Once again we hear calls for dispensing with Waitangi Day from those who regard it as divisive. They are wrong.

Those who want the name of the day changed, including Mike Hosking, who last week suggested Grievance Day, or for some other date in our history to be adopted as our national day, don't know what they're talking about.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with Waitangi Day. It is celebrated around the country in all manner of ways, most designed to bring together all New Zealanders of whatever ethnic origin, and never better than at Waitangi itself.

'Some good may come from February 5 though. Indeed, we as a society have evolved significantly over the last couple of generations, in part at least perhaps due to the anger that has been expressed on this particular day.'

Waitangi is a wonderful place to be on February 6. Tens of thousands congregate there to take part in myriad events, from sporting to cultural, to eat probably more than they should, to listen to music, to watch the pomp and ceremony that is provided by the Navy, and perhaps to support the issue du jour. It is relaxed, happy — just what anyone could ever hope such a celebration to be.


February 5 is a different story, but February 5 isn't Waitangi Day. February 5, and the day or two beforehand, is when we see the posing politicians, the anger of people who continue to feel that they and their causes are not receiving the attention they deserve.

That's when people shout at each other, none listening to the others. It is a time for some to indulge in childish tantrums, to display the very opposite of manaakitanga, as when a man is invited to speak on Te Tii Marae and is then shouted down so he cannot do so.

February 5 tends to not be a good day for anyone really. It is a day for platitudes that will quickly be forgotten, for people of influence to make the right noises with no intention, or perhaps more kindly without the ability to turn those words into actions.

This year we even saw a clutch of senior politicians, each of whom professes to respect and work hard to achieve the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi (although no one has ever been able to explain precisely what those principles are), unable to enunciate even rudimentally what specific treaty articles stated.

So much for living and breathing the Treaty and its place in New Zealand law, society, political and social consciousness.

Some good may come from February 5 though. Indeed, we as a society have evolved significantly over the last couple of generations, in part at least perhaps due to the anger that has been expressed on this particular day.

And however unsettling, galling, frustrating or however you want to describe February 5, it is now a much tamer, less violent occasion than it once was. Perhaps we are growing up. Or at least making progress. Slowly perhaps, but progress all the same.

One issue that seemed to gain traction this year was the desirability of teaching New Zealand history in schools. Hard to argue against that. Our own history is obviously more relevant to who we used to be, who we are now and who we will be in the future than the Tudor monarchs, the causes of the World War I and the Russian Revolution (although all continue to offer lessons for the 21st century).


Don't expect the curriculum to change overnight though. The obvious problem will be deciding who is going to teach this history (or more pertinently who will teach the teachers who teach it), and from which point of view.

Our history is one of the things we seem to have difficulty agreeing on, and whoever is in charge of drawing up the curriculum will need the wisdom of Solomon. And whatever happens, some people are going to believe that their children are being taught an inaccurate, or at least a biased version of our past.

Even teaching children about the Treaty of Waitangi would not be plain sailing. A very simple document has been re-interpreted in modern times almost beyond recognition, and again, whatever they are taught will upset someone.

Wouldn't be a bad idea if they touched on the articles at some point though, which would give them an edge over the politicians who didn't have a clue which article said what last week, but which version? Might be easier to stick with the Russian Revolution.

Anyway, those who really become agitated over what they perceive to be Waitangi Day 'celebrations' should resolve to watch the events of February 5, or better still ignore them, accepting that they are actually meaningless, largely designed to feed the egos of a handful of people.

Even those who strive to do the right thing by introducing an element of discussion and debate, as Reuben Taipiri did by inviting Don Brash to Te Tii Marae, are pushing it uphill with a sharp stick. Which was sad, but inevitable.


Talking at people rather than to them isn't the sole preserve of Waitangi on February 5 though. We have some intractable issues in this country that have descended to the same state permanently. The use of 1080 to protect native species and entire forests is one.

There really seems to be no point in debating 1080 any more, if indeed we ever did.

Those who support its use, often reluctantly, as the only option, and those who believe it is poisoning the country and indiscriminately wiping out species galore, will never get anywhere close to meeting in the middle. Lots of heat but not much light.

Last week's news that signs warning visitors to Opua State Forest that kiwi live there, and asking that dogs be kept on leashes, exposed the chasm very nicely. The response from some quarters went further.

Some people want to believe that those who support the use of 1080 (but not at Opua, where it hasn't been used in 30 years) are so cunning that they will vandalise their own property in the hope that the anti-1080 fraternity will be blamed.

And they do this with the support of the fourth estate, who apparently know what they're up to but are too lazy to expose them, or worse, are actively complicit in their convoluted deceit.


Bit like global warming really. Those who believe we are making our planet uninhabitable say the science is settled, while the sceptics remain resolutely sceptical.

Those who believe 1080 is wiping out entire populations of native birds, and poisoning the water they and we drink, have no evidence to support that, but will continue to argue until the cows come home. If they're not poisoned by 1080 on the way, of course.

Meanwhile, out here in the real world, people just get on with doing what they can to make life the best it can be for themselves and for others. Top of the pile in that category at the moment are the men and women who turned out to fight a potentially calamitous fire at Ahipara on Friday.

They, and the helicopters that supported them, did an extraordinary job of saving lives and property, all but a handful of them volunteers who, having got the blaze under control, cleaned their equipment and themselves, and went to do a full day's work.

Others stayed and finished the job, while Kaitaia's volunteers answered four more calls that day.

Every community in New Zealand has its volunteer firefighters, but the Far North is truly blessed. These men and women do a magnificent, selfless job, never more so than at Ahipara last week, a million miles from the faux hand-wringing and ill-founded anger displayed at Waitangi three days before. And they might well have saved more native birds than any anti-1080 protester ever has.