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Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Waitangi succumbs to downpours

This year's Treaty of Waitangi commemoration in the Bay of Islands were dampened down by the weather and by organisers determination to keep them low key.

Waatea News reporter Marire Kuka braved the storm.

“It rained and it rained and, apart from a brief interlude in the late morning when the Prime Minister walked among stall-holders on the Waitangi Reserve, it poured.

“The conditions meant the waka which play such an important part of the event stayed on shore, and six weeks of preparation, diet and exercise for the paddlers came to nothing.

The other traditional activity was the hikoi, which this year seemed more a part of the official programme than a challenge to it. About 100 hardy souls led by Sykes, Pitman and Hone Harawira's daughter Te Whenua straggling up the hill in a fierce downpour to be welcomed by more of the younger generation of Harawiras.

The conditions means the Navy abandoned its traditional sunset ceremony and the day finished as it started, wet.”


One of the star turns at Waitangi was John Key, who had in tow 10-year-old Aroha Nathan from what the new National Party leader claims is the centre of Auckland's underclass, McGehan Close in Owairaka.

Labour list MP and former Waitangi protester Shane Jones says Mr Key is echoing history, but times have moved on.

Mr Jones told a gathering at St John's Theological College in Auckland that Mr Key was harking back to another National Party leader's vision of the treaty as a symbol of New Zealand nationalism.

“I don't think that the Holyoake vision that Maori somehow can just be a junior partner, represented by a child who need to be led by a white father will ever ever take root. And neither should it, because that wasn’t the kaupapa of the treaty. There was no way the queen of England of that time was going to lead Tamati Waka Nene, Te Rauparaha, Hone Heke, Kawiti around,” Mr Jones says.

He believes the meaning of the treaty won't come from government, but by organic change and acceptance in society.


Just when interest in treaty commemorations seemed to be flagging, it was revived by a rash of flag waving around the country.

In Auckland, the Maori Party flew sovereignty flags from several of the city's maunga, and they were joined at the highest, Maungakiekie, by Northern elders Kingi Taurua and Dan Davis bearing the original flag of the United Tribes of New Zealand.

Mr Taurua says he felt it important to come back from the Bay of Islands to make the gesture.

“It's important because we want to fly our flags, our Maori flags, to indicate that our flags are still alive just as we as a people are alive,” Mr Taurua says.


Labour list MP Shane Jones says wider understanding and support of the Treaty of Waitangi needs to come from the community, not from politicians.

Mr Jones told a Waitangi Day gathering at St Johns Theological College in Auckland that it was important that the treaty be embraced by all New Zealanders, not just tangata whenua.

He said the country was still looking for a national identity, and the treaty has to be part of that.

“Because for those who have an agenda of moving us towards a republic, I tell you, there will never ever be a new constitution or a republican nation state without dealing justly with the Treaty of Waitangi. It will just never happen, because the elements of discord and disunity is such that people get afraid to even have the debate,” Mr Jones says.

He says because of the position of trust they built up with Maori before Waitangi, churches like the Anglicans have an important role to play in winning acceptance for the Treaty.


They're young, they're articulate and they're the new face of Maori protest.

That's how Ngati Pikiao lawyer Annete Sykes describes the new breed of activist.

She says the children of those who have been at the forefront of Maori activism over the past 20 years, such as Hone Harawira and herself, are poised to make their mark on Maori issues.

Ms Sykes says while protest at Waitangi may be more low key than in the past, there are many talented rangatahi who have grown up in whanau used to challenging the status quo.

“They have a very clear sense of identity and they have a clear sense of where they want to be in this world. That’s the face of the new protester. They’re young, they’re articulate, many of them are urban so they understand the pressures that are being placed on rangatahi Maori that I don’t think many of the older Maori have got in touch with,” Ms Sykes says.


For the last word on the flag, Labour list MP and Northland elder Dover Samuels says controversy over the flying of Maori sovereignty flags is contrived and has little basis in fact.

A range of flags flew around the country yesterday, with the red, white and black tino rangatiratanga design from 1990 being a firm favourite.

But Mr Samuels says the flag he relates to is the one New Zealanders spilt their blood over in the wars of the last century.

“They usually led the charges with the New Zealand flag. The various battalions, including the Maori Battalion, had their own colours, but at the end of the day they were proud to be New Zealanders and they were proud the fly the New Zealand flag,” Mr Samuels says.

He says the flag debate was an indication of how little controversy there was around this year's Waitangi Day ceremonies.


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