Kelvin Davis: Strengthening the bridge on Waitangi Day

Despite the ups and downs caused by COVID-19, this time of year will always be special. A time where we commemorate the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi. My great-great-great-great-grandfather Whetoi Pomare was one to have etched his name on Te Tiriti.

While we may not be in Waitangi in person this year, it is important that we reflect honestly and have meaningful conversations about what was promised, what was delivered and what we need to do differently so that Māori achieve what was promised in Article 3 of Te Tiriti: equitable outcomes.

I often talk about Te Tiriti o Waitangi being a bridge – te arawhiti – between the Māori world and the Pākehā world, and how, for too long, the traffic has been pretty much one-way. Usually Māori cross the bridge to engage in the Pākehā world, and have learned the customs and reo. I ask the question, how often do Pākehā walk across that bridge into our Māori world and learn our customs and reo? It does happen, but not enough.

Crossing the bridge will enable us to strengthen and understand each other’s worlds. My vision for Aotearoa is that both tangata whenua and non-Māori will be able to cross this bridge fluidly, flicking in and out of each other’s languages naturally, confident with each other’s culture and values – not just in policies or programmes, but in experiences, relationships, and life. That is the Aotearoa New Zealand I dream my grandchildren will live in.

2022 will see us take another step closer to the promise of Te Tiriti. We need to consider where we want to place ourselves as a nation by 2040 – the 200th commemoration of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

This Labour government is a committed Tiriti partner. We will deliver policies in 2022 that will significantly upgrade the infrastructure of that arawhiti – that bridge – so more New Zealanders have more of an opportunity to cross than ever before and be able to embrace our shared heritage and identity.

This investment includes:

  • Enabling fairer representation for Māori in local government, with 35 councils set to have elections for Māori wards.
  • The celebration of Matariki as national public holiday – the first to have its origins completely in te ao Māori.
  • Further rollout of our record investment in Māori housing solutions.
  • We will welcome the Māori Health Authority, to improve the inequities in our current health system, which have been highlighted by the global pandemic.
  • Our ongoing commitment to integrate te reo Māori and the teaching of the histories of Aotearoa New Zealand into classrooms, with input from mana whenua and local communities, to grow our collective history and help us develop a stronger sense of identity.

Whānau tell us they’re proud of these changes, and I share their excitement. Many never dreamed they would see this in their lifetime. Let us be courageous and see possibilities where others would use fear and division, and let’s make this journey together.

It is important we continue to lay the foundations for the aspirational Aotearoa we want to leave for our children and mokopuna, so everyone aspires to cross that bridge.

We know there is more mahi to do – and we’re ready to do it.

Hoake tonu tātou.

Find out more about our work to make good on the promise of partnership enshrined in Te Tiriti. Stay in the loop by signing up to our mailing list and following us on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.