From Waitangi’s Waitangi Day to New Zealand’s Waitangi Day

National MP Nuk Koraka explains Why Bill English and I went south for Waitangi Day

By using our national day to engage with iwi from all over the country, we send a message that we’re serious about the spirit of the Treaty instead of being where there will be the most cameras, writes Nuk Korako, National’s spokesperson for Māori Development

Waitangi Day is a day for discussion; a day for remembering; and a day for moving forward not, as some believe, a day for highlighting divisions. Waitangi Day should be – and for most of us is – a day to look back at what has been and come together to look at what can be.

This year, I joined Bill English for Ngāi Tahu’s Waitangi Day celebrations at Te Rau Aroha Marae in Awarua. The decision to go south this year was based on our belief that Waitangi Day is a day important to all Māori across New Zealand, and was in no way a slight on Ngāpuhi, as some have suggested.

The rich history and tikanga felt within the Treaty Grounds made it an undeniably special place to spend Waitangi Day.

We must always remember, the Treaty has signatories across the country, so it is only right to travel to those places like Awarua, in acknowledgement of that. As did our National Party members who attended Waitangi this year. Bill, I and a number of our colleagues spent the day engaging and discussing the progress and the work still to do between the Crown and iwi across New Zealand.

Iwi everywhere have their own stories of the Treaty and what Waitangi Day means to them and that includes Ngāi Tahu. One hundred and seventy eight years ago, on 10 June 1840, Ngāi Tahu Rakatira John Tuhawaiki, Kaikoura Whakatau, and Te Matenga Taiaroa signed the Treaty of Waitangi on Ruapuke Island just across from Awarua. Iwikau and Hone Tikao had previously signed at Akaroa on 30 May. Hone Karetai and my tipuna Korako were to sign in Otago on 13 June 1848.

The Tiriti o Waitangi was a nationwide agreement. Waitangi Day is overwhelmingly focussed on the place it was first signed, Waitangi, while most of the rest of the country largely ignores it, apart from some enjoying a public holiday for some.

By using our national day to engage with iwi from all over the country, we send a message that we’re serious about the spirit of the Treaty instead of being where there’ll be the most cameras.

The Treaty, to other iwi in New Zealand, does not begin and end at Waitangi. The Treaty is not about a place – it’s about people.  It’s not a location – it’s an agreement. And it was an agreement made with a large number of Rakatira across a number of different locations. And the debates that were held in those various locations were as deep, hot, and contentious as the ones that occurred at Waitangi all those decades ago.

Bill’s decision to spend Waitangi in Awarua is not a rejection of Ngapuhi or of others who attend Waitangi. It’s about the rest of the iwi of Aotearoa whose men and women signed the treaty 178 years ago.

The history of protest at Waitangi, and the actions of protesters in drawing attention to themselves is a feature of that part of the country. It does not and never has represented the celebrations that occur in other parts of Aotearoa.

From Ōrākei in Auckland to Awarua in Bluff and even across to the Chatham Islands, February the 6th is a day of whānau, community, and a coming together of Māori and Pākehā to celebrate an event that defines us as a nation.

If Waitangi Day is ever to be recognised as a significant national day then it needs to be embraced and celebrated around the country.

Jacinda Ardern got a lot of positive press for her five day effort in Waitangi, and may have been the catalyst for a new era of recognising Waitangi Day.

But Koroko and English have made an important point.

To really come of age the treaty needs to grow from being Waitangi’s Waitangi Day to being New Zealand’s Waitangi Day.

Will that ever happen?

 

Ardern at Waitangi

In the little I heard about Jacinda Ardern’s speech at Waitangi yesterday – remarkably the first time a woman has been allowed to speak on the occasion – she seems to have been thoughtful, sensible and engaging.

She said she would continue to engage over several days at Waitangi in future years. That’s fine, but she could do with remembering even the treaty toured the country.

RNZ – PM to Māori at Waitangi: hold govt to account

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delivered an historic speech at Waitangi, standing on the porch of the whare rūnanga.

Ms Ardern delivered her speech during the formal welcome – a first for a female prime minister – touching on the future, her hopes for her child, and her hopes for the future of Crown-Māori relations.

