The Treaty of Waitangi will be 200 years old in 2040. Debates about its meaning and application have grown over the last five decades.
It is bilingual, translated by the Anglican missionaries into Māori but the two versions are not a mirror image. It was first signed in February 4, 1840 at the Bay of Islands, thus Waitangi Day.
Prior to signing, the Treaty discussions were spirited, but Hokianga chiefs such as Patuone and his brother Tamati Waka Nene never wavered in signing up. Their credo was mou te Ao, fortes fortuna adiuvat, fortune favours the brave.
Their cousin Hongi Hika, the feared musket chief, had been to London 20 years before Governor Hobson signed the Treaty, a mere five years after Waterloo. Acquisitive and adaptable, no victimhood for them.
This spirit needs to be rekindled. Not only for Ngāpuhi, but for the entire economy. Thus, NZ First in 2024 will push for a reset in our race relations bearings.
We dismiss the separatist ideology that the Treaty is a type of original sin tainting the condition of our nation. Such woke nonsense was rejected at the recent election.
Our economy needs to regenerate. This will not occur if the Treaty is dismembered into an English and a Māori version. It is bilingual and indivisible.
Governments have options. On the matter of the Treaty principles, we either allow the Waitangi Tribunal to spawn more interpretations or we make headway by democratic will. NZ First chooses the latter.
Voters have made it resoundingly clear they are fed up with the cartoonish stretching of Treaty principles. The Waitangi Tribunal, oblivious to political mandates, will hear an urgent claim over the disestablishment of the Māori Health Authority.
NZ First was elected on a platform to get rid of this body created by the Labour Government. Legal centipedes that ignore this reality trifle with democratic outcomes at their peril.
The Treaty has been the basis for settling historical claims since the mid-1980s. These are known as Treaty settlements with Ngai Tahu and Tainui regarded as the forerunners.
Unfortunately, the Treaty is now being manoeuvred into terrain beyond Māori property rights and development priorities. The Waitangi Tribunal has decided to leave port for a constitutional enquiry. There be electoral eels in that deep.
These are matters where voter sovereignty trumps. The misbegotten 2021 UN Indigenous Rights He Puapua report shows Kiwis do not want democracy yoked to Treaty principles they have not endorsed.
An overdue discussion on the place of iwi rights and statutory decision making is needed. It must move beyond the tongue clicking phrase of Crown and iwi. Such a binary conception overlooks the modern reality of our country.
NZ First also knows dialogue must address the practical challenges facing the figurative Rawiri and Marama. Their stake in the future does not depend on decolonisation, a term more suited to a colonoscopy than nation building.
Not unlike their neighbours, Rawiri and Marama want a growing economy, shared mana that respects culture and heritage in a community that works for all.
As 2040 approaches we need a renewed belief in our future. Unmarred by wrangling over Treaty partnership principles but informed by a determination to rebuild pride, resilience, service and national unity.
Shane Jones is deputy leader of NZ First and Minister for Oceans and Fisheries, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Resources, Associate Minister of Finance, and Associate Minister for Energy.