If you spend Waitangi Day on the couch, with only main stream media to keep you up-dated with how Waitangi Day events around the country pan out, I can understand why you’d be a bit over it.
For politicians, Waitangi Day is an opportunity to get in front of the cameras and deliver their lectures about “looking to the future”, “embracing challenges as opportunities” and make promises. This is never more true than on election year.
Some small groups of people use Waitangi Day and the media’s hunger for conflict as an opportunity to rally for change.
These two groups make up a tiny per centage of our population, yet every year, they are top of the news bulletins, creating the impression that us New Zealanders are a disgruntled and divided bunch.
(But hey, media is only giving us what we want. Who wants to read a nice fluffy story about a group of happy people who don’t have a cross word to say to anyone? Those headlines just don’t make compelling reading or viewing.)
Meanwhile, the rest of the country gets on with the day in their own way, just like we do at Christmas and Easter – according to our own beliefs and family traditions.
When I lived in Auckland, we’d jump in the car and head to the Orakei Domain on the waterfront for the day. With stalls, good food, great music, and hoards of people dancing, singing, eating and generally having a good time, it was a pretty festive occasion.
Here in Marlborough, everyone is welcome at Waikawa Marae near Picton, to visit, learn a bit about the local iwi’s role when the Treaty of Waitangi was signed back in 1840, and partake in food and conversation. It’s a welcoming atmosphere, centred around family and community. I reported on the day’s events two years ago for the Marlborough Express, and the only dispute was between judges of the baby show.
I guess what I’m trying to say is – don’t be disillusioned by the media into believing that New Zealand has issues with its cultural identity. Or by the people who compare Waitangi Day celebrations to Australia Day or Independance Day festivities. I’ve been in both countries for these days, and they still have deep-rooted issues stemming back to their colonization as well.
If we want a New Zealand Day, let’s create one on its own merits, not replace Waitangi Day just because we’ve had a few decades of seemingly inconvenient negotiations between Maori and Government.
February 6 represents a hugely pivotal point in our nation’s history and more than 170 years later is one of our oldest traditions.
Yes we’ve had a colourful history, and we don’t all see eye to eye, but why not use Waitangi Day as an opportunity to better understand our history, warts and all, to build a stronger and better country in the future.
Do you think all our brothers and sisters overseas are grizzling about Waitangi Day today? Hardly – they’ll be seeking out their fellow countrymen and women, heading to the bar and wishing they were right back at home with family and friends.
Well, that’s just my thoughts – how about you? What do you think of Waitangi Day, and do you celebrate it?
Or are you like me and just passed the day doing nothing much?