- Date published:
8:36 am, February 6th, 2018 - 84 comments
Categories: Media, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: bob jones, mike hosking, simon wilson, te tiriti o waitangi, waitangi, waitangi day
Mōrena, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
This is a rewrite of a blog post I have had a few goes at updated with recent events. The benefit of blogging is that you can repeat and refine. And something as important as Waitangi Day needs ongoing reassessment.
In 1973 in a stroke of brillance Crosby Textor could never dream of Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk on Waitangi day grabbed the hand of a young male Maori, and walked onto Waitangi Marae. The juxtaposition was exquisite, old and young, powerful and powerless, Pakeha and Maori. The feeling of partnership was overwhelming. The image cemented Big Norm’s status as one of the saints of the Labour Party.
And this year Jacinda Ardern has spent an extended period of time getting to know the locals, talking about Manaakitanga, being the first Wahine leader to be granted speaking rights at the Marae and generally making us all feel like the country is now in a better place. Waitangi day has been utterly transformed and the right wing bigots like Mike Hosking and Bob Jones, whose particularly racist rant was taken down by NBR after multiple complaints, have been left floundering and complaining about how bad the event was previously. They need to get with the present.
Ardern’s actions this week will be treated historically as even more important than Norm Kirk’s. Such is the mark of a true leader.
But don’t take my word for it. Simon Wilson in the Herald captures the events of the day very well in this article.
Protest was absent from Waitangi yesterday, and you don’t need to have a view on the rights or wrongs of the protests there, year after year, to recognise that history is alive and progressing.
Yesterday was Ardern’s first chance to say, formally and in public, to all of us, this is who we are now. To note that the relationship of Maori to Pakeha, of tangata whenua to everyone else, is the great defining project of this nation. To explain what she thinks that means and what she wants to do about it.
The wero, the challenge at the start of the powhiri, was especially ferocious. But the full impact of the occasion was manifest later, when Ardern became our first woman Prime Minister granted the right to speak from the porch of the whare runanga. She said, “We did not come just for the beauty of the North. We came because there is work to do.”
She told a personal story, of how her parents took the family to Waitangi once, and Jacinda was given the job of taking a photo of them. And just as she did so, her parents did that worst, most embarrassing thing of all, they kissed. “Passionately.”
She talked about “what we value”. Manakitanga, the spirit of generosity and caring. Kaitiakitanga, or guardianship. The importance of speaking kanohi ki te kanohi, or face to face.
“We don’t seek perfection,” she said. “Frank and open disagreement is a sign of health.”
She pointed, from the porch where she stood, across the lawn to the Treaty House. “That is the distance between us,” she said. And she listed the ways in which it is measured: unemployment, mental health, housing, incarceration.
This was her moment. “I believe in the power to change,” she said. “We as a Government know the failings, but we won’t always know how to change. We will come to you, to ask. No marae will be too small.
“And I ask you now, to ask us what we have done. You must hold us to account.”
Ardern has the leadership skill that John Key had: She instils confidence.
Bill English deciding to spend the day as far away from Waitangi as possible was the actions of yesterday’s leader. The real leadership went to Waitangi determined to make the event something the country could be proud of. And succeeded.
But the day needs to be about reflection as well as celebration. And the most egregious breaches of the treaty still cry out for justice.
Much has been written about the Treaty of Waitangi and the treachery of the Crown but I will try again to very briefly set out my understanding of what happened to show why I believe Maori have a right to feel aggrieved at their treatment. To any who disagree feel free to point out what you believe are my misunderstandings so that we can have a proper debate about the issue.
The treaty was part enlightenment and part reflection of the reality of the time. In 1840 Pakeha was heavily outnumbered by Maori in Aotearoa. Statistics New Zealand estimate that at the time there were no more than 2,050 Pakeha compared to 80,000 Maori in New Zealand. The Pakeha that were present were mainly traders and had no long term commitment to the place. But there were those interested in setting up colonies such as the Wakefield brothers who through the New Zealand Company had started to transport immigrants and promise landholdings in areas where they did not own land. And the French were coming.
The English wanted to control the colonisation of New Zealand and keep it to themselves. A treaty, any treaty with Iwi was vital. Captain William Hobson was sent to New Zealand with instructions to annex part of the land and place it under English rule. He was specifically instructed to sign a treaty with local Maori.
The treaty itself was drafted by the Missionary Henry Williams on February 4, 1840. The document was in Maori and English. The basic problem that has continued to cause so much controversy was the use of words with different meanings in each draft.
For instance in Article 1 the English version ceded sovereignty of New Zealand to the Crown. But in the Maori version the word “kawanatanga” was used. This has been translated to mean “governance” which is clearly not the same as “sovereignty”. And in Article 2 the English version guaranteed “undisturbed possession” of all their “properties”, but the Maori version guaranteed “tino rangatiratanga” (full authority) over “taonga” (treasures, which may be intangible).
The core problem is that the Maori version was signed by the parties. The fact that there was an English translation, clearly an incorrect one, should not affect the interpretation. The Maori version has to be given preference.
So Maori retained Tino Rangatiratanga of New Zealand and preserved full authority over its Taonga. Subsequent acts of confiscation were clearly in breach of this. And the obligation of the Crown to preserve for Maori their Taonga has caused many treaty claims to be made.
In a civilized society this should be acknowledged and the Treaty should be given full force. The Treaty settlements have been for extremely modest amounts given the size of the loss Maori have suffered. On Waitangi day this should be reflected on and respected.
Update: Enzo nails it in one tweet …