Protestors interrupt a speech from Don Brash on the lower marae at Waitangi on February 05, 2019 in Waitangi. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Two perspectives: Waitangi Day 2019

Every year there is an expectation of disruption on our national day, with armchair Treaty experts sharing their analysis of the history and value of the day without ever having actually travelled to Waitangi on February 6th. Here are two accounts of a day spent at Waitangi on Waitangi Day 2019 – one from tangata whenua and one from tangata tiriti. 

The good, the bad and the ugly

by Gideon Scott Porter

After listening to Don Brash’s speech yesterday, and watching his body language (he really believes what he’s saying!) I understand him more – but I like his views even less.

That’s the good part, in that I got to see and hear him in person. Yes, he’s racist but I’m not sure he gets that. A bit like trying to explain colour to someone who has always been blind.

The bad – Don Brash views things through a ‘wealth is the answer’ lens. But the pursuit of wealth has led the world to the brink of global warming disaster. Do Māori really want to join that inevitable train wreck? His wealth-centric views cause him to demean te reo as a virtually useless language outside New Zealand, but he totally fails to understand its vital importance inside this country. It’s not about cash-building Don, it’s about nation-building. If we all spoke te reo as well as we spoke English, well, Māori would feel their culture is valued and Pākehā would have no fear of marae, protocol, and bullshit (yep, it happens in te reo too). It’s pretty hard to be fluent in someone else’s language without learning their history, perspectives, and values. It doesn’t mean we’ll all hold hands and sing kumbaya but it will make a massive difference in race relations. Oh, and nation-building…

The ugly. Well Don, you said “some Māori” see Treaty settlements as the answer to their poverty, and that we simply don’t understand that this isn’t true. I have yet to meet anyone Māori who believes this (not nowadays anyway). You see, we know we’re getting less than one cent in the dollar in redress for our land losses alone. So how can that be “the answer”? Your views do show an ugly truth Don – it’s that you, and people like, need decolonisation even more than Māori.

Anyway, I’m glad I got to see you in person. I really wish I could have debated you one-on-one because you took a lot of abuse, but you weren’t really held accountable for any of your misguided statements, like your ‘We are now one people’ Hobsons Pledge absurdity. When you and all your ill-informed supporters can speak te reo Māori as well as I speak English, let us have that conversation, ay?

I spent the day with my niece who’s visiting home from Australia. Now if only we still had the 90% of land dispossessed by various underhanded means, she would still be living here (which she loves) and maybe you’d be the one living in Australia.

Gideon Scott Porter (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngāi Tūhoe) is a former journalist for Mana Media, RNZ, TVNZ, and Three, and former news producer for Māori Television, hailing from Ahipara and Matangirau (Whangaroa).

The T-word

by Catherine Delahunty

This year was my 19th year at Waitangi on February 5 and 6. I travelled with people for whom it was their first time. It was their first time in the blazing light, the searing heat, the multiple debates and circuses, the timeless beauty of the land itself. Waitangi, as the media so often fails to convey, an experience every citizen needs. 

As a veteran, I travelled with some trepidation that sideshows would distract from the fundamental purpose of Waitangi commemoration, the issue of Crown accountability to their side of the agreement made in Te Reo Māori on February 6 1840. These concerns were fully realised. The mainstream media assisted this process having already decided the story was only about Don Brash speaking at the Forum Tent at Te Tii. We were also subjected to an invasion of motorbike machismo from the Destiny church members in their hundreds whose bishop was alleged to have said “we have not come to be part of Waitangi, we have come to take over” and “it’s not about the past, it’s about the future.” Wrong again Brian Tamaki, the past is before us with profound resonance for our future at Waitangi.

The decision by the media to focus on Don Brash supposedly being shut down, breaching some oratorial human right to be racist, boring and irrelevant, missed the point of what happened. Some people heckled Don, the facilitator stopped it, and Don droned on some more about speaking English and the book he had written about himself. Then after a tangata whenua response which was courteous as well as staunch, Andrew Judd and Suzanne Menzies- Culling redeemed Pākehā culture by having something pertinent to say. Suzanne gave a lucid, factual account of Hobson’s role in the Waitangi events, and the context that many people, as well as Hobson’s Pledge, clearly have never understood. Thank goodness for experienced, well researched, and articulate Te Tiriti o Waitangi educators like Suzanne who are invisible to the media but essential to this country.

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Meanwhile, the Crown got off pretty lightly for not talking about “Te Tiriti” and for some leaders not being able to remember the articles of Te Tiriti, let alone explain how they were honouring them. Good on the media for asking the question, but huge shame on them for what they did next. Several media outlets decided to explain Article One of Te Tiriti. They interpreted ‘Kawanatanga’ as ceding sovereignty, which is not only wrong but dangerous. The Waitangi Tribunal has affirmed that Ngāpuhi rangatira did not cede sovereignty and most people who have bothered to study the historical discourse know that ‘kawanatanga’ is missionary language for a form of governorship which was agreed to as a method of ruling over unruly Pākehā arriving in increasing numbers. Article 2 of Te Tiriti affirms the sovereignty of hapū (hence the problems the Crown has in negotiating settlements only with iwi in the north and other ‘large natural groupings’ as defined by the Crown.) 

So the media got it wrong and the Crown couldn’t remember and Don was a dinosaur. But where were the hard questions to the Government about sovereignty issues and ongoing land struggles, issues such as the Waitara Lands Bill debacle or Ihumātao? Part of the depoliticisation of Waitangi is the shift to the Te Whare Rūnanga marae from Te Tii. It all feels like a comfortable ritual performed for tourists. Even the hīkoi led by Hokianga whanau sick of sewage polluting their harbour was treated as a nuisance by some tourists encouraged to see Waitangi as an entertaining day out, not a measuring of national progress towards constitutional transformation and mending broken promises. They objected to the hikoi blocking their view of the Navy band. I explained to some of the tourists what was happening and was told by a woman: “But I have come a long way for this”. I was very tempted to reply: “Not far enough”. 

Despite the T-word avoidance syndrome permeating the events I had the best fry bread mussel burger ever and heard wonderful kōrero from some speakers. These included Hori Parata speaking on whales, kiore and Crown appropriation of heritage, and the history of the tino rangatiratanga flag from Hilda Halkyard Harawira. The only political Party with a tent at Te Tii were the Greens, whose young Taranaki orator Jack McDonald did them proud in the Crown powhiri by talking about the actual kaupapa of Waitangi. So there is reason to be there and reason to believe that Waitangi will endure the sideshows of 2019. There is reason to believe the saying Te Tiriti always speaks. 

Catherine Delahunty is a former Green Party member of parliament.


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