Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Shearer: Awards would lift Waitangi

David Shearer said former Prime Minister Norman Kirk had made Waitangi Day a national holiday in 1974 'to give us a full sense of nationhood'. Photo / Brett Phibbs
David Shearer said former Prime Minister Norman Kirk had made Waitangi Day a national holiday in 1974 'to give us a full sense of nationhood'. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Labour leader David Shearer hopes to make Waitangi Day a day of celebrations rather than angst by moving the New Years' Honours to that day and issuing a ream of awards.

Mr Shearer will make his second visit as party leader to Waitangi today and tomorrow - but is again refusing to follow the lead of Prime Minister John Key by committing to return to Te Tii Marae, the scene of frequent protest on the day before Waitangi Day itself, in the future.

Last year, Mr Shearer said he was disappointed about the fractious mood and believed it should be a happy day of celebrations.

This year he will take that further, outlining his intention to move the New Year's Honours to Waitangi Day and announce New Zealanders of the Year on the same day - including a young New Zealander of the year, and a community of the year.

He said former Prime Minister Norman Kirk had made Waitangi Day a national holiday in 1974 "to give us a full sense of nationhood".

"We haven't lived up to that. It's become a day of jostling and protest and we focus on that rather than the great things about our country."

Asked if he would continue to return to both Te Tii Marae on February 5 and Waitangi on Waitangi Day, he said he enjoyed Waitangi and the dawn service, but would decide later about Te Tii.

Despite being shouted down and grabbed by protesters, Mr Key has stuck to the commitment to return to Te Tii.

Mr Shearer's visit comes the day after he was endorsed by his caucus as the party's leader at a full day retreat in Henderson. The vote was required under the party's rules but Mr Shearer required a 60 per cent endorsement rather than the previous simple majority.

- NZ Herald

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