She said she did not take lightly the privilege extended to her to speak from the porch, as a Prime Minister and as a woman. She said she was particularly proud to stand alongside the largest contingent of Māori MPs in the Labour party, and each and every one of them represented their people, she said.

 

“As a government we have been here for five days. We did not come simply for the beauty and hospitality of the North. We came because there is work to do, much mahi to do and we will only achieve what needs to be done together.

“So in this five days we have talked about education, health, employment, roads, housing. But now we must take the talk to action. This is the beginning for our government and I thank you.”

“We have to also start thinking as a nation of what extends beyond the negotiating table. That is not the end of our relationship nor is it the end of the Crown’s responsibility.

“We created the portfolio as an acknowledgement that our relationship goes beyond the negotiating table.”

“My first time here I was probably no more than 7 years old.

“My father brought his two daughters to the treaty grounds … he wanted us to learn the history of the place we were living and lucky enough to call home.

“I can’t help think of the kinds of things I would want my child to think about as they come on to these grounds and to this place. My hope is that they know this place’s history. That they know of the 28 October and the declaration of independence.

“My hope is that they would know of the history of [Waitangi] and those stories may be hard to hear but I am certain they are even harder to tell. That is our history and we must always be honest about our history.”

“I hope that they know the value of kaitiakitanga – that we have a role as guardians of our environment … and I hope they know that we value the ability to speak frankly and openly to one another – kanohi ki te kanohi – face to face.

“We should never shy away from that because if we don’t speak freely how do we change?

“If we value that about ourselves as a nation 364 days of the year, why would we not value it here at Waitangi? Speaking frankly and openly is not a sign of failure, but a sign of the health of our nation.

“I also hope that my child will know that we have the power to change and we must change.

“We as a government, we know what we have to do. We know all of the failings that we have as a nation but we won’t always know exactly how to change it.

“There will be no marae too small for us.

“So when we return in one year, in three years, I ask you to ask of us ‘what have we done?’ Ask us what we have done to improve poverty … ask us, hold us to account.

“Because one day I want to be able to tell my child that I earned the right to stand here, and only you can tell me when I have done that.”

Speaking to Morning Report, Ardern said she felt like she had been given the privilege of being a part of history.

WAITANGI DAY

Today is Waitangi Day, a day of commemoration at signing of the Te Tiriti O Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi at Waitangi in the far north of New Zealand. Most of the focus will be on Waitangi, but there will also be events in some other parts of the country.


New Zealand History: The Treaty in brief

he Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document. It takes its name from the place in the Bay of Islands where it was first signed, on 6 February 1840. This day is now a public holiday in New Zealand. The Treaty is an agreement, in Māori and English, that was made between the British Crown and about 540 Māori rangatira (chiefs).

Growing numbers of British migrants arrived in New Zealand in the late 1830s, and there were plans for extensive settlement. Around this time there were large-scale land transactions with Māori, unruly behaviour by some settlers and signs that the French were interested in annexing New Zealand. The British government was initially unwilling to act, but it eventually realised that annexing the country could protect Māori, regulate British subjects and secure commercial interests.

Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson had the task of securing British sovereignty over New Zealand. He relied on the advice and support of, among others, James Busby, the British Resident in New Zealand. The Treaty was prepared in just a few days. Missionary Henry Williams and his son Edward translated the English draft into Māori overnight on 4 February. About 500 Māori debated the document for a day and a night before it was signed on 6 February.

Hobson and others stressed the Treaty’s benefits while playing down the effects of British sovereignty on rangatiratanga (chiefly authority). Reassured that their status would be strengthened, many chiefs supported the agreement. About 40 chiefs, starting with Hōne Heke, signed the Māori version of the Treaty on 6 February.

By September, another 500 had signed the copies of the document that were sent around the country. Some signed while remaining uncertain; others refused or had no chance to sign. Almost all signed the Māori text. The Colonial Office in England later declared that the Treaty applied to Māori tribes whose chiefs had not signed. British sovereignty over the country was proclaimed on 21 May 1840.

