E nga mana
E nga reo
Rau Rangatira ma
Tena koutou katoa
(Prestigious people, speakers, all you chiefs, greetings to you all)
It is a great pleasure for Paul and I to welcome you all to our celebrations to honour Waitangi Day, our national day.
This is my fourth and final Waitangi Day as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Samoa, and I’m very gIad that you are here to share it with us.
I extend a special welcome to New Zealand’s newest citizens from a citizenship ceremony held here this afternoon.
On this day 176 years ago at Waitangi there was a large gathering to discuss a proposed Treaty between Queen Victoria of England and the Rangatira of Aotearoa – the Māori Chiefs of New Zealand. A large decorated marquee had been erected on the lawn in front of a house belonging to the British official James Busby at Waitangi.
I imagine it was quite a similar setting to this. We have the tents, we have the orators, and we have a good supply of food and liquid refreshments, just as they would have had.
For many hours the 500 Māori present debated the proposal, with impressive oratory and the mood swung back and forth. That discussion went on late into the night but by the morning of Thursday 6 February 1840, the Rangatira had reached a consensus that the Treaty should be settled straightaway.
This caught the newly arrived Governor Hobson by surprise – he had expected another full day of debate and there are stories that he signed the document while still wearing his dressing gown. So on that day the document that founded Aotearoa, New Zealand as a nation state was first signed.
I say ‘first signed’, as while there were 40 Rangatira signatories at Waitangi, the treaty was then discussed with and signed by over 500 chiefs (including 13 women) in 50 meetings around the country over the following 7 months.
This unique agreement was the beginning of a partnership between the Government and Maori. It was hailed as a virtuous model that safe-guarded the interests of indigenous people; however over the years it was not always honoured. Forty years ago the Treaty of Waitangi Tribunal was established.
There has been an important process to make amends for breaches of the treaty, that has resulted in Treaty settlements with more than 100 claims resolved and billions of dollars in restitution paid.
The Treaty of Waitangi is now recognised as a key document in New Zealand’s history. It has helped to shape New Zealand’s democratic system, including political representation, our social structures and education, health, welfare, and justice services.
From this history and experience New Zealand has emerged and matured as a Pacific nation and New Zealanders have established a unique identity. We are a very diverse and multi-cultural lot but we are united by the core values of being fair-minded, hospitable and resourceful. I suspect that comes with being a small geographically isolated country that is proud of its home in the Pacific.
The theme for this year’s Waitangi day is whanaungatanga.
This means a sense of kinship, family connections - a relationship through shared experiences and working together. As the only country with which New Zealand has a treaty of friendship, it is a great word to describe the relationship between New Zealand and Samoa.
We have a lot of common interests and shared people.
This does not mean that we are the same or that we agree all the time. But we do look out for each other’s interests. We respect each other’s thoughts, ideas and opinions and we each bring something unique to our work together.
This was seen last year when Prime Minister Tuilaepa became the first Pacific Islands leader to deliver a keynote address to the UN Security Council in the open debate chaired by New Zealand, fittingly on the topic of small island states.
One thing both countries share is a strong oral tradition – as you have heard in the way the Treaty of Waitangi was agreed. An important part of reaching agreement was talking it out. The treaty’s intent, its wairua or spirit, is more important than the literal interpretation of the words.
Over the last 3 years I have seen this spirit of partnership, of whanaungatanga, across New Zealand and Samoa’s joint work in so many areas - tourism, education, health, customs, corrections, renewable energy, private sector development, police, disaster preparedness and sport. The connections are numerous and strong but have one thing in common.
That is an approach of working from Samoa’s priorities and plans. I know we will go on to work together on the challenges to achieve the sustainable development goals and to both mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.
New Zealand and Samoa have a very long and close shared history and we have marked this in our commemorations of World War One. September 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand Division engagement in the battle of the Somme during the First World War.
Samoans served in both World Wars in New Zealand units.
To mark that contribution the New Zealand High Commission is proud to be running a writing competition inviting secondary school and Foundation students to write an essay, poem or letter, about what the sacrifices made by Samoan and Allied servicemen and women during the First World War means to them.
The winning student will travel to France, joining winners from Niue, Tonga and the Cook Islands for the Somme centenary commemorations. The programme will be designed to educate students on the Pacific’s contribution to the First World War and how this legacy lives on.
My past three years here in Samoa feel like a complete whirlwind. I arrived a few weeks after cyclone Evan. So in my first year I witnessed the goodwill, capability and true resilience that typify Samoa, in its response to those in need.
That can-do spirit shone through again in the hosting of the UN SIDS conference which was an overwhelming success delivered in a uniquely Samoan way. An unforgettable experience for the 3500 participants in which Samoa shone as a leader on the world stage.
Having managed the largest global event in the region, it was a breeze for Samoa to go on to host the South West Pacific Fisheries meeting, the Commonwealth Youth Games, and the Joseph Parker fight. But the highlight for me has to be the electric atmosphere at the All Blacks / Manu game and seeing the whole country get in behind the event. That really was history in the making.
I’ve seen a lot of changes in Samoa over the past three years. It’s a country that is stable, smart, ambitious and resilient – constantly adapting to changing circumstances and absorbing new ideas - while still retaining a proud sense of identity, values and Fa’a Samoa. I have no doubt this will continue because of the spirit of the people.
And I am sure New Zealand will be right there beside you.