Waitangi Day largely peaceful

By Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald staff, APNZ, Herald Online

The waka ceremony and haka at Waitangi. Photo / Natalie Slade
The waka ceremony and haka at Waitangi. Photo / Natalie Slade

Waitangi Day was marked today with the usual commemorations, protests and reminders that it is a day for New Zealanders to celebrate what it means to be a Kiwi.

Prime Minister John Key said Waitangi Day was a way to reflect upon the fact that New Zealand was a country that came together by signing a Treaty on a peaceful day.

"That's not to not remember the disputes and wars that came after that, but we were unusual in that we were a country that was formed in that way."

Governor-General Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae said the day was an opportunity to look back at the "tangled roots" of the country's history, a day to discuss the significance of the Treaty and its role in a modern and independent democracy, and a day for family time.

"As our national day, it is a time when we reaffirm our commitment to the shared values that bind us together - compassion, tolerance, a strong sense of community and a Kiwi can-do attitude," he said.

Protest action

While the atmosphere today at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds was generally more peaceful than yesterday when the Prime Minister's visit was cut short after speeches were drowned out, there was some brief tension this afternoon when protestors demanded that the Tino Rangatiratanga flag fly on the flagpole.

In a stand-off that lasted more than an hour, about 200 protestors who had taken part in a hikoi up to the Treaty Grounds were denied access to the flagpole by Maori wardens,

In recent years, protestors have made a symbolic circle around the flagpole, and today's stand-off also ended peacefully, with a compromise reached and protestors allowed to file peacefully past the flagpole.

End to marae visits 'premature'

Marae chair Rihari Dargaville has threatened to stop the annual tradition of politicians visiting the marae the day before Waitangi Day if protesters continue to disrupt political speeches.

Mr Dargaville said he was unhappy with the protesters and police would be called on to keep them further away from politicians next year.

Hone Harawira, the MP for the Northland Maori electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, said stopping politicians from visiting the marae would be premature.

He has offered to discuss the matter with Mr Dargaville.

"I just think it was highly premature of him to come out with a statement like that,'' he told Radio New Zealand.

Flying the flag

There were no issues with the Tino Rangatiratanga flag being flown further south today, with the flag flying from the Wellington Town Hall.

Hundreds also gathered at Wellington's waterfront this morning to mark the first time the capital has hosted the diplomatic corps on Waitangi Day.

More than 65 senior diplomats gathered by the central city wharewaka Te Raukura to watch two waka glide into the nearby lagoon, kicking off the morning's celebrations.

PM attempts reassurance over asset sales

The Prime Minister delivered his Waitangi Address this morning at a breakfast which included iwi leaders, officials and dignitaries.

Mr Key defended Government plans for partial asset sales, saying it would provide much needed capital for social investment such as upgrading schools.

However, he also attempted to reassure iwi leaders that the Treaty would not be a casualty of those asset sales - making a firm statement that although ditching the Treaty clause for mixed ownership model companies was listed as an option in the Government's consultation document, the Government did not want that to happen.

He said although Treasury had recommended no Treaty clause be included in the new legislation for those asset sales, the Government had a different view.

"Treasury's view on life, more often than not, is dictated by what delivers the greatest economic performance. That is not necessarily in line with the range of issues that the Government of the day has to consider.

"Not all roads lead to the bank. Some lead to other parts of our community. On that basis, the Government's view is that there needs to be a Treaty clause for those companies that are taken out of the State Owned Enterprises Act."

Waka goes down

One of the Waitangi Day waka had to be towed to shore, after it started sinking.

Up to 20 young people were on board when the waka began taking on water about 100 metres offshore.

A power boat helped to it to safety.

- NZ Herald

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