Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Dildo jape distracts from the real issue

The annual humiliation of prime ministers at Waitangi’s lower marae needs to be knocked on the head for good.

Dildo-throwing nurse Josie Butler is hardly the first to inject a dose of ribaldry into Waitangi Day protests.

It seems only yesterday that the grande dame of Waitangi protests, Titewhai Harawira, was accusing the Maori Party leaders of hanging off Prime Minister John Key's jockstrap and tribal elders who crossed her of lacking balls.

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All part of the boring pantomime we've come to expect at ground zero, Waitangi Day.

The big surprise was Mr Key going all Presbyterian over the incident and shedding crocodile tears about how damaging the flying sex toy would be to our international reputation.

One suspects his social media exchanges with victim Economic Development Minister Stephen Joyce were less precious.

Playing the Ma Grundy is a bit rich for a Prime Minister who, over the years, has left himself - and New Zealand - open to ridicule in the international media for, among other things, mincing down the catwalk at the unveiling of the Rugby World Cup volunteers uniforms, admitting on radio to peeing in the shower, and entering a mock jail cell with a radio jock and picking up the dreaded cake of soap!

Frankly, I'd rather the world saw us as a country where protesters throw the odd dildo rather than a bomb, with a Prime Minister who doesn't take himself too seriously all the time.

Protesting has been part of the fabric of Waitangi Day celebrations at Waitangi as long as I can recall. Historians say this tradition of argy-bargy dates back to the first gathering, in 1840.

And not just between Pakeha and Maori. First there was a tiff between Governor Hobson, who wanted a 15-gun salute in his honour, and Captain Nias, who said you are entitled to 11, and no more.

John Key decided to stay in Auckland on Waitangi Day. Photo / Mark Mitchell
John Key decided to stay in Auckland on Waitangi Day. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Then there was the wily Catholic Bishop Pompallier, in all his finery, who planted himself next to the Governor at the official ceremony, out-smarting the British Protestant missionaries, who took umbrage , one seething that "I'll never follow Rome".

That said, the annual hi-jinks at the Waitangi lower marae have become increasingly tiresome and John Key was right to call a halt last Saturday to the ritual humiliation of our PMs Ngapuhi see as their right.

The tribe's inability to control their hot heads eventually wore Prime Minister Helen Clark down and she chose to go elsewhere to celebrate the national birthday.

At the time, Mr Key should have followed her lead, but couldn't resist political point scoring and pledged that as Prime Minister he would re-establish the annual flagellation routine.

A decade on, he's now saying he'll only return under "conditions of equity and fairness". Labour leader Andrew Little is trying to have a bob each way, saying, if Prime Minister, he'll avoid the dysfunctional lower marae fisticuffs on the day before Waitangi Day and just attend the Waitangi Day ceremonies on the Treaty grounds proper.

To me, this is just tinkering. With anarchy reigning supreme at the lower marae for decades now, Mr Key and Mr Little should be following Helen Clark's lead and de-Waitangiing Waitangi Day.

In 1840 after all, the Treaty was carried around the country for eight months after the Waitangi event, with meetings and signings taking place in over 50 places, from the Far North to Ruapuke Island in Foveaux Strait. So there are plenty of other places our leaders can go to mark the signing.


Alternatively, there are community events up and down the country. At Hayman Park, South Auckland, Mr Key could have joined the Waitangi Day Family Celebrations that for nearly 20 years have entertained locals with a day of "top acts and new local talent".

Ngati Whatua Orakei had a similar family day on Bastion Pt with "outstanding live acts". But instead, Mr Key told television that night he'd gone for a coffee locally in the morning then headed off to the rugby league at Eden Park, where he was roundly booed for his troubles.

It was an opportunity missed. Like his predecessor, he should have embraced the concept that the spirit of Waitangi Day has nothing to do with the on-going madness afflicting the lower Waitangi marae.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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