Waitangi Day lives up to its tradition of sobriety and piety

Waitangi Day Dawn Service at Waitangi on February 6, 2023 (RNZ Screen Grab)

But despite a ‘little controversy,’ the National Day was sublime

Venkat Raman
Auckland, February 7, 2023

Waitangi Day celebrations held yesterday (February 6, 2023) as in the past, were marked by solemnity, piety and a large gathering of Maori leaders followed by the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, Ministers, Members of Parliament and the media at the Waitangi Grounds.

From the Dawn Ceremony which began at 5 am at Te Whare Runanga and the Flag Hoisting Ceremony accompanied by a Scottish Bagpiper to the Waka Parade in front of Te Tii Waitangi Marae and the Interdenominational Church Service, it was an event to remember.

It also defined who we are as a nation, the significance of the Treaty signed 183 years at the same site and the events that followed over decades. The Waitangi Day 21 Gun Salute by the Royal New Zealand Navy at Flagstaff at noon was one of the high points of the ceremonies.

After the Hatea Kapa Haka followed the Maori Soul, Pop and Jazz Music, the fast rhymes and melodies with elements of Hip Hop, Reggae and Soul.

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaking at the Waitangi Dawn Service (RNZ Photo by Nathan McKinnon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later in the afternoon, Don McGlashan and The Others- one of the foremost songwriters and artists of our country performed with Mark Bell (Blam, Blam, Blam), Chris O’Connor of the Phoenix Foundation, James Duncan (Dimmer) and Anita Clarke (Motte).

Waitangi Day Celebrations began on Friday, February 3, 2023 at Te Tii Waitangi Mare with prayers, Forum Tent Presentations on Te Tiriti and discussions. Stall selling arts, crafts and educational materials opened the following day (Saturday, February 4, 2023) and continued on Sunday, February 5, 2023. Competitions were held under the ‘Leadership’ theme, while the Upper Treaty Grounds hosted the Parliamentary Powhiri with the Royal New Zealand Navy Band with the Beat Retreat and the Ceremonial Sunset.

Reflection and Celebration

Chris Hipkins, who attended the Waitangi Dawn Service, described the event as a moving service and that Waitangi Day is a Day of Reflection and Celebration.

“The Treaty of Waitangi (signed on February 6, 1840) was a bold and visionary decision. We should come here to commemorate the event and not discuss politics. Politicians have often been criticised for using Maori as a vote-gathering exercise. I find it abhorrent,” he said.

National Party Leader and Leader of the Opposition Christopher Luxon caught the media’s attention when he innocuously referred to the Treaty as a ‘little experiment.’

National Party Leader Christopher Luxon speaking at the Waitangi Day Celebrations

 

We started on February 6, 1840 as a little experiment, and look at us now, a 21st-century success story able to tackle the challenges that come our way,” he said in his speech at the Mare.

Mr Hipkins said that he would like to keep politics out of Waitangi Day and claimed that the Labour government had done so over the years.

“I would like the Waitangi Day to be more of a commemoration and celebration. I have been attending the celebrations for the past 15 years and it has been a positive experience. As Prime Minister, I will try and preserve a sense of unity and common purpose. As we have seen in the past, it is easy to create division in race relations,” he said.

He said that governments have tried to avoid this (tendency); those who are trying to get into government unfortunately do.

Mr Hipkins said that many New Zealanders were scared to talk about the Treaty and New Zealand’s history and that the country needed honest discussions and relations.

National Party MP Dr Shane Reti speaking at the Waitangi Dawn Service (RNZ Photo by Nathan McKinnon)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guaranteeing freedom of speech

“We have to create safe spaces for people to say what they think. I think that we get into dangerous territory when people stop saying what they think because they are worried about the perpetuating misunderstanding. When you create a healthy environment, people can say what they think and other people can challenge that, and people do not have to feel offended or confronted by opinions,” he said.

Stating that the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi was a bold vision, Hipkins said that it aimed to establish the ability to live here together and prosper without conflict.

“The goal of the Treaty was to try to avoid the conquest and conflict that occurred during the settlement of some other countries during the mid-1800s. The history of Aotearoa shows that this attempt was somewhat limited and conquest and conflict still followed. But the Treaty recognises that it was a goal worth pursuing,” he said.

Mr Luxon said that the Crown and Maori came together 183 years ago to sign the Treaty of Waitangi: people just like us, trying to navigate their way towards a united, stable, peaceful and prosperous future believing “he iwi tahi tātou: together, we are one nation.”

People holding the ‘Honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi’ sign at Waitangi (RNZ Photo by Jane Patterson)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“They left us with a challenging, imperfect, but ultimately inspiring document. And in the years that followed, the promise and obligations of the Treaty were not upheld by the Crown. A part of the story of modern New Zealand has been our struggle to understand the intentions of those who signed the Treaty and decide how we should act as a result,” he said.

Mr Luxon said that throughout our history, we as New Zealanders have always had the courage to identify, to name, and to wrestle with the challenges that have confronted us.

“It is one of our greatest strengths. For all the pain that process has sometimes entailed, there is no doubt that we are a better, more open-minded, and more tolerant country because of it,” he said and praised the Treaty settlement process.

“The settlements should be full, final and last forever. I want to see settlements finalised by 2030. I think that our experience over the last 183 years should give us tremendous confidence that we can and will do well in the world. We have one of the oldest, longest-serving democracies. We have taken the best from both worlds to actually build and fashion a country here that we’re incredibly proud about,” he said.

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