Speech given by Eddie Durie at Waitangi 2001
I see this place, Waitangi, as the birthplace of the New Zealand nation state. It all began here when the Reverend Samuel Marsden established the first mission station in 1815.
With Christianity the missionaries introduced a number of
Western skills and thoughts along with concepts of national governance in which
peace and order could flourish.
A British Residency was established on this spot in 1834. The formative political arrangements affecting Maori and those of other nations, including the Declaration of Independence in 1835, were all formulated here.
Then on the grounds in front of the residence, the Treaty of Waitangi was introduced to Maori and signed on February 6, 1840.
It formed the basis for the subsequent proclamation of sovereignty and led to the establishment of the first seat of government – Kororareka, or Russell, in the same bay.
The Europeans present were from all over. Hobson and Busby represented Britain. In 1838 James Clendon was appointed as Consul to represent the United States and no less than 151 American ships were provisioned herein the subsequent two years.
Clendon assisted at the Treaty signings and it is fitting to acknowledge the attendance today of the United States ambassador Carol Mosley Braun.
Further, from Britain there were many Anglican and Wesleyan mission stations by 1840 and several Catholic missions established from France.
American Puritans from the many American ships held services on the beach. And the whalers, sealers traders and settlers who were here came from throughout the world.
The Treaty of Waitangi settled between Maori and the British Crown, a basis fro government of the country. It has been described as our founding national document.
Today’s Treaty reading has been from the preamble alone. That seems to me to be right when the Treaty is seen in its historical setting. The preamble expresses the Crown’s good intent in arranging for a settled form of government and in seeking peace and good order with protection for the interests of the original inhabitants. I think the spirit of the Treaty is mainly to be found in that part.
To that I add three points. The first is to emphasis the fact that the Treaty was even proposed. An agreement was required before sovereignty would be proclaimed so that New Zealand was founded on the basis of consensus.
The second is that Maori, in fact sought a continuing relationship with the British government. After more than 30 years of regular contact with the western world and a sound introduction to its thoughts and technology, there had been ample time in which to form a view. Historical accounts point a firm desire for a settled form of government and a continuing partnership with Pakeha people.
The third point is the ready recognition that good relationships would depend upon the continued demonstration of mutual goodwill and respect.
That is something that is patently necessary for good ethnic relationships everywhere
That leads me to the main Treaty message for our time - that good order, peace and co-operation between people must continue to depend upon the manifestation of respect and goodwill between them.
There is, today a great deal of goodwill on both sides, among ordinary New Zealanders, but there is some danger that in our times the Treaty spirit will be worn away.
Goodwill is threatened by insensitive Maori protests
and by some equally insensitive Pakeha views. It is time to hear another tune.
Protest over past wrongs is comprehensible and, equally, a democratic society
gives us free vent to a range of views that may be unacceptable to others.
Nonetheless, there is strength in the parable read to us this morning.
If the seed that was sown at Waitangi is to produce a sound crop, it remains necessary to care for the soil.
To rebuild the ground in which the Treaty grows, this
is the season in which to focus on the positive, to build upon the dignity that
our respective forebears once showed, and to emulate the many examples of aroha
that our ancestors were able to express towards each other.
On the first centenary of the Treaty the desire to rebuild was evident. In 1932 the then Governor General, Lord Bledisloe, acquired the Treaty land and gifted it to the nation.
It is now a successfully managed by a bicultural body, the Waitangi National Trust. The old residency was restored and Maori built a pan tribal whare runanga nearby. Together these buildings symbolize the two peoples.
The nation as a whole was represented in the magnificent canoe Ngatokimatawhaorua, named for the first vessel that is known to have come to New Zealand, and which is now launched for the celebrations each year.
In that way, in 1940, the necessary symbols of pride
in ethnic co-operation were laid out in the form of visible monuments on the
Since then the Tai Tokerau District Maori Council has
handled the Waitangi Treaty celebrations by arrangement with the Waitangi
National Trust. But, as I have said, in recent years proceedings have been
marred by protest as thought there was nothing to be proud about.
In fact there is. Real progress has been made in Treaty
claims and this year saw the settlement of the northern people of Te Uri o Hau.
At another level we have witnessed the pride that wells in
the hearts of young Maori who have participated in the canoe building
renaissance and this years Hec Busby has launched a further waka.
Yet were I to identify one thing that has most symbolized
Maori and Pakeha togetherness this year, for me it would lie in the waka ama
championships at Lake Karapiro last month.
There, 1800 competitors of both cultures participated in the ancient Polynesian sport of outrigger canoe racing.
Today, I am honoured to have been asked by the Tai Tokerau
District Maori Council to announce its project to develop the positive side of
Waitangi Day in preparation for the bicentennial in 2040.
It is such a sound programme that, even though I was born
in January 1940, in 2040 I intend competing for a place to row Ngatokimatawhaorua
on Waitangi Day.
I introduce Rua Rautau (200 years), a project to foster the
highest ideals in ethnic relations for the betterment of national peace and good
Under the Rua Rautau scheme, it is proposed to acknowledge
on each Waitangi Day some person or event of the preceding year, or which,
contributed in some significant way, be it large or small, to better ethnic
Each five years will see a fuller assessment of the
progress towards understanding one another.
In the year 2040, it is hoped to celebrate the good
examples in ethnic co-operation and mutual development, whether they be in
films, writing, commerce, sport, administration or art.
Rua Rautau is thus proposed to advance peace and good order
in terms of the Treaty’s objectives and to recognise the numerous
contributions that people regularly make towards that end.
While recent years have seen many prospective candidates for the wooden spoon in the development of ethnic relations, it is not too late to recognise the many more who have something positive to give.