The landmark 175th anniversary celebration of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi was also Andrew Little’s first Waitangi Day as Leader, Kelvin Davis’s first as MP for Te Tai Tokerau and Peeni Henare’s first as MP for Tāmaki Makaurau. Kelvin Davis talked to Labour Voices about the three days of events.
First stop for me was on 4 February in Kerikeri for the breakfast launch of the first independently developed, iwi-led economic growth strategy, followed by a powhiri for the Iwi Leaders Forum.
Then it was on to the historic Mangungu Mission in Hokianga where I met up with Andrew Little. Mangungu is a suburb of Horeke, it’s a tiny place but an important historic site because this is where the largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place when over 70 chiefs added their assent before a huge crowd. There was a good turnout of about 150 people on this occasion to hear the welcome and speeches and for a discussion around future direction for Ngāpuhi.
The evening was spent at Shane Jones’s pre-Waitangi Day party – which I think has been pretty well documented in the media already.
Next day, 5 February, was, of course, the major day of commemorations. The Labour group led by Andrew, with about 20 of our MPs and Northland candidate Willow-Jean Prime, was welcomed on to Te Tii Marae at about 1pm. Andrew Little and Peeni Henare both spoke and then it was time for mixing and mingling.
There was a fantastic atmosphere and it was great to see all the Labour supporters who had turned up and came on to the marae with us. It was very good to connect with our people in the North and there is tremendous enthusiasm and positivity about the up-coming by-election.
The following morning we were up at 4.30am for the dawn service at the Treaty Ground. The Bishop of Te Tai Tokerau, Bishop Kito Pikaahu, led the service and invited Party leaders to come up to say a prayer for the country.
I also went to the prayer service where the Treaty of Waitangi is re-read. It is the only time of the year when the Treaty is read out in both Māori and English.
By this time I’d lost sight of Andrew because there were so many people around and everyone wanted to talk. It was hard to walk more than a few yards without bumping into someone you knew or having someone come up to chat to you.
I felt a real sense of a growing maturity within New Zealand. There were some protests but many of the issues of the past have been resolved and this Waitangi was very much what it should be – a day when we celebrate New Zealand’s culture with whanau.