Waitangi Day 6th February 2015
Kevin P Clements
The 6th February , Waitangi Day is a national holiday in New Zealand. It marks the 175th annversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. Te Tiriti is the founding document of New Zealand and established a 19th century contract between the British Crown and the indigenous peoples of Aotearoa-New Zealand. This Treaty paved the way for systematic colonisation and expropriation of the lands of this country. Its content and meaning were bitterly fought over during the New Zealand wars of the 1860s and 70s. Whatever we may think about the Treaty it enshrines an equal partnership between Maori and Pakeha. This partnership has more often than not been observed in the breach rather than in reality but we are beginning to make progress towards just and peaceful relationships between the people of the land Tangata Whenua and all the subsequent migrants to New Zealand-Mana Whenua.
New Zealand in the 21st century is based on a bicultural treaty but we are now very multi cultural. The fastest growing immigrant communities are Indian and Chinese. I celebrate this diversity just as I honour and acknowledge the fundamental bicultural relationship that lies at the heart of this small country.
The challenge confronting us now is how we weave these diverse threads of our community into a society and polity that is equal and just, resilient, robust, compassionate and caring. We need to build on the world-first emancipation of women, promotion of workers’ rights, the welfare state and the development of an enviable education system to ensure that we create an inclusive, exciting, hybridised cultural identity that will enable our core values to survive into the 22nd century!
So this is a day to give thanks to those who signed the Treaty, to give thanks to those who came afterwards and to those who welcomed the strangers. It is a time to give thanks for all our music, art, theatre and literature. It is a time to give thanks for what is and to make sure that we develop a society of which all can be proud and all are included.
Its a time to think about how we can really ensure that NZ is clean, green and sustainable. Its a time to think about an independent foreign policy again instead of being sucked into other people’s wars and conflicts.
But most of all this day a time to korero with Maori about ways in which we Pakeha can truly honour our side of the Treaty.
Oh and yes its my daughter Elwyn Clements’ 41st birthday. She was born on the day that Prime Minister Norm Kirk designated we celebrate what he called NZ day but which is now Waitangi Day. So Happy 41st Elwyn and happy 175th New Zealand and happy 1,000th to all those migrants from Polynesia who settled these lands a millennium ago!
I’m including a photograph of the Tino Rangatiratangi flag which many hope will some day replace the NZ ensign built around the Union Jack!!