understand the price you have paid and the willingness you have given to forgive us for what has taken place.

For us who have been beneficiaries of colonisation this burden is particularly on our shoulders. It is an opportunity for us to take it up with the same generosity that you have given to us. So the Green Party would like to say again he mihi nui ki te whānau whānau o Mokomoko. Tēnā rā koutou, tēnā rā koutou katoa.


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