By Andrew Little

Wherever you spend your Waitangi Day, I hope you have a happy day with friends and family, and that the weather smiles on you. I'll start the day at Waitangi this year. The Prime Minister should be doing that too. Here's why.

Looking at what is happening overseas - the divisive, racist policies of Donald Trump and the rise of far Right politics - it's more important than ever that we take the opportunity to celebrate what unites us as a country.

What unites us is stronger than our differences. We all want the best for our families. As Norman Kirk said, we all want "someone to love, somewhere to live, somewhere to work and something to hope for".


Of course, there are some at Waitangi who are out to shock and upset people, and there are some in the National Party who want to play up division between Maori and Pakeha. Those people are a tiny minority of Kiwis.

Waitangi Day itself at Waitangi is a happy, family event, with little politics. The dawn service is a moving opportunity to remember our history and think about our future.

We can choose to give up Waitangi Day to division and those who want to tear us apart, or we can choose to claim it for all of us.

This is a day to come together. Let's not give in to those who want to divide us. Let Waitangi Day be a time to reflect on the achievements and mistakes of the past, to enjoy and celebrate the country we have built, and plan for a better tomorrow.

Because the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi marks the beginning of unified, nationwide government in New Zealand, the head of our government, the Prime Minister, should be there. He should be representing the Government and all New Zealanders on our national day at the place of our nation's birth.

By not fronting up at Waitangi, Mr English is failing an important leadership responsibility.

In a darkening world, the example we set, as a country, matters.

The places that used to light the world with their progressive thinking - their lights shine more dimly now.

We must never loosen our hold on what makes us who we are: a country that sets the standard for cooperation, for tolerance, for government that governs with compassion. We can show there's a better path than isolation and bigotry.

For the last 40 years, our nation has embarked on the difficult journey of understanding some of the darker moments of our past, and reconciling ourselves to it. We have made good progress and there is more to do.

If we are truly to line up to the promise that the union of two peoples under the Treaty set us, we need a government that creates opportunity; that ensures our freedom; that lets us all have a fair share. A government prepared to play its part.

We can build a better New Zealand. But only if we build it together and include everyone.

For me, that is what Waitangi Day is all about.