Andrew Dickens: Waitangi Day is proof that deja vu exists

Waitangi Day dawn service at the Treaty grounds on Saturday. Photo / Michael Craig
Waitangi Day dawn service at the Treaty grounds on Saturday. Photo / Michael Craig

So the annual festival of self flagellation, otherwise known as Waitangi Day is over for another year.

Waitangi Day, an antipodean Groundhog Day for those new to the country, is the ultimate proof of the existence of deja vu. The same arguments rehashed year after year. So much so that I'm keeping my notes from this year's debates so I can recycle them on the radio next year.

You'd think that someone would have enough wit and wisdom in the 51 weeks between each February 6 to figure out how we can mark the day appropriately but that appears to be beyond us.

I have no problem with disagreements and robust debate but banning the PM from a marae was a step too far. If this is to be a celebration of the partnership that forged this country then maybe it needs to be done on neutral ground. I'm sure some will disagree with me but the Treaty House is just that.

I know 75 per cent of Kiwis thought the PM shouldn't go to Waitangi but I didn't agree with that. Go John. But not to the Lower Marae. If you have to go to marae go to one that appreciates it. The Ngapuhi vote of 35-14 meant that 35 members of one tribe with voting rights on 1 marae spoilt the whole day for 75 per cent of us. It seems to me both sides over reacted.

But you've heard this before. What I really want to do is highlight the successes of the day. Some are perennial like the celebration at Auckland's Okahu Bay which is always great. It was there that I had my first half watermelon hollowed out and filled with icecream. God's own dessert for God's own country. And just 5 bucks!

Others were helped by the first Mondayisation of the Day. The weekend became the gift that just kept giving and meant we could reflect on Sunday and Monday as to what it was to be a New Zealander without worrying about Waitangi.

And then there was sport. The great healer.

The NRL nines over the weekend saw Maori, Pakeha and Pasifika coming together to cheer on our team made up of Maori, Pakeha and Pasifika. And it was good.

In Sydney too we saw the representatives of this great land have a success with the Rugby 7s. Hakas, a dominating Pakeha coach and Akira Ioane. Here's a new New Zealander for you. Born in Japan to a Samoan Dad and a Black Fern Mum. Educated at Auckland Grammar and carrying the Silver Fern with distinction. The man's a star and has no links to the first wakas or the first fleet.

But it was the Monday ODI cricket that got me all patriotic.

Hamilton looked a picture. The Seddon Park Hill looked like Sweetwaters 84 waiting for Talking Heads. Deckchairs, blankets, detritus, stubbies, beards, daisy dukes and jandals. But the crowd showed the different face with Asians, Chinese, white and brown throughout. This was not Rugby Park in 81.

The players showed a new New Zealand too. Grant Elliot, the South African nicknamed the Hairy Javelin by a loving NZ crowd. His stubble is a force of nature. There was a lovely statistic flashed on the screen of the last hundred against Australia by a Kiwi. It belonged to the South African Elliot. 115 in Sydney in 2009. His dream made real by the country that accepted him in as an immigrant. Would he have had that chance if he's stayed in the Republic? We are the land of opportunity if you have the courage to take it. Don't you think Irene Van Dyk?

It was a beautiful new New Zealand moment when Ish Sodhi took out Steve Smith. The last minute ring in ripping the Australian captain out of the game. The passion of his celebration clear to everyone in the country. Also Bracewell's great performance. A tribute to his family and a long New Zealand history.

And a special mention to the guy playing the music. A great New Zealander. It was funny as he played the Batman theme when Corey Anderson called for a new bat But it was sublime when he played Yellow Submarine as the Aussies slipped slowly under the surface. It was a 100 per cent pure New Zealand sledge. On point but witty and smart. The polite face of our steely competitive nature.

Even the Marsh controversy makes me smile. As he was taken out of the game fireworks, saved up from the commemoration of a plot against the British parliament in 1605, burst out of the crowd. Yes, we're feral. Don't mess with us.

It was Waitangi Monday and we were on holiday and our team from all parts of New Zealand was beating the world's number 1 and it was sweet.

I love Waitangi weekend. I haven't had a bad one. I'm upset that 35 Ngapuhi managed to spoil the day for so many New Zealanders. So next year if they don't want to play ball then let's not let them ruin something that is actually quite special already.


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