Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 'the mahi is not done' in Waitangi Day speech

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Getty Images

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern delivered her Waitangi Day speech in a pre-recorded message from Parliament.

Waitangi Day looks a little different this year as commemorations move online due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Read the Prime Minister's full speech below:

Hawaiiki tangata ki Hawaiiki, koutou kua huri kaweka nei, haere, haere atu ra

Hawaiiki tangata e tau nei, kei ngā tōpito o te motu, tōia mai, kūmea mai 

Māwhiti mai ko te rā, ka ao, ka awatea, he rā hou tēnei kua hura 

Tēnā koutou katoa.

While this year’s speech comes in a different form, and we’re not all able to come together on the Treaty grounds kanohi kitea, this day remains of great importance to us as a nation.

I will return to Waitangi in person, but for now, I address you from Parliament in Wellington.

In previous speeches you have heard me use the metaphor that ‘Aotearoa will always have clouds’, to represent the challenges we need to overcome today and into the future.

How we need to continue to use every opportunity to cross the bridge, te arawhiti, and join our two worlds.

And how we need to work in partnership to improve outcomes for Māori, and for all New Zealanders.

While we always have more work to do - the mahi never ends - it is important to take time and reflect.

We are a country that takes pride in our heritage. A small island nation in the Pacific with voyaging roots from both Hawaiki and Europe.

Across Aotearoa there are stories of our arrival, stories of settlement, stories of conflict and of unity, of hope and hardship.

These stories are our stories. And learning, sharing and acknowledging these stories that trace back to many different shores is crucial to our connections to one another.

I’m extremely proud that schools this year will have the resources available for them to teach New Zealand history in school.

Too many of our previous generations missed out on this opportunity, but I look forward to the future where our tamariki come home and share with us the history of our country and the places where they live and grow.

I am always heartened to hear about how schools and their communities are working together to make history more personal by telling and remembering our local stories informed by our local communities and iwi.

We’ll also have the opportunity this year to embed in our calendar a national holiday unique to Aotearoa.

Matariki is a time of remembrance, joy and peace – it is a time for all of us to come together and celebrate who we are as a people. This is our Māori new year and it’s only right we celebrate and learn more about Matariki later this year as our newest public holiday.

This year also marks 50 years since the te reo Māori petition was presented to Parliament - again, a piece of our history that reinforces the fabric of our nation. I am proud of the mahi, past and present, to ensure that this taonga is preserved, spoken and flourishing as a living language that connects us to our heritage here and throughout the Pacific.

These lessons and pieces of our knowledge are a foundation to support us in our journey across the bridge. They are not small things.

For me they reflect the path we have taken as a nation and show the place where we are today. A place where together we cherish the unique identity of Aotearoa.

Togetherness is something we have shown throughout the last few years. I know it hasn’t always been easy. There were many clouds and at times they seemed so dark, that the sun could not shine through.

But together we have, and we continue to, overcome.

I am proud of how we’ve come together as the team of five million through our response to the pandemic.

We managed to eliminate the virus long enough to give ourselves time to build up protection for ourselves, and for our whānau.

The vaccine has given us a chance to protect our loved ones.

You may have heard Minister Kelvin Davis talk about his great grandmother, and all the unmarked graves of those who in Northland died during the influenza epidemic after World War One.

This was a tragedy we could not bear to repeat, and that is why we have taken measures to protect the lives of our most vulnerable.

We still have health provisions in place. And these mean we are not back to everyday life. Addressing you virtually shows that. But this is about protecting those we love.

Minister Davis tells the story of his great grandmother because it’s the only story he has of her.

Tragically his whānau didn’t get the gift of time with her, they didn’t get to hear her stories, and his father didn’t get to grow and learn from his grandmother.

He describes this by saying his whakapapa was broken.

We do not want to stand by and let that happen again in this generation.

Our response has given us an opportunity.

It has given us a chance to protect ourselves in a way that those who lost their lives in the influenza epidemic did not have.

Together we formed a barrier to save our stories, and to protect our whakapapa.

But please, the mahi is not done. And we all have a duty to do everything we can to protect our communities with all the tools that science and medicine have given us.

That is how we protect each other, and our stories.

These stories will form the next generation of New Zealand’s history in schools. 

As a Government we know we have a responsibility to protect the most vulnerable, and we know in many cases that can be our Māori communities.

That is one of the reasons why we’ve established the Māori Health Authority and why it is so important to support and help turn around Māori wellbeing inequalities.

We want all New Zealanders to live longer and healthier lives and that is why we are working hard to reform the health sector. COVID has shown we need a health sector that is responsive to community needs.

And that is what we are looking to achieve, and the Māori Health Authority will be a core pillar of that in advocating for and supporting Māori health needs. 

Because we have an obligation to make sure everyone has access to the healthcare they need, and that you don’t die younger than everyone else in New Zealand because you are Māori.

And yet that is not the case. Here we have such an obvious example of where we must do better, and where we are not passing the test of our partnership together. Yet efforts to address this have been described by some as separatist. This statement ignores the reality that: 

-        Māori die at twice the rate as non-Māori from cardiovascular disease.

-        Māori tamariki have a mortality rate one-and-a-half times the rate found in non-Māori children.

-        Māori are more likely to be diagnosed and die from cancer.

-        And Māori die on average 7 years earlier than non-Māori.

That is the problem that we have to address. And if we are to make progress as a nation, we have to be willing to question practices that have resulted over and over in the same or even worse outcomes.

Whether it’s poverty, education, housing or health, solutions are required. Not labels, and not responses that say different policies for different communities is segregation.

What we all want by and large for our people is the same. The same chance to fulfil our potential. To live decent lives. To make decisions for ourselves.

How we get there will differ. That is partnership. That is building the bridge.

What drives this Government is supporting our people, protecting our people, so they are able to share their stories and live full lives with their loved ones. 

Their stories that tell us who we are as a nation. Their stories define our future.

Our journey together started from those voyagers from Hawaiki and Europe, and it has been shaped by our loved ones ever since. Today, we mark the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi and our ancestors who signed this document.

We mark their journey, and continue to make our own, one that defines our nation. A nation we can all be proud of.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.