Te Pāti Māori co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer sit down with 1News political editor Jessica Mutch McKay to reflect on their party’s return to Parliament and their plans for 2022.
More than one year after Te Pāti Māori’s return to Parliament after three years away, co-leaders Rawiri Waititi and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer say they’re still uncomfortable with the place.
“Monsters on the walls was, I think, my exact words,” Ngarewa-Packer recalled of her earlier description of Parliament.
It was against “every political odd” and many analysts’ predictions that the party would make a return after the 2020 election, she added.
Waititi recalled his morning-after post-election interview with Q+A, back when election results hadn’t been finalised yet and he thought he was going in solo.
He said having Ngarewa-Packer by his side balanced his approach to politics, which was to continue to challenge the very institution of Parliament itself.
Among the changes in Parliament this year was the scrapping of mandatory tie-wearing in the debating chamber.
It followed an incident in February that saw Waititi kicked out of the House for refusing to wear the item of clothing, which he referred to as a “colonial noose”.
“You have the hat, the shoes, the hei-tiki,” Waititi said of what he wore, which he said was an expression of his Māori identity.
Ngarewa-Packer said there was also a disparity between the grandness of Parliament, which was meant to be the people’s House, and the poverty some people experienced on the whenua.
“Until this place reflects what the Treaty represents, I don’t think we’ll ever feel comfortable here [in Parliament],” she said.
Despite the discomfort, Ngarewa-Packer said she and Waititi were secure in their role as tangata whenua within Parliament and as an “unapologetic Māori voice”.
She said Te Pāti Māori had learnt from its 2017 election result and had begun to attract the younger generation.
“The reality is that part of us coming here, and we see the overwhelming responsibility on how we use our sphere of influence, is that we have this huge rangatahi following.”
But it wasn’t just youth that the party represented — it was everybody, Waititi said.
He said that was because when Māori did well and their outcomes were lifted, everybody benefitted.
The “new and improved model” of Te Pāti Māori meant it saw itself like the sea, he said.
“If we look at all of the diversity in our communities, we see them as rivers … no moana denies any river.”
Waititi said while New Zealand wasn’t jointly built by tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, the future could be.
Both groups had a place in Aotearoa, he said.
“This is about having those courageous conversations, maybe all of us feeling a little bit uncomfortable about that, but actually moving towards a space we can build a Tiriti-centric Aotearoa where tangata whenua and tangata Tiriti are equally around the table making those decisions."
Ngarewa-Packer said Te Pāti Māori knew what was needed and would continue to try and influence policy in 2022.
“What we know is what we’re doing is we’re not just holding the Government to account, but we’re disrupting those officials and anyone around them and they’re looking and thinking, ‘Christ, what the heck are these unapologetic Maori flipping out now?’
“We know there’s no one else providing innovation and more contemporary modern Maori unified thinking for a Tiriti-centric nation.”