David v Jacinda: Spread the love – take Waitangi Day on the road

Hikoi ariving at a wet Waitangi lower Marae this week.
Bevan Read/Fairfax.co.nz

Hikoi ariving at a wet Waitangi lower Marae this week.

OPINION: Like almost all Kiwis I have always avoided Waitangi on the big day. Images of protesters, crying prime ministers, and actual mud-slinging are enough to put most people off.  If you've ever been in Sydney for Australia Day, you'll know how much better our national day could be.

But Parliament obliges me to be here, so I'm writing this from an old Paihia motel (my parliamentary colleagues had booked out the Waitangi Copthorne, but that's another story).

The trouble this time is the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or TPPA. People oppose it for the same reason people used to have mullets – fashion, not logic. Being of Ngāpuhi descent myself, it's been a real struggle to understand why local Maori are protesting a trade agreement. 

David Seymour: If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 176-year-old relationship, why ...
Cameron Burnell

David Seymour: If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 176-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location?

The fact is, many colonial-era Maori were very entrepreneurial, and took ready advantage of the more secure property rights provided by the Treaty – more secure than being invaded by nearby tribes as happened through the musket war period around 1820 to 1840. One of the many important rights the Treaty gave was access to sea lanes protected by the most powerful navy on the planet.

I've been reading Hazel Petrie's Chiefs of Industry. It tells the story of colonial-era Maori such as Te Hemara Tauhia. In the 1850s he built a sawmill in the north and charged Pakeha to mill their timber.

Then he realised they were making money off the shipping so he commissioned a 20-tonne ship to move it, too. That guy would have favoured signing the TPPA.

He was not unusual. As another author summed up, colonial Maori "were able to leverage European technologies to build remarkable trading relationships around the world as well as forcing the world's most powerful empire into a stalemate."

Back up here at Waitangi Day 2016 the usual suspects (about 0.01 per cent of the population) have made the elected prime minister of New Zealand stay away and denied all of us a national day we can enjoy because they don't like the TPPA. It got me thinking.

The Treaty was not signed just at Waitangi. It went on tour and was signed by Chiefs all over the country.  Waitangi is just the place it was signed first.

It's never been clear why one iwi gets to monopolise the celebrations, but this year's circus has made it especially unclear. The disruptors don't know much about trade or even their own history of trade.

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Even the device that one protester threw at Steven Joyce probably entered the country under the China FTA.

If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 176-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location? It could be in a different place each year, following the actual path that the Treaty took during 1840.

Ngāpuhi have denied the whole country a proud national day just one time too many. It is time to take this show on the road. There were 20-odd signing locations so it'll come back around in 2036. Estimates are that the TPPA will be adding an extra $3 billion to our economy every year by then.

And a bit of competition among locations might also help to lift standards of behaviour, bringing some dignity and joy back to this historic occasion.

Jacinda Ardern responds

Australia Day? Are you kidding? That is the last place we should be looking for a model of race relations, let alone a national day of celebration – unless you're into drunken, casual racism. 

I am sorry you felt a sense of duty rather than any desire to be at Waitangi, David. Or that your auto lodge didn't meet your expectations.

But your interpretation of what the pilgrimage to this place symbolises is just plain wrong. It's not about the dominance of any one iwi as you claim, it's about recognising the place where the treaty - and the relationship between Maori and the crown, all began, and what that relationship means now.  

And that's what makes your argument so ironic. You believe that moving around the country every year, presumably having the talks and debate we have at Waitangi, would be a better way to mark our national day. And yet this is the very thing that caused the difficulties this year - the fact the government didn't talk, didn't debate, an agreement that they signed on behalf of New Zealand, and Maori - the TPPA. 

I hand on heart believe in free trade, and so does my party. But we also know that this agreement was about more than trade, and it was these elements of the agreement that the government should have discussed openly- they didn't. 

There is no denying that there have been ups and downs over the years at Waitangi, but it remains a place for open debate and dialogue. That's worth celebrating.

 - Sunday Star Times

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