Take Waitangi Day on tour?

While many people attending Waitangi Day celebrations think it is a great occasion much of the country sees it as a media circus giving a few Ngāpuhi activists some attention at the cost of political and national inclusiveness.

David Seymour has suggested a solution to the ongoing antics at Waitangi Day – move the celebrations around the country.

PM should take Waitangi Day ceremonies on tour

Te Tii Marae’s continued failure to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the Prime Minister to visit a different marae each year, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The behaviour of a small group of perpetually-grumpy activists has turned Waitangi Day into an annual political circus, denying Kiwis a national day we can all enjoy,” says Mr Seymour.

“It’s never been clear why one iwi gets to monopolise the celebrations. The Treaty wasn’t just signed at Waitangi, it went on tour and was signed by chiefs all over the country.

“If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 177-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location? It could be in a different place each year, perhaps following the path that the Treaty took during 1840.

“Ngāpuhi activists have denied the whole country a proud national day a few times too many. Let’s take this show on the road. There were 20-odd signing locations so it’ll return to Te Tii Marae in around 2037.

“A bit of competition among locations might help to lift standards of behaviour, bringing some dignity and joy back to this special day.”

Today’s ODT editorial thinks that this has merit – from The importance of Waitangi Day:

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour suggested the continued failure by Ti Tii to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the prime minister of the day to visit a different marae each year.

It has never been clear why one iwi – Ngapuhi – gets to monopolise the celebrations.

And that hasn’t been working out very well – it seems to have become more about them and less about the country.

The Treaty was not signed just at Waitangi; it went on tour and was signed by chiefs throughout the country. He suggests the celebration of the Treaty signing could follow the path the Treaty took in 1840.

Waitangi Day is quickly slipping from relevancy for many New Zealanders who are just looking forward to a day of holiday when, in fact, the Treaty is considered New Zealand’s founding document.

Those who attend the Waitangi Day events often say it is overall a very good occasion, if you ignore a few attention seekers and media obsessions and distractions.

But currently for me and I think for many others Waitangi Day is a contentious circus hijacked by a few activists.

If it was celebrated in different places more it may become a country focussed occasion rather than a local leer up.

Key invited back to Waitangi but…

John  Key will be invited back to Waitangi next year and will be allowed to speak, but there is already talk of protests.

Stuff seven hours ago: Unanimous decision for John Key to return to Waitangi with full speaking rights

At a meeting at Waitangi on Saturday, the organising committee and Ngapuhi elders voted unanimously to invite Key back to Te Tii Marae with no conditions on what he can and can’t speak about.

Chair of the organising committee and NZ First MP, Pita Paraone, said even he was “surprised by the ease in which it went through”.

It’s good to see Paraone in a constructive role.

Paraone said he “couldn’t guarantee” it would be smooth sailing between now and February, but the fact Taurua was on board was significant.

“The fact Kingi led the charge on the reinstatement of powhiri for everyone, I think, carries a lot of weight.”

While Taurua agreed to support Key’s invitation, he won’t be speaking on the marae at Waitangi because of his “personal views” about the Government’s signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

But by 2:50 pm the he3adlin had changed to Protest warning after iwi decision to give John Key speaking rights at Waitangi and the lead paragraph is now:

A Ngapuhi elder held responsible for John Key ditching Waitangi this year has warned protests could flare up if the Prime Minister attends commemorations in February.

And later:

Kingi Taurua, a Ngapuhi elder, who earlier this year warned Key there would be riots if he turned up, said he didn’t know how far protesters would go next year.

Taurua said a lot of iwi were unhappy with him supporting Key’s invitation. While he won’t be involved in any protest, he said he also doesn’t have any control over them.

“If people don’t protest then the Government will think everything is above board. It’s not, so I think the protests should continue,” he said.

So Key will get an invitation with full speaking rights, but will anything change?

Wise words from Winston 0n Waitangi

Some wise words from Winston Peters on the Waitangi mess:

Winston Peters: The reality is that it’s very sad that regardless of who the Prime Minister is we are not as a country treating them with the dignity of their office on a national occasion like this, and it’s seriously disappointing from both a Maori perspective and also a New Zealand wide perspective.

