Editorial: Stop the pandering

Last updated 05:00 07/02/2013

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The prime minister of the day should stop going to the Waitangi marae.

A small group of people hijack the events leading up to and on Waitangi Day, and year in year out it leaves a sour taste in the nation's mouth.

A good chance to talk and air the issues, says incumbent John Key.

Rubbish.

Likewise his argument that he'll keep turning up each year because it shows courage. It would show more courage to stay away.

To keep the prime minister waiting in his car for 40 minutes on Tuesday while the organisers sorted out who was going to walk him on the marae (who cares) is a straight-out insult, as it was last year when he could not finish his speech because he was drowned out.

As it was when he was assaulted two years before that; as it was when National Party leader Don Brash had mud thrown at him; as it was when Prime Minister Helen Clark was jostled and heckled; as it was when Ms Clark was reduced to tears when challenged on her right to speak; as it was when the New Zealand flag was blasted with a shotgun; as it was when the governor-general was spat at in the face.

After her humiliation Helen Clark did not visit Waitangi for four years, instead attending other events around the country and giving them more profile. It was a welcome change.

Now we're back to the same old garbage, and it serves only to divide, not unite.

Why do politicians feel the need to go to Waitangi? There are ample forums for discussion on the issues and to address treaty concerns.

A cynic might say it is a vote-catching manoeuvre, but again, there could be more votes gained by staying away.

Then there are the backroom pressures, to which the public isn't privy. This particular government's majority is slim, it needs to pick its fights so it can call on certain votes (Maori Party ones) in times of need.

But ultimately there is no getting around our national day being "celebrated" on the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and Waitangi was essentially where the signing occurred.

So it doesn't make sense to move away from Waitangi. What does make sense is to move our national day to another time of year.

Then as a country we might really feel the urge to celebrate.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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