Good coverage, good vibes at Waitangi

If you watch and read and listen to news about Waitangi it’s easy to get the impression the celebrations are riven by protest and confrontation. The rest of New Zealand collectively rolls it’s eyes when “thrown”, “jostled” and “Harawira” are mentioned.

Rachel Smalley describes this in More balance needed in Waitangi Day reporting?

No surprise. Waitangi celebrations have begun and the key headline is that there was a scuffle, some jostling apparently, an altercation. It’s tense, we’re told. It’s tense on the marae.

I hear this and I think ‘here we go again, another year at Waitangi, another year of sloppy reporting’.

You see, the media needs a headline. It needs to entice, it needs to suggest there is conflict. Why? Well the media is ruled by listener or viewership numbers, and the reality is that Maori politics and Maori issues don’t snare a big audience in this country. So there’s an unspoken need, if you like, to ‘ham it up’.

So that’s one of the reasons we see a distorted view of Waitangi celebrations. Yes, at times Waitangi has been confrontational. There have been protests and flag burnings. But when the conflict isn’t there, the media invents it.

Smalley reported from Waitangi last year and saw a major difference between media focus and what happened overall.

I reported from Waitangi last year and the focus then was on the power struggle between kuia Titewhai Harawira and Ani Taurua. Both women wanted to lead the Prime Minister on to the marae. Anyway, the media made a meal of it, and then it was all over.


I had a great day at Waitangi last year. It was like a carnival. I was welcomed wherever I went. Maori were cooking and selling food, culture and craft was on display, and it’s set in a truly beautiful part of the world. It is emotive and yet there is a lightness to it too. I loved it. 

So as I watch the way Waitangi is reported in the mainstream media this year, I am again frustrated. The media is selling the public short and it should be mindful of the role it plays in race relations in this country.

One journalist may have read Smalley’s column. Katie Bradford (TVNZ, @katiebradford) provide a tweet account of the day:

Good morning Waitangi. Beautiful still morning for a run.

Kaine Thompson @pointoforder: today, you have the best job ever.

This week, I have the best job!

My interview with the @GovGeneralNZ about yesterday’s events & how he views the importance of Waitangi … via @ONENewsNZ

Annette Sykes address the hikoi outside Te Tii marae

Protestors waiting to be welcomed on to Te Tii Marae.

Duncan Garner @garnerlive: That’s your Mum’s party!!

It’s a whole mixed bag…
including a number of ministers!

@liamkernaghan: Potential conflict of interest there Katie?

@MeganCampbellNZ: ultimately Katie is a professional and a bloody good one

Duncan Garner @garnerlive: agree

It’s not often you see government ministers mixed in with activists. All quite peaceful.

Titewhai Harawira leading anti oil and gas exploration protestors on to Te Tii marae.

Winston Peters to protestors “don’t come here and crap on the traditions and protocols of this part of the world”. It’s “bad behaviour”.

John Key expected to arrive at Te Tii any minute. Procreedings 90 minutes late.

John Key being welcomed on to Te Tii marae. Protestors on one side of the marae but largely peaceful.

Events largely peaceful in Waitangi. Hone Harawira and Metiria Turei agree that it’s one of the most peaceful in years.

(Hone Harawira was asked about this on Breakfast: “I find most years are calm apart from two or three minutes.”)

John Key speaking on Te Tii, says he’s here to “straighten the waka” & National have done, and do plenty for Maori. Thanks the Maori Party.

On the marae, Key tells anti oil and gas exploration protestors they are “wrong” & challenges them to come to Wellington & face facts

John Key is being screamed at on the marae. Performers outside start singing to drown it out. Applause from Key at end of speech.

A bag of fish got thrown at Key as he was leaving. Didn’t hit him and the guy who did it is refusing to comment on why he did it.

Festive feeling at Waitangi. Bands playing, performers practicing.This is why everyone should visit Waitangi.

Dave @caffeineaddict: seen this?
(refers to Smalley’s column)

Did you see my last tweet? Exactly what I’m saying.

Dave @caffeineaddict: yeah, thats why I linked it to you. To back up your last tweet.

What are Waitangi protesters fighting for? (Video 1:57)

“Banners and rowdy behaviour makes Waitangi protesters highly visible.”
(TV News headline proving Smalley made a valid point).

@JodiIhaka hello from Waitangi!

@JodieIhaka: OMG. Thank you – that’s made our morning.. ask my brother to show you some Ihaka hospitality – kai or tequila. love London x

Good! That was the plan. We just talked about Northland as fellow Northlanders. Nothing makes me happier than being up here!

@JodieIhaka: Absolutely agree.

Sounds like it was a good day at Waitangi. Some of the news reports…

NZ Herald: Marae hums as overseas visitors, locals and helpers enjoy day

There was calm at Waitangi’s Te Tii Marae yesterday with some locals going as far to say that things were “pretty tame and chilled”.

Stuff: Woman speaks at marae

Metiria Turei becomes the first female politician to speak on Te Tii Marae, 16 years after Helen Clark drama.

3 News:Historic day as women speak on Waitangi marae

Despite the odd tussle and some political mud slinging, it was a largely peaceful Waitangi Day eve.

3 News: Waitangi ‘one of the quietest’ ever – Key

John Key says this year’s reception at Waitangi was “very calm” compared to others when he had been belted or shouted down while speaking.

Radio New Zealand: Parties vie for Maori vote at Waitangi

Political parties have made their bid for the Maori vote in Northland during a largely peaceful day ahead of the commemoration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Radio New Zealand: Flag change support at Waitangi

There was strong support for a change to the New Zealand flag among people gathered at Waitangi for the Waitangi Day celebrations.

It took some look to find coverage of yesterday at Waitangi. A day without antagonism and grandstanding struggles to make the headlines.

Why was yesterday uncontroversial? There will be a number of reasons, especially that no one made a spectacle of themselves. Even the fish throwing protest was low key. It is possible that media heeded Smalley’s comments enough to not stir things up and create news headlines. What she said was at least noted by some.

Most New Zealanders will have a public holiday today remote from the activities at Waitangi, and without the media giving them much to roll their eyes at. But a big bunch of people seem to be having a good time at Waitangi. That’s very good to see.

Thanks for speaking up for better journalism Rachel, and influencing better media coverage at Waitangi.

And thanks for some balanced coverage Katie and a good insight into what really happens at Waitangi.

Update: One News report this morning – Waitangi protests not the true picture, PM says

The PM says protests at Waitangi give the wrong impression and it is usually a very happy family day.

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