New Zealand’s Waitangi Day commemorated

Today is Waitangi Day, the national day to remember the historic signing of the treaty between New Zealand’s Maori and the colonial British Crown.

Speaking from Te Whare Rūnanga, Prime Minister Jacinda Arden told onlookers that the justice system had failed Maori, reports Radio New Zealand, an issue she highlighted this time last year.

“I stood before you and said that we wanted the prison numbers to go down, and they have. There are fewer Māori in prison now than when we came into government.

“Here I am to be held to account on behalf of the government,” she said.

Waitangi Day is a site of commemoration and learning, but historically has also been a space of protest. This year is no exception.

Commemorations at Te Tii Marae in Waitangi yesterday featured the former National leader and known oppose of Maori centric policy being interrupted throughout a speech he eventually had to cut short.

The New Zealand Herald reports as Brash questioned the value of learning te reo maori, he was blocked by a banner with the word ‘racism’ on it, and finished speaking.

His invitation to speak at Te Tii was widely debated, as Brash as a history of speaking out against Maori. In 2004 he argued for the end of affirmative action programs for Maori. 

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The controversial self-appointed bishop of Destiny Church Brian Tamaki also made headlines in the lead up to Waitangi day, revealing he will bring 2000 supporters with him to present “issues” at Waitangi.

Radio New Zealand reports he will speak at Te Tii Marae today, after saying on Twitter “Boy have i got something to say!! [sic]”

But Waitangi Day is not simply a site of protest. Prime Minister Jacinda Arden revealed Waitangi Day commemoration funds of NZ$288,000 were distributed across 46m events in New Zealand.

A master waka (va’a) builder and carver, and celestial navigator Sir Hekenukumia Busby received a knighthood at Waitangi yesterday, reports Newsroom. 

Waitangi Day committee chairman Pita Paraone said for some, the investiture (receiving of knighthood or other honour) would be more important than the official Waitangi Day service.

Stuff.co.nz have been publishing live coverage since yesterday morning on Waitangi Day events at Te Tii Marae.

As for what Waitangi Day will mean for the Labour Government’s relationship with Maori, Newsroom’s Sam Sachdeva reports that this year will be a test for them.

“Māori will be looking to the future too, and whether Ardern’s government can deliver on its promises: perhaps with an added degree of wariness, but also hope,” he writes.

Last Waitangi Day, Ms Ardern made history when she stayed at Waitangi for five days, the longest amount of time any Prime Minister has stayed.

The Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6 1840, by Crown representatives and more than 500 Maori chiefs. It effectively resulted in the signing away of sovereignty of land to the crown, and today Maori continue to seek reparations for countless loss both financial and cultural which resulted from the treaty, through the Waitangi Tribunal. 

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