Green MP Teanau Tuiono weaves whakapapa through maiden speech

Teanau Tuiono.
Teanau Tuiono. Photo credit: Parliament.

Incoming Green MP Teanau Tuiono has committed to and challenged MPs to reimagine and create a world to ensure a future for the next generation in his maiden speech.

The maiden speeches are continuing with 42 new MPs starting this parliamentary term.

Tuiono's was the first of the new Green MPs' maiden speeches on Tuesday. Ricardo Menendez-March also delivered his speech, and Elizabeth Kerekere will present hers in the new year.

Tuiono wove all of his whakapapa throughout his kōrero, from Ngāpuhi and Ngāi Takoto in the North - to Atiu in the Cook Islands - where he connects to Ngāti Ingatu, Ngāti Toki and Ngāti Paerangi.

He is the first Green MP with Pacific whakapapa.

He also described himself as 'Rewa Hard' and 'Palmy Proud' - and thanked the communities of Palmerston North and Manurewa who had contributed to his journey, helping him get where he is today.

He spoke of the connections of Aotearoa and the Pacific, the impacts of climate change on indigenous peoples and how he is expecting the unexpected over the next three years - while also incorporating some comedic one-liners that had the house and the public gallery in laughter.

"I am both tangata whenua and tangata moana - descendent of both the land and sea - like the tide ebbing and flowing on to the shore that doesn't know where the land begins and the sea ends.

"Moving between these two communities is seamless for many of us who have this shared whakapapa."

With this he was reminded of the line from poet Teresia Teaiwa who wrote:

'We sweat and cry salt water so that we know the ocean is really in our blood.'

"It reminds me that before there were borders and lines that carved up the Pacific, that whakapapa connected these islands and that there is a deeper and richer tapestry of history that has been woven over centuries of interaction.

"People often ask me 'am I half Māori, half Pacific', and I say 'na bro, I am not half anything, I am whole, if anything I am double - if I was a beer I would be double brown, if I was a flavour at the dairy I would be twice as nice at only half the price.

"Growing up bicultural and having neither as a dominant, I had to go to school to learn about Pākehā... and I am still learning about you people."

He described the struggle to protect the environment as also the struggle for self determination and explained the place of tino rangatiratanga.

"For me, tino rangatiratanga could be a radically democratic alternative to capitalism which the flax roots local communities would be constantly and actively involved in making the decisions about the allocation of society's resources in a collective way.

"It should embrace a system which our entire economy is set up to satisfy the needs of whānau, tikanga, our cultural values and aspirations, not the profit margins of a tiny elite. It would encapsulate our role as kaitiaki - guardians of earth and ecosystems, it would be based on a vision of society that affirms mana wahine, free of racism, class exploitation and embraces our rainbow whānau."

He promised he would always stick to his activist and community roots.

"I will also remember to turn my face to the streets. I acknowledge all of the activists past, present and yet to come who have and will put body and soul on the line for social and environmental justice - tēnā koutou."

He finished with a challenge to his colleagues to start reimagining a world in the face of ecological collapse and mass extinction of species - layered with the covid crisis and deepening poverty.

"Our ideas need to be bigger than this place, much bigger, we cannot go back to the way that things are. That world is disappearing fast and it is our role to ensure a future for our tamariki and mokopuna."