Guyon Espiner: You think it has been handled in a way that’s disrespectful already?

Winston Peters: Well the reality is that Ngāpuhi is there as hosts on behalf of the whole nation in a sense that this is where the setting is established.

And you know you’ve got three hundred sixty four other days a year to argue these things on your national day to turn it into a major complaint, maybe rightfully so but not on that occasion, with the Government, is disappointing in terms of our international perspective, our image internationally, and also the growing of a culture where we actually treat similar things that have resulted from the unity of people over a long period of time.

Guyon Espiner: What’s the solution because you’ll remember well Helen Clark as Prime Minister, she stayed away didn’t she from Te Tii Marae for exactly this reason. I guess she was concerned that the Ngāpuhi elders who were organising it couldn’t get their act together was her view on it so she stayed away. Do you think that is the approach that should be taken?

Winston Peters: Well it’s actually worse than that. Before she became the Prime Minister there was the disgraceful incidence inside the meeting house at the lower marae where Titiwhai Harawira attacked her right to speak on behalf of the Labour Party. And you know things just descended from there.

So frankly, how shall I put it, I would have thought that this from a Ngāpuhi point of view is most unacceptable.

You will not see this happening down in Ngai Tahu in the South Island.  You will not see it happening in Ngāti Porou in Gisborne. You won’t see it happening in Rotorua.

So why on earth is Ngāpuhi putting up with this in Northland?

That’s the real issue and sooner or later they are going to have to address that question.

Guyon Espiner: It’s a little confusing isn’t it because they’re saying “look we’re inviting the Prime Minister to Te Tii Marae but we’ll try to block him from getting there and we’re in doubt about whether to let him speak and if he does speak we don’t want him to speak about politics”. It’s a bit of a mess.

Winston Peters: Well I don’t know how I could add anything more to it. It is a total utter mess and it’s been a mess for a long time. Sometimes it’s gone more smoothly than others but for over thirty five years that’s what we’ve put up with up north

And one of these days Ngāpuhi leaders are going to have to come to their senses and say this is not the image we want, we’re the biggest iwi in the country, this is not good for either Maoridom or any economic or social advancements or opportunities we might have, and it’s not good for our country.

But that day sadly in 2016 may not have arrived.

I, and I think a lot of Maori and Pakeha, will agree with Peters what Peters says here, and are as saddened as he sounds about the mess that Waitangi too often becomes.

And today it got even messier with John Key eventually pulling out of any visit to Waitangi this year.

Transcript from Radio NZ Winston Peters backs Key’s decision to attend Waitangi.

I wonder if Peters now backs Key’s decision to withdraw from a Waitangi visit.

Too much Waitangi in Waitangi Day

One of the major reasons why Waitangi Day is far from universally seen as a national day of commemoration or celebration is because it is so dominated by Waitangi. And because Waitangi is so dominated by one Maori tribe, Ngapuhi.

What is supposed to be the focal point of the Treaty of Waitangi events where most of our senior politicians attend but they are only there as the guests of and at the invitation of Ngapuhi – there was a report that organisers voted on whether John Key should be invited and he was close to being excluded.

Helen Clark was prominently insulted and upset in a visit to Waitangi in 1998 and visits by politicians have often been marked by controversy.

Politicians have often had a difficult time at Waitangi. In 1998 then opposition leader Helen Clark was brought to tears when Titewhai Harawira challenged a male elder for allowing Clark, a Pākehā, to speak on the marae when Māori women could not. In 2004, as prime minister, Clark was jostled, as was Prime Minister John Key in 2009. The ongoing protests have meant that politicians have often avoided attending Waitangi Day at Waitangi, with official government observances happening instead at the governor general’s residence in Wellington.

Waitangi Day protests

And this year history was made – Turei honoured to speak at Waitangi

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says it was “an honour and a little scary” to become the first woman political leader to speak at Waitangi.

Mrs Turei spoke during the powhiri for Labour and Green MPs at Te Tii Marae this afternoon.

The Treaty of Waitangi was supposed to enshrine a partnership between the Crown and all Maori.

Waitangi Day at Waitangi is a big and important event but is dictated and dominated too much by one Maori tribe for the event to be seen as an “all of us” New Zealand event.