Editorial: How do we celebrate national day?

By Doug Laing -
15 comments
The Waka Ngatoki on display on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo / Getty Images
The Waka Ngatoki on display on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. Photo / Getty Images

History may tell that New Zealand took another step forward this week, something like that of 35 years ago and the mayhem of the Springbok tour in 1981, though not as big.

It comes in the combo-form of the protests against the signing of the TPP and the events that have seen Prime Minister John Key bail-out of his annual appointments at Te Tii Marae.

The two messages here are that there is huge opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (only the reasons being at dispute), and, although a bit more subtly, that there is quite some division as to what we should be doing with Waitangi Day.

But perhaps the biggest message is that, just as it was argued that sport and politics should not have been mixed, perhaps we could do without politics on Waitangi Day, two important points being the definition of "politics" and whether Waitangi Day should be our national day.

The definition of politics in the context of events this week probably means TPP, and whether it might be mentioned on the marae, with the level of political grandstanding that might have then been attached to it. The role of politicians of all hue around Waitangi Day can be questioned likewise.

As the issue evolved this week it finally became clear that the Prime Minister could not go to Te Tii Marae, but history may record that was the right decision, even if we don't sit comfortably with the reasons for it.

As we did after the Springbok tour turmoil - which everyone knew at the time would change this nation forever - we can now take time to ponder how we celebrate our national day.

Celebrate, as in how we celebrated winning the World Cup, or perhaps more pertinently back in 1995, the America's Cup, which despite the huge overtones of wealth and extravagant spending way beyond the dreams of most of us, we still seemed to celebrate, together.

As it happens, there've been some fine Waitangi Day commemorations in Hawke's Bay in recent years, driven, it is worth mentioning, by the iwi of the region - Ngati Kahungunu. Some points have been made in subtle ways, and politicians have been there. Importantly, on the day, they dressed in shorts and T-shirts like the rest of us.

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