The Waitangi Experience

Written By: - Date published: 1:59 pm, February 7th, 2017 - 26 comments
Categories: journalism, making shit up, Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

If you only have the media coverage to go by, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi are like a cross between the Trojan War and playtime at your local crèche.

Protesters clash with politicians, locals clash with the media, and Maori in general are blamed for ruining “our national day”. Waitangi Day is described as an “embarrassment”, as “cringe”, as “a shambles” and there are perennial suggestions for an alternate national day where we can all celebrate being one people with sunshine, happiness, butterflies and unicorns…

Even worse – politicians almost universally use Waitangi to try to score easy points with whichever group of potential voters, usually rednecks, they are targeting in any given year without a care for what it does to race relations overall as a consequence.

Social media goes crazy, bloggers get up in arms and Stuff commenters have a field day, mostly from a position of ignorance – and here’s the thing – I include myself in that albeit from a namby pamby pinko commie pakeha middle class liberal perspective on it!

Because, just like most of the other people who mouth off, despite having spent 40 Waitangi Days in New Zealand before this one, before yesterday I had never been to Waitangi on the 6th of February.

How could I possibly comment on any of it without having experienced it myself to know at least a tiny sliver of what I was talking about?

When I told some of my friends that I was going I got predictable enough responses… “Have you got $10,000 in case they think you’re media?” was one, but mostly people just looked at me like I was crazy. They didn’t say “what are you doing that for?” but I could tell they were thinking it…

But despite that, my partner and I set the alarm for 6am, jumped in the car and drove up from our home in Auckland.

And what we found when we arrived there bore absolutely no resemblance to what you see in the newspaper or on TV.

We arrived just before 10:30, paid $10 (not $10,000) to park at a nearby motel, and made straight for the beach, where a number of waka were setting out across the bay towards Russell.

Down by the infamous Te Tii Marae there was a large market with stalls selling all sorts of crafts as well as politics from various parties while streams of people of all ages and skin colours swarmed together over the bridge towards the Treaty Grounds, some carrying Tino Rangatiratanga and United Tribes flags as they went.

After a quick look through the lower market we joined the hoards and up to the massive market on the opposite side of the bridge. Here, we found so much amazing looking food to sample it was impossible to choose what to stuff our faces with first. There were also lots more stalls selling crafts, clothing and various health agencies promoting things like mental health awareness, breast cancer screening, and much, much more.

Then we made our way up through the Whare Waka to watch the Royal New Zealand Navy marching band lead a guard of honour onto the Treaty Grounds ahead of a very moving 21 gun salute from the HMS Canterbury moored out in the bay.

It was about this time that the heat of the day was getting a little bit much and we were feeling like sampling the watermelon and ice-cream delicacies that so many other people were cooling off with, so we headed back down to the market to get some. It was then that we ran into some trouble…

As we wandered back up the hill we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a large group of angry protesters! We had accidentally joined a march complete with flags, banners and chanting. We thought it would be impolite to ask what we were marching about so we just went with it – assuming they were airing some Treaty grievance that we would probably agree with, we joined in yelling “STAND UP FIGHT BACK!” and singing ‘Purea Nei’ in between mouthfuls of watermelon…

Then, when we marched onto the treaty ground, the crew up the front did a 180 degree turn and we finally got to read the leading banner – it was a protest against the drug P! I have to admit we were slightly disappointed, even though it’s still a worthy cause even if I do question whether the drug itself would have been listening to our waiata and chants and seeing the error of its ways…

By the time we decided, at around 3pm, that we should probably hit the road we had seen lots of spine tingling kapa haka, listened to a Kaitaia trio called ‘Soul Sisters’ sing some awesome disco tunes, enjoyed some hip hop dancing, and eaten the best wild game sausage I’ve ever tasted.

But most striking of all was what I didn’t see. I didn’t see Titewhai Harawira, I didn’t see Winston Peters, I didn’t see anyone get hit with mud and despite there being a reasonably substantial Police presence, I didn’t see a single incident to justify it. Actually, I didn’t see any agro at all – not one bit.

All I saw was Maori and Pakeha alike just enjoying a sunny day and celebrating the signing of the founding document of our country.

I think Waitangi Day IS a day when we can all celebrate being one people with sunshine, happiness, butterflies and unicorns… Or it can be a day when you sit at home and watch movies on Netflix. Or, if you’re determined to make it all about who insulted who at Te Tii Marae on the day before, clearly you can do that too.

Like most things in life, it is what you make it.

Enzo Giordani

26 comments on “The Waitangi Experience”

  1. Jenny Kirk 1

    That’s what most people experience at Waitangi, Enzo. A great day out, plenty of entertainment and plenty of sun. And if the tide is right, a dip in the sea to cool off.
    Its a long drive from Auckland tho. Pleased you came.

    • Ben Clark 1.1

      It’s been fabulous when I’ve been up there – hoping to go again next year. Such a happy place, a great festival all weekend. So beautiful…
      And a fantastic celebration that doesn’t deny that there are still real issues.

      Lloyd Burr gave festival side a bit of coverage on Waitangi night (rather than just the protesters, although they were of course first), I remember Peter Williams having a go at media/the country for its representation of Waitangi one year. But controversy/conflict always makes better news than a happy family friendly festival…

  2. Carolyn_nth 2

    Thanks, Enzo.

    No wonder many at te Tii Marae don’t want the media there. Until they are willing to give a fair representation of the activities at Waitangi, they should be banned from it all.

    It’s great to see an increase in Waitangi Day events around the country. But Waitangi itself has a special significance. Been to that beautiful place before, but not for Waitangi Day – one of the things I want to do before too long.

