(Published in The Gisborne Herald, 2 August 2017)
In announcing his resignation as Labour Party leader, Andrew Little has shown a level of integrity, accountability and personal courage that are all too rare in politics. I thank Andrew and his whanau for their ongoing commitment to the Labour cause.
We now have a new Leader in Jacinda Ardern and Deputy Leader in Kelvin Davis, who were both unanimously endorsed by our caucus on Tuesday.
I congratulate them both and am 100% supportive of this exciting new leadership team. They are passionate, talented and hard-working MPs who will do a great job of communicating and representing our Labour message, values and vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.
This new leadership team also represents an important recognition of the unique, historic relationship between Māori and the Labour Party.
Kelvin is now the first Labour Māori Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and he personifies the mana in which our Māori caucus is held by the Party. We currently hold six of the seven Māori seats and – despite the claims of our opponents – our collective Māori voice and perspective in the Party is valued.
Māori roll voters strongly party vote Labour and it is vital we keep faith with you on the issues that matter. That’s why we have advocated so strongly for policies that will bring about real change in the lives of our people.
Having a Māori Deputy Leader is a further acknowledgment of this support.
For the last nine years, we have had a National-led government supported by the Māori Party whose policies have seen regional New Zealand ignored; much-needed state houses sold off; millions of tax dollars spent housing whanau in cramped motel rooms; record homelessness and incarceration rates for Māori; our rivers polluted; wages driven down and a badly underfunded education and health system.
We have a Minister for Māori Development in Te Ururoa Flavell who tried and failed to push through unpopular Māori land reforms in the face of massive opposition, while centuries of institutional knowledge vanished through job losses at the Māori Land Court. That same Minister recently admitted he has “no idea” how homelessness got so bad in his own electorate.
Now more than ever, Māori need inspiring, visionary political leadership with actual solutions for our people.
We in Labour are committed to making real change for Māori with transformative and aspirational policies – all fully costed and achievable.
On Sunday we announced our Māori housing policy which will uphold and enable the right to build on multi-titled Māori land. We will house over 20,000 more Māori whanau and help more than 2,500 Māori on the social housing waiting list. We will establish a Māori Housing unit and Increase state housing stock by at least 1,000 homes per year.
Having a Māori Deputy Leader ensures this commitment to improving the lives of Māori will remain a priority for our campaign.
We are all with Labour because this is the party of change, with the vision and values needed to help our people realise their potential and make our country successful, prosperous, and a place where we can all get a fair go. Our policies, leadership and the potential to bring in the largest contingent of Māori MPs ever in our nation’s history are all things that we as Māori can be proud, excited and encouraged by.
We just need to keep the faith.