Only very rarely does the prime minister’s diary throw up an empty page, but so it was in the year of our lord 2016, after John Key decided he wouldn’t after all be travelling to Waitangi.
It may be true that he once insisted he would mark the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi every year by visiting Te Tii marae, whatever the hostility, saying, “How will history judge me? I think as courageous, because I will keep coming back.” But that was in the distant mists of time, or, more specifically, 2013.
This year, the PM’s Ngapuhi hosts failed to assure him he could talk about the Trans Pacific Partnership in the whare nui on the lower marae and so he was like, totally, nah!
Instead, he told reporters, he was looking for something with “a more festive atmosphere”.
But what? No doubt he’s been flooded with invitations from iwi around the country to head along to their festivals, grab a plate of kai and deliver a TED talk on the virtues of the TPP, but his reported choice of alternative suggests that he in fact wishes to capture many of the courage-demanding experiences he wistfully recalls from Waitangi.
And so he has chosen a beloved national venue that defines a good chunk of NZ nationhood, where he will very likely be jostled on the way in, encounter examples of ritualised violence, overlong speeches, suffocating humidity, bad singing, cursing from dissenters and inescapable comparisons with the Australians, but all overlaid with a sense of solidarity, community and fun.
Yes, he’s going to the NRL nines at Eden Park. Of course he is.
But there’s a risk involved. Eden Park is likely to trigger bittersweet memories of days with Richie, and it could all end in tears. So here are some alternatives possibilities for whiling away the Historic Day.
The SkyCity Pokie Hall
A short drive from Eden Park, and, well, just look at the people having the time of their lives. Festive!
The cricket, Wellington
Match No 2 in the ODI series against Australia could be a perfect way to wash away the Waitangi blues. It doesn’t get much more festive than a lukewarm beer in a half-full cake-tin. Hone Harawira has offered to fly to Wellington to perform the powhiri, while the famous Wellington wind ensures many locals ties their hair up in a ponytail.
Westpac Stadium is, however, a rugby ground, so, again, it could trigger bittersweet memories of days with Richie, and all end in tears.
The Elements Festival, Porirua
“The Festival of the Elements is run by Porirua Community Arts Council Inc, a registered charity, in alliance with Ngāti Toa Rangatira. The Festival uses the arts to celebrate the cultural diversity of Porirua, made possible by the Treaty of Waitangi. The elements of earth and air, fire and water embrace concepts of significance to all cultures, concepts around which we can all unite. Tangata Whenua and Tangata Tiriti rejoice together on Waitangi Day by way of the arts.”
Actually, unfestive anarchist sympathisers Mandy Hager and Gary McCormick are there. Maybe not.
Cuisine Fiesta, Niue
This is more like it. “In Commemoration of Waitangi Day 2016, the New Zealand High Commissioner will be hosting a cuisine fiesta, a fusion of food/ingredients from New Zealand and Niue. As part of the fiesta there will be fun filled activities for the audience ranging from children’s sports to a fashion show and much more.” These people are going to love the TPP banter.
The pint-sized purple puck is rumoured to be playing his one and only New Zealand show on Waitangi afternoon at the Crown Hotel in Dunedin, supported by The Feelers. Key is reputed to be a big fan of the LP Around the World in a Day.
Mike Hosking’s house
John Key is widely thought to be Mike’s No 2 top person after Mike Hosking, so where better to unwind, sip on a Peroni, and maybe even do a bit of motorcar hoovering.
Kim Dotcom’s house
KDC is lonely again in his pirate-apartment, according to several thousand stories on the NZ Herald website. Great videogame collection, too. Hone Harawira will probably be there.
Matthew Hooton’s house
Political PR provocateur-in-chief Hooton has had it in for Key for a while, owing to the PM’s limpid socialist ways, but in recent times El Hooto has been back on Team Key, backing him for his TPP stance, against the rabid, anarchist, uber-violent, warmongering anti-TPP barbarians, none of whom were arrested during protests this week. Mr Key will be able to tell which house is Matt’s owing the howls of laughter spilling out into the street from a creature hunched within, watching this: