Youngest New Zealand MP in over 150 years delivers powerful maiden speech

Youngest New Zealand MP in over 150 years delivers powerful first speech

hana rawhiti giving maiden speech in parliament

The youngest MP to be elected in Aotearoa/New Zealand Parliament in over 150 years had delivered her first speech.

Hana-Rawhiti Maipi-Clarke MP is just 21 years old and won the seat of Hauraki-Waikato in October’s general election.

On Wednesday night, Maipi-Clarke from Te Pāti Māori (the Māori party) stood before the Parliament chamber to deliver her first speech in the House.

She began with an invigorating haka, with her family, friends and members of the whānau (Māori word for family/community) joining from the balcony above.

Maipi-Clarke spoke both in Māori language, Te Reo, and English.

“We’ve come so far, but we’ve got a long way to go,” she said.

“We are here, we are sailing, we are navigating – just like our ancestors.”

At 21 years old, Maipi-Clarke was given advice before entering Parliament House as the youngest MP in more than 150 years – “to not take anything personally, or it will eat you up.”

“Well, Mr Speaker,” she said, “I can’t help but take everything personally that has been said in this chamber.

“In only a couple of weeks, in only fourteen days, this government has attacked my whole world from every corner.

“How can I not take anything personally when it feels like these policies were made about me?”

Two weeks ago, thousands protested on the streets of New Zealand, after Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s government announced they will abandon plans to review the Treaty of Waitangi, signed between the Crown and Māori leaders 180 years ago. The government also announced they would reduce the incorporation of Māori language in government organisations.

Despite legislation that passed in 2022 to phase out smoking in New Zealand, Luxon’s government announced they would also scrap this law. Smoking and tobacco-induced lung cancer disproportionately affects Māori people in the country.

It is because of this reason – the house “tampering with things they shouldn’t touch” – that Maipi-Clarke felt the need to step into Parliament and represent her people, especially coming generations.

“I am not fearful of this place, or this debating chamber,” she said in her speech.

“No matter what comes out of this government, I will make sure our kids hear us.”

Maipi-Clarke said it wasn’t always on her radar to become a parliamentarian at such a young age.

“At 21 years old, I can definitely say this was not the plan. I was perfectly fine growing my kūmara (sweet potato) and learning maramataka (Māori lunar calendar),” she said.

“But this House kept tampering with things they shouldn’t be touching, and that’s why I left the māra (garden) to come here.”

The New Zealand Parliament sat in silence and hung on to every word of Maipi-Clarke’s powerful speech, but the young leader said that it wasn’t her moment – this moment was for her people, past, present and future.

“Every time you hear my voice, it will echo of my ancestors. Every time you look me in the eyes, you will see the children that survived,” she said.

“Over the next three years, you will see history rewrite itself without a pen.”

The end of Maipi-Clarke’s was met with applause and a standing ovation from the Parliament chamber. As fellow Te Pāti Māori members congratulated her, her supporters in the balcony broke out in song.


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