The Treaty is a broad statement of principles on which the British and Māori made a political compact to found a nation state and build a government in New Zealand. The document has three articles. In the English version, Māori cede the sovereignty of New Zealand to Britain; Māori give the Crown an exclusive right to buy lands they wish to sell, and, in return, are guaranteed full rights of ownership of their lands, forests, fisheries and other possessions; and Māori are given the rights and privileges of British subjects.

The Treaty in Māori was deemed to convey the meaning of the English version, but there are important differences. Most significantly, the word ‘sovereignty’ was translated as ‘kawanatanga’ (governance). Some Māori believed they were giving up government over their lands but retaining the right to manage their own affairs.

KO WIKITORIA te Kuini o Ingarani i tana mahara atawai ki nga Rangatira me nga Hapu o Nu Tirani i tana hiahia hoki kia tohungia ki a ratou o ratou rangatiratanga me to ratou wenua, a kia mau tonu hoki te Rongo ki a ratou me te Atanoho hoki kua wakaaro ia he mea tika kia tukua mai tetahi Rangatira – hei kai wakarite ki nga Tangata maori o Nu Tirani – kia wakaaetia e nga Rangatira Maori te Kawanatanga o te Kuini ki nga wahikatoa o te wenua nei me nga motu – na te mea hoki he tokomaha ke nga tangata o tona Iwi Kua noho ki tenei wenua, a e haere mai nei.

Na ko te Kuini e hiahia ana kia wakaritea te Kawanatanga kia kaua ai nga kino e puta mai ki te tangata Maori ki te Pakeha e noho ture kore ana.

Na kua pai te Kuini kia tukua a hau a Wiremu Hopihona he Kapitana i te Roiara Nawi hei Kawana mo nga wahi katoa o Nu Tirani e tukua aianei amua atu ki te Kuini, e mea atu ana ia ki nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani me era Rangatira atu enei ture ka korerotia nei.

Ko te tuatahi

Ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa hoki ki hai i uru ki taua wakaminenga ka tuku rawa atu ki te Kuini o Ingarani ake tonu atu – te Kawanatanga katoa o o ratou wenua.

Ko te tuarua

Ko te Kuini o Ingarani ka wakarite ka wakaae ki nga Rangitira ki nga hapu – ki nga tangata katoa o Nu Tirani te tino rangatiratanga o o ratou wenua o ratou kainga me o ratou taonga katoa. Otiia ko nga Rangatira o te wakaminenga me nga Rangatira katoa atu ka tuku ki te Kuini te hokonga o era wahi wenua e pai ai te tangata nona te Wenua – ki te ritenga o te utu e wakaritea ai e ratou ko te kai hoko e meatia nei e te Kuini hei kai hoko mona.

Ko te tuatoru

Hei wakaritenga mai hoki tenei mo te wakaaetanga ki te Kawanatanga o te Kuini – Ka tiakina e te Kuini o Ingarani nga tangata maori katoa o Nu Tirani ka tukua ki a ratou nga tikanga katoa rite tahi ki ana mea ki nga tangata o Ingarani.

(signed) William Hobson, Consul and Lieutenant-Governor.

Na ko matou ko nga Rangatira o te Wakaminenga o nga hapu o Nu Tirani ka huihui nei ki Waitangi ko matou hoki ko nga Rangatira o Nu Tirani ka kite nei i te ritenga o enei kupu, ka tangohia ka wakaaetia katoatia e matou, koia ka tohungia ai o matou ingoa o matou tohu.

Ka meatia tenei ki Waitangi i te ono o nga ra o Pepueri i te tau kotahi mano, e waru rau e wa te kau o to tatou Ariki.

The English version guaranteed ‘undisturbed possession’ of all their ‘properties’, but the Māori version guaranteed ‘tino rangatiratanga’ (full authority) over ‘taonga’ (treasures, which may be intangible). Māori understanding was at odds with the understanding of those negotiating the Treaty for the Crown, and as Māori society valued the spoken word, explanations given at the time were probably as important as the wording of the document.

