'Making it right' on Waitangi Day

RIGHTING WRONGS: Waitangi Day protests in 1983.
RIGHTING WRONGS: Waitangi Day protests in 1983.

He tangata, He tangata, He tangata: The people, the people, the people.

Waitangi Day is our national day; it should be a day to celebrate being a New Zealander. But to most Kiwis, it's an awkward day. Awkward because the headlines on Waitangi Day don't talk about how wonderful it is to be a Kiwi but focus on protesters who have grievances with the way that the British colonisers gained possession of most of the land from Maori.

Many New Zealanders wish Waitangi Day was not our national day, they would rather have another day where we can wave flags and pat ourselves on the back for being Kiwis.

Australians, Americans, Indians, etc. all have national days where the armed forces march at parades, people wave flags and the majority of people feel pretty pleased with themselves.

But that's not what New Zealand is. New Zealand is a place where we address our past wrongs, where we acknowledge the mistakes of our colonial ancestors and where we actually try to make it right.

The main area of contention is not whether mistakes where made but what the "making it right" looks like.

I spent Waitangi Day last year walking through our wonderful environment with my family and then sharing a picnic lunch.

I paused to reflect on what it means to be a New Zealander, and I think it was best summed up by the Korean fish and chip shop owner who provided our lunch. When he saw we had a Japanese girl with us, he left her with these words: "You will love New Zealand, the people are so nice".