COMMENT

As we commemorate another Waitangi Day, it is useful to reflect on where we are with the "founding document of our state".

We did not spend much time on our marae while we were growing up as my mother, who was Māori, wanted us to be the best Pākehā we could be – English speaking and well educated. She was so effective that I resisted being Māori until I was 32. I am now 70 and well connected to my marae, hapū and iwi.

When I was in my late 20s, my father took us back to our marae. As he drove past land blocks he told me about the people who had lived on them, the way the land had been taken and who owned them now. I learnt about illegal purchases, confiscations and the Public Works Act.

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He also told me about being confronted by a fisheries officer when he was gathering pāua and kina and arguing about what he could and could not gather in waters they had used since they were children. He knew that being asked by the Crown to hand over their "food cupboard," was a breach of the Treaty.

The Treaty settlement programme is evidence that what Dad told me about the Crown's misdemeanours of the past, was correct. I have noticed over time that public reactions to announcements of claims being settled are not as negative as they were.

People are learning more about our history and seeing the fairness of the settlement programme. It does help that iwi settle for about 1– 2 per cent of what they are entitled to and gift 98 per cent of their assets back to the state.

And, things keep getting better.

How well are we fulfilling the statement made by Bishop Manu Bennett in 1975, that the Treaty is "a promise of two peoples to take the best possible care of each other?"

We have come a long way since the Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975. My youngest son and seven mokopuna have been born and they all know their marae and their whakapapa. My siblings and I didn't.

Three of my mokopuna are fluent and two are learners of reo. Our whanau lost reo for two generations.

My mokopuna are all doing well in the education system and enjoy good health. They have the skills and knowledge to live as Māori and be citizens of the world. There are increasing numbers of other whanau, Māori and Tauiwi, who are the same. The Treaty belongs to all of us.

We have come a long way since the Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975. Photo / File
We have come a long way since the Waitangi Tribunal was established in 1975. Photo / File

One of the biggest changes in recent times has been whānau and community responses to te Reo. The Prime Minister wants her daughter to be bilingual. Wairoa, Otaki and Tauranga have decided that they want to be bilingual towns by 2040. Wellington has also made statements to that effect.

Imagine talking and walking down those streets and making purchases in their shops using reo. If my mother was alive today, I am sure she would smile and say, "This is great. I was wrong. I was influenced by the wrong people."

There are more attempts to respect tikanga Māori (cultural practices) and for organisations to engage effectively with tangata whenua. It is becoming normal for buildings to be opened and events to begin with karakia. Many institutions have their favourite waiata which they use to support their manager or CEO who begins his or her address with a mihi.

The haka is now not only the entrée to an All Blacks game, but also an expression of success by other victorious sports teams. When asked to do something "Kiwi" on our overseas trips, we say "Kia ora" and as a group we sing Pokarekare Ana.

The Crown has created post settlement governance entities which corporate Māori can work with to receive and administer funds and assets. Treaty settlement payments have made iwi significant commercial players in their communities. Most have invested carefully and their assets have increased. Everyone wants to do business with iwi.

This has created opportunities for the Crown and iwi leaders to discuss how they can use the Treaty promises to improve outcomes for Māori and all New Zealanders. That initiative aimed at bringing clarity to the Tiriti partnership is lead by Ministers Mahuta and Davis. If it gets there, it will fulfil the Tiriti promise of "two peoples to take the best care of each other."

Te Huia Bill Hamilton is a Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngā Rauru, Ngāti Raukawa New Zealander. He is a Treaty educator/facilitator with JMP Consulting based in Napier.