HER MAJESTY VICTORIA Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland regarding with Her Royal Favor the Native Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and anxious to protect their just Rights and Property and to secure to them the enjoyment of Peace and Good Order has deemed it necessary in consequence of the great number of Her Majesty’s Subjects who have already settled in New Zealand and the rapid extension of Emigration both from Europe and Australia which is still in progress to constitute and appoint a functionary properly authorised to treat with the Aborigines of New Zealand for the recognition of Her Majesty’s Sovereign authority over the whole or any part of those islands – Her Majesty therefore being desirous to establish a settled form of Civil Government with a view to avert the evil consequences which must result from the absence of the necessary Laws and Institutions alike to the native population and to Her subjects has been graciously pleased to empower and to authorise me William Hobson a Captain in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy Consul and Lieutenant-Governor of such parts of New Zealand as may be or hereafter shall be ceded to her Majesty to invite the confederated and independent Chiefs of New Zealand to concur in the following Articles and Conditions.

Article the first [Article 1]

The Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand and the separate and independent Chiefs who have not become members of the Confederation cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty which the said Confederation or Individual Chiefs respectively exercise or possess, or may be supposed to exercise or to possess over their respective Territories as the sole sovereigns thereof.

Article the second [Article 2]

Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession; but the Chiefs of the United Tribes and the individual Chiefs yield to Her Majesty the exclusive right of Preemption over such lands as the proprietors thereof may be disposed to alienate at such prices as may be agreed upon between the respective Proprietors and persons appointed by Her Majesty to treat with them in that behalf.

Article the third [Article 3]

In consideration thereof Her Majesty the Queen of England extends to the Natives of New Zealand Her royal protection and imparts to them all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects.

(signed) William Hobson, Lieutenant-Governor.

Now therefore We the Chiefs of the Confederation of the United Tribes of New Zealand being assembled in Congress at Victoria in Waitangi and We the Separate and Independent Chiefs of New Zealand claiming authority over the Tribes and Territories which are specified after our respective names, having been made fully to understand the Provisions of the foregoing Treaty, accept and enter into the same in the full spirit and meaning thereof in witness of which we have attached our signatures or marks at the places and the dates respectively specified. Done at Waitangi this Sixth day of February in the year of Our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty.

Different understandings of the Treaty have long been the subject of debate. From the 1970s especially, many Māori have called for the terms of the Treaty to be honoured. Some have protested – by marching on Parliament and by occupying land. There have been studies of the Treaty and a growing awareness of its meaning in modern New Zealand.

It is common now to refer to the intention, spirit or principles of the Treaty. The Treaty of Waitangi is not considered part of New Zealand domestic law, except where its principles are referred to in Acts of Parliament. The exclusive right to determine the meaning of the Treaty rests with the Waitangi Tribunal, a commission of inquiry created in 1975 to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty by the Crown. More than 2000 claims have been lodged with the tribunal, and a number of major settlements have been reached.

See also a pdf version of the Treaty with explanatory footnotes by Professor Hugh Kawhar

 

Te Tii Marae off Waitangi welcoming duties

Te Tii Marae will be informed this morning they will no longer host official welcomes preceding Waitangi Day celebrations.

Newshub:  Te Tii Marae will no longer host Waitangi welcomes

A meeting will be held at Te Tii Marae this morning where trustees will be informed they will no longer host official welcome ceremonies for dignitaries and Members of Parliament.

Chairman of the Waitangi National Trust, Pita Paraone, says those ceremonies will instead be held at Te Whare Rūnanga, the upper marae at the Treaty grounds.

“I think there will be some resistance… so I just wanted to have the opportunity of speaking to them face to face,” he said.

Mr Paraone says although he received repeated requests in recent years to move the celebrations up to the Treaty grounds, the latest problems were the last straw.

“I’ve been reluctant to act on that request, but I think this year has brought it to the conclusion that we perhaps need to move the powhiri away from Te Tii Marae and allow them to just settle down and reflect on the consequences of what they chose to do this year.”

“People had respect for both our visitors and our taumata (elders) ,” Mr Paraone said. “Unfortunately that’s been lost over recent years and people have tended to forget what is the real intention of welcoming visitors. They seem to have forgotten that concept.”

Mr Paraone believes moving the ceremonies away from Te Tii Marae is the appropriate decision for the time being.

It had become an attention seeking farce, with no sign of any serious or effective effort to sort it out, so this change isn’t surprising.

