Reflections of a New Zealander on Waitangi Day

Today is Waitangi Day. It is the day in 1840 on which Commodore James Hobson signed the Treaty of Waitangi with Maori chiefs. Te Tiriti O Waitangi was intended to give the British sovereignty over New Zealand, and the Governor the right to govern the country. The Maori view differed somewhat in that they had ceded the right to governance without giving up the right to manage their own affairs.

I will be honest. There have been days when I have been quietly embarrassed with watching protests on or near the Treaty grounds. Whether it is scuffles with the Police, the angry woman throwing the wet t-shirt at a member of the Royal Family or the inflammatory speech by the then Leader of the Opposition Dr Don Brash in 2004, the politics has tested my patience from time to time. I would like like most other New Zealanders to see the shenanigans that are prone to erupting on this day to be put on ice indefinitely. Despite this, I acknowledge that in other countries where indigenous peoples exist, such as Australia and Canada simply getting politicians to acknowledge historic wrongs and rectify them is still an ongoing problem.

Although it is officially our national day, I and a lot of other native New Zealanders feel that there is a lot more dignity shown at the A.N.Z.A.C. Day ceremonies on 25 April. Certainly the respect for the causes of that particular holiday is much greater. Shops are shut until 1300 hours and many do not open at all out of respect for those who served in the various wars New Zealand has been a part of. I wonder how well that would be received on Waitangi Day. For many New Zealanders it is a public holiday and a chance to get away with the family/friends for a day. I however will be working.

But let us not play down the significance of this day. It is the day Aotearoa became New Zealand. It is the day that New Zealand became a British colony, which cleared the way for the colonization of the country by the British. Perhaps this is just as well for the French were actively eyeing up New Zealand as a colony and like the British a few years before, they had started establishing small settler villages. Such was the case of Akaroa, a picturesque township on Banks Peninsula.

However, France or no France, it is important to note the colonization of New Zealand did not go entirely to plan and during the 1850’s and 1860’s a number of running clashes with British settlers commonly known as the Maori Land Wars took place. There were atrocities committed by both sides. Land was confiscated and Pa’s (fortified villages)were raided. Some Maori hapu (sub tribes) who had made peace or were seen as useful supported the British in return for weapons and knowledge.

In the years since the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process started, much great progress has been made. Successive Labour and National led governments have successfully signed off on settlements with Iwi as big as Ngai Tahu as well as a number of Hapu.

I am absolutely certain that this Treaty grievances settlement process must be borne out to its full, fair and final conclusion. The work that started because of peaceful  I am absolutely certain that failure to do so will in the long term possibly permanently impede the development of relations between Maori and non-Maori*. However I am also certain that those Iwi and Hapu who have settled need to as best as they can now try to move on, and accept that the Crown has made an effort  to resolve grievances. The failure of parties such as Mana in Parliament and the low regard with which both Maori and non-Maori generally hold people like  separatist politician Hone Harawira and his mother Titewhai suggest New Zealanders are getting tired of Waitangi Day politicking.

But whatever your views and regardless of whomever you support in Parliament, have a very happy Waitangi Day and stop to reflect on how and why we are Kiwi’s.

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