Te Tii Marae trustees might have isolated themselves

EDITORIAL

The events of Waitangi Day 2016 raise some interesting questions about how New Zealand’s national day should be properly celebrated, and where.

After prevaricating last week, Prime Minister John Key eventually decided not to attend on the grounds that he would be restricted in what he could say on the lower Te Tii Marae at Waitangi.

Having done that, he might have been best to extend the decision to his Cabinet. When Steven Joyce attended he had a sex toy thrown in his face by a protester who seemed to have little relationship to the people of the marae.

The upshot was media coverage in both the New York Times and BBC that frankly exposed the country to international ridicule. It also had precious little to do with the debatable issue of whether signing the TPPA agreement actually does represent a loss of sovereignty for Maori.

The next day the celebrations at Waitangi passed peaceably, though with numbers about 20 percent down on usual. Elsewhere throughout the country the day was being celebrated in a positive way at gatherings that sought to bring together the two partners who signed the Treaty in 1840 in ways that shared and recognised their respective cultures, and were also inclusive of the newer groups who have come to this country in more recent times.

Many people would say forget Waitangi and mark the occasion somewhere else, such as at Government House where it was done once before.

That of course does not take into account the significance of Waitangi as the place where the founding document of this nation was first signed.

The opportunity for discourse and dissent on our national day is important but too often this descends to disrespect. Finding a solution to this conundrum is something that has proved elusive to governments of both the left and right.

On this occasion it seems the trustees of Te Tii Marae have isolated themselves and their marae, with growing calls for the government powhiri to be shifted to the carved meeting house on the Treaty grounds.

The events of Waitangi Day 2016 raise some interesting questions about how New Zealand’s national day should be properly celebrated, and where.

After prevaricating last week, Prime Minister John Key eventually decided not to attend on the grounds that he would be restricted in what he could say on the lower Te Tii Marae at Waitangi.

Having done that, he might have been best to extend the decision to his Cabinet. When Steven Joyce attended he had a sex toy thrown in his face by a protester who seemed to have little relationship to the people of the marae.

The upshot was media coverage in both the New York Times and BBC that frankly exposed the country to international ridicule. It also had precious little to do with the debatable issue of whether signing the TPPA agreement actually does represent a loss of sovereignty for Maori.

The next day the celebrations at Waitangi passed peaceably, though with numbers about 20 percent down on usual. Elsewhere throughout the country the day was being celebrated in a positive way at gatherings that sought to bring together the two partners who signed the Treaty in 1840 in ways that shared and recognised their respective cultures, and were also inclusive of the newer groups who have come to this country in more recent times.

Many people would say forget Waitangi and mark the occasion somewhere else, such as at Government House where it was done once before.

That of course does not take into account the significance of Waitangi as the place where the founding document of this nation was first signed.

The opportunity for discourse and dissent on our national day is important but too often this descends to disrespect. Finding a solution to this conundrum is something that has proved elusive to governments of both the left and right.

On this occasion it seems the trustees of Te Tii Marae have isolated themselves and their marae, with growing calls for the government powhiri to be shifted to the carved meeting house on the Treaty grounds.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.