    The photos in the post show just how beautiful the place is.

  3. weka 3

    Thoroughly enjoyable post, thanks. I agree with Carolyn, the photos are great to see (Greg posted some good ones on FB too).

  4. ropata 4

    Had the same experience a couple of years ago, but it rained that day! There was lots of cool cultural stuff both Maori and European. And yeah the food stalls were terrific 🙂

    Foreign tourists probably get a better feel of what Waitangi Day is all about, because they actually *go* to Waitangi, Paihia and Ti beach.

    Again, Kiwis are kept in the dark by our ambulance chasing media.

  5. bwaghorn 5

    ”As we wandered back up the hill we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a large group of angry protesters! We had accidentally joined a march complete with flags, banners and chanting. We thought it would be impolite to ask what we were marching about so we just went with it – assuming they were airing some Treaty grievance that we would probably agree with”

    There by proving that a lot of protesters are muppets who will jump on any passing band wagon .

    • Brutus Iscariot 5.1

      Yes – that part just makes the OP sound like a fool.

      I can get behind the drive to rid the country of P though.

    • katipo 5.2

      Maybe they just preferred doing their thing at Waitangi to online ad hominem.

    • Enzo 5.3

      Well done for finding something negative to pick out of my post. Basically proves my point. 🙂

    • Macro 5.4

      And today we learn that the government is axing funding for a highly effective rehab programme for P addicts”
      I highly recommend all who have not heard ,to listen to this programme and see just why these people were marching!

      • greywarshark 5.4.1

        Yes I heard that Macro, was very impressed, by both the participants and the Sallies.
        The Health Dept are giving it the push because they have waved their magic wand of money at it for long enough, and now it is someone else’s turn. It makes no difference that it is doing real good, the people themselves are behind it and supporting it, and it is working in the most satisfactory way that any recovery and rehabilitation program could and in an area of need where a $ spent now will raise an individual plus their family out of bad addictions and give say, $100 savings over the next ten years.

        But this meanness, narrowness of thinking and stupidity fits in with the regular pattern of neo lib governments who are just managing the country, not meeting the people’s needs and providing the policies to solve the problems that are so noticeable, and like open sores on society.

        Feed a bit of money in here, a bit in there, pull it away after a while otherwise as it is well known (to the neo lib religion zombies), people get comfortable and become dependent and stop trying to be self-sufficient.

        It was a really good set of interviews by Kathryn Ryan who achieved empathy with all who gave us a really good idea of how the program was working and being effective.

        health crime
        9:09 am today
        Funding axed for gang drug rehab
        From Nine To Noon, 9:09 am today Monday 7/2/16

        Listen duration 20′ :14″
        The Hauora Programme helps recovering P addicts and was developed in partnership with the Salvation Army and the notorious chapter of the Mongrel Mob, with funding from the Ministry of Health. Kathryn Ryan speaks to Lynette Hutson, the National Director for Salvation Army Addiction Services and to Donna, whose family has benefited from the programme.

  6. Ad 6

    Excellent work Giordani thankyou

  7. left_forward 7

    I didn’t go this year – but this is certainly the real Waitangi, Waitangi Day of my experience. Thank you for sharing this – the good stuff just doesn’t make the news, so the more NZers go and find out for themselves the better for our country.

  8. One Anonymous Bloke 8

    Thanks for this post. It bears repeating annually. As regards the divisive agenda you describe, it’s worth asking “cui bono?

  9. Tarquin 9

    It’s always been a great family day up there, just avoid the politics.

    • Carolyn_nth 9.1

      Why avoid politics? Te Tiriti has been political for a long time – probably since 1840.

      For democracy to work, politics need to be discussed by all, wherever they ore, on whatever topic.

      Why are people so afraid to discuss politics? With the on-going gradual disintegration of democracy, we need more discussion of political issues, not less.

      We just need to stop the mainstream media from consistently presenting a slanted view of what happens on Waitangi Day.

      • mauī 9.1.1

        Why avoid politics? Te Tiriti has been political for a long time – probably since 1840.

        For democracy to work, politics need to be discussed by all, wherever they ore, on whatever topic.

        +tahi (+1)

        It should probably be our most political day of the year. We should embrace it.

  10. Tarquin 10

    Why not just celebrate the day? It’s one of the best days for the kids all year and always has been. Forget about the media turn off the T.V and have a great day. Celebrate how far we’ve come and look to a brighter future – I try too.

    • Carolyn_nth 10.1

      Well, that’s up to you if you don’t want to personally discuss politics at the events. Others, including Māori at Waitangi events in Auckland, do make political statements at some events.

      I enjoyed the music sunshine and community ethos at an event in Auckland yesterday. Last year the same event included more overt political statements from the stage: against TPPA, and the flag referendum. Both were enjoyable events.

      If people think there is a need to be political, it’s not for you to try to censor them.

  11. Corrie 11

    From what I understood talking to people in Paihia and Russel the day before, P is a major, major problem in Northland. I was told (but couldn’t substantiate) that kids as young as 8 or 9 were addicted, Regardless, this is a really important issue for Northland and whatever means can be used to highlight the problem, should be used.

  12. Leftie 12

    Really loved this article, thank you Enzo Giordani for sharing, it was a pleasure to read.

  13. Sam C 13

    Nice to read something positive for a change. Top post Enzo and well done on the early start!

  14. Venezia 14

    Good to read Enzo. I had a few nights up there in the last week but had to get back to work In CHC. Still a goal to be there one Waitangi day.

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