Well the lead-up to Waitangi Day this year has certainly had its fair share of drama! Our national day is clearly still a work in progress. But let’s hope that day itself goes smoothly for all those attending.
You can read Andrew Little’s thoughts on the day here:
Andrew Little: Waitangi a day for all of us to come together
Because the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi marks the beginning of unified, nationwide government in New Zealand, the head of our government, the Prime Minister, should be there. He should be representing the Government and all New Zealanders on our national day at the place of our nation’s birth.
By not fronting up at Waitangi, Mr English is failing an important leadership responsibility.
In a darkening world, the example we set, as a country, matters.
The places that used to light the world with their progressive thinking – their lights shine more dimly now.
We must never loosen our hold on what makes us who we are: a country that sets the standard for cooperation, for tolerance, for government that governs with compassion. We can show there’s a better path than isolation and bigotry.
For the last 40 years, our nation has embarked on the difficult journey of understanding some of the darker moments of our past, and reconciling ourselves to it. We have made good progress and there is more to do.
If we are truly to line up to the promise that the union of two peoples under the Treaty set us, we need a government that creates opportunity; that ensures our freedom; that lets us all have a fair share. A government prepared to play its part.
We can build a better New Zealand. But only if we build it together and include everyone.
For me, that is what Waitangi Day is all about.
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 wing nut out there 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.
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.