by Catherine Delahunty
The Act Party’s sole MP John Banks was moaning in the House this week about the “terrible” protests at Waitangi. The last time he visited Waitangi on Waitangi Day was in 1990 when someone dared to throw a T-shirt at the Queen. Apparently, that makes him an expert. I have been going to Waitangi every year but one since 2001, and I always learn something important about this nation.
There weren’t as many people this year. Some were feisty but unlike the Rugby Sevens, there were not multiple arrests. No one was drunk or rude to no purpose, and there was a level of debate on many political issues which I am yet to hear in Parliament.
For me the most inspiring part of Waitangi this year was a roopu reporting back to the people about their work on constitutional transformation. This roopu consists of some of the most dedicated, experienced and wise leaders of the tino rangatiratanga movement in Aotearoa.
The first speaker Huirangi Waikerepuru, a kaumatua from Taranaki, is a beloved taonga for iwi katoa. He was also the wood work teacher at my high school and we had no idea then of his mana and knowledge. He spoke about the deeper foundations of Maori tikanga and kawa that’s essential for any discussion of Te Tiriti-based transformation.
Professor Makere Mutu spoke about Te Hakaputanga o Nu Tireni and Te Tiriti o Waitangi to set the scene for the constitutional discussion. She brought alive the wisdom of her tipuna in asserting their requirements for the relationships with the manuhiri.
Moana Jackson spoke with his classical eloquence, precision and power about the meaning of lore/law and constitutions and the plan to extend the kawa of the marae to a kawa for the nation through flaxroots korero on questions about “how should we be governed?”. The challenge for Pakeha and tauiwi katoa is what grassroots parallel-process are we capable of running
Mereana Pitman made us laugh but also brought home to us the jewels and gems that come from asking people in the hapu and marae what kind of governance arrangements they believe would benefit themselves and also Aotearoa.
Annette Sykes, whose analysis is of legendary sharpness, brought the focus onto the need to properly resource the process of dialogue with flaxroots people who don’t get to stay in flash hotels.
Veronica Tawhai who is a younger academic/activist inspired me when she spoke about the work on a Waitangi claim about loss of political decision making which was rejected as an issue the Waitangi Tribunal could usefully address.
I was inspired by the oil and mining protestors, the work of Mike Smith and the calm resolute aura of Tame Iti who faces down the court in the next two weeks for supposed “criminal gang” activity.
I was left with a challenge – how will Tangata Te Tiriti respond? How will we contribute to these issues in right relationship with tangata whenua? Te Tiriti belongs to all of us and as Kingi Taurua said, “not to celebrate or to commemorate but to honour”.