Bill English has not surprisingly provoked some comment when he rsaid “A lot of New Zealanders cringe a bit on Waitangi Day …”, but Waitangi Day ‘cringe’ comes from lack of understanding, Maori Party says
English has attracted controversy while defending his decision to skip Waitangi commemorations due to a lack of speaking rights, saying protests at Waitangi had been “nationally relevant” 15 to 20 years ago but were not anymore.
“Political discussion at Te Tii Marae is now really about Ngapuhi issues and their own concerns in Northland, but it’s a national day, a day for New Zealanders to be proud of their whole country.”
“A lot of New Zealanders cringe a bit on Waitangi Day when they see the way that the ceremonies are being conducted, the ceremonies and welcomes, the type of protest there has been in recent years, and I’m pretty keen that we have a day when they’re proud.”
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox…
…said English’s comments were “unfortunate” and did not match up with her perspective of the day’s importance.
“A lot of New Zealanders may feel that way, but that comes from a lack of understanding, a lack of education, and a lack of acceptance of the place of Maori in this country, so when that changes, we’ll all have a greater, united Aotearoa.”
Fox said she would have liked English to attend Waitangi commemorations, but his decision would not affect her plans to go.
“We are not the Maori arm of the National Party – we are going to attend as the Maori Party, and I will be taking my place in the powhiri, and I’m pretty sure nobody’s given me an opportunity to have a stage to speak, and I’m not concerned about that.”
Waitangi and Te Tii Marae were “surrounded in Maori protocol”, and it was up to marae leaders to decide whether someone could speak.
There are a number of protocols that I participate in at Parliament that I think are antiquated and should move on – those are my opinions. It is for Maori and the people of Te Tii, the people of Waitangi to decide how the programme should run – it’s their place.”
Fair enough, to an extent, about “Maori protocol” in a Maori forum, but if Waitangi Day is to ever become widely seen and felt to be a national day of significance then the commemorations need to involve and include both partners to the treaty, not just Maori.