Alan Duff: Ngapuhi should show some respect

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Debate behind closed doors but always put the welcome mat out.
Debate behind closed doors but always put the welcome mat out Ngapuhi should welcome the PM out of respect for his office, says Alan Duff. Photo / Michael Craig
Debate behind closed doors but always put the welcome mat out Ngapuhi should welcome the PM out of respect for his office, says Alan Duff. Photo / Michael Craig

Let's put the boot on the other foot and Parliament promises a hostile welcome to a Ngapuhi delegation wanting to visit.

Years ago, I wrote a column about Te Papa featuring a sculpture of the Madonna with a condom over it. I said if this had been a Maori carving they might find no museum left. It was an insult to Catholics and in my opinion cultural arrogance on the part of the curator.

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That column was about respect. I've also previously written that even if we had a Prime Minister I personally detested, I'd still give him or her the respect the office demands.

Not deserves, as sometimes we'll have a PM who doesn't earn that. It is our highest political office. (Putting aside the Governor-General, an office I don't necessarily care for. Too old-fashioned, too many British Empire trappings and traditions, increasingly irrelevant in this modern age. Time for radical changes.)

Now, if Maori at Waitangi promise our Prime Minister a hostile welcome, why should he go? It's mass bullying, at its worst. Let's put the boot on the other foot and Parliament promises a hostile welcome to a Ngapuhi delegation wanting to visit.

There would be an uproar. And rightly so.

Parliament is where all the nation's political representatives work. The welcome mat should always be laid out. If Ngapuhi leaders were jostled and yelled at, spat on, jeered, had ferocious haka done in their faces, do you think they'd be "happy, happy, joy, joy", as Hone Harawira put it? He was saying the PM should not expect it to be a happy, joyous occasion.

Why is that, Hone? Isn't Waitangi Day an occasion to celebrate? Is it not marae protocol to welcome everyone? Considered an insult to treat guests with anything but the greatest respect?

As with that offensive statuette previously mentioned, it cuts both ways.

More than 20 years ago I went to my maternal grandfather's marae in Eastern Bay of Plenty. At the time I was a bit controversial. Don't ask me why. In the dining room, one male elder after the other stood and reproached me. Then the women had their turn, as they had a right to speak in the dining area but not inside the meeting house.

These women defended my right to express an opinion on what "every Maori knows are our serious problems".

The male leaders heard them out and took me on a drive of educational insight to my mother's tribal history. They were charming, informative and even laughed at thinking I was a "humbug fulla, a big-mouth relation from Rotorua. But you're all right".

They assured me a welcome to my turangawaewae anytime. This is the attitude Ngapuhi should have taken to the Prime Minister. Not because they necessarily like or agree with what he and his party have to say, but out of respect for the office he represents.

Yell and vigorously debate all you like behind closed doors, but don't belittle the mana of the Prime Minister and nor his office, let alone in public.

I've been several times to the Far North in the past two years and fallen in love with the area. I told the kids and adults at Te Hapua School they had better singing voices than us Te Arawa.

There's a senior kura in Kaitaia with a bunch of great kids determined to go to university. We aim to help them achieve that goal.

This column has previously talked with gratitude indeed, "happy, happy, joy, joy" at the welcome I got at Pukerua Bay School, the kids' beautiful singing and their thoughts on life; got taken fishing by a very friendly teacher aide; made to feel most welcome by the locals in a bar that evening. I experience the same hospitality all over the country.

It's not just a Maori thing, it's Kiwi.

We should never lose it. Like our rugby: we all do it together and pretty damn well.

I went to the opening of a new Mainfreight branch in Kaitaia, an event I kind of gate-crashed with my kids from the kura.

They showed off their singing and how proudly turned out in uniform they all were, giving the message that being inclusive is infinitely better than protest for its own sake.

In a few years, these young people will have university degrees and one day will bring a new model of contributing citizenship, instead of negative protest and poor hospitality. I can't wait.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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