Two remarkable speeches almost ignored

From Simon Wilson at The Spinoff:

PM Bill English gave two speeches on Waitangi Day. Both were remarkable. Both were almost entirely ignored

It’s good to see Wilson not ignoring them, but very poor of media generally – their obsession with trivia means they often miss important things.

The prime minister spent his first Waitangi Day in office not at the treaty grounds, but at Bastion Point, where Simon Wilson watched him give two of the most surprising Waitangi speeches in living memory.

Did you know Bill English used Waitangi Day to praise the great protest struggle of Bastion Point?

I didn’t know that until I saw Wilson’s article.

He made two speeches on the marae at Bastion Point that day, both of them in front of TV cameras and other media. Almost none of what he said got reported. Instead, there was a frenzy of excitement over his utterly inconsequential phone call with Donald Trump. But what the prime minister said on the marae at Bastion Point was extraordinary.

English chose not to go to Waitangi, preferring to attend a breakfast hosted by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei. When it came his turn to speak during the powhiri, which was held inside the wharenui, he began with a short mihi and then he said, “I want to tell you why I’ve come here, to this marae.”

He said it was because of what had been achieved by Ngāti Whātua and the manner of its achievement. He spoke directly to Joe Hawke, the much-loved Uncle Joe, the man who in 1976-78 led a 506-day protest “occupation” of the very land they were on that day.

He told them the modern history of Ngāti Whātua was a story of great success. And he wanted them to know he did not view the protest as an aberration in that story, but as a vital part of it. Later, over breakfast in the wharekai, he built on his theme.

There was a large audience – Ngāti Whātua, politicians, community representatives and media – and he said we are all engaged in a “great enterprise” of building a country based on “fairness, tolerance and respect”. Then he said, “We’ve all got better at it because of our struggles over the treaty.”

That’s true, but the general population has a way to go on this.

He said he knew what it cost the kaumātua who negotiated treaty settlements. At another iwi, one leader had told him he’d been unable to sleep the night before they signed. “He said he struggled with the burden of knowing he must say to his ancestors, ‘That’s enough.’ And he struggled with the responsibility of saying the same to his descendants.”

There are so many ways in which treaty settlements are different for Māori and Pākehā, and that’s one of them: Pākehā don’t think like that.

I don’t think Pākehā can think like that, but we can try to understand what it’ may be like. (See The soft and loud of “Pākehā” on ‘Pākehā’)

English also said, “Ngāti Whātua’s future is New Zealand’s future.” It wasn’t a mere platitude about diverse peoples coming together in national unity. He was pointing specifically to the economic and cultural importance of iwi to whole country.

“In the regions,” he said, “and I include Auckland in that, I would say that almost without exception the organisations that are most committed to development are the local iwi.”

That’s another remarkable thing for him to say. Iwi are economic powerhouses in the regions and major agents of social cohesion. Despite what Don Brash and his band of Hobson’s Pledge ostriches might want us to think, they’re not stripping the country of its assets and infrastructure – they’re building them.

“But,” English added, speaking not just of iwi but of the government and the country as a whole, “much as we have good intentions the truth is we have not met our aspirations.” He cited domestic violence, educational underachievement and the high rate of imprisonment: “These things are the signs of failure.”

Failures that are a complex mix of personal responsibilities, societal responsibilities and Government responsibilities.

Which is why, he said, Whānau Ora is important. Whānau Ora, which empowers iwi and smaller communities within them to develop services and direct them where they are needed most. Whānau Ora, said English, “represents the best and truest chance of the next 20 to 30 years”.

The takeaways were provocative. First, have we ever before had a National Party prime minister who speaks so unequivocally in support of Māori agency – and of Māori activism that lays the foundation for Māori agency?

Second, if the Bastion Point protest was historically invaluable, what does that say for other protest movements today – inside Māoridom and more widely?

Third, if English will say these things on the marae, will he say them in Parliament, and in the regions, to business groups and to his own party – will he say them to audiences who are not already primed to agree? He’s a diffident leader, a quiet explainer more than an engaging winner of hearts and minds, and he’s as liable as most politicians to duck the difficult issues when it’s hard to stand up for them.

