Waitangi Day at Government House in Wellington


On Friday, Bruce and I went to Government House, along with over 3,000 other New Zealanders, to attend the 175th year observation of Waitangi Day. What a wonderful way to observe this truly important day in New Zealand’s history. We were among the invitees because of the work Bruce is doing for World Skills NZ, an international organisation that recognises and encourages excellence in the trades by giving young people the opportunity to meet and compete with the best from over 75 countries.

The convoy to the event began in the centre of town and we joined a steady stream of diplomatic cars, taxis and private cars up into the beautiful gardens surrounding Government House, a very grand building. I had never been there before and I felt privileged to be among the crowd lining up for strawberries, gelato, and wine while taking nibbles from the trays of food being passed around. But the biggest privilege of all was to be among people representing many countries and especially beside the people who represented the first signatories to our founding document.

Now to the most important moment, when the Governor General, Sir Jerry Mataparae, stepped out on the raised patio with his wife, Janine, to welcome us all and to deliver his speech.

The Governor General’s speech focused, not on the ills and injustices since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, but on the gains we have made. He acknowledged Lord Bledisloe who purchased the 1,000 acres at Waitangi and set the land aside for the annual commemoration we now hold. Without his foresight, we would have no significant event to remind us every year of our obligations as Treaty partners.

This reminder has proven its worth over the years as we have steadily, and often very painfully, staggered toward righting the wrongs over the last 175 years. Every year Maori have reminded us of what we agreed to when our Pakeha ancestors settled here. Now we have started a settlement process in good faith and we are seeing the benefit of that progress.

Sir Jerry Mataparae said, “There’s been considerable progress in Treaty settlements. While it’s true to say that they can’t undo the wrongs committed in the past, the settlements have gone some way towards restoring an economic and cultural base for iwi…”

His vision for his grandchildren (mokopuna) should have inspired all New Zealanders to work harder to make New Zealand a united country looking forward and not back, because we surely all want what he envisioned.

“By the time of the bicentenary in 2040, I like to think that my mokopuna will live in a New Zealand where we can see the success of post-settlement enterprises reflected in equally impressive social and economic indicators.”

On 12th February, the Governor General visited a remote place in the Hokianga to commemorate the first place where the signatories gathered to sign the Treaty, Mangunu. It is an idyllic spot and quite awe-inspiring to imagine the flotilla of waka (canoes) arriving there. This place saw the beginning of a partnership, which has had a varied history. However, I like to think that on that occasion everyone began the partnership in good faith, believing in a united future between Maori and Pakeha.

I think Friday was an expression of that hope, with the New Zealand flag and the Tino Rangitiratanga* flag flying side by side on the roof of Government House. Article 11 of the Maori version of the Treaty promises Maori Rangitiratanga giving them sovereignty over all things Maori. The English translation uses Kawanatanga (governorship). That difference has been behind many fraught debates over the years. The proverb before which the Governor General quoted tells us that there are many benefits to sharing what we all have.

He finished with this proverb or whakatauki: “Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourou ka ora ai te iwi – with your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive.”

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