I am always astonished by the contrast between the media reporting on Waitangi and the experience on the ground. This year was no exception. There has been a lot of media talk about Hone Harawira’s “State of the Maori Nation” speech. Actually, he was a member of a panel which included Metiria Turei and Parekura Horomia as well Maori leaders outside of Parliament and they were all asked to talk about the state of the Maori nation.
There were many interesting events in the political tent at the camping ground next to Te Tii Marae including discussion on constitutional change, rangatahi leadership, mining and oil drilling, the Trans-Pacific partnership and the role of the iwi leaders group. A book called “The State of Maori Rights” by Professor Margaret Mutu was launched and Metiria did us proud in these discussions.
It was also the 40th anniversary of the founding of Nga Tamatoa, the activist group which changed our nation for the better forever, but who would know from listening to the Pakeha news?
As a Pakeha for whom Waitangi is about our side of the bargain and the responsibility of the citizen under the Crown commitments to Te Tiriti I looked around to see who else had come to Waitangi to support our role. It was great to catch up with John Minto over the two days and he was warmly acknowledged by people from the last forty years of Nga Tamatoa for his commitment to justice.
I had the chance to network with that courageous woman Louise Nicholas who comes to Waitangi out of her commitment to a better country as well as to support the kaupapa of an end to rape and violence against women. Her position is not easy given that some tangata whenua media commentators have supported Clint Rickards and denied the validity of her experience with the police force in Rotorua under his watch.
It was great to see veteran photographer Gil Hanly still in the front line of recording activism and Te Tiriti issues. One of “Literacy Aotearoa’s” Pakeha leaders Peter Isaacs and I had a quick chat about the parlous state of adult literacy and the continual stress as funding is cut by this Government.
The hikoi to the Treaty Grounds this year was focused on stopping the oil drilling and mining of the coast, the seabed and the mountains, with the foreshore and seabed debacle at the heart of the issues. The Greens were part of this and many other events. Our stall was very well attended. Very few National and Labour MPs hung around after the powhiri, and the National Party seemed to have offended manawhenua protocol by not eating with hosts in their anxiety to be somewhere else.
But we were there and we will be there. As Russel said in his speech at Te Tii the Greens had four principles like the fingers on a hand, but the thumb we grew was placing Te Tiriti in our constitution in 2002. He said that without a thumb the hand cannot grasp anything very well. Good work the team!