February 06, 2018
Waitangi sunshine raises spirits, expectations
Treaty of Waitangi commemorations in the Bay of Islands have ended with raised expectations about what Maori can expect from the Labour-led Government.
The concentration of official activities within the confines of the Treaty Grounds, a decision engineered by Ngapuhi leaders including several sitting and former MPs, ensured the event was trouble free.
The warm regard of the crowd to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also raised the tone.
Former Te Taitokerau MP Dover Samuels compared Prime Minister Ardern’s performance, including a speech that combined humility with hope, with the agenda setting of another Labour icon, Norman Kirk, on his first visit to Waitangi as PM in 1973.
With the treaty settlement process initiated by that Labour Government nearing its conclusion, Ms Ardern said that was not the end point of the crown-Maori relationship.
The Prime Minister also illustrated the role of government as a servant of the people by putting her ministers in charge of feeding a cooked breakfast to the public after the traditional dawn service.
Ngapuhi elder Hekenukumai Busby, who was marking the 50th year of his direct involvement with commemorations at Waitangi, praised the move to the Treaty Grounds and said he did not expect a return to Te Tii Marae any time soon.
Labour Willie Jackson said the move from Te Tii was inevitable, given the disruption in recent years.
"You can’t carry on with the behaviour that was going on and think a government is going to return down the bottom. People are not stupid. Don’t start crying after the event, particularly after you decide to insult and abuse people in the last couple of years. There was virtually no choice. For myself, I’m led by Peeni Henare and Kelvin Davis on this, from the hau kainga here, and they were very clear it had to go up the top," he said.
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