A large group of politicians from across the House stood together at a pōwhiri this morning as they were welcomed onto Te Whare Rūnanga, the upper marae in Waitangi.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walked up to the marae with activist Titewhai Harawira on her left and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on her right.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges stood next to Green Party co-leader James Shaw and Labour deputy leader Kelvin Davis.
Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon was also present.
The first speech by Isaiah Apiata, who was speaking on behalf of the people of the area, saw the MPs hit with criticism over the high incarceration rate of Māori and the unaffordability of dental costs for some.
Mr Apiata suggested MPs pay triple the cost for their dental bills.
The speeches included criticism of the Government, jabs between parties, and acknowledgment more needed to be done for Māori.
Ms Ardern who spoke near the end of the pōwhiri, said of the previous speakers there was much “which we agree, everyone hates GST - except for (Finance Minister) Grant Robertson”.
Ms Ardern spoke of the need to go between the worlds of Māori and Pākehā, saying Māori MPs “cross over to that world every day”.
“So must all of us. We must continue to work together but doing things differently including acknowledging our history.”
“It is the foundations we lay, a right not a privilege that every child knows their history and their whakapapa.”
She said there was “more mahi to do” for Māori.
Ms Ardern said they must continue to uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
“Not just the principles but the articles," she said.
Mr Bridges began his speech criticising the Government’s performance in Northland.
He said last year at Waitangi, Ms Ardern “said it would be a year of delivery, to hold her to account, that there would be less poverty, she would reduce inequality between Māori and Pākehā”.
“Sadly, the government has failed to deliver on these promises.
“The one thing the north needs is more economic transformation, this government promised it would be transformational.
“Nice talk, nice words, announcements, sausage sizzles - they’re nice, they’re good, nothing wrong with them but what the north and New Zealand actually needs is leadership that gets things done.”
Mr Bridges then promised that if he were in government, National would build a four-lane highway through Northland to Auckland.
“A government I lead will deliver it, we will get that done.”
Mr Shaw spoke after Mr Bridges, saying it was not the time for “petty partisan politics”.
“We have oodles of time for that this year, starting next week.”
Mr Peters, who was not originally going to speak, did not miss his chance after what he called the “politicisation” of the event, accusing Mr Bridges of “trampling all over the significance” of the place.
“I am seriously concerned where the next eight months going to go.”
“You’re looking for trouble, you’ve come to the right place,” he said.
Mr Peters then said the four-lane highway was going to take 12 years to build, “on that basis… it was going to take 68 years to reach Whangārei”.
“The difference is the group I’m a member of in this point in time is slow on the lip and fast on the hip.”
Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Minister Andrew Little, who performed a whaikōrero in te reo, said that the negotiations with Ngāpuhi had been “challenging, rewarding and important”.
“I have been asked to listen, I have been asked to talk, I have been told to stay away and I’ve also been told to come and live here,” which drew laughs from the crowd.
“We are nor 20 years away from the 200th anniversary of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, it is my hope that by then the promise of Te Tiriti is upheld.”
“The challenge of the next steps should never deter us form moving forward in the journey. The roots have been restored the trunk of the tree has firmed, and the first shoots on new terrain are blossoming like the great kowhai.”
Ngāti Hine leader Waihoroi Shortland told Mr Little he was “not the person who stood here two years ago”.
“You are a different person. You are an entirely different person, we are delighted, that we taught you how to be like that. You have a great job ahead of you. I will never cease to thank you.”