There seems to me to be a change of tone, or tenor today compared to Waitangi days past. Lot’s of people are saying that it is a love fest between John Key and the Maori Party, but I think it goes deeper than that. Chris Trotter, in today’s DomPost but not online, suggests that it is the result of a steady flow of Treaty settlements slowly beginning to redress the balance. The DomPost editorial agrees.
But the main reason for hope is that the Treaty settlement process is finally bearing fruit. Settlements have given Maori tribes an economic base on which to build and restored lost mana. The process has also given non-Maori a better understanding of injustices done to Maori in the 19th and 20th centuries.
This may well be true. Trotter claims that recent efforts to cement Maori into New Zealand’s capitalist elite are bearing fruit at last, despite the failed rear-guard action of Don Brash during the 2005 election.
But for me, listening to National Radio all morning while luxuriating in the day off, it seemed that the coverage had a more solemn, patriotic feel about it. Not jingoistic like the fourth of July celebrations I experienced in the States, where any questioning of the rituals was taboo. Instead, there was a civil debate about the appropriateness of our national anthem, our flag and our other national symbols without any of the polarising name calling I would have expected in the past.
Then there was the (and still is) the continuous flow of costumed party-goers making their way to the Cake Tin for the Sevens. The spirit around Wellington is positively buoyant.
Yesterday, I watched as the workers constructing the new Supreme Court hoisted a massive flag from the crane, and I assumed that it symbolised that the steelworkers had secured the last of the girders. (I’m showing my age, I fear.) No, it was all about Waitangi Day. Our national day.
There can be no doubt that the Treaty is the founding document of our nation and that the day of its signing should hold a special place on our calendars.