Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Bill English says the Treaty of Waitangi struggles have made NZ better

Prime Minister Bill English envisages New Zealand being a successful, bicultural country by 2040, when the Treaty of Waitangi will be 200 years old.

And he says New Zealand is a better place because of the struggles over the Treaty.

New Zealanders had every reason to be proud about the way the country resolved its differences through the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.

"If we allow ourselves to celebrate what has been achieved, particularly in the last 10 or 15 years, then it will be easy to imagine a very successful, bicultural, diverse New Zealand by 2040."

New Zealand understood its history better than it used to, he said.

"We've shown together that we can change the path of it, that we are not held back into conflict and grievance [over] the things that we know should not have happened," he told a Ngati Whatua Orakei breakfast at Bastion Pt.

He commended the generosity of spirit of Ngati Whatua, one of 82 iwi which have Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

"That's our New Zealand way, enterprise, fairness, tolerance and respect and we've all got better at it because of the struggle over the Treaty."

He said he was optimistic about the path to 2040 - only 23 years away - because of the long term commitment iwi had to the development of their regions, and because of the new generation of leaders emerging that the Government was dealing with in a constructive manner.

Ngati Whatua gave Bastion Pt to the Crown during a Russia scare in 1885 but it became a flashpoint of resistance in 1978 when the Government tried to sell it.

At a breakfast speech, English talked about the anguish of a tribal leader of an unnamed iwi who was about to sign a Treaty settlement with the Government.

When English asked him why he said because he felt the burden of leadership: signing was effectively telling his ancestors who had kept alive grievances that "that's enough", and he was also responsible to his descendants for the decision to settle.

John Key avoided Te Tii Marae at Waitangi last year but still hosted a breakfast speech. English ditched it altogether but he has not decided whether he will return to Waitangi next year, if he is still Prime Minister after the September election.

"New Zealanders will want more of this now that they have seen it because it does make people feel proud of what we have achieved," he said.

"That is what we want the mood to be on our national day. Where that can happen is up for discussion."

English gave four speeches in Auckland yesterday, two at Orakei, in the powhiri and a breakfast speech; one at a festival in Okahu Bay and one at a powhiri at Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland which was also holding a Waitangi Day festival.

English said it had been a unique way to celebrate the day without the usual distractions.

"I think that's fantastic and I look forward to it changing the tone of Waitangi Day over the coming years.

"This is the way New Zealanders want to see Waitangi Day."

Labour leader Andrew Little attended the dawn service at Waitangi and then spoke at Hoani Waititi later in the day.

He said New Zealand was not a perfect country "but we're making good progress."
"And it is important that all of us values it, celebrates it with each other."

- NZ Herald

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