Wilson closed by saying it is not the Prime Minister’s fault if important things he says are not given the media coverage they deserve. But it’s a shame. What English said on Waitangi Day deserves exposure – those of us who are not Maori can learn and understand more about treaty issues,and we can learn more about what English is prepared to speak about as our Prime Minister.

Waitangi Day

Waitangi was the first place inn which the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, beginning on 6 February 1840. It took until September to complete the signing as the treaty was taken around the country. Over 500 Maori signed it – and just the one non-Maori, on behalf of the Queen of England.

However you do Waitangi Day have a good one.

Te Tii Marae trying to charge media

Is this another reason why Waitangi celebrations should be spread more around the country?

Newshub: Waitangi marae’s $10k coverage fee

Waitangi’s lower Te Tii Marae is seeking to charge media outlets up to $10,000 to film dignitaries and politicians arriving on Saturday and Sunday.

The marae’s communications liaison, known simply as ‘Tana’, says the tradition of media companies gifting a koha to the Marae has been scrapped, and replaced with a ‘coverage fee’.

The cheapest ‘coverage fee’ is $1200, which gives entry to journalists, photographers, and camera operators – but restricts them to two areas of the marae grounds.

The only other option is an ‘exclusive package’ costing $10,000 which gives access to all parts of the marae, including inside during speeches.

Newshub was offered the exclusive rights last night but declined.  It’s understood TVNZ was then approached, but also refused.

Media can be a pain, what they broadcast, print and post is selective and at times can misrepresent the overall situation, but charging them for coverage of New Zealand’s major annual celebration seems more than cheeky.

Another reason why Waitangi Day celebrations should not focus so much on one place.

Ngapuhi elder backs PM’s Waitangi decision

While there has been some criticism of Prime Minister Bill English’s decision not to attend the contentious part of the Waitangi celebrations there has also been a lot of support.

Ngapuhi elder Kingi Taurua, on reviewing  an exchange of letters between English’s office and the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee, has switched to supporting English’s stance, saying he had egg on his face after his initial criticism.

NZ Herald: Ngapuhi elder now backs PM’s Waitangi no show: ‘I wouldn’t go either’

A Ngapuhi elder says he wants to apologise to Prime Minister Bill English for calling him a “spoilt child” for not attending Waitangi – saying he now backs English’s decision to stay away.

Kingi Taurua said since making his criticism of English he had seen a letter that was sent to the Prime Minister’s office by the Waitangi Marae Organising Committee.

That stated that during the pre-Waitangi Day powhiri it was preferred that English’s “Maori representatives” speak on his behalf. After the powhiri there would be another event where English and others could freely talk, including about political issues.

Taurua told the Herald that he had mistakenly believed that English had only been told he could not talk politics during the powhiri.

He now felt he had “egg on my face” after he called on English not to be “a spoilt child and run away”, and wanted to meet the Prime Minister on his return from an official visit to Europe to offer an apology.

“I wouldn’t go either. If I got that letter, telling me not to speak and to get somebody else to speak on my behalf, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the place.”

“I want these guys [on the organising committee] out. I want these young bucks to get out. I want now the elderly people to take control of Waitangi Day.

“I’m not happy at all. A lot of the tribe are not happy.”

Taurua said there would be a meeting at Waitangi today.

The letters are here: PM and Waitangi Marae

Also John Armstrong: The tiresome antics at Waitangi have undermined the power and symbolism of the occasion

Bill English has done the right thing in following John Key’s example and opting to maintain National’s prime ministerial boycott of national day commemorations at Waitangi.

That remains the case, despite English opening himself up to accusations that his refusal to front at the birthplace of the nation’s founding document, on the anniversary of its signing, amounts to both a serious dereliction of prime ministerial duty failure of leadership.

The new prime minister’s decision to follow in his predecessor’s footsteps, and stay away from Waitangi, is the right one not only for himself.

It is the right one for the National Party.

Of even more significance, it is more likely than not the right decision for the country.

The brutal truth is that while the Treaty’s influence has grown to the point where it is now cemented into New Zealand’s unwritten constitution, Waitangi Day is sinking under the weight of its conflicting roles.

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.

Waitangi Day ‘cringe’

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.