The fun time had by all on Waitangi Day did not mask the grievances of the Treaty left to settle and the obligation on all New Zealander to acknowledge these, plan to do better, and move on together.

We have seen another Waitangi Day come and go and there has been no shortage of statements and photographs depicting the sunshine and good humour with which people spent a few days in Waitangi.

The usual obsession with personality politics, which is the way New Zealanders do it, was also the continuing theme. We are such a small country we feel we know everyone or know somebody closely connected, so they are almost family. Ours to cheer and support and ours to insult and deride.

I attended Waitangi this year for the first time as a non-politician albeit doing political stuff as we sought out responses to the broken justice system and particularly ideas for positive change.


While driving to Northland I was listening to the radio and a discussion between radio host Jason Gunn and his offsider whose name I can't recall. But the plea from Jason was to put aside all differences and forget about history in order to have a family day to be grateful for the country in which we live.

I couldn't fit in another slice of motherhood and apple pie, especially with the treacly mix of whipped cream and sparkly sprinkles with which he had liberally adorned the top.

The fact is that being grateful for the country in which we live and recognising the history in all its sordid glory are not mutually exclusive. Being pleased to see gains does not mean we can't regret our losses or failures. And the abiding question for those of us wanting to use Waitangi celebrations as an opportunity for education as well as revelry is, "If not on Waitangi Day, then when do we chew the fat on these issues?"

Today the Minister for Whanau Ora, Peeni Henare, has said he hopes that Waitangi will regain some of its controversy as it is a necessary part of reflecting on both history and our path forward.

It seems too that those calling for turning a blind eye to history and our current tragic statistics in terms of outcomes for poor and underprivileged are the same arguing against the compulsory teaching of New Zealand's colonial history, Treaty issues, and Te reo Maori. It seems we should not be speaking about these issues in school, on our national day or in public at all. These same folks cite New Zealand as having perfect race relations and human rights such as freedom of speech.

I am pleased that those who run the tent village on the lower Treaty Grounds ensure there is some gnarly debate and the invitation to Bishop Brian Tamaki, Don Brash and Andrew Judd among others kept the kaupapa for giving a platform for debate alive. All power to them.

I made sure I was in Patea for Pae Pae in the Park which was celebration but also discussion. We are a unique country and I love it, warts and all.

The words of the infamous Fred Dagg remain true, We Don't Know How Lucky We Are, Mate but they should be tempered by those of Joni Mitchell, You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone.


I am grateful to live in a country that has come a long way, yet still has a long way to go. A country where we can celebrate but still be mindful of the tragedies past and present.

We don't have to spit on people, throw T-shirts, belt people with police batons, throw dildos or dog poo to make our point, but we need to continue the discussions and Waitangi Day is the perfect time.