Marama Davidson - General Debate - Respect the Rāhui

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green): I like a bit of politicking as much as anybody else in this House, but if I can just take us to the forest for a little moment here.



Everything is political, though. Everything is political, and we have a political responsibility to respond to one of the greatest biodiversity crises of our time. Yesterday Auckland Council voted unanimously in favour of supporting the Waitakere rāhui, led by Te Kawerau ā Maki, the iwi of the Waitakere Ranges, who placed the rāhui in a response to kauri dieback, which is killing our tūpuna rangatira—killing our trees. I am so relieved to see that Auckland Council finally came to the right decision to support the rāhui, for all of our sakes, for the forest's sake, and for the generations to come's sakes.

The rāhui is put in place to protect kauri. The rāhui is providing a protected sanctuary status. It is not a restriction, it is not an exclusive tool; it is about understanding that we need to give the forest time to heal. We need to give the forest space for the scientists and the mātauranga Māori to work out what the best way is of making sure we have even got kauri for generations to come. My speech today, therefore, is focusing on a celebration of the leadership of Te Kawerau ā Maki in persevering through and making sure that they did all they could to rally the community to protect the kauri in the Waitakere Ranges. We all have to follow that leadership here in this House. We now have to look honestly at what we can do and what has and has not happened where the kauri have become so sick today. Could this have been prevented, and what do we need to do from here?

I want to talk about the rāhui as a tool, as an attempt to do the right thing. That is all that the rāhui is, and Te Kawerau ā Maki have been working for five years with leading scientists to answer the question: what is it that we have to do to make sure we are stepping up to our whakapapa obligations? Those scientists and community experts came back and all said the same thing: "We must close the forest." They all said the same thing, and Te Kawerau ā Maki put their cultural whakapapa tool in place to do exactly that.

Now, if there is any doubt about the science of what is happening here, can I just be very clear that it is irrefutable that most of the disease that is killing the roots of our kauri is within 50 metres of tracks. It is soil-borne pathogens that are carried by shifting soil. Yes, there are other factors, including animals, that can also carry the disease, but most of it is human-borne and human done. We need to take that responsibility to fix it, and on this the mātauranga Māori and the science align.

We have such an incredible opportunity here to make sure that all of our workings are with iwi at the table, not as an afterthought, to make sure we have got the best conservation plan for Aotearoa that we need. The infected kauri have more than doubled over five years. This is a crisis of epic proportions, and we can do something about this. I want to acknowledge those who have known to do the right thing, even without being told by an Auckland Council closure. They even had consent, but they put off their events—the Hillary Trail, the Whatipū Lodge; they knew that they also needed to do the right thing and they stepped up. Those leadership community initiatives can be seen, and they took the lead of Te Kawerau ā Maki.

We have an opportunity here in this House to look honestly at our systems, at our funding, and at our support. How could we have helped the Auckland Council to come to the right decision earlier? How can we help here in our departments to make sure that we are giving kauri their due?

We have to think about respecting Te Tiriti, respecting mana whenua, respecting mātauranga Māori, respecting our generations of children to come, respecting the trees. Respect the rāhui. Thank you.