Waitangi Day tension

Last updated 13:21 06/02/2013

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OPINION: As you read this article, one of two things could've happened at Waitangi. I say "could have" because as I write this, it's Friday afternoon and I have a 5pm deadline so that the paper's readers can read this today, writes Rino Tirikatene (Labour) in From the Beehive.

Either everything was sweet and the bucolic idyll dreamed of by Lord Bledisloe back in 1932 where iwi and Kiwi get along was present, or it turned to "custard".

It seems it's either one or the other when it comes to celebrating the birth of our nation in Waitangi.

To be fair to my Tai Tokerau cousins, the way the media present the day's images from Waitangi, a tourist to this country could be forgiven for thinking the place was in the throes of a civil war.

Because the reality of the TV people is the need for "interaction between opponents". It's easier for them to present their side of the story based on the pictorial evidence they've gathered, edited, and decided to put to air with their words.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country was probably out and about enjoying a rare day off mid-week and celebrating our national day. Or not. Some may have chosen to stay in bed all day because of shiftwork or they don't care for the day in question. When Captain Hobson turned up in the Bay of Islands on January 29, 1840, Maori and European alike could little have guessed what an impact the next eight days would have in the history of our country.

As a member of the Maori Affairs Select Committee, I've seen the historical reports of shonky Pakeha business practices that alienated and disenfranchised Maori from their land. They were heart-wrenchingly sad and all too common, and naturally left a bitter taste of resentment in the minds and hearts of the tangata whenua. So yes, there may have been one or two spirited haka to go along with a waved flag and a raised fist somewhere in the country today.

Yet these will probably be the images you will see tonight on TV or in your paper, rather than dad pushing a pram with mum and the kids and enjoying an ice cream. And if I'm proved wrong by the broadcasters, then maybe our country is moving closer to Captain Hobson's and latterly Lord Bledisloe's dream of a country united.

Thank goodness Murihiku is as far away from Waitangi as it gets. It seems to me the craziness that emanates from Waitangi is somehow dissipated by the time it reaches us here in the deep south.

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» Rino Tirikatene is the MP for Te Tai Tonga.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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